25 August 2021

8 reasons to visit the Japan festival at Kew

A Momijigari Trail, mesmerising art, chrysanthemums, giant calligraphy, and so much more.

By Katie Avis-Riordan

Japan festival

Our autumn festival celebrates the plants, art and culture of Japan set amongst the beautiful landscape of our Gardens.

From a scenic Momijigari Trail to breath-taking artistic displays in the Temperate House, here are the highlights of Japan at Kew.

Autumnal Momijigari Trail

One of the main highlights of our Japan festival, taking place from Saturday 2 to Sunday 31 October 2021 and supported by Daikin UK, is the Momijigari Trail.

What is momijigari? It's the Japanese tradition of visiting places that are rich with red autumn foliage.

Follow our trail across the Gardens and take in the best of our autumn trees and colour.

Along the way, you’ll discover our Japanese landmarks such as Chokushi-Mon (our Japanese Gateway), the Minka House and Ginkgo Grove.

Book tickets to Japan festival

Autumn canopy of colourful leaves
Autumn, Ellen McHale © RBG Kew

Stunning artwork

Step inside the Temperate House during the festival and take in the spectacular artistic displays.

A large-scale artistic installation, One Thousand Springs, by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota is an intricate construction of 5,000 haikus suspended in a web of red threads in the centre of the glasshouse.

A haiku is a traditional short form of Japanese poetry. It's made up of 17 syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five. Traditionally, haikus evoke imagery of the natural world.

Art lovers should also head to the Marianne North Gallery to admire beautiful paintings of Japanese plants and landscapes.

Artistic installation by Chiharu Shiota called I hope...
© Chiharu Shiota, I hope... (2021) DACS, London, and the artist

Chalk Garden and chrysanthemums

The Temperate House will also be home to the elegant Chalk Garden.

This exhibit was created by award-winning UK-based landscape designers, Otis Landscape Associates, and kodai and associates — Japanese architects based in Switzerland.

This tranquil garden mirrors the minimalistic qualities of Japanese design. It's the perfect place to pause and reflect.

Chalky white English limestone contrasts with the precise Japanese planting.

Enjoy the bright green mosses, pretty Japanese maples and frondy bamboos. 

The glasshouse will also display six varieties of Japan’s national flower, the chrysanthemum.

Look out for the colourful blooms, from yellow to orange and white.

Did you know? Kiku Matsuri (chrysanthemum festivals) feature across Japan in autumn.

Close-up of pink chrysanthemum
Chrysanthemum © Pedro/Unsplash

Our Japanese Landscape

Nestled in our Gardens is the peaceful Japanese Landscape, alive with Japanese plants and culture.

It was designed by Professor Masao Fukuhara of Osaka University and opened in 1996.

Gardens of Peace, Harmony and Activity unite. Here, you’ll find a traditional Japanese tea garden, and features that symbolise elements of the natural world, such as raked gravel mirroring the flow of water and large rocks representing mountains.

At the heart of the landscape is the ‘Chokushi-Mon’, or ‘Gateway of the Imperial Messenger’.

The beautiful structure was gifted to Kew after its inclusion in London’s Japan-British Exhibition of 1910.

Did you know? Our ‘Chokushi-Mon’ is a four-fifths scaled down replica of the Karamon Gate of the Nishi Hongan-ji Temple in Kyoto, once the capital of Japan.

Discover more facts about our Japanese Landscape

Japanese Landscape and Gateway at Kew in autumn
Japanese Landscape and Gateway © RBG Kew

Unique soundscape

Treat your ears to the captivating soundscape from Yosi Horikawa in the Temperate House.

The self-taught Japanese sound designer creates his pieces by capturing the sounds of nature in Japan.

Waterfalls, rocks thrown into pools, rustling leaves and other natural elements are sources of inspiration.

Yosi Horikawa, a Japanese sound designer, recording sounds in the middle of a green forest
Yosi Horikawa, Japanese sound designer

Giant calligraphy art and one-man band

Visit Japan at the weekend and you’ll be in for some special treats.

On weekend mornings in the Temperate House, see busker ICHI from Nagoya in Japan perform.

He creates music by blending his quirky handmade instrument inventions with steel drum, ping-pong balls, typewriters, toys and everyday objects.

In the afternoon, don't miss KASHUŪ. The London-based Japanese calligrapher will perform giant calligraphy (shodō) art.

The age-old tradition is a discipline of beauty and a search towards pure form and peace within.

KASHUŪ, the London-based Japanese calligrapher performing giant calligraphy
KASHUŪ, the London-based Japanese calligrapher

Japan After Hours

Come to Kew Gardens after dark for our special event Japan After Hours.

Under the magnificent glass ceiling of the Temperate House, dance collective Butoh UK will perform their new work Mujokan, taking inspiration from the surrounding plants.

Stop by Japan House London’s pop-up sake bar to taste a variety of sweet, dry and sparkling sake.

You can learn about its history and regional tastes from the on-hand experts.

Watch ikebana master, Hanako Motoya, demonstrate the traditional Japanese art of flower arranging.

You will be able to speak to Hanako as she works, and learn about the ritual art of ikebana and her inspirations in nature.

Electronic musician, producer and DJ Anchorsong AKA Masaaki Yoshida will deliver a series of incredible live shows based around his latest album release, Mirage.

Origami artist Toshiko Kurata will greet you with a personalised origami creation, inspired by the nature and horticulture of Japan. 

Inside the design will be a haiku from Shiota’s One Thousand Springs.

Japan After Hours is on Friday 8, Saturday 9, Friday 15 and Saturday 16 October 2021 from 6.30pm to 10.30pm.

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Japan After Hours
Japan After Hours © Chiharu Shiota, I hope... (2021) Sunhi Mang. Courtesy of König Galerie.

Beautiful autumn Gardens

A visit to the Japan festival is included with entry to the Gardens, so why not make the most of everything else on offer?

Experience the tropics in our Palm House, see carnivorous plants in the Princess of Wales Conservatory or stroll down the colourful Great Broad Walk Borders.

Explore the Aboretum with its 14,000 trees, alive with autumn colour. 

Did you know? Leaves turn a different colour in the autumn due to hormonal changes in the tree, triggered by the longer nights as the summer comes to an end. Different trees turn different colours because of varying compounds in the leaves.

Spot the fiery maples, bronze chestnuts and golden yellow ginkgos.

Visit Kew Gardens this autumn

Supported by Daikin UK

Daikin UK logo
Japan festival


Celebrate the iconic plants, art and culture of Japan at our autumn festival.

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