This is a landscape improvement plan of ” Goten-zeki” canal , including the western side of the Yamagata Prefecture Certified Public Tax Accountants’ Association building, which was previously designed for architectural design.


I received the Encouragement Award from the Japanese Institute of Landscape Architecture (JILA) for the 2023 fiscal year. Please refer to my blog for more details.


It has won the Good Design Award 2021 as Urban Landscape Design – “Regeneration of the Historical Waterway ‘Goten-zeki.'”


The Yamagata Prefecture  Tax Accountants’ Association building is a structure that received the Good Design Award in 2020.


For a more detailed concept, please refer to the blog.

御殿堰の上に設けられたデッキは今回新設されたもので、東側(パース右側)には御殿堰の解説パネルが設置されます。デッキはコンクリートの床版に花崗岩を貼ったもの、「御殿堰」の文字を白い花崗岩で象嵌しています。/The deck built above the Goten-zeki is a new addition, and on the east side (right side in the perspective), there will be explanatory panels for the Goten-zeki. The deck features a concrete floor with granite cladding, and the characters “御殿堰” (Goten-zeki) are inlaid with white granite.



The previous retaining wall, constructed after the war, was essentially concrete plastered on top of the original cobblestones. Due to the relationship with the landowners adjacent to the dam, it was not possible to demolish it. Instead, a new design was adopted where the cobblestones are laid diagonally, closer to the way they were used in the Edo period.


Furthermore, the bottom of the waterway used to consist of soil mixed with pieces of bottles and gravel. During summer, weeds would grow uncontrollably, making it a laborious task to clear the area of weeds. In the current project, concrete was poured, and smaller cobblestones were embedded. While it’s essential to note that concrete did not exist in Japan during the Edo period, and the width of the waterway has been reduced due to the addition of concrete retaining walls, the design respects the Edo period aesthetics and can be considered a restoration of the urban landscape.


This is the condition of the Goten-zeki(water canal) next to the Yamagata Prefectural  Tax Accountants’ Association building before the landscape improvement.


Although this photo was taken shortly after the completion of the building, the water canal happened to be dry at that time. As you can see, the Goten-zeki was covered with concrete retaining walls, and it’s often the case that beneath these concrete surfaces, Edo-period cobblestones are hidden.

景観整備工事完了後  After the landscape improvement project was completed.



Goten-zeki (water canal)  is one of the Yamagata Goseki (five canals) that flow like a network through Yamagata City. It was originally developed during the Edo period, supplying clean water from the Mamigasaki River to be used for domestic and agricultural purposes.


However, during the post-war period of rapid economic growth, wastewater from households and factories began to flow into the water, resulting in the once-beautiful stream losing its original charm. At that time, Japan was focused on overcoming poverty and striving for material wealth, which led to a rapid transition from the traditional cobblestone canals of the Edo period to easily constructed concrete retaining walls. The concrete retaining walls you see in the pictures were likely built during that era, probably in the 1950s.


Before the construction of the Yamagata Prefectural Tax Accountants’ Association building, there was a long-standing town factory (combined residential and industrial building). To the west of the Goten-zeki, which was sandwiched between the neighboring buildings, the canal flowed.


Most people passing by probably didn’t even notice this narrow gap, let alone recognize it as the historical waterway, the “Goten-zeki.”

コンペ時のパース perspective  for the competition


The design proposal for the Yamagata Prefectural  Tax Accountants’ Association building was chosen through a design competition. At that time, we proposed the creation of a waterside plaza that would incorporate the Goten-zeki, and this aspect of the design was positively evaluated. As a result, we were selected as the winners, and the project was implemented.


And as you can see in the photo above, we were able to complete the project almost exactly as it was envisioned during the competition, including the waterside square.



The image above is the site plan for the Yamagata Prefecture Certified Public Tax Accountants’ Association Building. However, the area where the square is located remains as the pre-existing concrete embankment. As a designer, I would have preferred to make the part facing the Goten-zeki (the historic waterway) a bit cleaner. However, I knew that the city of Yamagata and the organization with water rights manage and operate the waterway, so getting approval to create a plaza facing the waterway was the best we could achieve. We were not allowed to touch the waterway itself, nor did we consider it.


Over a year after the completion of the project, We received a call from the City Planning Policy Division of Yamagata City. They informed us that there was a prospect for landscape improvement around the Yamagata Prefecture Certified Public Tax Accountants’ Association Building with financial support from the government, and they asked for our advice. Although we hadn’t actively pursued this opportunity, it seems the municipal official had noticed the creation of the waterside plaza in front of the tax accountants’ building and believed this could be part of a broader effort to enhance the landscape of the Yamagata Goseki (Five canals), a project they had been working on for some time.


Following various developments, I assumed the role of overall supervisor for the landscape improvement project and was responsible for landscape design.




The area outlined in red is the scope of the current construction work.

山形県税理士会館の竣工当初の御殿堰の様子です。(2017年12月) 建物の新築工事の時に、コンクリートで覆われていた護岸を親水広場の高さに合わせたら、おそらく江戸時代のものであろう玉石が出てきました。水路の東(写真左)側は建物の敷地の範囲内だったので、このような形で修復することができましたが、西(写真右)側のコンクリート護岸は一切触れられませんでした。

This is how the area around the Goten-zeki looked when the Yamagata Prefectural Tax Accountants’ Association Building was completed (December 2017). During the construction of the new building, the concrete-covered embankment was raised to match the height of the waterside plaza, revealing what is likely to be Edo-era ballast stones. While it was possible to repair the section on the east side of the waterway, as it fell within the boundaries of the building’s site, no alterations were made to the concrete embankment on the west side (right side of the photo).

