The city of Ipoh is located about 200 km north of Kuala Lumpur. Journey through the North South Expressway (NSE or PLUS Highway) takes a breezy 2 1/2 hours through scenic rolling valleys, palm oil plantations and limestone hills of Peninsula Malaysia. Distances from other major cities: Penang (2 hours), Johor Bharu (6 hours), Singapore (6 1/2 hours) and Kuantan (5 hours).
The Japanese Garden is located well inside Taman D.R. Seenivasagam which is located on Jalan Dato' Onn Jaafar and close to the Ipoh General Hospital.
There are actually two Japanese gardens in Ipoh. One is here, the other one being on Jalan Tambun (close to the Impiana Casuarina Hotel) which I did not visit during my tour of the city. The history of relationship between the city of Ipoh and the Japanese dates back a long while back. The Japanese has invested billions of ringgit in the state through the 1980s until today, mostly in manufacturing industries. As a result of that, there is a small community of Japanese expatriates who had since called Ipoh home. Local organisations such as the Perak Malaysian-Japanese Friendship Society and the Japan Club of Ipoh have done their parts in boosting cultural exchanges between these two different worlds. Such a special relationship between Japan and the state of Perak that the current rulers of the former have visited Perak a couple of times in the past decade, the most recent being in June 2006 when Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko paid their royal visit. Not to mention, Ipoh and Fukuoka (in Japan) are written as twin cities in a special ceremony conducted in March 1989.
The garden was first conceived in 1991 in a plan to strengthen the relationship between the twin cities. It was officially opened in 1995 after several years on the drawing board, plus a number of visits to Kyoto and Fukuoka by the local officials. The Japanese counterparts also flew in a number of times to Ipoh to finalise the design. Finally, after RM750,000 later, this beautiful park was born.
The key element of the garden is to emphasis on Japanese ideas of space and harmony. No doubt, the garden did exude such sensation during my visit. The plants were carefully selected to realise the full Japanese elements with some adjustments made to cater for tropical climate in the city. As a result, a whopping total of 77,649 flora and fauna species were introduced in the garden. Some familiar features of the garden include fish ponds, Japanese-style bridges, bamboo fences, ferns, lotus and water lily plants, as well as bonsai trees.
Serene and peaceful place to visit. Quite popular among the locals. Probably as Japanese as it can be in Malaysia.