A memorial garden in honour of one of the most famous Irishmen to have lived in Japan has been opened in Tramore.
The Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Garden, which has an overall budget of €500,000, has been established in the grounds of Tramore House. It is being funded by Waterford City and County Council with the help of a €45,000 grant from the Japan World Exposition 1970 Commemorative Fund.
Patrick Lafcadio Hearn was born in Greece on this day in 1850 to an Irish father and Greek mother. He made his name as a journalist and writer in the US and the French West Indies before becoming the West's foremost interpreter of Japan, until his death there in 1904. Hearn, who is known in Japan by his adopted name Koizumi Yakumo, spent summers as a boy in Tramore with his great-aunt Sarah Brenane.
Among those present in Tramore for the opening of the one-hectare garden were Hearn's great-grandson Bon Koizum, the Japanese ambassador to Ireland Chihiro Atsumi and his wife Ikuko Atsumi.
Inspiration for the garden came from a visit by Mr Koizum to Tramore in 2012 and the project has been spearheaded by Agnes Aylward of the Tramore Development Trust.
A large crowd turned out in warm sunshine for the official opening and saw the dignitaries taking a tour of the gardens.
Work started at an official sod-turning one year ago and has been focused on developing a Japanese-themed garden to reflect Hearn’s journey from west to east during his life.
The gardens include Japanese structures such as bridges, porticos and azumayas (gazebos) and will also function as an educational garden of Teagasc, Kildalton College and the Waterford Institute of Technology.
The development is aimed at deepening cultural relations between Ireland and Japan, following a visit to Ireland by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in June 2013 and a return visit by Taoiseach Enda Kenny six months later.
Mayor of the Waterford Metropolitan area, Lola O’Sullivan, who is from Tramore, said she played on the site of the gardens as a child, “as did Lafcadio in his day”, and thanked the Japanese commemorative fund for the support.
“I am glad and proud that my native town is playing a role in building international linkages with Japan,” she said.