The Amazing Life of Taki Handa

Published on Apr 03, 2023

Talk by Dr Jill Raggett – 14th April

If you have an interest in gardens, inspirational women, Japan, or just fancy something a bit different, please join us on Friday, 14 April at the King Street Halls in Kirkwall at 7pm for an illustrated talk about the extraordinary life of Taki Handa, who came to Scotland in the early 20th century.

This is an account of the interlinked lives of several unconventional women who stepped outside their social norms to go on adventures overseas but with a particular focus on the Japanese teacher and horticulturist Taki Handa (1871-1956) who, in 1908, found herself designing a garden in Scotland for Isabella (Ella) Christie (1861-1949).

Our speaker is Orkney resident Dr Jill Raggett, a long-time member of the Japanese Garden Society who has studied historic Japanese-style gardens in Britain and Ireland for the last 40 years.  Jill is normally to be found in her garden experimenting with plants that might thrive in Orkney.

Admission is free but to give us an idea of numbers, we would appreciate it if you could let us know you are coming by sending an e-mail to

Jill comments:

‘A year earlier this daughter of a wealthy family dammed a small stream that ran through her estate at Cowden Castle in Perthshire, to form a pond which she described as “somewhat uninteresting” and saw the need to breathe life into the area so it might become “a living soul”; to this aim she employed “a Japanese women who would undertake the task and wave the magic wand” (Christie, Stewart, 1946:234), that woman was Taki Handa.’

You can follow these links for further background:

Japanese Garden at Cowden – Cowden Garden

Japanese garden nestling in Ochil Hills brought ‘back to life’ – BBC News