A Japanese autumn at Kew Gardens

Japanese stone lantern at KewKew Gardens! It’s been years since I last went there. In fact it’s so long ago it might even have been back in the days when you put a penny in the turnstile to get in, (on second thoughts, it wasn’t THAT long ago), days which are unfortunately a distant memory as nowadays Kew has to turn more than a penny to fund its work as an internationally recognised research and education institution with the worlds largest collection of living plants.

What drew me there? Well, once again it’s thanks to the Japan Society which arranged a brilliant tour of the herbarium which I’ll tell you about in my next post.

For the moment I’m going to focus on the Gardens themselves as autumn is a lovely time of year to visit; the trees with their red and gold leaves are picture-perfect – as you can see:

Autumn leaves at KewAutumn leaves at KewAutumn leaves at KewBut I wasn’t there just to see the autumn colours; nor to see the David Nash exhibition, though I passed a lot of his works on my way around the gardens. I didn’t go into the Palm House or up onto the treetop walkway either. My objective was different – to see the Japanese landscape which is not far from the Lion Gate at the south end of the gardens.

SignpostThe garden is in the style of a garden of the Momoyama period in the late sixteenth century. The south side has been designed to represent waterfalls, hills and the sea, with gravel and rocks expressing the vigorous movement of water flowing and falling.

Japanese Landscape south garden

Japanese Landscape south gardenJapanese Landscape south gardenJapanese Landscape south gardenJapanese Landscape south gardenThe quieter north side symbolises tranquility, recalling a tea garden with traditional stone paths, a lantern and a tsukubai which gently drips water into a basin.

Japanese Landscape north gardenJapanese Landscape north gardenA line of hydrangeas still partly in flower lead you to the tiny haiku garden, a small haven of calm where a haiku is carved into a stone tablet.

Haiku garden hydrangeasThe haiku reads Even sparrows/freed from all fear of man/England in spring. It was composed in 1936 by Kyoshi Takahama. Although the pink petals that cover it look like spring blossom they are actually fallen leaves.

Haiku gardenAt the centre of the garden is the Chokushi-mon, the Gateway of the Imperial Messenger, which is a four-fifths size replica of the Karamon of the Nishi-Hongan Temple in Kyoto. It was originally made for the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition in Shepherds Bush where it proved so popular it was preserved and moved to Kew. It was restored in 1995 and was being cleaned when I visited.

Chokushi-monThe elaborately carved gateway is made of hinoki wood.

Chokushi-monChokushi-monNext time I go to Kew I want to see the Minka House, a traditional Japanese wooden house that I didn’t have time for on this visit as I had to hurry off to the Herbarium where the Japan Society tour group was waiting…and if you want to know what we saw, come back for the next post in a few days time.

Autumn leaves at Kew Gardens

3 thoughts on “A Japanese autumn at Kew Gardens

  1. Pingback: Happy New Year! – and some January reminders | Sequins and Cherry Blossom

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