Ficus Tree

The entrance to the Miho Museum greets one with a harmony of colors composed of honey-colored limestone, silver-grey space frames, and luscious green hues outside. Large ficus benjamins, planted in the corridors, embellish the space inside as well with billowing waves of verdure. You can almost touch the layers of deep green and young, baby leaves as they sway.

I. M. Pei decided that these trees would be placed here.

After preparing large hexagonal planters surrounded by limestone, only the ficus benjamins—also known as weeping fig trees—had to arrive. Speaking of which, you may already be familiar with this popular indoor plant with thin, twisting trunks and waxy, oval, dark green leaves, often used as partitions in cafes. These trees may seem somewhat artificial. However, what arrived to the museum were, on the contrary, magnificent embodiments of nature itself. At first, they appeared wild and unkempt with its aerial roots jutting out of the trunks. It almost seemed like the cries of wild birds could be heard from the other side of the dark thick, jungle-like foliage with drooping soil-covered branches. I could not help but be impressed at this amazing flora from the jungles of Okinawa.

Eventually, the trees were given a “make-over.” The intertwining roots gently lifted up and rearranged, so that the trunks fell neatly into place; the branches pruned; reineckea carnea (J., kichijôsô) planted at the base; and all the leaves and branches washed down, manifesting an impressive figure. I finally saw the ends of the white trunks radially extending out into an elegant canopy that offered a cool shade from the glittering sunbeams streaming in through the glass roof.

Five years have passed since then, and every week, the trees are watered thoroughly as though rain has fallen upon them. The ficus benjamins have grown vigorously, almost reaching the ceiling, and its life force, even indoors, reflects its jungle origins, branching out all too quickly, if neglected even for a moment. Even today, this verdure, I. M. Pei chose, surrounded by limestone, welcomes visitors with its cool, refreshing shade.

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