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Baltalimanı Japon Bahçesi (The Japanese Garden)

Baltalimanı, Sarıyer, Istanbul

All the coast-road buses on the European shore stop here. The Emirgan ferry station is a ten-minute walk. The 4. Levent metro station is a 7-minute taxi ride.

On the way from Rumelihisarı to Emirgan, take a rest at this very pretty Japanese garden, inspired by the Chofu Garden on the Kanmon Straits of Japan. Complete with a traditional pergola, stone bridges, a natural pond and the famous sakura cherry tree, the garden was opened in 2003, which was the year of Turkey in Japan and was the be the first of a hundred Istanbul gardens dedicated to the horticultural heritage of Istanbul’s many sister cities. Afterwards, hop in a taxi to Vakıftepe, on the hill above for a stunning view of the Bosphorus.

A Japanese friend of Cornucopia’s tells the story of Istanbul’s Japanese Garden:

‘In the year 2000 the city of Istanbul approached its Japanese sister city of Shimonoseki to aid them in constructing a traditional Japanese Garden in the city limits. Apparently there was a plan to build a total of 100 gardens all in the style of different sister cities abroad. However, this plan had been abandoned by 2003 and it was left to the city of Shimonoseki had to fund the majority of its construction. Nonetheless it was a project Shimonoseki was excited to take charge of and it turned the task over to the Shimonoseki Gardening Club to design and build what was, in fact, the first truly Japanese-style garden in Turkey. It was originally constructed in 2003 to commemorate 30 years of friendship as sister cities between Shimonoseki, on the Kamon Strait of Japan, and Istanbul.

‘Apparently after its opening it was rarely visited and soon fell into disrepair. Occasional tea ceremonies were held there, as well as a spring cherry blossom festival, but it suffered until 2010. In that year, as Istanbul was celebrating its year as the European capital of culture, it was revitalised and renovated, again with the help of Shimonoseki.

‘All the designers and workers on the original 2003 garden traveled from Shimonoseki to create it. During the planning, in 2001–03, it was decided that certain elements of the garden should mirror important architectural sites in the city of Shimonoseki itself. The most interesting is the entrance to the garden, which is modeled after the gate of the Chofu Garden, where the house of the great Samurai Nishi Yukinaga was located. Most of the materials where imported from Japan and, in fact, made in the city of Shimonoseki. The rest of the garden closely follows traditional design elements of gardens from the Shimonoseki region, elegantly though tightly situated within the gardens 7,000 sq meters ( as opposed to the 30,000 sq. meters of the Chofu Garden.) They filled the garden with traditional cherry tress, Japanese maples, native plants and flowers, statues, mini pagodas, a pond, carp kites and a traditional Japanese garden house. The major addition in 2010 was a new rose garden. The opening ceremony of the renovated garden was held in July 2010 attended the mayor of the Istanbul and Mr Tamoaki Nakao, the mayor of Shimonoseki. It now seems to have a better life, with more frequent visits from tourist as well as ceremonies held by Japanese cultural groups.

‘Don’t miss the cherry blossoms in the Spring, and if you want to be authentic bring a blanket, your lover and a bottle of wine.’

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Issue 66, December 2023 Turkey’s Centenary Issue
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