In a bustling metropolis such as London any moment of peace and tranquillity is a welcome relief and there’s no better place to recharge your batteries than in the environs of the Kyoto Garden. Located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, within the 22-acres of Holland Park, the Kyoto Garden transports a little of Japan into the West of Central London.
The compact Kyoto Garden was constructed as part of The Japan Society Festival 1991 to commemorate a century of the Society in Britain. Opened jointly by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales and H.I.H. the Crown Prince of Japan on 17th September 1991 this outdoor space captures the essence of a Japanese garden. Visiting a Japanese garden is much like walking through the rooms of a large house; each section of the garden has its own character and as we enter, we walk past a stone lantern and a small bamboo fountain (into which you can throw a few coins and make a wish). Architects have long known about the calming effect of water and the gentle flow here is much like the cycle of life.
Walking on, the path gently curves upwards on a gentle gradient past beautifully manicured lawns before turning back on itself to reveal a raging waterfall. The garden’s characteristics gradually change as we walk forwards, and so does the path, from gravel to large smooth pebbles. Likewise, the waterfall flows into a calm pond over which four koi carp windsock lanterns flutter gently in the breeze. Mirroring this, as if reflected in the pond real koi carp swim and their bright orange scales stand starkly against the grey bed.
The path through the garden is loosely shaped like an ‘O’ and as we travel around different points and stop to take stock, the garden reveals different aesthetics. One view places emphasis on maple trees while another brings our attention to a rockery. Space is at a premium in Japan and forces people to be creative with what little is available and that’s just the ethic at work here. Yet, while this garden is fairly compact there’s plenty of surprises to be found hidden in plain sight or ingeniously tucked away; a seat in a corner or a bamboo table disguised as an ornament.
As we come full circle a small path leads off to the left (like the tail on a ‘Q’) to reveal a new addition to the garden. This area is called the Fukushima Memorial Garden and was opened on 24th July 2012 and donated by the Japanese in gratitude for Britain’s help after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Here you will find a resident peacock, resplendent in his blue plumage, who calls for his mate and raises his beautiful feathers in warning to those who come too close.
If you ever visit London and need a short break from the overcrowded Tube and general hustle and bustle, then a sojourn to the Kyoto Garden is a must.