Ok, just listen to me and picture this for a second.
You wake up one morning, get out of bed, make yourself a nice coffee, open the window and all of a sudden you see it: spring has arrived in London. After months of cold dark winter the sun is finally shining, trees have started to blossom, people left boots and coats home and replaced them with tennis shoes and jeans jackets – ok maybe not this last part, English people have got a style of their own that I will possibly never understand – and for some very strange reason your body feels more energised than ever.
It’s right when you feel that, that you also suddenly start to wish you woke up in Japan. Because let’s face it, Japan and its cherry blossom season is in the top tier countries when it comes to spring. But guess what? It turns out you can actually go to Japan. Without leaving London.
Are you still wondering how that is possible?
London has its own Japanese garden that people actually don’t really know about. I mean, if you ask Londoners they will probably tell you where it is straight away, but have you ever seen Holland Park mentioned in any London tourist guide? I will answer this for you: very rarely.
WELCOME TO KYOTO GARDENS
Here’s the thing: almost every park in London has got several different gardens hidden inside. Think about the famous Kensington Gardens, that is part of a much bigger green space that is Hyde Park. Most of the times, if you want to visit true gems you will have to look for gardens, not parks.
Holland Park is this small park situated in West London, far from the more famous Central London’s Hyde Park, St. James Park and Green Park.
Inside the park, near the north entrance, you will find the Fukushima Gardens and the adjacent Kyoto Gardens.
If the Fukushima Garden is a small and almost empty space, built in 2012 by the Embassy of Japan to commemorate the support of British people to the Japanese people after the natural disaster occurred in 2011, the Kyoto Garden has been built under much happier circumstances.
Built in 1992, the Kyoto Garden was in fact a gift from the city of Kyoto to celebrate the Japan Festival held in London.
WATERFALLS, KOI CARPS AND PEACOCKS
Upon entering, you will most likely be greeted on your right by a majestic peacock. Now you know this say that peacocks are vain and love to show off their tail? Let me tell you it is absolutely true. Last time I visited, I have watched it perform its ritual very closely: it walked back and forth a few times, went from one person to another pretending not to look interested but really waiting for everybody to shoot a few pictures before walking off; only when it thought there was a big enough crowd gathered around it, it spread its tail and enjoyed the excitement of the people around it.
When you have finished admiring the peacock – I know it can be hypnotic – you can start your walk in the garden. Right in front of you you will find a sign that advise you to follow the path in a clockwise direction, so you take it and start looking around to what is a true Japanese gem in the heart of London.
The main feature of the garden can be found right in the centre of it, a big pond full of koi carps surrounded by Japanese stone lanterns and blossom and maple trees that create a spectacular play of colours.
Continue your walk around the lake and you will end up crossing a small stone bridge that leads to a rock waterfall immerse in a riot of colour and light.
The Kyoto Garden has a few benches along the path for you to sit there and enjoy the tranquillity of the space. If you think this is in the midst of a chaotic city like London, this place gives you a sense of zen and relaxation that makes it the perfect getaway when you want to rest and escape from the crowds, even for just a few minutes.
Try not to get there during the weekend though, the garden is so beautiful that as you can imagine is an important meeting place for many instagrammers!
HOW AND WHEN TO GET THERE
Even though it is not exactly in the heart of London, it is still very central and I do not suggest you to drive there as it would be nearly impossible to park.
There are many tube stations that surround it so it makes it really easy to reach from anywhere you are. The closest stations are Holland Park on the Central Line and High Street Kensington on the District and Circle Line.
The park is free to enter and is open seven days a week, from 7:30am to 8pm.