The celebrity landscaper maintaining a patch of his homeland in Buenos Aires
From actor and masseur to landscape gardener. Meet Minoru Tajima.
After more than 50 years living in Argentina, Minoru Tajima Although claims he still finds it difficult to speak Spanish, and that he’s also forgetting some Japanese, but that doesn’t hold him back as he enthuses about his work maintaining the city’s Japanese Garden.
Minoru left Japan at the age of 20 to make the 45-day journey to Buenos Aires by ship and seek fortune as a cattle breeder. That didn’t quite work out but he did stumble into a curious range of unexpected careers, including a period of fame as an actor, most notably in comedy sketch shows, and as a masseur to the celebrity jet set.
Now in his 70s, he’s left the world of showbiz behind for 7am starts and the more tranquil atmosphere of Buenos Aires’ Japanese Garden with its red wood structures and its calming lake filled with carp.
“They had the material from Japan to build the tea house, but they needed someone who knew how to build it,” he explains. “In Japan we don’t use nails or bolts; we fit the wood together with different joints, which makes the construction more flexible to withstand earthquakes.”
Having helped build several structures in the park, he now helps maintain them and the wider garden, and also teaches staff about Japanese customs and culture.
“I teach the Argentines how to be Japanese,” he laughs. “I explain how we act and behave, as well as how to care for the different plants. It’s meditative, relaxing work. I like the connection to my country that I found here.”
Having found this connection, despite his three children now living abroad, Minoru says he’s staying put in Buenos Aires.
“I’m not a Porteño but it’s my home now. I like red wine, pizza, meat and empanadas, and people are warm and friendly. I always put a lot of passion into everything I do and Buenos Aires is a passionate city.”