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Japan and the Netherlands commemorated that these countries met for the first time 400 years ago, when on April 19, 1600, a Dutch ship called ‘De Liefde’ (‘Love’) stranded on the Japanese coast. This encounter marked the start of a wondrous, occasionally difficult exchange between the vastly different Eastern and Western cultures. On a botanical level, there has been a large amount of exchanges of both plants and knowledge.

Japanese and Von Siebold garden
Japanese and Von Siebold garden

The Japanese Garden

Parts of the collections of several museums in Leiden originate in Asia, and these plants have been brought here as a result of the ties between the Netherlands and Indonesia. There was a regular exchange of people, objects and knowledge through the trading outpost Dejima near Nagasaki. Our Hortus botanicus played a part in this, and transported many plants that were unknown, many of which we have come to love. These plants travelled through our Hortus into the ornamental plant sector. Instrumental for these transactions was Dr. Philipp Franz von Siebold. The von Siebold memorial garden is a Japanese garden in his honour, constructed within the Hortus. The memorial garden has a statue of von Siebold which many of our Japanese guests visit to pay their respects.

Von Siebold Memorial Garden

The enclosed and private atmosphere of the von Siebold Memorial Garden is emphasized by the red wall surrounding it. The wall protects the plants, the tea house, and Siebold’s statue from the climate. The wall refers to the tea houses in Nagasaki where the Dutch citizens of Deshima found leisure and amusement.

Within the Hortus botanicus Leiden, the red colour of the wall fits better and makes the wall seem to disappear in the lush green of the garden. The colour was a purely aesthetic decision, made by the Japanese architect of the garden, professor Nakamura. He also designed the Japanese Garden in botanic garden ‘Oranjerie – De groene Parel’ (‘Orangery – the green pearl’) in Den Helder.

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