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Ikedayama: The Dragon Lair

Ikedayama: The Dragon Lair




Ikedayama Park is located in a quiet neighborhood about a 15-minute walk from Tokyo’s Gotanda station. The immaculately maintained, exquisite circuit-style garden is landscaped on a hill. Throughout the seasons, it is a beautiful shifting canvas of flowers and foliage.

I encountered the 17th century garden in the summer of 2014, just as I was embarking on my third study of “water.” The vegetation there was dense and fantastically green.  Sun-filtered through trees that swayed softly in the wind. A spring-fed pond was brimming. Even given it was early summer, and just after the rainy season, my first impression was of a true urban oasis.

Around that time, our beloved family dog was diagnosed with cancer.  Not being able to travel far from home, I’d head over to the nearby garden every morning and afternoon for a change of mind and to pursue the new series.   My first two explorations of water were shot in my studio at home.  Now I was obsessed with exploring the element using a natural setting. After 10 to 20 visits to Ikedayama, I seemed to sync with the environment. The pond was soon revealing diverse, dramatic expressions—I’d found my ideal outdoor studio.

Trying to peer behind, beneath and beyond the elements of nature I would release the shutter while gazing at the water. A world apart from the ordinary would emerge just as with my earlier series, Seeing the Unseen and Luminous Darkness.  Each of the images I took every day brought endless discoveries and revelations.  

I had given the series a working title, “Ikedayama: Dragon’s House” for the shimmering life I found dwelling in the pond. By happenstance when researching the garden much later I learned that, according to fusui (lit. “wind water,” which is an ancient understanding of the natural flow of energy), Ikedayama lies in the dragon pulse direction moving from sacred Mount Fuji to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. And so the “dragon’s lair” location and the circuit-style park itself have been known for hundreds of years as a special place of “fortune and rejuvenation” or what people today call a power spot.

I don’t know whether this was coincidence or inescapability, but I did feel deeply drawn to the garden as if summoned.   Sadly, late in the fall of 2014, our beautiful dog passed to the other world.  When I think about it now, I wonder whether perhaps the Ikedayama series was a gift he left behind…

 —Yasuo Konishi

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