Japan and Uzbekistan have had a long and positive relationship since diplomatic relations were established following Uzbek independence. Japanese investment in Uzbekistan has been significant over the years, especially in the automotive sector. Isuzu motors has partnered with a plant in Samarkand since 2007 producing trucks and busses under the brand name “SamAuto” which stands for “Samarkand Automobile Factory”. Regional offices of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), have been operating in Uzbekistan since 1999. Total development assistance to the country is estimated to be in excess of $4 billion through contributions to healthcare, infrastructure, energy, transportation, education, and telecommunications.
Such was the growing importance of this relationship in the early years of independence, that in recognition of the ancient cultural and historical links between the Uzbek and Japanese peoples, a memorial garden was established in September 1997. It was officially opened by President Islam Karimov and the Japanese Ambassador on August 25th, 2001.
The garden occupies 3.4 hectares (8.4 acres) of former wasteland in a strategic location between the UzExpoCenter, the International Business Center and Hotel, and the Tashkent TV Tower. In keeping with tradition, the garden was designed to compliment the existing landscape, in this case, alongside an artificial lake which was ironically dug by Japanese prisoners in 1947, in the aftermath of the Great Patriotic War. The design of the garden honors aesthetic and philosophical principles of Japanese design, ideal for meditation, allowing visitors to feel as if they have been transported to landscape far away from the busy city center.
Visitors will appreciate the authentic attention to detail seemingly lacking in other parks and gardens typical of the former Soviet Union. For amusements and concessions, you’ll have to cross the pond to the Tashkent Land Amusement Park. The Japanese Garden is a peaceful contrast, if you can ignore the blaring music from the other side of the water. An entrance fee of 20,000 сўм with no time limit means you can stay and relax all day, and many do as evidenced by the families napping and enjoying picnics on the grass (another forbidden activity in most of Tashkent’s immaculately manicured parks).
The basis for garden’s design combines two traditional garden categories of dry rock garden or Karesansui 枯山水, and takes cues from the Sakuteiki 作庭記 which calls for the creation of miniature landscapes within the garden by using lakes and cascading streams. The extensive use of water and rock also represent the yin and yang, an important principle of Buddhist symbolism that two opposites should complement and complete each other. The garden also includes several arched wooden bridges which symbolize the path to paradise, and immortality.
At the garden entrance, a memorial stone was placed with a plaque in three languages dedicating the garden to the future generations of Uzbekistan and Japan. The partnerships established since independence solidify the relationship between these historically connected peoples, and the garden symbolizes the mutual commitment to that friendship. The park’s location also bridges the divide caused by the Second World War, and seems a fitting silent tribute considering the lake upon which the garden was planned was dug by Japanese prisoners of war. Today the park is one of the most unique and beautiful places in the Uzbek capital, and an enduring symbol of Uzbek-Japanese friendship along the Silk Road which has connected these two distant countries for centuries.