Mineralwell Park in Stonehaven will “thrill and enchant” future generations after 120 cherry blossom trees were planted as part of a project to mark 150 years of Japan-UK friendship.
Local pupils from Mill of Forest, Arduthie and Dunnottar primary schools joined Stonehaven Sea Cadets and Stonehaven Horizon Group to create the garden, dedicated to the memory of Thomas Blake Glover.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former UK premier Theresa May launched the Sakura Cherry Tree Project initiative when the two met in 2017.
Stonehaven was selected as a UK site following an approach by local MP Andrew Bowie that year, followed by a “pitch” at the Japanese embassy in 2018.
Mr Bowie, Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said: "Today is the fruition of four years of planning, including a year lost because of the pandemic.
"Seeing the primary school pupils and members of the community involved in the project makes all the time and effort worthwhile.
"Good things are worth the wait.
"Thomas Blake Glover is an enduring symbol for the North East and is totemic of our friendship with Japan.
"For years to come, this garden will thrill and enchant generations who will ask about the Glover legacy."
Born in Fraserburgh in 1838, the "Scottish Samurai" Blake Glover founded what would become the Mitsubishi Corporation and the Japan Brewery Company, later the Kirin Brewery Company.
His achievements also inspired the Scottish Samurai Awards, which have been running for more than 25 years.
The local project has been delivered in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council, with Stonehaven and district councillor Wendy Agnew taking the local lead.
She explained: “In September 2017 it came to my attention that Prime Minister Theresa May, on a visit to Japan, had accepted a gift of some 5000 cherry blossom trees for the UK as symbolic of the relationship between Japan and the United Kingdom.
"I immediately contacted the Landscape Services of Aberdeenshire Council to ask if they would be in favour of creating a Japanese Garden at Stonehaven if I could get a sufficient allocation of cherry blossom trees.
"Landscape Services were enthusiastic in support for the project so I decided to request 100 trees and asked Andrew Bowie MP to pursue my request with the Sakura Cherry Tree Project, which he did and achieved the allocation of 120 cherry blossom trees for Stonehaven.
"In the meantime, landscape services agreed a site with me and put considerable thought and effort into a design which was approved by the Sakura team for the Japanese Association in the UK.”
She added: “I am grateful to all who have worked with me over the last four years to achieve what I think will be an asset to Stonehaven and an attraction in its own right in the North East of Scotland when it comes into being in the Autumn of 2021.”
Yasumasa Nagamine, Japanese ambassador to the UK said the Sakura Cherry Tree Project will be a “celebration of the cordial ties between Japan and the UK.”
He added: “Just like our relationship, these trees will grow stronger as they mature and, each year when they blossom, I hope they bring joy to people across the UK and remind them of the deep friendship between our two nations and peoples."
The trees selected for the garden are ‘taihaku’, ‘somei yoshino’, and ‘beni-yutaka' which will burst into colour with white, soft pink and vivid pink blossoms.
The taihaku or ‘great white’ had become extinct in Japan, and was re-introduced from the UK.
The 120 trees being planted at Mineralwell Park are some of the 6,500 Japanese cherry trees given to the UK by Japan, and planted across the country in parks, gardens and schools to celebrate Japan’s relationship with the UK.
The project is a legacy from the Japan-UK Season of Culture 2019-2020, which aimed to showcase Japan’s multifaceted attractions in the UK. The Season provided the opportunity to learn more about Japan, its culture and people through hundreds of events ranging from arts, sports, cuisine and performance.
Keisaku Sandy Sano, Founder and Joint Chairman of the Sakura Cherry Tree Project Team said “The response we have had from all across the UK, from Guernsey in the south to the Orkneys in the north, from parks and schools across the UK has been amazing. It is testament to the strong relationship between the two countries, and we hope the trees will be a lasting tribute to that.”
The Duke of Gloucester is patron of the Japan Society.
He said: “What better way to commemorate the long standing friendship between the people of the United Kingdom and Japan, than the planting of Japanese cherry trees that will live on for future generations to enjoy. I would like to congratulate all involved. ”