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A slice of Japan in the Hague

Back in May, I planned a secret outing to a special place in the Hague that a good friend had told me about. The idea was to get PJD there without him knowing where we were going, which proved a really hard task to achieve, given his incessant “Where are we going?” line of questioning. All he knew was that we had to go there during a specific month of the year, and that our destination was outdoors. Little did he know that I was taking him to an incredible park in the Hague, which has a slice of Japan nestled in the middle of it.

You will see from our photos that we were not disappointed by this place. It is the Japanese Garden in Clingendael Park. The Park is a sprawling former estate public park, and the Japanese Garden was established there in 1910 by the then-owner of the estate, Marguérite M. Baroness van Brienen. Despite this fancy name, the Baroness was better known as Lady Daisy, and she made trips to Japan and brought plants and Japanese artefacts back with her for her beautiful garden.

Now the garden is open just two months of the year (April-June) due to its fragility. As I understand, it is somewhat of a treasure in the Hague, being listed as an official historical monument since 2001. It certainly is one of the most tranquil places I have been to in the Netherlands yet, with soothing sounds of water, a gentle breeze brushing through soft leaves, and birdsong. The play between dark and light, and the reflections in the still water were definite highlights.

I’ve only been to one authentic Japanese garden in my life (read: actually in Japan!) and it was overwhelming in its beauty and zen nature. For a Japanese garden in Europe, I think this one stacks up pretty well, and certainly had some authentic aspects to it, even if they weren’t as precisely picture perfect as they might be in Nippon. I particularly liked this crazy tree:

The range and depth of colours, and the light dappled through the leaves (especially of the glowing red maple trees), had to be my favourite thing about this place though, they were simply incredible.

There was no particular reason behind this secret outing, other than that good surprises are fantastic, and I had a feeling this one would reward us. It turns out it did. Now we can’t wait to visit Japan together one day and experience the real deal.


Photos by PJD and CIA in the Japanese Garden, Clingendael Park, Den Haag, May 2012.

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