Tsukamoto Konagi: Born in Iwata, Shizuoka Prefecture in 1949, she now lives in Hamamatsu in the same prefecture. Japan first female certified tree doctor and a first-class landscape architectural management engineer. Rose to fame in 1996 after transplanting four 130-year-old wisteria trees to Ashikaga Flower Park. Became chair of Hamamatsu Flower Park in April 2013. Is also chair of Hamamatsu Flowers and Greenery Promotion Association and looks after trees nationwide. Married to a creator of Japanese gardens, and has three children and six grandchildren.
The delicate purple and white cascades of wisteria stir in the spring breeze, their fragrance hanging in the air. Seated on a bench beneath a trellis that has been cleverly constructed to allow these blooms to show off their full splendor, Tsukamoto Konami smiles and says this is the best time of the year to be in a Japanese garden.
“Late April to early May is my favorite time of year,” she says. “The new green shoots are emerging after the winter, and the wisteria is in bloom.”
Elsewhere in the garden, the tulips are a riot of reds, yellows, and pinks. The rust-red leaves of Japanese maples and the deep greens of pine trees form a backdrop for the whites, purples, and blues of myriad seasonal flowers—all testimony to the hard work Tsukamoto has put into the Hamamatsu Flower Park, located near the foot of Mount Fuji in central Japan.
For Tsukamoto, now 66, it is a labor of love with roots reaching back to her childhood.
“I was a real tomboy when I was growing up in Shizuoka Prefecture, always doing sports or climbing trees,” she says. “I was very good at climbing trees. My father loved trees, and my husband, who I married when I was 22, was a specialist Japanese-style gardener, so in some ways it was almost inevitable that I would end up in this field of work.”
Japan’s First Woman Tree Doctor
The Japanese government introduced a professional credentialing system for tree doctors in 1991. The following year, Tsukamoto became the first woman to earn the title after a grueling test of her skills.
Candidates needed to have a minimum of seven years experience working with trees, including tending a variety of species, raising them, protecting their health and well-being. They also had to submit a thesis on one area of their work. Those who passed the initial phase of screening were required to complete a full 14-day test of their knowledge and skills, culminating in a written examination.
Equipped with her new qualification, Tsukamoto continued her work of caring for trees all across the country.