The Japanese Peace Garden in Coventry’s War Memorial Park was created by Coventry primary school students and staff from Coventry city council with the help of renowned Japanese garden designer Robert Ketchell, who has been bestowed with the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese Ambassador for his contribution to Japanese gardens in the UK. The garden was opened in 2021 by Coventry Lord Mayor and the Japanese Ambassador.
The design is known as a ‘karesansui’ garden, or a ‘dry garden’.
A key feature will be the ‘Islands of Peace’, while there will also be a ginkgo tree, viewing platforms and Japanese cherry trees known as sakura trees, all surrounded by a low wall with a traditional Japanese partial roof.
The project started as an education project involving five Coventry primary schools and a Noh theatre group “Between the Stones”. The school communities learnt about the links between Coventry and Hiroshima especially the importance of reconciliation and peace. The final part of the project was for pupils to design miniature Japanese peace gardens.
The pupils became inspired by the work and they wanted to create something on a larger scale that would be of benefit to the whole community. The pupils had several joint planning meetings and asked to develop their ideas into a permanent Japanese peace garden. Discussions were then held with the Coventry Lord Mayor’s Peace and Reconciliation Committee who agreed with the pupils about the need for this. Pupils felt that a city centre location would be the most accessible, with the War Memorial Park being voted as the most popular place to install it.
After this, a consultation meeting was held with the Friends of the Memorial Park (volunteers who support the park) and the park managers from Coventry City Council.
The project involves the wider community. Pupils have created the “Islands of Peace” garden design built jointly by pupils and their families; Friends of the War Memorial Park; volunteers from the Japanese Garden Society and Coventry Ambassadors. This project is innovative as it is intergenerational and it allows all ages in the community to work together. The work will mostly be done at weekends.
It is open to the public every day. The garden has been designed to ensure accessibility for all.
The garden is a focal point for reflection and provides an oasis of calm within a busy city centre.
The Japanese rock garden (枯山水, karesansui) or “dry landscape” garden, often called a zen garden, creates a miniature stylized landscape through carefully composed arrangements of rocks, water features, moss, pruned trees and bushes, and uses gravel or sand that is raked to represent ripples in water. A zen garden is usually relatively small, surrounded by a wall, and is usually meant to be seen while seated from a single viewpoint outside the garden, such as the porch of the hojo, the residence of the chief monk of the temple or monastery. Classical zen gardens were created at temples of Zen Buddhism in Kyoto during the Muromachi period. They were intended to imitate the intimate essence of nature, not its actual appearance, and to serve as an aid to meditation about the true meaning of existence.