April 28, 2022
From rural herb garden, gaze at sacred Tateyama
The Nara Period poet and statesman Otomo no Yakamochi (718-785) was captivated by Mount Tate in the province of Etchu, today’s Toyama Prefecture, where he was serving in a government post. His poem about the mountain appears in the Man’yoshu: “I never tire of gazing at Tateyama, where even in summer the snow does not melt. This must be the gods’ mountain.”
The bucolic landscape of Toyama commands views of Tateyama, regarded as a sacred peak since ancient times. This unspoiled Japanese scenery, beloved since antiquity, is the setting of an ongoing project to create a health-themed complex that aims to become the “world’s most beautiful village.” The project is being carried out by Maeda Pharmaceutical Industry Co. Ltd., which is based in Toyama. It all started when the company’s president, Daisuke Maeda, became ill amid a demanding work schedule but recovered his physical and mental well-being upon visiting an aromatherapy salon. Through this experience he realized that herbs were the starting point of medicine. The company began cultivating herbs and manufacturing and marketing aroma-based products. Of the many pharmaceutical companies in Japan, Maeda is the only one that grows its own herbs and extracts aromatic oils. In addition to creating health care products, the program aims to produce content on prolonging healthy longevity and to realize Maeda’s wish to help many people enjoy good health while aspiring to a sustainable society.
The base of these activities is Healthian-wood, which opened in March 2020. The 7-hectare site encompasses beautiful landscapes in which people have long lived with nature. Visiting the site himself, Maeda selected it from among 200 possible locations and persuaded the landholder to transfer ownership. The grounds now include a 3-hectare herb garden. Visitors are welcomed at the restaurant The Kitchen, which serves dishes showcasing local ingredients and herbs, and the wellness center The Spa. A lodging facility with a sauna (to be rented out to one group at a time) is set to open this spring.
Rice paddies, the landscape at the origin of Japanese culture and aesthetics; Toyama Bay offering the bounties of the sea; constantly changing views of the sacred Tateyama; fragrances of herbs; cuisine of the four seasons; spa treatments created from aromas gathered on site — this is a place of natural luxuries where visitors leave behind their daily routine, healing body and mind while taking time to experience the world through the five senses.
Another highlight is the architecture of the aroma workshop, event space and restaurant buildings, which are situated among rice fields. Designed by internationally renowned architect Kengo Kuma, the buildings dotting the site are contemporary in style but harmonize with the rural landscape, recalling the settlements scattered around the area in the past. The designs use traditional shapes but incorporate many daring applications of natural materials like wood and straw. In the event space The Field, for example, wooden moldings shaped like a rippling ear of rice support the large roof’s steel frame; and in the restaurant structure, straw is used as insulation material. These design elements overlap conceptually with the efforts to make effective use of nature’s ancient gift of herbs and their medicinal properties in contemporary society.
A Kengo Kuma-designed accommodation facility (for exclusive per-group booking) is set for completion in 2023. But that will not constitute the completion of Healthian-wood itself. “My hope for the future is that visitors will fall in love with the area and move here permanently,” Maeda said. “There’s a disused elementary school, so I’d like to create a place where children can study, surrounded by this natural beauty.” In this way, he is working to invigorate an area confronting the problem of depopulation and, looking ahead to the 22nd century, expanding his vision for the development of rural communities. This beautiful village of herbs with a view of Tateyama, the mountain that captivated Otomo no Yakamochi long ago, will surely be the envy of the world.
Opened in March 2020, the herb garden encompasses an aroma workshop, a restaurant and a semi-outdoor event space.
A sauna hotel for one-group rental is set to open in early summer.
● 57-1 Nitchuwano, Tateyama-machi, Nakaniikawa-gun, Toyama Prefecture
Tel: 076-482-2536 / The Kitchen
11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Closed on Wednesdays, New Year’s and during a winter closure period.
https://healthian-wood.jp/ (Japanese only)