A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

The Unique Tsukuba Roadside Tree Planting Method (つくば方式)- also known as the 3.8 Method


You might have noticed that Tsukuba`s roadside trees are planted in pairs 3 meters apart, with the next pair 8 meters away


By Avi Landau

The folks who planned and designed the Tsukuba Science City are responsible for the cutting down of large wooded areas, mostly consisting of red pine forest (akamatsu), in order to make way for research institutes, government housing projects, institutions of higher learning and (ironically, I guess) a system of small parks. They also planned out a grid of avenues much wider and straighter than found in most other cities in Japan.

To create the illusion of being in the forest that ONCE WAS  in this area, and to provide seasonal beauty throughout seasons of the year, these same people pulled out all the stops when it came to planting roadside trees and bushes. They had 51 kilometers worth of roadway lined with thousands of fast growing trees- mostly of foreign origin- and in 9 varieties ( not counting the bushes).

These are:

Chinese maple (toh kaede,トウカエデ)- 2,574 trees covering 9.2 km (mostly along Higashi O-dori, except for the segment between Kita and Minami Odoris)

Sweetgums (momoiji bafu, もみじばふう)- 2,049 trees covering 7 km (mostly along rt. 408)

Japanese Oak (Shirakashi, シラカシ)- 1,591 trees covering 6.1 km at the southern ends of Higashi O-dori and Rt. 408 (with the Tsukuba City boundaries

Tulip trees (yuri no ki, ユリの木)- 1,551 trees covering 9.9 km along Nishi O-dori (except for the segment between Minami and Kita O-doris)

Gingko (itchoh, イチョウ)- 921 trees covering 3.25 km along the Tsuchiura Gakuen Road and the Hiratsuka Road

Zelkova (keyaki, ケヤキ)- 780 trees covering 4 km along Higashi and Nishi O-doris between Minami O-dori and Kita O-dori

Japanese pagoda trees (enju, えんジュ)- 581 trees covering 8.7 km at the northern end of Higashi O-dori (now cut down??) and the eastern end of the Tsuchiura Gakuen Road

Horse chestnut (tochi no ki, トチノ木)- 377 trees covering 2 km along Kita O-dori and Minami O-dori


the Matebashi ( scientific name: lythocarpus edulis)- 179 trees covering 1 km along the Fujisawa-Toyosato Road

(I will leave all the roadside bushes for another post!)

Not only does this help to keep trees strong and beautiful, but it also has symbolic significance

But while you are enjoying these spectacular trees which are kept carefully maintained and groomed (at great public expense), you might also notice a pattern in the way the trees have been planted- in pairs!

If you measured, you would find that most of the paired trees are 3 meters apart. The next pair will then be 8 meters away,

This is a unique roadside tree planting method which was implemented here in Tsukuba. It is called the Tsukuba Method (Tsukuba Hoshiki, つくば方式), or the 3.8 Method .

A diagram explaining the Tsukuba Ho-shiki roadside tree-planting method

The idea behind the method is that the roots of the trees will intermingle and the trees then compete with each other in growth creating grand trees, firm and strong, with beautiful and full greenery.

Then if one of a pair were to get sick and have to be cut down, the balance of the greenery along the road will not be affected very much.

The twin peaks of Mt. Tsukuba- representing the male and female forces are echoed in the myriad pairings of roadside trees

But most importantly is the symbolic meaning ( which was explained to me by an old gardener who was involved in the tree planting)- the pairs of tree would mirror the twin peaks of Mt. Tsukuba, the iconic image of this area, which since time immemorial have symbolized the Male and Female Forces and their interaction.

I guess this makes the Tsukuba Method not only practical, but romantic !


One Comment

  • alice says:

    Yeah, I noticed that other trees by the roadside are also planted at a certain distance apart. Not sure if they are in pairs. Saw the workers pruning it into shape (a nice, almost bald cut!) somewhere in late Oct or early November. Now I must observe or perhaps roughly measure the distance apart of the trees. Thanks for this info. Didn’t pay attention to such things before. You’re great!