Mirei Shigemori (1896-1975), the avant-garde Japanese garden designer

Mirei Shigemori was a garden designer who actively participated in many areas of Japanese art and design. Shigemori was born in Kayō, Jōbō District, Okayama Prefecture, and in his youth was exposed to lessons in traditional tea ceremony and flower arrangement, as well as landscape ink and wash painting. In 1917, he entered the Tokyo Fine Arts School to study nihonga, or Japanese painting, and later completed a graduate degree from the Department of Research. In the early 1920s, he tried extensively to found a school of Japanese Culture, Bunka Daigakuin to synthesize the teaching of culture, but was foiled by the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake, which forced him to move back to his hometown near Kyoto.


He began practicing as a garden designer in 1914 with a garden and tea room on his family’s property. His first major work was a design for the garden at Tofuku-ji Temple in 1939. He designed 240 gardens, and worked mostly in karesansui, or dry landscape gardens. Many of his gardens are on existing religious sites, but a few of his works are in cultural or commercial settings. He also collaborated with Isamu Noguchi in choosing stones for the UNESCO Garden in Paris.