Cherry walkway blossoms for Takashi
Hutt locals will be able to enjoy the serenity of a cherry tree-lined Japanese walkway thanks to the generosity of Setsuko Hashimoto, widow of former Minoh City mayor Takashi Hashimoto.
Mr Hashimoto, who died last year after a short illness, was the mayor of Lower Hutt's sister city in the Osaka region of Japan from 1993 until 2000.
Ten ornamental cherry trees were planted last year alongside Opahu Stream, at the back of Riddiford Park, joining four already there. The city's horticulture assets manager, Judy Robb, says another six will be planted this year.
As well, thanks to a "substantial contribution" of many thousands of dollars from Setsuko Hashimoto, a natural, lime sand pathway running east-west from Myrtle St to the library area will be laid. This will be complemented by park benches, stone rock walls and a memorial plaque honouring Mayor Hashimoto.
Ms Robb says several years ago there were plans to establish a Japanese garden in Riddiford Park but the idea fizzled. The ornamental cherry trees, which will bloom at the end of September/beginning of October, should be a lovely sight.
"It's an area where people have told us they want to go but it's never been formalised as a walkway."
The cherry blossom (sakura) is Japan's unofficial national flower. It has been celebrated for many centuries and holds a very prominent position in Japanese culture.
There are many dozens of different cherry tree varieties in Japan, most of which blossom for just a couple of days in spring. The Japanese celebrate that time of the year with hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties under the blooming trees.
Mayor David Ogden, who says he enjoyed the company of Takashi Hashimoto on a number of occasions, found him to be a "warm and generous person who had a great fondness for Hutt City and its people. He had visited New Zealand many times."
Mr Hashimoto was a strong supporter of the International Co-operating Cities Agreement that former Hutt Mayor Glen Evans signed with him in 1995, and our links led to Minoh investing several hundred thousand dollars refurbishing the then dilapidated former von Zedlitz residence in Jubilee Park into today's Hutt-Minoh Friendship House.
In 2000, Mr Hashimoto was presented with a Civic Honours Award for exceptional service to Hutt City - the first and only time a non-resident has received the award.
Setsuko Hashimoto and her daughter Mika plan to visit the Hutt next year to officially open the Takashi Hashimoto Memorial Walkway.