History blooms in Cowra, NSW

By Wes Judd 29 October 2013
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Every year, a festival in country NSW pays tribute to spring and attempts to heal the rifts of war.

CHERRY TREES FLAUNT their blossom beside a lake where koi carp circle. Taiko drummers are making thunder, sumo wrestlers grapple and – in a cottage by a tumbling stream – women in immaculate kimonos prepare and serve matcha green tea.

All this and more is happening in a traditional Japanese garden created in the style of the Edo period (1615–1867), a so-called strolling garden that embodies in miniature all of Japan’s landscape features.

But you’re not in Tokyo’s Imperial Palace gardens on a sunny September day; you’re deep in country New South Wales, in the heart of Cowra, a small town on the banks of the Lachlan River.

Despite the 7800km separating Japan from Cowra, Japanese culture is embedded, and highly visible, in this community. The garden is one of several of the town’s features that have come to symbolise this unusually strong link, which originated in a violent incident here nearly 70 years ago, when 231 Japanese soldiers died.

Read more about Cowra in issue 117 (Nov/Dec) of the Australian Geographic journal.