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Discover Japan at Kew Gardens

Updated: Oct 24, 2021

This autumn, Kew Gardens invites everyone to discover, explore and celebrate the mesmerising art, plants, and culture of Japan. The Japan festival includes a breath-taking large-scale artistic display, immersive soundscapes, and a stunning Momijigari Trail around the Gardens.

Head of Visitor Programmes and Exhibitions at RBG Kew says, Paul Denton, said: “Kew has a strong connection to Japan through both our architectural features and our plants in the Gardens. The harmony and beauty of Japan are fascinating, and the natural world as a whole is woven through Japanese culture in a unique, tangible way. We are more than honoured to celebrate the country’s rich connection to nature through iconic plant displays, contemporary art, food, and crafts in a brand-new festival this autumn.”

The Japanese Gateway Landscape was created for the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition held at London’s White City London. Architectural style - late-16th century Momoyama “Japanese rococo”.
The Japanese Gateway Landscape was created for the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition held at London’s White City . The architectural style is “Japanese rococo” (late-16th century Momoyama).

Momijigari Trail


Momijigari is the Japanese tradition of “leaf hunting” or visiting places that burst with red leaves in autumn, so if you love to take in spectacular seasonal displays of golden or fiery foliage, then all you need to do is follow the 1.5-mile Momijigari Trail across the gardens. Key stops include popular Japanese landmarks such as the Japanese Gateway, Ginkgo Grove, and the Minka House.

Chokushi-Mon (Gateway of the Imperial Messenger) is a replica of the Gate of Nishi Hongan-Ji (Western Temple of the Original Vow) in Kyoto, Japan.
Chokushi-Mon (Gateway of the Imperial Messenger) is a replica of the Gate of Nishi Hongan-Ji (Western Temple of the Original Vow) in Kyoto, Japan.

Temperate House Displays


Kew’s magnificent Victorian glasshouse is home to a large-scale art installation by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota. Called “One Thousand Springs”, the impressive artwork is made of 5,000 haikus written by members of the public, sharing stories of their connection with nature, minutiously suspended in a web of red threads in the centre of the Temperate House.

The centrepiece of the Japan Festival is the “One Thousand Springs” art installation by artist Chiharu Shiota’s, featuring 5,000 haikus submitted by Londoners and suspended on red threads in the Temperate House.
The centrepiece of the Japan Festival is the “One Thousand Springs” art installation by artist Chiharu Shiota. It features 5,000 haikus submitted by Londoners and suspended on red threads in the Temperate House.

Artist Chiharu Shiota said, “The Japanese language was formed by a culture that cherishes the natural world. Many cultural practices like bonsai, ikebana, and hanami are based on the contemplation and enjoyment of nature. For 1000 Springs, I chose to focus on the haiku. The traditional haiku mentions one of the seasons and many haikus are based on observations in nature.”

Kew’s horticulturists created a display of six varieties of chrysanthemums. The yellow and orange blooms create a joyful blaze of colour to evoke autumn sunsets.
Kew’s chief horticulturists created a special display of six varieties of chrysanthemums. The yellow and orange blooms create a joyful blaze of colour to evoke autumn sunsets.

As Kiku Matsuri (chrysanthemum festivals) feature across the “country of the rising sun” during autumn months, on your way in, you can admire spectacular orange, yellow, and white displays of six varieties of Japan’s national flower, the chrysanthemum. Chrysanthemums are culturally significant in Japan. Symbolizing longevity, rejuvenation, and goodwill, they're featured on banknotes and passports.


And to add another dimension to the multisensory experience, the self-taught Japanese sound designer Yosi Horikawa has composed a unique soundscape by capturing natural Japanese sounds, from wind rustling through trees and bird calls to rocks thrown into pools, and even the melodious natural reverberations of the waterfalls and rivers of Kagoshima.


Next, you can visit the Marianne North Gallery to discover the art of Japanese landscapes and plants.

Elegant Flower Boxes (made from perspex boxes and hand painted stainless steel) are based on 19th century botanical illustrations found in Kew’s vast archive. 

Blackfield - "A Field of Dream and Reflection"


At the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art you can visit the "Natural Reserve" landmark exhibition by award-winning sculptor Zadok Ben-David, a timely chance to pause and reflect on the delicate splendour of nature, particularly during the unfolding global pandemic and climate crisis.

The ingenious manipulation of shadow, scale, and reflections enriches "Blackfield" with unexpected dimensions.

Must-see exhibits include fragile miniature artworks and a monumental 360-degree floor installation called “Blackfield.” The immersive site-specific artwork contains over 17,000 steel flowers etched, painted, and assembled by hand. Its tiny floral motifs inspired by illustrations from 19th century Victorian encyclopedias explore Zadok’s inimitable vision of nature, reflecting on the contrasts between life and death.

“Blackfield blossoms from a two-dimensional still-life drawing into three-dimensional landscape, fluttering with suggestions of paradise and cataclysm, life and death” (Roni Feldman, ‘Blackfield’, The Magazine, August 2009)

📅 Experience Japan at Kew Gardens until Sunday 31 October 2021.

⏰ 10.00 - 18.00 Monday - Sunday.

📍 Where: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Rd, Richmond TW9 3AE.

🎫 Purchase tickets from here.

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