Encyclopedia of niime

tamaki niime × Earth Regeneration Lecture

〈 Part 1 〉

2019 . 02 . 15

If you have visited the tamaki niime Shop & Lab recently, you may have seen the soil around the building shaped like a corridor, and various trees and plants have been planted.
From January 28 to 30, a three-day event titled “tamaki niime × Earth Regeneration Lecture” was held. The staff of tamaki niime, including Tomonori Yano, the Earth Regeneration: Creating a Forest of Harmony representative, and participants from all over Japan worked to regenerate the soil of the Shop & Lab.
Surrounded by mountains and rivers, the Shop & Lab is located in the centre of Japan, the “navel of Japan”, where there used to be a dyeing factory. In addition to manufacturing based on the history of Banshu-ori textiles, Tamaki had started to think about the global environment from a larger perspective, and her encounter with Mr Yano was a ‘chance meeting’ for her.

First, one of our agricultural staff, Mr Sato, introduced me to a lecture on the “Rebirth of the Earth” held in Yokohama last October. The first thing that struck me was the lecture given by Mr Yano, the president of the organisation. When he explained what the “Rebirth of the Earth” meant, the current state of the land in Japan, and how disasters occur, I thought, “Really? I thought, ‘Wow, really?’ It was the first time I heard of such a concept, and I thought it was interesting.’ I also thought, ‘this is bad. It is a crisis, and that the earth must not go on like this!’ That’s what I thought. We had classroom lectures in the morning and worked in the afternoon. The first thing that was interesting to me was that it was really like civil engineering work, digging holes, putting in charcoal and pruning debris, and then burying them to create water flow and water veins. It’s not like playing in the mud, but working in the dirt…to put it another way, you haven’t done that since you were a kid, right? I do it for farming, though. I’ve only been doing what’s on the surface, especially me, like fashion and clothes making.

—— It’s the opposite in a way. And it gets dirty.

I’ve always been in the business of making beautiful things, but it was enjoyable to pay for an experience that was the complete opposite.

—— It’s a paid course that includes classroom lectures.

It was refreshing to experience something instead of just learning about it, and I thought, ‘wow, this is interesting!’ There were quite a few female participants, and many of them said, ‘I’ll try it as soon as I get home! But when I came back, I found that all of our buildings were made of concrete. When I asked Mr Sato about it, he told me that it was possible to have the place inspected, so I immediately asked him for help. Mr Yano came to see us around November. He wanted to know the land and diagnose what kind of improvements should be made. And when I listened to him, I got really excited.

—— How did you get excited?

The fact that this place is on the edge of a mountain and a river, the river is owned by the prefecture, and Okanoyama, the park, is owned by the city, and we are in between. Mr Yano said that if we could make a good model case for land reclamation here at tamaki niime, it would make it easier for us to talk to the government, and he really wanted to do it. I said, “Well, in that case, this place is a microcosm of Japan, isn’t it?” So we said, “Let’s experiment. If we can do what we can here and make it better, maybe the prefectural and city governments will move in the future.”

—— You also did some planting around the Shop.

Planting was also part of the plan for regenerating the earth from the beginning. In places where the conditions for creating water veins are challenging, we put wood underground. This is because it is a substitute for roots. Plants play an essential role in allowing air to pass through the soil, and when the roots of plants grow firmly and allow air and moisture to circulate through them, the ground becomes clean and alive, and there should be no place without plants. The idea is that coexistence with plants is the keyword for the earth, so where humans have removed too many trees, they should create a water vein and water flow and put wood in where there are no roots. The idea is that where plants are planted, the roots will connect with each other, and everyone will be connected to each other underground, creating a cycle. He said that no matter how much you try to make a water vein, it will be nothing without plants, and it is essential to know where to start and how to connect the water vein. So I asked him to plant more plants next month.

—— The staff of the ‘Earth Regeneration’ told me that they are planting shrubs now because of the cold season.

We talked about connecting the unconnected water veins again in February, but at the end of February, it would have been a little warmer, so even some of the taller trees would have been able to withstand the weather. So I asked them to plant trees in all the places where we need to connect the water veins. So hopefully, by the end of February, there may be a few more.

In the corner of this former dye factory, there is a disused wastewater treatment facility. A corridor of soil runs around it. When Ms Tamaki first visited this place before the Shop & Lab moved here and saw the appearance of the old facility, she felt something that attracted her. Ms Tamaki told Mr Yano about it when she decided to hold the lecture this time.

