Tramore to get Japanese garden in memory of Lafcadio Hearn

Japanese embassy to provide funding

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 10:39

The long established seaside resort of Tramore, Co Waterford, is to get a Japanese garden commemorating writer and translator Patrick Lafcadio Hearn – one of those most admired western figures to live in that culture and who is known in Japan as Koizumi Yakumo. He spent his boyhood summers in Tramore.

Announcing the project yesterday, the Japanese embassy in Dublin pledged to provide six million yen (€41,860) towards the Koizumi Yakumo Memorial Garden, which is to be laid out on the 2.5-acre grounds of Tramore House.

The grant is the largest of 48 awards this year from the Japan World Expo 1970 Commemorative Fund, reflecting the importance of a project that ambassador Chihiro Atsumi said would be a valuable addition to the cultural links between Ireland and Japan.

Lafcadio Hearn was born in 1850 to an Irish father and Greek mother and brought up by his grand-aunt, Sarah Brenane, who brought him from Dublin to Tramore on holidays. He went on to live in Japan, becoming revered as its great interpreter to the rest of the world.

West to east
The aim is to transform the existing, steeply sloping site into a themed Japanese garden reflecting his extraordinary journey from west to east – “from his orphaned boyhood through many turbulent years to ultimate peace, self-realisation and fulfilment in Japan”.

Inspiration for the garden came from a trip to Tramore by Koizumi Bon, Hearn’s great-grandson, in September 2012.

It is also being seen as one of the fruits of visits by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to Ireland and Taoiseach Enda Kenny to Japan last year.

The concept was created by Agnes Aylward, who heads the Tramore Development Trust, with garden structures designed by architect Mike Roberts, drawing on his knowledge of gardens in Japan, and landscaping by Martin Curran of MBC, who also worked there.

The project has an overall budget of €500,000, nearly half of which has been pledged by Waterford County Council and the Japanese fund. It will include ponds, cascades, gazebos, ornamental planting and Japanese-style bridges and entrance gates, arranged in sequence.

Although Hearn became one of the most revered westerners ever to live in Japan, with his writings still taught in schools there, Ms Aylward said Ireland had “never understood the importance of Hearn and has never acknowledged him in a permanent way, until now”.

Welcoming Japan’s support, Waterford city and county manager Michael Walsh said economic development was a key priority for Waterford and the Tramore project “will link with a range of tourism initiatives to improve the attractiveness of the southeast region”.

Construction work on the memorial garden is expected to start next month, with an eye to completing the project in March next year.