Malaysia and Japan have long enjoyed good bilateral ties – and it’s no secret that Malaysians love everything Japanese, from its food to its culture and traditions. Anything trendy from Japan, such as discount chain store Don Don Donki (which opened last year), or brands such as Daiso, Uniqlo, and Muji, are hugely popular – as are the slew of notable Japanese restaurants (especially in KL) that are always packed with customers. Pre-pandemic, Japan was also one of the top international tourist destinations for Malaysians.
While COVID-19 has dashed many hopes for the latter, fret not. You can still experience a slice of Japan, right in the heart of the Malaysian capital: at the Selangor-Japan Friendship Garden in Shah Alam.
Opened in March 2021, this beautiful park spans 2.4 hectares and is located adjacent to the Shah Alam Lake Gardens. Built at a cost of RM3.8 mil, the garden is meant to symbolises the warm ties between the goverments of Selangor and Japan, on top of being an added attraction for the state. For those who have missed travelling to Japan, a trip to the garden might just be what you need to cure your Japan blues.
The gardens are beautifully landscaped, with five themed zones. Just next to it is the famous Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque), its dramatic spires and giant dome peeking from above the tree tops.
Expect to see Japanese-inspired features here, including trimmed bonsai trees, traditional torii gates which are commonly found at Japanese shrines, as well as fixtures such as tsukubai (washbasin – pictured).
The central feature is a huge pond stocked with colourful koi fish. You can buy feed from the counter to feed the fishes and turtles.
Next to the pond is the Rumah Selangor (Selangor House), which provides some welcome respite from the heat. For those who want the full experience, you can rent some summer yukatas to wear and imagine that you’re in an authentic Japanese garden. There is also a small museum at the back with displays of items from Japanese culture such as clothing and traditional dolls.
Meander along the shady pathways, past a maze of waterways and over small bridges with exquisite architecture, or just sit down on one of the benches and wile the morning away.
The garden has reflexology paths as well, where visitors are encouraged to remove their shoes and walk on the stones, which purportedly helps with improving blood circulation.
The Zen garden section boasts features such as carefully stacked stones and meticulously spread-out gravel. In traditional Zen philosophy, this stripping of nature to its barest form is meant to promote meditation and bring out the meaning of life.
We spent a good hour strolling through the garden, and since it was the afternoon, we had the whole place to ourselves. Best of all, entry is free!
The garden is open daily from 10AM – 6PM.
SELANGOR-JAPAN FRIENDSHIP GARDEN
Persiaran Bandar Raya, Seksyen 14, 40000 Shah Alam, Selangor