Loves going out and about in Canberra and writing about her adventures! Also addicted to coffee, high teas, escape rooms, and dressing up.
Published August 7th 2018
More than a garden, a symbol of peace and reconciliation
Cowra, a country town in central western NSW, seems worlds away from the island nation of Japan.
But since the Second World War, Cowra and Japan have been indelibly linked. During the war, Cowra was home to a prisoner of war camp where over 2000 Japanese soldiers were interred. One night in August 1944, over 1000 Japanese broke out of the camp. 231 Japanese POWS died during the escape.
Over the years the idea of a garden between Japan and the citizens of Cowra arose. The garden would be a powerful symbol of goodwill, symbolising reconciliation and peace between Australia and Japan. And so the Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre was born.
Just over two hours' drive from Canberra, the Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre is a beautiful, tranquil place, perfect for visiting at any time of the year, and well worth the road trip.
Opened in 1979, the garden is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, covering 5 hectares. It was designed by world-renowned architect Ken Nakajima who had designed Japanese gardens in Montreal, Moscow, San Diego and Houston.
Nakajima's design is a copy of the first Japanese landscape garden (also known as Kaiyushiki or strolling garden) built by the first Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. The Tokugawa Shogun ruled from Edo Castle from 1600 until 1868. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was changed in 1868.
The shogun's strolling garden replicated the Japanese landscape in miniature. Therefore Nakajima's design of the Cowra Japanese garden also replicates the landscape of Japan in miniature. The garden incorporates the unique natural features of Japan: mountain, rocks, mountain waterfalls, mountain lakes, rivers turning into oceans, and pine trees.
The garden is a lush, peaceful place that is perfect for visiting at any time of the year. In fact, you can experience the four seasons at the garden throughout the year as it has been designed to showcase nature's beauty in all seasons: the cherry blossoms of spring, the lush greenery and bright sunshine of summer, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness that is autumn, and the bare, grim starkness of winter.
Three kilometres of pathways meander throughout the garden. As you stroll along, take your time and enjoy the tranquillity and lush surrounds. You will learn to appreciate and get a better understanding of traditional Edo-era Japanese garden and landscape design. You can also stop to feed ducks and the Koi carp from the viewing platforms overlooking the lakes, visit the replicas of traditional Japanese buildings including the Edo-era cottage, enjoy modern Australian and Japanese cuisine at the licensed café, and explore the Cultural Centre which features an extensive collection of beautiful Japanese artworks and artefacts.
The Garden hosts special events throughout the year which help to foster respectful cultural relations between the people of Cowra and the people of Japan. Such events include Easter activities, Christmas Carols in the Garden, and the beautiful Sakura Matsuri, the cherry blossom festival. Sakura Matsuri will be held this year on September 22. Sakura Matsuri is a wonderful time of the year when the cherry trees bloom in gorgeous colour. At this year's festival, the Garden will have Tea Ceremonies, Taiko drummers, sumo wrestlers, a kimono fashion parade, and Japanese archery and sword demonstrations. Go here for more details and to book your tickets.
As you stroll through the Garden, it's easy to forget the dark days of Cowra and the war. Indeed, the Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre is a wonderful, brave and tangible monument to peace and reconciliation between two once-warring nations.
The Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre is open every day except Christmas Day between 8.30am and 5.00pm. Admission is: Adults $15.00, Seniors/Pensioners $13.00, Students $13.00, Children $8.00 and Families $40.00.
"To plant a garden is the chief of the arts of peace." Mary Stewart