Japanese Hillside was developed in response to requests for a Japanese garden. The opportunity arose in 1992, when it was decided to remove the original aged pine trees from the hillside to the west of Hughes Walk. A proposal was put forward to establish the hillside in Japanese trees, as the framework for a feature which fitted into the wider Park landscape, but whose structural features would have a Japanese theme. The proposed concept was the idea of the Park curator, Anthony Joines and other Parks Department managers.   

The concept meant that the hillside ended up being planted to look like a piece of forest that might naturally be encountered in Japan. Some of the trees  planted on the hillside were grown from seed that came from Japan. They included Japanese maples, Acer japonicum, and Hinoki Cypress, Camaecypais obtusa, which were raised in the Park Nursery and were planted out in 1993. Most of the Japanese Cedars, Cryptomeria japonica, were sourced locally from Cedar Lodge Nursery, and the azlaeas came from Living Light Nursery at Omata. The positioning of the paths on the Japanese Hillside were determined by the access tracks cut by diggers during the process of removing the pines. 

Japanese Hillside in springtime

The lower part of Japanese Hillside between Hughes Walk and Fountain Lake wasn’t developed until 2001 and was the idea of Park Manager, Bryan Gould. Some trees had already been planted close to the Hughes Walk by Anthony Joines in 1993, but the rest of the slope was covered in native trees and shrubbery. In order to strengthen the identity of the Japanese Hillside. Ian Hutchinson (Botanical records Officer at Pukekura Park) had been asked in 2000 for hard landscape feature suggestions by the Park Manager and suggested a Torii Gate. This suggestion was made because Tori Gates are usually red, meaning they would match up with existing features such as the Park bridges.

Torii Gate opening ceremony

Pukekura Park - Japanese Hillside Torii Gate

 Subsequently the Torii gate was built by the Parks construction team, based on design guidance/plans from New Plymouth’s sister city Mishima. The construction of the gate and the planting of the lower slope with azaleas, Pieris and some additional trees selected by the Park staff opened up the whole hillside to create a complete Japanese vista.

 The Torii Gate was officially unveiled in May 2001 following a sister cities convention in New Plymouth. The ceremony was attended by a New Plymouth District Council delegation including deputy mayor Peter Tennent and a delegation from Mishima City. At the ceremony the gate was named ‘Mishima Gate’.