6 Japanese parks and buildings for exploration in and around London and Middlesex

(1) The Kyoto Garden in Holland Park – Holland Park feels like several parks, gardens and open spaces rolled into one – comprising of wild woodland, sports areas and more formal gardens. The park takes its name from Sir Henry, Earl of Holland (whose statue adorns the Park today) who was formerly resident at Holland House (which was heavily bombed during World War 2 with only the East Wing and Ball room surviving).   One of my favourite gardens in Holland Park is the Kyoto Garden which was built by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce as part of the Japan Festival 1991.  The garden was opened by the Prince of Wales and presented to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea as a gift to commemorate the long lasting friendship between Britain and Japan.   The garden is lovely to visit at any time but more ideal during the week for those in search of peaceful contemplation.

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015008(2) The Japanese Bridge in Langley Park – Located off the A412, Uxbridge Road between Slough and Uxbridge.  Langley Park is a bit of a hidden gem I’ve only recently discovered having spent years just going to Black Park and driving past the signs.  Don’t miss a wander round the Temple Rhododendron Gardens and viewing  Capability Brown Lake and exterior of Langley Mansion House (once the home of the 3rd Duke of Marlborough).  The park also contains an Arboretum which houses a fine collection of specimen trees from around the world – including a handkerchief tree from China, White Himalayan Birch and Giant Californian Sequoia.  The western stretch of the Arboretum is known as “Queens Walk” because Queen Victoria used to pass through the Arboretum when visiting Sir Robert Bateson Harvey.  The ornamental pond dates from the early 1900s and the Japanese Bridge across it was made in the early 1990s.  The word “bridge” is carved at both ends in Japanese and an old Japanese Maple sits nearby.  In 2008 the bridge was refurbished with support from Friends of Langley Park.

(3) Kew Gardens (Part 1) – The Japanese Landscape comprising of Gateway of the Imperial Messenger leading to The Garden of Peace, Garden of Activity, Garden of Harmony

The Gateway of the Imperial Messenger

The Chokushi-Mon (Gateway of the Imperial Messenger) was created for the 1910 Japan-British exhibition held in White City and later reconstructed in the Gardens. It is a replica of the Karamon of Nishi Hongan-ji in Kyoto.   The Gateway was built during the late 16th century in the architectural style of the Momoyama (or Japanese Rococo) period.  Renovation work on the Gateway took place in around 1994 replacing the original lead-covered cedar bark roof shingles with more visually dramatic copper tiles.

The Garden of Peace

This garden is designed in the style of a traditional Japanese Tea Garden with stone baths and a gently dripping water basin.

The Garden of Activity

This garden symbolises the natural grandeur of waterfalls, hills and the sea.  Raked gravel and large rocks represent the movement of swirling and tumbling water.

The Garden of Harmony

The Garden of Harmony links the Gardens of Peace and Activity. Here Japan’s mountain regions are represented by stones and rock outcrops, interplanted with shrubs.

(4) Kew Gardens Part (2):  other Japanese attractions at Kew Gardens include The Minka House and Bamboo Garden

This traditional Japanese farmhouse was donated to Kew in 2001 by the Japan Minka Reuse and Recycle Association.  It originally stood in a suburb of Okazaki City, near the southern coast of central Japan.

The Bamboo Garden was created in 1891 and contains over 1,200 species of bamboo from Japan, China and the Himalayas.

(5) Japanese Roof Garden – SOAS, University of London

The Japanese-inspired roof garden at SOAS, University of London was built during the Japan 2001 celebrations.  The garden is dedicated to Forgiveness which is the meaning of the Kanji character engraved on the garden’s granite water basin. The Roof Garden was officially opened by the sponsor, Mr Haruhisa Handa (Toshu Fukami), an Honorary Fellow of the School, on 13 November 2001. It provides a peaceful area away from the noise and bustle of London streets where visitors can relax and meditate.

(6) The London Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park

At the height of the cold war, the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order offered the London Peace Pagoda  to the people of London to promote world peace and harmony as part of the 1984 Greater London Council (GLC) Peace Year.

The Nipponzan Myohoji (founded by The Most Venerable Nichidatsu Fujii) have been constructing peace pagodas as the spiritual focus to unify the movement for peace since 1947.  There are now 80 peace pagodas spread across the world.  The first UK peace pagoda was actually constructed in Milton Keynes in 1980 at the western edge of Willen lake

A team of 50 volunteers including Buddhist monks and nuns helped to construct the Battersea pagoda in 1984 but today only 1 monk remains who spends his day in meditation and maintaining the pagoda.  He relies on donations to live and is grateful to the bread he gets from a local Caribbean bakery and vegetables from a Chinese vegetable shop.

The Pagoda also plays host to a number of ceremonies throughout the year; with the main ones taking place every June, in which Buddhists from many different backgrounds gather to offer prayers for peace and on the 9th August (Nagasaki Day) when, at dusk, a floating lantern ceremony takes place, commemorating all victims of war.

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