Japanese memories

In western New South Wales there is a Japanese war cemetery and a Japanese garden, commemorating in different ways the Japanese World War II soldiers who died in Australia.

Here at Cowra there was a prisoner-of-war camp and in 1944 over 500 Japanese made a suicidal break for honourable release: 231 succeeded by death.

In after years the Returned Services League cared for the graves so well that the Japanese Government moved all their war dead on Australian soil to this cemetery.

Later Australian/Japanese joint efforts created a wonderful Japanese Garden, a botanical and meditative treat for visitors as well as a memorial.

The road leading up to the gardens is lined with cherry trees, and below each is the name of a Japanese soldier.

Australian and exotic trees, clipped, shaped or gracefully weeping shrubs, natural boulders and artificial pebble banks and beaches, set off the water that winds through the sloped lawns and gardens, resting in calm pools before rushing off in falls and streams.

The water was home to many goldfish, who weren’t gold, but ranged from white to orange to black, with every combination of the three in between, and to several families of native Black Ducks, who aren’t really black, but elegantly patterned, with their stunning shot silk flash of blue green ‘speculum’ mostly hidden.

On dry land, amongst the rock clusters, gorgeous Turquoise Parrots poked about on the grass, watched by what I think was a Cunninghams Skink, unconcernedly sunning itself.

Whilst I love plants and animals, I also appreciate man-made beauty and who better does that than the Japanese?!

There are several pavilions and a recreated domestic home to allow close-up observation of real life techniques, but in the gallery and cultural centre are great detailed scale models of internal timber framing of various Japanese buildings.

Cowra may be the closest I ever get to Japan, but it gave me something memorable – as it intended.