My name is Nozomu Takaoka, the new Japanese Consul General in Edinburgh.
It is a great pleasure for me to be invited and join this cherry tree planting ceremony in this beautiful Japanese Garden at Cowden, Sharakuen.
First of all, I would like to express my enormous gratitude to the Right Honourable Luke Graham MP for his kind attendance to today’s event in this strong wind and pouring rain as well as students of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Ms. Becca Logan, Ms. Kate White and Mr. Ian Gallagher for their brave participation.
I would also like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the Trustee of this Sharakuen: Ms. Sara Stewart, Sir Robert Stewart and Mr. David Houldsworth, Restoration team: Professor Masao Fukuhara, Mr. Junya Marukawa and Ms. Ai Hishi for their leadership and contribution in restoring this historic, amazing and gorgeous Japanese Garden by any standard.
I also want to mention very important aspect of this ceremony in the context of bilateral relations between Japan and the United Kingdom.
Today's planting ceremony officially marks the start of the Sakura Cherry Tree Planting Project, which in turn is an important project of the Japan - UK Season of Culture 2019/2020.
The Japan - UK Season of Culture is officially recognized series of cultural and educational events agreed between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the 1st September 2017.
On that occasion the two Prime Ministers welcomed a proposal from the Japanese private sector to donate and plant thousands of Japanese Sakura cherry trees all across the UK as a symbol of our relationship. Therefore, I am very happy and indeed proud that Sharakuen in this beautiful town of Clackmannanshire is the first to welcome cherry trees under this scheme.
This morning I had the honour to pay a courtesy call to Provost Tina Murphy and explain about the today’s event. Provost was very kind and thoughtful in her appreciation of our joint venture.
By the way, why Season of Culture in 2019-2020? It is because Japan is hosting the Rugby World Cup 2019 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Both rugby and Paralympics, somebody said even Olympics originated in UK and there is no better opportunity to celebrate our traditional friendship between our two countries.
The great thing about sakura, cherry trees is that they will serve as a longstanding symbol of friendship for many years to come after 2019 and 2020. Therefore, I believe that there is no other place in the United Kingdom more suited than Sha Raku En – The Japanese Garden at Cowden in Clackmannanshire to welcome 25 trees to be planted today and 100 trees in total to officially kick off the Sakura Cherry Tree Planting Project.
I hope that Isabella 'Ella' Christie of Cowden can look down on us from heaven with great pride.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Address from Consul General Takaoka: The Japanese Garden at Cowden
March 27, 2019