The last few mornings have been freezing, perhaps more-so because we are near the river. Bertha’s thermometer showed negative on Saturday. The days, however, have been clear and sunny with blue skies, but still chilly. It has been great sight-seeing weather and we have been quite busy.
Cowra Japanese Garden & Cultural Centre
When-ever we are in Cowra we make a point of visiting the Japanese Garden.
Its history goes back to the Japanese POW breakout in 1944 and is a testament to reconciliation between our two nations. It is a wonderfully peaceful place to visit and you can almost feel the calm descend on you as soon as you walk through the front gates. After starting with lunch we then did a tour of the Cultural Centre which has some amazing displays of Japanese culture, clothing, dolls, samurai outfits, a beautiful raked pebble garden and more. These displays change over time so it is always interesting.
Once out in the garden, there are plenty of paths to follow through the different aspects of the garden; visit the tea house and other buildings; feed the fish; explore the bonsai collection, and more. Each time we have visited it has been a different month of the year and it is lovely to see the different colours as the seasons change.
Cowra Prisoner of War Camp
From the Japanese Garden we set off to the POW Camp, which was the scene of the POW Breakout.
Last time we came here it wasn’t much more than some overgrown paddocks, but there is a project underway to make the area much more accessible and meaningful. There is a new interpretive covered area which provides a great overview as to how the camp was organized; nationalities of the inmates; and the story behind the cause of the breakout and exactly what happened at the time.
The original POW Camp consisted of four 17 acre compounds, each designed to hold 1,000 prisoners. The majority of prisoners were Italian and Japanese, but there were also Koreans, Indonesians and Taiwanese. There are new paths to various areas around the Camp and interpretive boards to explain highlights, stories, etc. We were particularly impressed by some of the stories from the Italian section where the internees had vegie gardens, did a lot of cooking, made their own grappa, and even built concrete monuments and fountains.
We look forward to coming back here again some-time in the future to see further development of this important historic site.
Cowra War Cemetery
It was perhaps a logical move to visit the War Cemetery after visiting the POW Camp where 234 Japanese prisoners were killed (or committed suicide) during the Breakout. The War Cemetery is adjacent to the main Cowra cemetery and comprises several sections.
The War Cemetery itself includes memorials to 26 Australian Army members and one Airman from the RAF, including the Australian officer and enlisted men who died in the Cowra Breakout.
The Japanese War Cemetery was established immediately after the Cowra Breakout on August 5, 1944, but was later expanded to include other Japanese who had died prior to the Breakout. The RSL maintained the Japanese section of the cemetery until 1964 when the Japanese War Cemetery was officially opened at the request of the Japanese government. Other Japanese remains from WW2 were exhumed and are now interred here.
Visiting the Cowra War Cemetery was a sobering experience.
Cowra – General
Over the last few days we also did a lot of walking and enjoyed a few coffees and meals, bought newspapers and magazines, stocked upon groceries, and I even had a hair-cut, all boosting the Cowra economy.
Still living the dream!