Kyushu, Japan 

Japan has a long history of accepting the risks of coastal settlement. Starting in the Edo period and continuing to the present day, many communities choose to plant trees in and amongst the lands disturbed by hurricanes. In turn, these “mitigation” forests do so much more than prevent damage from blown sand, tidal surges, and salt laden wind. They provide a critical setback for development while creating a unique site of memory, uniting the community across generations. Statistics claim that only 1 percent of the Edo forests remain, and of these Nijinomatsubara is the largest and most intact of the remnant systems, surviving due to a remarkable lineage of human stewardship and care.

The Land is Ours

Nijinomatsubara is not really a forest. It feels like a forest, and it has forest-like qualities except for the fact that it is uniquely planted with black pine (Pinus thunbergii). A forest with only one species is typically called a plantation, cultivated for eventual extraction—a standing resource. But Nijinomatsubara was not planted for singular, short-term gain. The trees were planted to grow old rather than produce timber. The expanse of Nijinomatsubara stretches almost five kilometers along Karatsu Bay, an expanse of 230 hectares crossed only by a web of footpaths. Its not-quite forest, not-quite plantation status is self-stabilizing, as manifold stands are entangled by different ages, varied associations, and eventful micro-conditions. It feels like a forest because it is at once a peaceful respite for humans and a busy site of exchange for other creatures. In translation, Nijinomatsubara is also bound to a double life: it is locally labeled both a “coastal protection forest” and a “special place of scenic beauty.” It is at once productive and personal. By thwarting single categories and resisting typology, Nijinomatsubara shows us a future in which compelling ideas between human and plant life prove durable.

Ideas that include both human and plant worlds are durable when time is appreciated as an ally. Plants are temporal and social organisms, which means that they help refine landscape as an inclusive experience between species. Experience is necessarily temporal. Thus, including the temporal demands of plant life helps expand human worlds. When design is imagined for short-term benefit, the landscape suffers, and so humans and other organisms suffer. Allow me some clarification: Planting is a fiction unless it includes the extensive lifespans of the organism. Planting schemes that insist on short-term gain destroy the potential of collective experience, and any likelihood of establishing a legacy to nurture future experiences. Plant life grows and accumulates relationships with time, which means that it is likely that future generations reap the true benefit of planting design. By contrast, a concrete wall only benefits those who witness its construction. A concrete act makes inheritance irrelevant.

The case of Nijinomatsubara suggests that one place to look for the landscape of retreat is in the pre-history of concrete, in a time when the temporality of plant life was cherished as a legacy for future generations. Each tree was planted as a living inheritance, not installed as a built-world solution. What I found was a landscape of permanence, created by valuing the coastal shoreline beyond beaches, umbrellas, and kiosks. In turn, I can share with the reader my twent-first century pleasure experience since in this context, it strikes me that age is a helpful attribute often left out of current design mandates. Age suggests that the time associated with landscape has a particular power or capacity to deter development.
The Maule River estuary outfalls at Constitución, one of the hardest hit communities following the tsunami in 2010. Extreme pulses of inundation are common to estuarine environments where marine sand meets river silt. At present, many estuaries along the Chilean coast are infilled by coastal concretization that intervenes between marine and terrestrial realms. The wave action following an earthquake brought silty inundation, erosion, and deposition to the estuarine coast, a disturbance that is neither unprecedented nor particularly unique. The lineage of estuary formation across time is described by paleo-geological analysis which confirms that the southwest coast of Chile is a remarkably active area on

A rupture twenty-five kilometers deep beneath the Nazca plate, produced the earthquake, triggering a tsunami that traveled along the fault at tectonic junctions. The magnitudinous waves spread beneath the coast until making landfall along the shores between Constitución and Concepción. Magnitude is relative power, and its measurement takes into account the energy released at the source. By comparison, intensity is the strength of the shaking produced by the magnitude.