Lauriston Castle is fairly well known to tourists, but the Japanese garden is not. Alternatively named the Kyoto Friendship Garden or ‘Castle Garden to Water and Beyond’, it was created in 2002 to celebrate the twinning of Kyoto prefecture in Japan and Scotland’s capital city. The pool, rhododendrons and familiar-but-no-less-stunning acers (maple trees) which turn burgundy and orange in the Autumn are popular with local artists.
With its contemplative zen energy and classical Eastern spaciousness, the bamboo coverings and silver stones offer a peaceful experience. There is the Yang heaviness of the monumental guardian stones forming focal points – terracotta brown and slate grey and the Yin flowing of curving fences, waterfall and spring incorporating movement and gentle sounds into the scene. All is beautifully balanced, as you would expect of somewhere that is designed to bring serenity into our crowded and busy lives.
The twinning between the Edinburgh and Kyoto dates from 1994, but it wasn’t until eight years later that the 2.4-acre Japanese garden, designed by London-based Takashi Sawano, was opened at Lauriston Castle. A Japanese floral and garden designer plus author, Sawano won an award from the British Association of Landscape Industries in 2003.
Although aiming for a natural appearance, these gardens are carefully controlled by humans, another case of the Taoist concept of equilibrium. The garden is part of the estate, and the estate is in sight of the Firth of Forth, thereby giving me the sense that I am both safe and in the midst of the landscape.