Photojournalist John Elliott’s new book, Ju Raku En, celebrates the beauty of Toowoomba’s Japanese Garden and tells the story of how it came about.

The newly published book shares the story of Adrian Allen, who had a big dream, and how the community shared in the vision of that dream and confidently moved forward to make the dream real. Academic Adrian Allen was the instigator of the garden and managed to convince one of Japan’s leading garden designers, Professor Kinsaku Nakane, and his son Shiro, to get involved in the project and also to attract massive sponsorship and commitment from the broader Toowoomba community.

The Japanese Garden, on the northern side of the University of Southern Queensland campus, started out as a cow paddock and has grown into one of Toowoomba’s most beautiful public gardens.

John Elliott has lived near the Japanese Gardens since 2001 and has been a regular visitor to the gardens over the years. “My dog Herman and I walked in the gardens for many years. After Herman died, I started sorting my photographs of him and found that I had collected many hundreds of photos of the garden in all its glory and in all seasons. The book grew from these photos and my memories of those special times with Herman at the garden.”

John Elliot

In 1980, the Toowoomba City Council and the University of Southern Queensland (then Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education) agreed to provide a jointly owned 10 acre site to construct the garden. Developer Clive Berghofer was Toowoomba Mayor from 1982 to 1992 and played a pivotal role in constructing the Japanese Garden. “I believed the project was worthy of support and I lent some of my earthmoving equipment in the initial stages and drove the machinery myself,” he said.

The garden was officially opened by the Brisbane based Consulate General of Japan Mr Yoshi Haru Araki on April 29, 1989. Shiro Nakane, who worked with his late father designing the garden, regularly visits Toowoomba and the garden. “I am very happy with how the garden looks today. I hope the garden shall exist in a couple of hundred years like the famous old classic Japanese gardens in Kyoto.”

Former Deputy Vice Chancellor of USQ, Professor Paul McNally OAM, was chairman of the committee to establish the Japanese Garden. “People think the garden just turned up here; well it didn’t and its existence is because of the work of Adrian Allen.” Paul loves the garden and is a regular visitor. “The garden brings joy and calm into people’s lives and there’s a meditative quality in a good garden. After visiting the Japanese Garden you leave calmer and a better person in some small way. Gardens perform a very important role in a calm and settled community.”

The book Ju Raku En – Celebrating 25 Years of Toowoomba’s Japanese Garden by John Elliott is published by Ellipsis Media and will be launched at the garden during the Carnival of Flowers in September.

Words and images by John Elliott