Covering some 5,000 square metres, the Japanese Landscape was designed to complement the Japanese Gateway.
This Chokushi-Mon (Gateway of the Imperial Messenger) was created for the 1910 Japan-British exhibition and later reconstructed in the Gardens. It is a replica of the Karamon of Nishi Hongan-ji in Kyoto.
The landscape was laid out in 1996 following restoration of the Gateway. In designing it, Professor Fukuhara of Osaka University adapted garden styles from the Momayama period when the original gateway in Japan was built.
The Landscape comprises three garden areas. The main entrance leads into the Garden of Peace, a tranquil area reminiscent of a traditional Japanese tea garden. Here, paths pass between stone lanterns and a dripping water basin.
The slope on the southern side of the Gateway is the Garden of Activity. This symbolises elements of the natural world, such as waterfalls, mountains and the sea. Here, raked gravel and large rocks represent the movement of water flowing and tumbling.
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. The plants include neatly clipped low-lying hedges of Rhododendron ‘Mothers’ Day’, and the Japanese anemone (Anemone x hybrida).
With its highly manicured appearance, the Japanese Landscape contrasts strongly with the more natural-looking woodland areas nearby.
A Magnolia kobus, native to Japan, was planted by Her Imperial Highness Princess Sayako in 1996 to commemorate the opening of the Japanese Landscape.
Their Imperial Highnesses Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko (now Emperor and Empress) had planted a specimen of hinoki or false cypress (Chamaecyparis obtuse) when they visited Kew 20 years earlier. A conifer that is sacred to followers of the Shinto faith, this tree is also now thriving within the Japanese Landscape.
Things to look out for
A granite block, inscribed with a haiku, was presented to Kew in 1979. It now forms part of the Japanese Landscape. A haiku is a poem comprising 17 Japanese characters or sounds. The haiku was composed at Kew in 1936 by Kyoshi Takahama, one of Japan’s most gifted haiku poets. It reads:
Freed from all fear of man
England in Spring.