When they think of Auburn the average Sydneysider is likely to think of a suburb full of immigrants from the Middle East, Africa and China. In particular they are probably thinking about a certain Deputy Mayor of Auburn and his overly ostentatious wedding. So it was a bit of a surprise to learn that there was a Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival held in the Auburn Botanic Gardens, a place I’d never heard of before.
Along with my Mum down from Queensland, we drove out to the gardens on the final week of the festival, the recent cold weather meaning that the blossoms were well past their prime. That didn’t stop a huge queue of visitors lining up for admittance.
The queue moved quite fast and we were soon inside the Japanese Garden section of the grounds after paying the $5 entry fee for each adult.
The gardens were quite large with torii gates, gravel gardens, a large pond, bridges, waterfalls and a tea house style hut. The maples were bare of leaves, but the azaleas and camellias were in flower. The cherry trees themselves seemed to be of a different variety to the common Japanese trees, with red leaves rather than green and primarily pink flowers, but were still quite lovely.
Having visited many of Japan’s best strolling gardens during cherry blossom season, the Auburn version never felt entirely authentic, but then this isn’t Japan and like all immigrants you cannot expect to remain unchanged in another country. It would be a very pleasant place to visit when the crowds are less, the maples are green and there is time for contemplation.
Opposite the gardens an area was setup for origami and calligraphy demonstrations, along with some food stalls. There was takoyaki and, naturally for any fair, a Turkish gozleme stall, but it was also nice to see one labelled Sweet Rita Nyonya Kueh, from which we purchased some very tasty pork pies. In searching for cafes in Auburn we also discovered a listing for Peranakan Place, which we’ll have to try out one day for more nyonya cuisine.
We followed our visit with a drive into Auburn’s town centre for a late lunch of dumplings at the Taste 101 Chinese Restaurant. Not bad! Have to try out some of the Middle Eastern and Uyghur eateries too. We’ll definitely be back.