景観整備工事後の親水広場/ The waterside plaza after the landscape redevelopment looks like this.



For this project, we designed the waterside plaza to extend slightly towards the watercourse in a concentric circle, echoing the arc-shaped curtain wall of the building. Since we couldn’t completely restore it to the Edo period’s layout due to the areas already covered in concrete, we incorporated some Edo period design elements while introducing contemporary features. The aim was to create a new landscape where Edo and Reiwa could engage in a cross-temporal dialogue, even though we couldn’t fully recreate the historical layout.


The waters of the Goten-zeki, primarily used for agricultural purposes and sourced from the Mamigasaki River, aren’t under flexible control due to landscape constraints. The water flow isn’t constant. Therefore, in front of the Tax Accountants’ Building, we incorporated two scenic weirs, allowing the watercourse to maintain a consistent depth even when the flow is low. The weirs were designed to create beautiful cascading arcs when the water crosses them, a feature not present in the Edo period. While this isn’t a restoration, it was a thoughtful design decision made in collaboration with the municipal authorities to enhance the landscape aesthetically, ensuring the watercourse remains an attractive feature, as seen in the photo above.


In this recent landscape improvement project, the area primarily enclosed by the red line in the image was covered with a wall constructed using stacked cobblestones, and the bottom of the watercourse was also paved with cobblestones.


Cobblestones are being used for landscaping on the concrete embankment not only in front of the Tax Accountants’ Association building but also on the opposite side of the road. This will enhance the overall landscape and create a sense of expansiveness along both sides of the road, allowing pedestrians to appreciate the flowing water of the Goten-zeki more broadly.


The plaza, extending slightly towards the Goten-zeki along the arc, allows for a unique vantage point to view the watercourse that wasn’t possible before. This, I hope, will enable people to establish a deeper connection with this historical heritage.

景観整備工事完了後(2021年6月1日、撮影:小川重雄)/ After the landscape renovation work was completed (June 1, 2021, photographed by Shigeo Ogawa).


ある冬の午後の情景 / A scene on a winter afternoon.


景観整備工事完了後(2021年6月1日)/ After the landscape improvement work was completed (June 1, 2021).



From one of the water intake points at Mamigasaki River into the Yamagata Goseki. From here, the pure, snowmelt water from the Zao Mountain Range is channeled into the waterways including Goten-zeki, eventually reaching the city. This flow is also connected to the area in front of the Tax Accountants’ Association building.


The riverside of Mamigasaki is a famous cherry blossom spot in Yamagata City. In the autumn, it bustles with gatherings for imo-ni, a traditional Yamagata’s dish made with taro and other ingredients.


It was my proposal at the Yamagata Prefectural Tax Accountants’ Association that became the catalyst for the revitalization of the surrounding area, including a 100-meter section of the Gozendamari with landscape improvements. This initiative has given birth to a new place in Yamagata City, where history can be explored and celebrated.

景観整備前の親水広場と桜 / Before the landscape improvement, the waterside square and the cherry blossoms.


Three cherry trees were planted in the waterside square, which will, of course, remain

景観整備工事後(2021年4月8日)After the landscape improvement works (April 8, 2021)



And the Yamagata Tax Accountants’ Association Hall is located between the scenic Kajo Park and the former prefectural office building, Bunsho-kan.


I wrote about this in the blog “Yamagata’s Five Weirs and Cherry Blossoms” before, so please take a look if you’d like.

霞城公園のお堀と桜  御殿堰は、このお城(=御殿)のお堀にその一部が流れ込んでいることからその名が付きました。

The moat and cherry blossoms of Kajo Park. 御殿堰 (Goten-zeki) got its name from the fact that it flows into the moat of this castle (Goten).

文翔館(旧山形県庁:重要文化財)と桜 / Bunshokan (Former Yamagata Prefectural Office: Important Cultural Property) and cherry blossoms.


山形県教育資料館 (旧山形師範学校:重要文化財)前の桜もきれいです。

The cherry blossoms in front of the Yamagata Prefectural Education Museum (Former Yamagata Normal School: Important Cultural Property) are also beautiful.

馬見ヶ崎河畔まで、霞城公園から桜の名所を訪ねながら歩くと45分程度です。/ It takes about 45 minutes to walk from Kajo Park along the cherry blossom spots to the banks of Mamigasaki River.



Originally, I hoped that the waterside plaza in front of the Tax Accountants’ Building would become a stopover point for city walkers. However, with the recent landscape improvement around the Tax Accountants’ Building and the whole area, I hope it will become a stimulating link that connects existing attractive tourist spots to create a route for people to enjoy walking in the city more.



景観整備工事完了後(2021年6月1日、撮影:小川重雄)/ After Landscape Improvement Project Completion (June 1, 2021, Photographed by Shigeo Ogawa)



The landscape improvement project in the area around the Tax Accountants’ Building at Hatagomachi in Yamagata City was completed at the end of March 2021, and it’s now open for everyone to visit at any time. We hope you’ll stop by and take a look.

(撮影:小川重雄)(Photographed by Shigeo Ogawa)



For the photos in this blog without specific credits, they are taken by Hidehiro Yano