Minka House and Bamboo Garden
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Bamboo Garden and Minka House

One of the largest collections of bamboo in the UK with approximately 1,200 bamboo species, surrounding a traditional Japanese farmhouse.

Bamboo Garden

History and planting

Created in 1891, this garden originally contained 40 species of bamboo, primarily from Japan. There are now approximately 1,200 bamboo species from China, Japan, the Himalayas and Americas, making it one of the largest collections in the UK.

What are bamboos?

Bamboos are members of the grass family. The fastest growing woody plants in the world, they are economically very valuable. They are used to make scaffolding, house-frames, musical instruments and textiles.

Kew’s specimens range from the small-leaved Fargesia nitida to the variegated Arundinaria fortunei. Because some species grow rapidly and are highly invasive, they are contained within heavy-duty plastic barriers.

Bushes of the sacred bamboo (Nandina domestica ‘firepower’) are planted around the entrances of the Minka House. This plant is alleged to dispel bad dreams. 

Tanabata at Kew (Image: Ray Townsend)

Tanabata Festival in the Bamboo Garden (Image: Ray Townsend).

Minka House

What is a Minka House?

The Minka House, a traditional Japanese farmhouse, stands within the Bamboo Garden.

This Minka House originally stood in Okazaki City, central Japan. The Yonezu family lived in it, after their main house was destroyed by a bomb in 1945. After the last of the family died it was donated to Kew by the Japan Minka Reuse and Recycle Association.

Most country people in Japan lived in minkas until the mid-20th century. Minka means 'houses of the people’. Minkas were not cemented down to allow them to move during an earthquake.

How was it built?

A frame of pine logs are tied together with rope, wattle and daub walls and a lime-washed exterior. Japanese carpenters reinstated the joints, which are constructed without nails. British builders who worked on the Globe Theatre in London built the mud wall panels.