High mountain ranges, deep valleys, picturesque lakes: Yamanashi Prefecture makes for an impressive natural backdrop with its many mountains, including Mount Fuji, the Yatsugatake mountain massif, and the Japanese Alps. 86 percent of the total land area here is covered by mountains, a unique geography that provides Yamanashi with a very special charm. As a visitor, one is instantly captivated by the natural richness of the landscape and the intense color palette of the native flora and fauna. This historic region, once known to produce high-quality silk, is now the home of gardener and flower grower Genta Ishihara. A local with all the regional knowledge one can ask for, Ishihara offers us the insider’s view on how to best experience the landscape and the nature. Together, we set off on a drive through the spectacular setting in the BMW iX.
Ishihara Nursery – a Yamanashi horticulture shop nestled in the Japanese Alps
Direct contact with nature and respectful treatment of the immediate surroundings plays a central role in the history of the Genta Ishihara Nursery. The Ishihara Nursery Farm was founded in 1981, and grows flower and vegetable seedlings, as well as ornamental flowers and plants. Green plants and seedlings for private gardens are grown at various altitudes on a total of 1.3 hectares of land, consisting of both open fields and greenhouses. The produce is then sold at local street stalls, markets, and garden stores throughout the country, from Kantō to Kansai.
A day in the life of Genta Ishihara working with plants
As the successor to the family business, Genta Ishihara is today taking on the challenge of producing cut flowers and dried flowers – a completely new world for the gardener, who previously focused on cultivating mainly flower seedlings. These plants react extremely sensitive to changing environmental influences, such as sunlight and temperature. Traditional craftsmanship thus must be combined with an eye to the future, and the work requires a great deal of sensitivity. And of course: minute attention to detail. In his daily work, Genta therefore keeps a close eye on every change and development around him, no matter how big or small.
Timing, too, plays an important role in this interaction with nature. At the time of the trip, Genta’s Chinese carnations were almost ready to be sold on the market. To cultivate them, Genta grew them in a greenhouse that was kept at an optimal temperature all year round, until they are just right. Not only the plants feel comfortable like this – the warm greenhouse has also become one of the favorite places of Genta’s cat, Haru-chan.
Dried flowers grown in open fields
The transition to modernity, an important step on the new path that Genta wanted to take, began with an innovative and important decision that also concerned the past. His grandfather once raised silkworms, but Genta took it upon himself to convert this silkworm facility to create spaces for drying and producing dried flowers instead.
Genta then began growing dried flowers under the guidance of an acquaintance, hoping that people would enjoy the beautiful creations – and the craftsmanship behind them. The process itself includes harvesting cut flowers from the open field, then drying them naturally for two to three weeks to eventually yield the final product. The range of specimens is very varied: During the season, ten to 20 varieties of dried flowers are constantly waiting to be shipped, including varieties such as amaranthus, hydrangea, black cumin, delphinium, paper buttons and strawflowers.
Heading out to the Fuji Five Lakes after work
When it comes to practicing his craft, an automotive companion with myriad functions becomes very useful for Genta. As long as the gardener has the key fob with him, the generous storage space of the BMW iX, for example, can be operated completely hands-free, thanks to its automatic tailgate. That becomes especially handy when loading the car when he has both hands full.
Like the plants Genta then loads and unloads, the vehicle itself also has other distinctive, signature features. The “kidney” is one of BMW’s iconic designs. It banks on by-now classic design elements from BMW’s history, today offering a new interpretation (➜ Read also: The milestones of the BMW kidney). This exciting balancing act between tradition and modernity also characterizes the horticulturist and flower grower's journey towards a sustainable lifestyle with his plants.
Mt. Fuji in the rearview mirror
On the way to our next destination, we catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji, while driving through the beautiful scenery of mountains and lakes. The impressive panorama changes from moment to moment, making the drive exciting, varied and entertaining. Genta enjoys the route with ease, in part thanks to the vehicle’s driver assistance systems. The head-up display, for example, shows the vehicle's speed and other information on the windshield in the driver’s field of vision, while driving (➜ Read also: Innovation in the interior).
But for all the sensory impressions you gather on a trip like this, what’s fascinating is sometimes what you don’t immediately notice. Often, it is in fact this that shapes the journey and makes it enjoyable: “The vehicle runs smoothly and effortlessly, while the steering wheel fits securely in your hand. You can concentrate entirely on gliding along,” says Genta, smiling gently in the rearview mirror at his son, who is now fast asleep in the back.
Sightseeing spot with panoramic lake view
On his days off, Genta often goes with his family on trips like these, for example to Oishi Park on the shore of Lake Kawaguchiko. It is a popular lookout point that attracts many visitors from out of town, who come for the view of Mount Fuji to the south, on the other side of the lake. With a viewing platform and a small stream, as well as an area with monuments with endangered insect species and other creatures, the park is also a perfect adventure playground for younger children to discover nature.
Family photo at the Mt. Fuji viewing spot
Fuji’s World Natural Heritage Sites, Lake Saiko and Lake Shōji, are known for their great views of Mount Fuji. Lake Shōji, also called “the Switzerland of the East,” is sometimes referred to as “Fuji cradling a child”, as it looks as if it is gently hugging Mount Omuro in front of it. An inherently stunning image for any visitor. With the lake in the background, Genta stops to photograph himself with his family and the BMW iX on the beach of Tatego to commemorate this trip. Moments like these always remind him: in conscious travel, every now and then, the journey is the destination.
About Genta Ishihara
Genta Ishihara is the second generation owner of Ishihara Nursery Farm, which began operations in 1981. After studying agriculture at university and then spending time in the United States, he returned to Japan and gained experience in the horticultural business. Later, he took over the family business: the Ishihara Nursery. He began to grow a wide range of plants to meet the changing needs of the world – preserving the craftsman spirit of a true, reliable producer of natural products.
Author: Takashi Kato; Art: Shuma, Daisuke Abe; Photos: Ryusuke Honda; Video: bird and insect ltd