City of La Serena
Founded in 1544 on ocean terraces just south of the point where the Elqui River flows into the Pacific Ocean, the city of La Serena is Chile’s second oldest urban settlement (the oldest is Santiago, the capital, founded in 1541). Now, home to some 170,000 inhabitants, and preserving distinct memories of Spanish colonial architectural heritage, is one of the country’s largest and most harmonious cities. La Serena is about 475 kilometres north of Santiago de Chile.
Kokoro no Niwa
The Japanese garden of La Serena, known as “Kokoro No Niwa
” or Garden of the Heart, occupies 2.6 hectares of land (6 acres) near downtown La Serena. The garden was designed by Japanese landscape architect Akira Ohira, at the time director of the Garden Society of Japan. The garden opened in 1996 for the celebration of the 450 years of the city and also honours the sisterhood agreement signed in 1966 by the city of La Serena with the city of Tenri, Nara Prefecture, Japan.
The funding for the construction of the garden was provided by several mining and steel-making companies in Chile and Japan, among which are the Pacific Mining Company, Kawasaki Steel, Mitsubishi Corporation and Nippon Steel Corporation.
Kokoro No Niwa
is a strolling garden with an enclosing structure allowing seeing from various points the diverse elements included in the park. The centerpiece is the Shinki-ike
pond whose name corresponds to the Chinese characters signifying the heart. The lake has two small islands, Turu-shima
, representing a crane and a turtle, symbols of happiness and longevity, respectively.
The waterfalls, streams and ponds hold varied wildlife including koi carps and waterfowl such as mallard ducks, black and white swans, and black-necked swans. Other elements in Kokoro No Niwa
, characteristic of a Japanese garden, are several rock and sand gardens, buildings for resting and the tea ceremony, a beautiful red Drum Bridge (Taiko-Bashi
), cherry blossom trees, Ginkgo biloba (maidenhair tree) and Japanese maple trees, a beautiful pagoda and several stone lanterns, all in order to create harmony and balance, and foster an atmosphere for meditation and spiritual enrichment.
The Japanese garden of La Serena is definitely one of the main attractions of the city and a lovely place to visit and spend some moments of quietness in an environment that invites serenity and meditation.