Scotland on Sunday Travel Wishlist – A Scottish Zen garden inspired by a Victorian adventurer’s travels in Japan

From Kyoto to Cowden, Eastern-inspired gardens are places of tranquility

Wednesday, 7th October 2020, 10:25 am

Ella Christie in the Japanese Garden she created at Cowden near Dollar in 1908

A vibrant pink lily on the still waters, a lichen palette of green on grey stone, a tame robin and a bounding red squirrel were all magical in their own restful way.This sense of peace is what I remember from visiting Japan. Amid the relentless bustle of the cities there would be an unexpected haven of calm. Kyoto was the garden capital, but Tokyo and Hiroshima had their silent sanctuaries as well.It was in Kyoto that I first encountered the concept of the rock garden, or Karesansui. It was in Ryōan-ji’s Zen garden that I relished the challenge of finding the stones in the seemingly featureless expanse of grey. That step from bigger picture down to detail is a deeply calming experience.And that same feeling envelops me on the slopes of the Ochils. From the grand views across the Forth Valley, through the postcard-perfect scene of the garden itself, down to the water lily.Yet this peaceful garden is the vision of a woman who had a great energy for adventure. Born in 1861, Isabella “Ella” Christie travelled the world when most Scottish women of her social standing were running the Victorian home. Scotland has a long tradition of adventurers and explorers, but to travel as widely and freely as Ella did is noteworthy in itself.As her great-great-niece Sara Stewart explained: “She went to places that no Western woman had been. She was unbelievably brave and that was how she wanted to spend her life. Ella had been brought up as though she had been a son, so she had been very well educated and wanted to see more of the world.”The Royal Geographical Society recognised that spirit with a fellowship – one of the first awarded to a woman. Travelling with her servant Humpries, and trunks with formalwear for any glamorous events she might be invited to, her destinations included India, Malaya and Tibet and she was one of the first western women to meet the Dalai Lama.Ella was in her 40s when she travelled East, taking in China, Hong Kong, Russia and Japan in 1906 and 1907.In Kyoto she met Ella and Florence du Cane, authors of The Flowers And Gardens Of Japan, and on her return set about creating Shã Raku En, “the place of pleasure and delight”, helped by Taki Handa, a rare female garden designer trained at the at the Royal School of Garden Design in Nagoya.By employing specialists in Japanese garden design, Ella’s garden soon established an international reputation – Professor Jijo Suzuki, head of the Soami School of Imperial Garden Design, declaring it “the best garden in the Western World” and it became a tourist attraction in the 1920s and 1930s as well as a regular attraction in Scotland’s Garden Scheme, which Ella’s sister Alice Stewart helped found.Ella died soon after the end

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Japan Kitchen Battle Ends With Rare Hostile Bid Victory

(Bloomberg) — In a hostile takeover bid that centered on the role of kitchens at a Japanese eatery, Colowide Co. has shown it can stand the heat.

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Colowide confirmed Tuesday that it had succeeded in its unsolicited offer to take control of Ootoya Holdings, a well-known operator of restaurants that serves cheap, traditional Japanese food. Colowide, which runs multiple restaurant chains, wants to integrate Ootoya into its network of central kitchens — hubs that can serve multiple restaurants at once — a step Ootoya management and a group of employees rejected, saying it would be detrimental to its business.

Colowide’s stake in Ootoya will rise to about 47%, it said in a statement that confirmed an earlier report by the Nikkei. While below its target of a 51% stake, it should still give Colowide enough control of the company to install its own slate of directors at a shareholders meeting, having failed in a bid to do so earlier this year. It had been uncertain if Colowide would attract sufficient support from individual investors, many of whom hold Ootoya long-term in order to claim “yutai” shareholder gifts, including free meals and rice.

Read More: Too Many Cooks? Proxy Fight Over Kitchens Boils Over in Japan

Once considered unacceptable in Japan, hostile takeover bids involving listed companies have become increasing common in the past few years, as shareholders increase pressure on management to improve performance. Earlier this year, Maeda Corp. completed a hostile takeover of road paving company Maeda Road Construction Co., a company with which it had ties going back more than 50 years. Trading house Itochu Corp. last year succeeded in its bid for Descente Ltd., swiftly replacing its management.

Descente shares are down almost 30% since the completion of that deal, despite Itochu — one of the five Japanese companies in which Warren Buffett recently took a stake — sending in its own directors. A similar fate may await Colowide and Ootoya, with the bid meeting with little approval from analysts given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the restaurant industry.

That Colowide “is willing to pay such a large premium to purchase an unwilling asset whose strategy clearly conflicts with their own and where their own strategy has a demonstrable track record of failure is a big red flag,” Mio Kato, an analyst at LightStream Research who publishes on Smartkarma, wrote in note Aug. 26.

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