Speech by Jan van Zanen on the occasion of the opening of the Japanese Garden, 28 April 2023



Distinguished guests,

Welcome to the Japanese Garden. Welcome to this beautiful place of peace and quiet on the border of The Hague and Wassenaar, actually we are now in Wassenaar…

A haiku:

Japanese garden

links The Hague and Wassenaar

Garden of Eden


I would especially like to welcome the ambassador of Japan, His Excellency Minami-san and the alderman for Culture of Wassenaar, Ronald Zoutendijk.

Welcome also to the director general general of OPCW Arias and welcome to their partners, My friendship with Japan goes a long way back, I see a lot of friends from the Japanese community …

Christa de Kemp-san joined me nine years along that road, so did Lilianne Blankwaard (clerk to our city council), we visited this garden together in 2013 …


Dear all,

The Japanese Garden is part of the Clingendael Estate that is owned by Wassenaar.

The Hague, however, provides the gardener, groundskeeper and caretaker of the Japanese garden.

And Japan, of course, is the inspiration.

What a partnership.

Japan was Lady Daisy’s inspiration for the Japanese Garden, which she designed many years ago as a private retreat.

The Clingendael Estate was owned by the Van Brienen Family from 1818 until 1954.

Baroness Marguérite Mary van Brienen, better known as Lady Daisy, was inspired by Japanese landscape gardening when she visited Japan.

She designed the Japanese Garden at the start of the last century.


She intended it to be a place of beauty, calm and tranquillity.

And although the Japanese garden is not entirely authentic, she did a good job.

Later on, the Japanese Garden was opened to the general public, but not all year round.

No, only for a short period of time – in the spring and in the autumn.

It’s an odd contrast: peace and popularity.

The Japanese Garden is known for its peace and quiet, for its beauty and tranquillity.

But because of its beauty and distinction, the Japanese garden is popular and attracts many visitors.

Everybody wants to see and enjoy the stillness of the Japanese garden. Everybody wants to take pictures, walk on the moss, touch the trees and feel the serenity of this secret garden.


Another haiku:

Trees, colours, birds, moss

Oasis in the city

The crowd is silent


We have to protect the Japanese garden.

In fact, the best way to protect the Japanese Garden would be to close it forever to visitors all year round and let the specialist gardeners do their work…

But then only the gardeners would be able to enjoy the Japanese Garden… and that’s not how it’s meant to be.

One of the specialist gardeners who took good care of the Japanese Garden was Nelis.

He was a modest, dedicated and proud gardener.

Nelis loved the Japanese Garden.

He cherished the cherry blossoms, the moss, the trees and the plants.

He did a good job.


Unfortunately, Nelis passed away towards the end of 2021.

The Japanese Garden was closed during the time of the Covid pandemic. And when we first wanted to re-open it in the spring of 2022 – after a long period of seclusion – we couldn’t. Because it is not only people who seek out the peace and quiet of the Japanese Garden.

A pair of sparrow hawks, protected birds of prey, were also drawn by the tranquillity of the Japanese Garden when they selected it as the place to build their nest.

Which meant that the Japanese Garden had to remain closed to protect the breeding birds and their nest.

We were ready to re-open the Japanese Garden again after the birds left.

So last autumn the Japanese Garden opened its gates again to the general public.


And many people were able to enjoy its beauty and serenity.

Today we are officially opening the Japanese Garden again for people to enjoy its splendour once more during springtime.

A new beginning.

I hope you all enjoy the Japanese Garden.

Today, tomorrow, and for many more years to come.

Let’s end with one more haiku:

We open the gates

Before we close them again

Welcome to us all.