I thought it was cool when I first came here. I thought, ‘Wow, this place is amazing, and intuitively I thought it would be cool to make use of it.’ I hadn’t been to the site for a long time, but the other day I suddenly remembered. Whoever I talked to, the people around me at the time said that a wastewater treatment facility on the site of a former dyeing factory was a negative legacy that should be destroyed immediately and that, if anything, I shouldn’t buy such land. We may have started using chemical dyes in the past as Banshu-ori developed, but it was not because we wanted to do anything wrong. I thought to myself, ‘who is going to take responsibility for the things that everyone has done for the good of the region, and now they are being called a ‘negative legacy’?’ I also thought, who’s going to take responsibility? If we said that no one should buy the land or that the land was worthless, we would deny the Banshu-ori that we had done so far. It would not be a positive story for the surrounding residents or the next generation. But when I came here, I thought it was fantastic, and I could make use of it, so I thought it would be great if we could do something that can only be done here because it is here, and if there is a damaging legacy left, I would be happy if we could make a move to improve it. When Mr Yano came, I suddenly remembered this. When Yano-san came to see me, I suddenly remembered what he said. Yano-san came back all excited and said, “That place is really amazing!” He said, “Isn’t it great! Isn’t it amazing!” I replied, “Isn’t it amazing? He got excited again.”

Later, with permission, I also visited the old wastewater treatment facility. As I climbed up the stairs to the top, being careful not to fall into the water reservoir, I was able to enjoy a relaxing view of the surrounding peaceful landscape with rivers, mountains, fields, and houses while feeling the history of Banshu-ori that the facility had passed through.

Mr Yano is coming up with a plan to make use of that facility. While everyone else only had a plan to tear it down and build something new, he was the first to come up with a plan that said it was good and that it should be used, and he was going to bring it to me the next time I came. I thought, ‘yes!’

—— I’m looking forward to that.

That’s something only Banshu-ori can do, and if we can do something with it at tamaki niime, it’s much more meaningful than building something new, so it’s fascinating! That’s what I thought. I feel like I’m going to shift to that from now on.

—— It’s terrific. It seems to me that you are taking the various histories of Banshu-ori into account as you proceed.

What’s interesting about the Earth Regeneration is that I asked him to come and examine this place in November. He did a thorough investigation of many things. I thought it would be interesting to see how he would propose the best solution based on the history of Nishiwaki since ancient times, the topography, land use, and water circulation.

—— What do you think, Mr Sakai?

To put it into perspective, I feel that this place’s ‘spirit’ has changed from before the construction. I think (the reclamation of the soil around the Shop & Lab and the planting of trees) is a kind of ‘spiritual barrier’. I believe it blocks out the bad ‘spirit’. On the other hand, excavating and passing through a corridor of soil like that also serves to connect us to the land and other things outside. My body indeed feels much better. The first two days of digging, I felt like I was on fire. I had a headache the first day, and it finally eased up on the third day. Didn’t I say that the first day was tough?

I think a lot of stuff was coming out of the ground. The people working on the site also said that many things came out when they broke the concrete. There was sludge too, and things with a pungent smell. They said that they had to be careful because the sludge was spreading toxic gas in the landslide area. After all, that’s how bad the air was in the ground for so long.

—— I see. It’s like it’s been hermetically sealed up and squeezed in.

Before we started the construction, we didn’t know what they were going to do, so we listened to many examples of that type of construction. He has been working with the idea of the most natural way to create a good cycle for the earth, so I decided not to show too much of my ego. I usually think about what is the essence of tamaki niime. I usually tell people what I think is unique to tamaki niime and what I’m particular about at the creating stage. Still, of course, I ask for the minimum to ensure that there will be no inconvenience for the customers when they come, but as for what kind of design and what kind of planting, since Mr Yano is producing for the plants and the earth this time, I’ll leave it to him. But as far as what kind of design or what kind of planting is concerned, if you produce something for the plants and the earth, I think I should leave it to him. Even if the design is different from what I believe, if it is the best for the planet, I have no choice but to accept it, and if the earth is not pleased with my ego, then there is no point in saying what I would do. I don’t know if the planet will be happy or not, at this point. If you know something that would make the earth happy, I’d like to see it and steal the idea from him.


I was thinking, ‘what are you doing? What are you going to do? (laugh), and I was going to sit back and watch it. In that sense, I’m still in the process of learning.

If you look closely at the plantings in the earthen corridor around the Shop & Lab, you will see various shrubs and plants that seem to form a small universe, and you will never get tired of looking at them.
There are small pipes embedded in the ground to allow air to pass through, and as you walk along the corridor, you can see chunks of asphalt and concrete that have been crushed to expose the ground this time, mixed in with pruned branches, charcoal, and soil, and buried. There is something strangely harmonious about how things that would typically become waste coexist in a place where the earth is regenerating itself.
It seemed to me that Mr Tomonori Yano’s thoughts and ideas of making use of the useless wastewater treatment facility, which had been considered to be destroyed in the corner of the Shop & Lab, lay deep in this place.

In the following article, Ms Tamaki and Mr Sakai will talk about the “tamaki niime x Earth Regeneration Lecture,” which attempts to think about and put into practice the earth we live on.

Original Japanese text by Seiji Koshikawa.
English translation by Adam & Michiko Whipple.