[Kelsey Sutor]

We did our trees with members from the Japanese airforce. So they had flown all the way to Cowra just to plant a tree with us. My name is Kelsey Sutor. I’m 26 years old. I was born and bred in Cowra and I’m going to tell you a little bit about Sakura Avenue.

[Bill West]

But as the cherry tree grows, it’s believed that the friendship between the people of Cowra and the people of Japan will continue to grow and to flourish.

[Kelsey Sutor]

It was a really great day. I can remember these giant Japanese men in uniform. They were the ones who grabbed the shovels obviously, because we were quite tiny. If I was 10, my sister would have been eight at the time. So they dug the giant holes and essentially they lifted the trees into the grounds, and we just had a hand on them.

(Tree planting sounds)

So the process of planting the trees involves getting a tree and plaque from Council and then it’s organised that a Japanese member of society, so it might be the Airforce, it might just be you know, a resident of a town in Japan. They will come and sponsor the tree with a Cowra resident. And to me, that’s a really lovely symbol of friendship and reconciliation between the two countries, especially after our prisoner of war breakout. To me, it just symbolises a moving-on from such a tragedy that only happened over the hill.

[Bill West]

So this tree is just, not just a tree, it’s a very important symbol of the relationship between the people of Cowra and the people of Japan, and we entrust our students with continuing that into the future for us.

[Kelsey Sutor]

Living in a small rural town, we have a lot of connection to Japan, but you don’t necessarily meet Japanese people or anyone from overseas when you’re that age. So, they couldn’t quite speak English but they could speak broken English. It was nice to converse with them and learn a little bit about Japan. And they told us a lot about how Japanese military works, so that was a really interesting conversation to have. I think as a child it gives you a good understanding of the relationship between Cowra and Japan. It’s a part of that learning process that we all receive when we grow up in Cowra about, you know, our relationship with Japan. But as an adult, the way I think about the tree is, it’s sort of the thing that is left behind in Cowra. So no matter where you go, part of you is always in Cowra thriving and growing as a tree. I think for a visitor it’d be a really good learning experience and I always found that any time I walked past one of the plaques, I would wonder who that person was in Cowra, if I didn’t already know them, and who that person was in Japan. So I think it gives a nice little, hints of stories about people as you walk along.

Producer/Sound Design: Masako Fukui 

Music Credits: Sunset Stroll into the Wood by Podington Bear ( CC BY-NC 3.0

Photo Credits: Photo 1: Blossom trees and donor plaques; Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Photo 2: Kelsey Sutor and her sister Marnee with members of the Japanese Air Force planting their cherry blossom tree, 2003; Sutor Family Archives

Photo 3: Japanese students from Sydney language school ICET, local student Liam Beaumont, Mayor Bill West at a tree planting ceremony, 2018; Photo by Mayu Kanamori



The Cowra Voices Audio Archive Project 2023

Cowra Council is the copyright holder of all the audio works in the Cowra Voices Audio Archive. If you would like to reuse or copy any of the materials in this Archive, please contact Cowra Council. Australian copyright law is set out in the Copyright Act 1968 (Commonwealth).

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