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Treasured: Dan Pearson on his favourite possession

The British garden designer on the delicate possession that takes him back to his roots

dan pearson with hokusai drawing
Huw Morgan

As a child, my father had two Ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints) of samurai swordsmen. The vision of this other world captivated me. When I visited Japan in the late 1990s, I saw that world through my own eyes, and it sparked a life-long fascination with the country.

I started looking at the work of Hokusai, because he was just such an endlessly creative image maker, and famous for his landscapes, which is my thing. I knew I wanted to try and find an original. By this time, I’d been working at the Millennium Forest in Tokachi for two decades, creating an ecological park that is designed to be sustainable for a millennia.

The project’s head gardener, Midori Shintani, took me to meet a collector in Tokyo. Rather serendipitously, I discovered this piece, which shows woodland spirits sheltering underneath a species I’d see daily in the forest called petasites. They’re incredible plants, with leaves that grow and grow to the size of parasols. When it rained, we’d pick one to use for cover.

The scenes in Hokusai’s artworks are normally on a much grander scale – waterfalls and mountains – but it’s the intimacy of this image that I like. It’s ink on paper in a single colour, very simple for Hokusai – just a sketch, really. It hangs in a small, single bedroom that has walls panelled in dark stained wood, like a Japanese interior. It reminds me of my connection to the forest, my father’s Ukiyo-e, and an adventure I had with a good friend. danpearsonstudio.com

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration October 2020

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