Landscape Artists Show Talent in Truck-bed Contest in Osaka

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By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
A work titled “Haru ranman,” awarded the silver prize by expert judges as part of Keitora Garden Show 2024, is exhibited on April 28 in Nagai Park in Osaka. This garden, made by Frontier Garden nobu, was top-ranked in visitor voting and awarded the “Wakuwaku Park Create Prize.” The creator said he carefully considered how to use light and a sense of rhythm so that colors of plants of the season could look as beautiful as possible.

Keitora Garden Show 2024, an event in which professional gardeners created garden landscapes on the beds of light trucks (keitora), was held in Nagai Park in Osaka on April 27-28. The show was organized by the Kansai bloc of the Japan Federation of Landscape Contractors, a Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo-based gardening business association.

During the season of beautiful greenery, professional gardeners with skills deeply rooted in the long history and profound traditions of Japanese gardening competed in the event, in which they created gardens based on their own concepts in the modern but limited spaces on the beds of light trucks.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
The “SEN no niwa” garden made by Teijyuen was awarded the gold prize by expert judges at the Keitora Garden Show 2024

This year, a total of 16 participants from Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Wakayama and Shiga prefectures took part, including companies, individuals and a horticulture high school. The event was held on April 27-28 because the numbers 4, 2 and 8 can be pronounced the same way as the phrase “Yoi niwa” which means “good garden.”

The beds of light trucks measure about 2 meters by 1.4 meters. The participants started preparation of their exhibition works on the bed of the light trucks, which they usually use for work, about a week before the dates of the event. On the first day of the show, they drove the vehicles to the venue and added finishing touches to the gardens for about three hours in front of visitors.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
A guided tour for high school students during Keitora Garden Show 2024

Masayuki Sakaguchi, deputy director general and Kansai bloc leader of the federation, said: “The aim of the Keitora Garden Show is to make young professional gardeners brush up their skills, have them compete in degree of perfection and display the attractiveness of gardening to a wide range of people. As the garden landscapes are on the beds of light trucks instead of the ground, visitors find it easier to see.”

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Members of the youth division of Kyoto-fu Zoen Kyodokumiai, a landscape business association in Kyoto Prefecture, add finishing touches to a garden landscape on a light truck.

According to the federation, the Keitora Garden Show began around 2011 in Toyama Prefecture. Afterward, the events spread to nearby prefectures and then further away to Akita, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Osaka and Miyazaki prefectures.

Through the show, the federation can demonstrate that with ingenuity, gardens can be set up in a small modern house. The show can be held even in a parking lot, and participants are able to make some preparations at their workplace.

In the contest of the exhibited works, a panel of judges made up of gardening experts selected one entitled “SEN no niwa,” made by landscape company Teijyuen, as the gold prize winner. “Taking lessons from last year, we spent the whole year considering the concept. We spent a month preparing and a week creating it,” said a representative of the Osaka-based company.

A female company employee in her 40s from Osaka who was at the show with her husband and two children said: “We just happened to come here and saw these trucks for the first time. I was surprised to learn the beds of light trucks can be used artistically to this degree. I have not paid much attention to small gardens, but my perception of them has changed.”

Many of the visitors appeared excited because their image of the beds of light trucks as nothing more than a place to store items was turned on its head.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
A participant from a company called Niwa ya Haruka in Shiga Prefecture is about to complete a garden landscape on a light truck.