It is easy to neglect corners of your own city. I guess because you know something is there and that it is readily accessible you don't feel the pressure to visit it. It has been like that for me with the idyllic little lake in Western Springs Park, close to the city centre of Auckland. I am ashamed to admit that the last time I went there was probably about 40 years ago, but, fear not, that has now been rectified.
As a lifelong Japanophile I had been itching to visit the newly opened Japanese Garden located within the park and was just waiting for a fine day to do it justice. Thankfully the weather gods smiled on us over the last week and Sunday dawned, fine, still and gloriously sunny, a perfect day for a stroll by the lake.
What an eye opener! I had forgotten how lovely the park is. Fed by fresh water springs the lake is a haven for wildlife so I strolled past ducks and swans gliding over a polished mirror reflecting weeping willows and rushes and native pukeko burrowing among the reeds. Happy families were picnicking, the adults chatting contentedly as their boisterous children played in the large playground. I thoroughly enjoyed my walk, the lake is so pretty and the bird life prolific, but uppermost was my goal of finding the Japanese Garden.
To give the garden its correct name it is the Fukuoka Friendship Garden and was gifted to the city by Fukuoka in 1986 when Auckland and Fukuoka became sister cities. Originally located within Auckland Zoo it was demolished, amid huge controversy, to make way for more pet enclosures. Thankfully the mayor of Auckland pledged its reconstruction within Western Springs Park, immediately adjoining the zoo. The garden is 2 and a half times bigger than the original and incorporates all the traditional elements of a Japanese garden, including the relocated gate. Japanese garden landscape experts flew in from Japan and worked with a local bamboo craftsman, Mark Mortimer of Bambusero, in its creation. There is a tea pavilion, rocks, water, bamboo fencing, cherry trees, mass plantings of typical Japanese plants and a raked pebble garden. It is small but exquisitely formed. Still raw and new it will take a year or two to mature but it truly is a beautiful thing. I was happily transported right back to Japan and know it won't be long before I'm back enjoying the atmosphere of the Fukuoka Friendship Garden right here in Auckland.
And here are some of my photos of the gardens: