As we in currently in holiday mode I thought I would take you on a virtual visit to a garden some time ago, in a country far, far away. Today’s destination is Namba Parks Garden in Osaka.
Namba Parks is a complex of shops and gardens in Osaka, located next to the Nankai Namba station, where the train from Osaka Airport arrives, which is how I came to find it. Directly above the station is the hotel where we stayed on our first night in Osaka.
Looking out from our hotel window the next morning I was struck by the view, not just the ‘far as the eye can see’ city of Osaka itself, but the more immediate sight of a dramatic vertical building next to a rhythmical curving complex of gardens.
This was my introduction to Namba Parks and what a fantastic way to see the gardens as you could get an idea of both the overall design as well as the vertical depth of the complex which ranges over 9 levels/floors. From up here you could even get a hint at the paving which echoed the curving walls of the gardens.
I spent some time trying to draw the gardens, an exercise which showed me that the interest in the design lies in the complex curves, repeated in the paving and in banded colours details in the walls. The levels stacked one on top of the other, move forward and retreat, the curtains of vegetation confounding any attempt to grasp the design in one pass of the eye.
Vertigo warning For an even more gut wrenching view here is the designers ‘aerial’ image taken from the Namba Parks Tower (yes you are looking down the building’s outside wall (immediate foreground).
On the street level the view is even more luxuriant.
Unfortunately the shopping hours in Japan meant that our ability to explore the gardens fully was completely frustrated. The complex doesn’t actually open until quite late in the morning (about 10.00 am and we had another train to catch), so we could only check out the ground level and look longingly up at those stairs where the rope stops would-be early morning interlopers.
Here the gardeners are busily working on the new plantings. As in so many areas of Japanese culture the seasons are a major concern and the Namba Gardens plantings are changed regularly to dramatise this effect. A free ‘Flower Walks’ brochure summarises the seasonal plantings for visitors. At ground level there were ‘quaint’ plant-filled barrows (not I suspect a feature of the original designer),
along with more elegant planters filled with pink lillies.
Also on the ground level were a series of posters whose sensitive water-colour designs were lessened by their rather banal declaration that we should “Enjoy a place filled with gentle feelings and happy smiles. Come share our fun and happiness and watch your dreams grow.”
Well maybe next time.
The Namba Parks complex, completed in 2003, was designed by US designer Jon Jerde.