The Municipality of Athens inaugurated the first Japanese public garden on Wednesday in Nereidon Park on Michalakopoulou Street, near the National Gallery as part of the Municipality's "Adopt Your City" programme.
"Athens is a modern, dynamic metropolis. It is an open city, open to new ideas, ready to move forward with daring and determination and a city that is exceptionally proud of its glorious past and equally proud of its dynamic present. It is a city that invests a great deal in openness," Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis said.
The Athens Japanese Garden was created with the support of JT International Hellas under the auspices of the Japanese Embassy and is the city's first thematic park.
It involved the removal of 180 cubic metres of concrete, curbing and rubble that had been illegally dumped on the site, the addition of 350 cubic metres of fertile soil, with the creation of small hills to increase the usable surface area, and the planting of 50 trees and 3,000 shrubs. The garden was designed by Antonis Skordilis and Ecoscapes, which also did a study to install the right lighting.
Japanese Ambassador to Greece Yasunori Nakayama noted that "Japanese gardens are one of the traditional cultural and spiritual symbols of Japan and their history goes back to the 6th century AD." He said that they had features that vary according to the seasons, while their changing landscape during the four seasons was always dear to the Japanese "as they find a special beauty in the changes of all things that reflect the passage of time."
Thanking the Athens mayor and JT International Hellas for their sponsorship and support of the project, he explained that the garden will evolve gradually as the seasons progress and expressed hope that by spring the first Japanese garden in Athens "will have been completed in harmony with the city and the people of Athens."
"We believe strongly in the diplomacy of cities, the diplomacy of peoples and allow me to say that I am especially proud, because we are taking a very great step in cementing the ties of two ancient civilisations, two civilisations whose roots go back to the depths of history, two peoples that feel, in spite of the great geographical distance between us, that on a cultural level we converse and engage in discourse," Bakoyannis said.
The ceremony was also attended by Alternate Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis.