Monaco is famous for fast cars, casino’s, luxurious yachts, glamorous women and the social elite. But as we found during our visit, there is much more to the jewel of the Cote D’Azur.
In 1994 on the Avenue Princesse Grace, a Japanese garden was built at the request of Prince Rainier III who insisted on following the strictest principles of Zen design. He enlisted the skills of landscape architect Yasuo Beppu (the winner of the Flower Exhibition of Osaka 1990) to create a miniature representation of a Japanese garden following Shintoism philosophy. The tranquil garden is 0.7 hectares in size and features all of the symbolic elements expected of a Japanese garden – pond, waterfall, bridges, islands, lanterns, a tea house and a small Zen garden.
There is a wonderful atmosphere within the confines of the garden, where Japanese traditions are illustrated authentically and blend harmoniously with the Mediterranean plant life. Many of the materials used were imported from Japan, including the bamboo hedges, the tiles, the stone lanterns, and much of the timber used to build the structures. Before being permanently planted, the pine, olive and pomegranate trees (originating in Monaco) were cared for by Mr Beppu for three years to give them a Japanese aesthetic.
The pond is serene and a home to some 18 species of colourful Koi fish. The hills of beautiful Mont Agel overlook the garden, like a guardian, adding to the wonder. It is said that each year, Mr Beppu returns to Monaco to share knowledge with the local gardeners and caretakers.
To escape the excess of Monaco, or enjoy the intricate aspects of nature created within the garden, or maybe to sit and read peacefully in the shade, make sure you pay a visit. Entry is free and it is open daily from 9am until sunset.
Address: 5 Av. Princesse Grace, 98000 Monaco
Words & Photography by Ian Cole