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Girljin in Japan By Rachel Tranter Davies
Curious Botanical Art from Sustainable Sources

Creative and anti-consumerist artist, Aki Murase, and his otherworldly globes filled with lush green scenes, bonsai-esque trees and mini manicured landscapes (that he affectionately refers to as his 'space colonies', a name inspired by the gigantic outer space settlements envisioned by American physicist Gerard O’Neill), are just the start of a collection of weird and wonderful botanical installations, creations and gardens that make up Re:planter.

The most famous of Murase's creations, his terrariums, are fed by an LED light in the lid and encapsulate a tiny living scene, something that Murase has been interested in creating since his days in high school. With a keen bonsai enthusiast for a grandfather, Murase has long been exposed to a life with plants and although he doesn't liken his own work to bonsai, the inspiration behind his contemporary botanical works is clear.

Taking that inspiration as a child to create little aqua tanks filled with water plants, in which he used LED lights to stimulate growth and create a fascinating backdrop in front of which he watched his pet turtles swim. No doubt the point where his preoccupation into petite plants started, it would be a number of years before Murase came to establish Re:planter.

After school, Murase had a stint living in Australia. Returning to Japan, and relocating to Kyoto, he began an apprenticeship as a carpenter. Realizing that this career wasn't quite for him, Murase opened a cafe-come-bar in the city called Shokudo Ruins. It was here that, during the design process, his interest in plants was revived and entwined with his enthusiastic embrace of a sustainable lifestyle.

Sustainability is a core concept of Murase's, recycling objects and replanting seeds, shoots and greenery, often into discarded items, to breathe new life into what would usually be considered waste. To that end, you will find plants protruding from vintage cameras, lightbulbs repurposed into living vases and even ostrich eggs hung from antique chains, flora creeping from each end in the form of minimalist bioreceptacles.

Ruins, decorated with Murase's recycled plants and obscure antiques, was an unofficial showroom for his enchanting creations. Customers and friends encouraged his creativity and Murase was soon harking back to his school days and aqua terrariums, beginning to investigate ways to update the design for the modern world...And so his 'Space Colonies' were born.

Galvanized by his sustainable spirit, the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, an iota of ikebana and bonsai, Re:planter went from space colonies to creative works to gardens and is now Murase's full-time role, crafting stunning artifacts and coaxing long forgotten plants back to life, to form miniature living works of art.

Starting from 50,000 yen, terrariums are relatively low maintenance (they need a small amount of watering and cleaning) and each comes with a set of gardening tools and detailed instructions for care.


Rachel is a food, drink and travel writer. Originally from England, she recently relocated to Japan and is now finding her feet in Kyoto. You can find her blogging tweeting and instagramming her experiences at Girljin in Japan.