Completed in 1979, this garden has become Cowra's main tourist attraction. The five hectare stroll (kaiyu-shiki) garden features tea pavilion, Bonsai House, dry karesansui garden, Pottery House, an arbor, wisteria pergola, two koi ponds, waterfalls, streams with bridges, a bonsho (bell), stone lantern, viewing platforms, views of Cowra and Lachlan Valley, gift shop, and a nursery selling plants and bonsai.
Over 120 species of birds have made their home in the garden permanently or seasonally and there are over 113 types of trees, flowers and shrubs to be seen in this ever changing Garden. Plant species include: flowering cherry, cedar, rose, persimmon, downy maple and flowering quince, liquid ambers, golden ash, maples, Chinese tallozvs, silver birch, wattles, jacarandas, magnolias, camellias, lilacs, honeysuckle, rosemary, bamboo, dwarf diosma, crepe myrtle, daffodils, irises, may bushes and jasmine.
In addition to the garden, a Cultural Centre has three galleries of exhibits including:
Nanga paintings, Kabuki, Hakata, Noh and Daruma dolls, ceremonial kimonos and masks, model samurai and weapons, a collection of Japanese ceramics, Arita porcelain and Shippo Yaki, a Somenishiki ornamental vase, model torii gates, a 300 year-old Hanabusa scroll.
In early October, the spring blossoms transform the Garden and it becomes the focus of Sakura Matsuri, Cowra's annual Cherry Blossom festival. Besides enjoying the myriad of blossoms, visitors can join the Garden's Japanese guests and see demonstrations of Japanese arts and crafts including Ikebana, Bonsai, Calligraphy, Pottery and Origami, observe the tea ceremony and listen to a recital of the Shakuhachi flute. The martial arts of Kendo and Karate are demonstrated, there is kite flying and Japanese food can be sampled.
Cowra's Japanese Connection
Cowra's involvement with the Japanese began during World War II when the Australian Government built a prisoner-of-war camp on the outskirts of the town. It originally housed Germans and Italians, but when war spread into the Pacific region, Japanese, Formosan, Javanese and Korean prisoners were also accommodated at the camp.
Before dawn on August 5,1944, over 1000 of the Japanese prisoners staged a breakout that was to go into the history books as the biggest military mass escape of all time. Tragically, it left 231 Japanese and four Australians dead. The Japanese who died in that breakout were buried in Cowra; members of the local R.S.L. Subbranch took it upon themselves to look after their graves. From that first humanitarian gesture grew the desire to understand more about the culture and lifestyles of a people who had been an enemy.
In 1962, Japanese Embassy officials, impressed with the attention paid to the graves of their war dead, approached the Cowra Council to discuss the possibility of one cemetery for all Japanese who had died on Australian soil during the war years and for that cemetery to be located in Cowra. And so, in 1964, a Japanese War Cemetery, designed by Shigeru Yura, was built. It now contains the remains of all Japanese nationals who died in the Cowra breakout, the attack on Darwin and the Australian internment and POW camps.
The World Peace Bell
Australia's replica of the World Peace Bell was placed in Cowra because of the efforts of the local people to foster peace and international understanding, not only with the Japanese but all nations. It stands in Civic Square off Kendal Street. It is an exact replica of the Peace Bell in the Japanese ga
When the floating bridge
Of the dream of a spring night
Was snapped, I awoke:
In the sky a bank of clouds
Was drawing away from the peak.
Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241) Shinkokin Wakashû trans. by Donald Keene