The Japanese Garden Today
The Japanese garden in Hasselt is the largest of its kind in Europe. It’s the perfect setting to fully experience the Japanese culture. Originally, a Japanese garden encouraged meditation and reflection; this is no different in Hasselt. There are benches to sit on so you can enjoy the sound of the waterfalls, there are koi fish you can spot and feed in the water, there are many picnic places and there are many paths to walk around peacefully. Sometimes you can hear the peace bell ring. The peace bell has a permanent place in the garden since 2016. In addition, there are plenty of activities that are open to the public every month.
Guides provide a tour to give you an optimal experience in the Japanese Garden. There are Dutch, French and German speaking guides available. The Japanese Garden contains many details and background stories, making a guide very useful to understand everything. The coordinators of the Japanese Garden have a new book with all the information told by the guides; it costs €15 for the soft cover and €19 for the hard cover. Click here to purchase this book.
The Japanese Garden is one of the biggest tourist attractions of Limburg and helps ensure that Limburg maintains the most nature in Flanders. Limburg currently attracts the most nature-loving tourists. The main mission is to bring Japanese culture in and around Belgium. The innovations are already numerous: the pavilion was recently built and the peace bell was recently inaugurated. There is also the new website of the Japanese Garden to facilitate the reservations and to provide more transparency.
The history of the garden dates back to 1985, when the city of Hasselt and the Japanese city of Itami signed a friendship charter, allowing them to become sister cities.
Immediately thereafter they worked hard on the concrete realization of this twinning and numerous initiatives were taken to build a spontaneous relationship and provide a solid basis, for example the annual student exchanges. Proposed by Itami, they sought a permanent symbolic presence of both cultures in the two sister cities. Hasselt decided to donate a tower carillon and Itami conceived the idea of a Japanese garden in Hasselt.
Japanese architect Takayuki Inoue was invited in Hasselt to choose the location for the garden. It quickly became clear that this would be no small city garden, as first thought, but a Japanese garden of 2,5ha in the place where once was nothing but a pasture.
The financial and material contributions for this were supplied by Itami. This city sought and found partners in the Japanese business world. For the remaining costs, the city of Hasselt has been able to rely on significant input from the European Regional Development Fund. And for the unsubsidized work, they found partners at Japanese institutions, Flemish companies and in subsidiaries of Japanese companies in Belgium.
Then the construction of the garden began. The original planting in the garden area was maintained as much as possible, which emphasizes the respect for nature of the Japanese. In addition, a lot of trees and bushes were planted, stones were brought from Austria to Hasselt and were carefully placed in the garden, bridges were built, rivers and waterfalls were made, and a number of traditional Japanese buildings were built. For these buildings, all the material were brought in from Japan, with the exception of power lines, the alarm system and sanitary fittings. The full realization of the garden, from the first diggings to the inauguration on November 20, 1992, took 250 working days.
Want to know more about its history? There are two books about the Japanese Garden. The first book is freely accessible.
Here you can find a video fragment made during the first opening days of the Garden.