While most tourist are familiar with some of the city’s more famous locations such as Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, London has also some smaller and less visited parks and gardens. One of them is Holland Park in Kensington, the largest park in the borough and contained within the park is my all-time favourite Japanese Gardens. Aptly named ‘Kyoto Garden’ and ‘Fukushima Memorial Garden’ — both were presented by the Japanese people to commemorate the long friendship between Japan and Great Britain.
The Kyoto Garden was opened by The Prince of Wales and by The Crown Prince of Japan on 17 September 1991.
The Fukushima Memorial Garden was built in 2012, right next to Kyoto Garden, as an expression of gratitude from the Japanese people for the support that the British people had given following the earthquake and tsunami that hit Fukushima on the 11th of March 2011. It is not a large space, but a green lawn that’s almost empty except for the three rocks (apparently to symbolise hope) that are carefully placed by the entrance/exit gate.
The paths leading to Kyoto Garden were expanded and a few benches were added.
The pebbled path leads to a little stairway to Kyoto Garden.
As soon as you reach Kyoto Garden, there is a bench on the left side with a broken plinth underneath to represent the earthquake in Fukushima.
There’s also a memorial plaque to commemorate the visit of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko when they came in 2012. They were in London to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
I love Japanese gardens, and coming to this little corner of Kensington always transports me back to my student days in Japan.
Kyoto Garden was designed to emphasise key Japanese garden features that’s noticeable as soon as you enter the gate. The central feature is the waterfall and pond with some colourful koi carp.
As you can see in the photos above the white stuff floating in the water are pieces of bread thrown in by people for the nishikigoi to eat. There’s actually a sign that warns people not to feed the fish but I’ve seen some kids (with their parents or nannies) doing it.
In springtime the blossoms are gorgeous but the garden is even more beautiful and magical in autumn.
I love coming here. I’d usually sit in a bench; listen to the noise of the splashing water, watch the birds and wait for the squirrels and peacocks to show up. I’m always captivated by the peacock’s spectacular tail feather display.
The peacocks wander around the gardens freely, and it’s always fascinating to watch them do their vocals — it is brief but very loud.
One afternoon I watched a little squirrel trying to be playful by attempting to walk on top of the peacock’s tail but had to run for his life when the peacock tried to catch him. 🙂
A few years ago, the gardener happened to be around when I was there so I asked him about how he takes care of the bonsai and other ornamental plants. He told me that a Japanese garden designer taught him how to keep the gardens looking pruned; that English climate doesn’t support the shrubs, mosses and other plants that thrive in Japan but a few variety fit well with the weather here and can be seen all around the garden.
Interestingly he mentioned that most of the rocks were imported from Kyoto, but some surprisingly enough, were Scottish rocks brought in from Glasgow. He mentioned that on the main entrance behind the bamboo fence are plants called ‘Mind Your Own Business’ (never heard of that plant before) — it was a substitute for other Japanese ornamental plants that don’t thrive in England.
Evidently, they bring in Japanese garden designers every 2-3 years to check everything; to prune the plants and make it look more like an authentic Japanese garden.
Kyoto Garden is pretty much like an artist’s impression of a Japanese paradise in an English setting.
It is frequented by the Beckhams and other celebrities who live in the neighbourhood. And it is not unusual to see little Harper chasing the pigeons and peacocks, or tip-toeing in the little bridge.
This garden is really one of the most beautiful hidden gems in London.
It is a quiet place of meditation and offers a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.
It really is one of my favourite places in Kensington; a quiet little corner I often go to even in the dead of winter.