Mika Hashimoto said it had been her father, Takashi's, dream to help establish a cherry blossom garden in Hutt City. While it was regrettable this didn't come about while he was still alive, Mika echoed her mother Setsuko's sentiment that Takashi "would be smiling" to see last Tuesday's gathering alongside Opahu Stream and the civic fountain as his vision was realised.
Takashi Hashimoto was Mayor of Minoh City in the Japanese megatropolis of Osaka from 1993 to 2000. In 1995 he and former Hutt City Mayor Glen Evans signed an International Co-operating Cities agreement formally establishing sister city links.
Current Hutt Mayor David Ogden told those at the Takashi Hashimoto Memorial Walkway opening that in the 15 years since then, the relationship had grown to encompass many sporting, cultural, educational and business exchanges.
"Like the Hutt-Minoh Friendship House [in Normandale], which [Mr Hashimoto] was very much involved in bringing about, the walkway is a tangible symbol of the friendship between our two cities."
Mr Ogden said he had met Mr Hashimoto a number of times and "found him to be very, very good company".
"He was a kind and wonderful person who had a great deal of affection for Hutt City."
His efforts to forge links between the people of Minoh and the Hutt were recognised in 2000 with the presentation of the Hutt City Civic Honour; he was the first and only non-resident to receive the city's highest award.
Mr Hashimoto died in 2008 after a distinguished career in academics and government, and when Mr Ogden visited Minoh the following year, Mrs Hashimoto offered to help fund a Japanese-themed walkway in Hutt City in Takashi's memory.
Parks assets manager Judy Robb said Mrs Hashimoto's "significant contribution" enabled the council to add to the nine ornamental cherry trees planted in the civic garden between Myrtle St and the council's headquarters. Since then half a dozen more cherry trees had gone in, a meandering lime sand pathway laid, rock walls and bench seats built and an Oriental-style slab bench installed.
Mrs Robb said the ornamental cherry trees, which suit our climate, should thrive in the sheltered spot. They'll bloom for several weeks in late winter/early spring, no doubt making the civic garden and fountain an even more popular spot for lunchtime strollers and for wedding photographs.
Through interpreter Kazuo Ohtake, Mrs Hashimoto told the Hutt News the cherry blossom is a symbol of her people's spirit. It is Takashi's favourite.
The blossom has been compared to our time on earth full of promise but fleeting and fragile.
"It is similar to the samurai's spirit there is no hanging around."
The Hashimotos and Japanese visitors travelling with them delighted onlookers when they sang two songs in Japanese, one of them about the sakura (cherry blossom).
Among the gathering were many councillors and staff and citizens who have enjoyed the hospitality of Minoh people. Bryce Manu, who carved a pou that now stands in Minoh's Maple Hall and who was part of a Hutt kapa group who toured the city attended, as did Leah Nanai and her son Jade Takashi Nana, who the Hashimotos took under their wing when they were living in Minoh for seven years.
- Hutt News