The man who moved a Scottish mansion ...to Japan

Actor Masahiko Tsugawa bought Milton Flockhart near Carluke and moved it to Japan where he opened a World Santa Museum and European theme park. PIC: TSPL.
Actor Masahiko Tsugawa bought Milton Flockhart near Carluke and moved it to Japan where he opened a World Santa Museum and European theme park. PIC: TSPL.
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There is a little corner of Japan that is forever Scotland - and where Christmas never really ends.

Lockheart Castle, around a two hour drive north from Tokyo, feels distinctly familiar with its sandstone finish, fairy tale turrets and deep bay windows.

Milton Lockhart near Carluke . PIC: Contributed

Milton Lockhart near Carluke . PIC: Contributed

But this isn’t just some pretty pastiche.

Lockheart Castle first stood around 9,000 miles away deep in the Clyde Valley and was moved to Japan, stone-by-stone, by one of the Far East’s most famous movie stars.

READ MORE: The 500 country homes of Scotland that have disappeared

Today, it stands as a theme park to all things European with its World Santa Museum one of the star attractions of the 25-acre wonderland.

Lockheart Castle in Japan. PIC: Creative Commons.

Lockheart Castle in Japan. PIC: Creative Commons.

The 1,000 or so Father Christmas figures to be found in this “heartwarming place” belong to actor Masahiko Tsugawa.

It was Tsugawa who discovered the original Lockheart Castle on a visit to Scotland in the 1980s. While driving down the A72 by Carluke, the mansion, first known as Milton Lockhart, came into view.

READ MORE: The great houses of the Clyde Valley that disappeared

Lying empty and wanting, this once grand home was owned by a branch of the Lockhart family who reaped power and influence in this part of Scotland since the 12th Century.

Milton Lockhart during its deconstruction. PIC: Kevin Z Callaghan.

Milton Lockhart during its deconstruction. PIC: Kevin Z Callaghan.

Sir Simon Locard, a Scottish knight, was involved in the attempt to take Robert the Bruce’s heart to the Holy Land.

Some 650 years later, Tsugawa, smitten with what Sir Walter Scott described as ‘the prettiest place in Scotland’, embarked on his own considerable mission to take Milton Lockhart home.

As the removal project got underway, locals gathered in curiosity at the end of the Milton Lockhart drive as the mansion which had defined the area for so long started to disappear piece by piece.

The only way to move this incredible load was by the Trans-Siberian Railway with Milton Lockhart finally transported in 1988 after permission was granted by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Tsugawa said the project was “accomplished by the fusion of a dream” to bring a piece of Scotland to Japan.

The actor said the project represented a “chance for friendship and goodwill between the two countries” with this “historical feat greatly welcomed.”

Today, Lockheart Castle, which is around one third of the Lanarkshire property, bears the original lock and heart family crest found carved in stone at Carluke.

Others hints to its Scottish origins include a replica of the Stone of Destiny tucked under a lavish take of the Coronation Chair. In a locked glass cabinet in the library is a first edition of Sir Walter Scott’s poetical works.

Scott was linked to Milton Lockhart through the marriage of his daughter, Sophia, to John Gibson Lockhart who later wrote Scott’s biography.

Lockheart Castle has become a popular destination for couples keen to tread on the estate’s Sacred Lover’s Ground with weddings now a big part of the business here.

It is also known for its good European food, with sausage and beer a firm favourite at the Big Heart restaurant.

Milton Lockhart is one of a number of grand mansions of the Clyde Valley, once a draw for industrialists and agriculturalists attracted by the plentiful lands of Lanarkshire, that have disappeared.

Christine Wallace, of the Lost Houses of Clyde Valley research group, said at least 11 houses have vanished from the landscape and five are at risk from collapse.

She said: “William Burn was the architect of Milton Lockhart and he did several similar houses in the area. One, Carstairs House, is now a nursing home and unlike many others in the area, it has survived.

“Milton Lockhart did survive - but it had to be sent to Japan to do so.”