Discovering a wonderful legacy in Yeppoon

by Jaclyn Thompson | committee member

This article has been written to recognise the contribution of Iwasaki Sangyo to Queensland Japan relations.

I recently moved to Gladstone for work and was excited to see what Japanese cuisine the Central Queensland region has to offer. After just a couple of weeks at work, my boss told me about Tsuruya, a Japanese restaurant located in Yeppoon. Although she hasn’t been there herself, her sister-in-law recommended it to her not just for the food, but for the whole experience. That was good enough for my partner and I. The very next weekend, we set out from Gladstone and drove the two hours to Yeppoon.

We decided to make a day of it, setting out early and taking a dip in the ocean at one of Yeppoon’s many beaches before making our way to the restaurant. The restaurant is approximately 10 minutes-drive from central Yeppoon. As promised, the whole experience was unforgettable. We set the car navigation to Tsuruya, but as we neared our destination, we feared that we were lost. The road was spotted with potholes, there were run-down buildings with temporary fencing and large signs saying “no trespassing” scattered here and there, a bizarre and very creepy teddy bear picnic set up on the side of the road, wild kangaroos, and absolutely no signage to indicate that we were heading the right way. Even when we reached the car park where there were cars parked, we were still a little doubtful that we had come to the right place. We entered the main building and headed in the only direction we could, and there it was!

Completely hidden from the car park in the main building of the resort is Tsuruya, a fully functioning Japanese restaurant still with all the original furnishings. It is quite a sight to see, with gorgeous kimono, samurai helmets and delicate ceramics decorating the walls, and 80s style resort hotel carpet and furniture. We felt like we had stepped into Narnia, or maybe a Miyazaki Hayao film. The food did not disappoint either! We got the tempura set meal, sashimi set meal and age-dashi tofu to share. Everything was fresh, delicious and delicately arranged on the plate. The salmon sashimi was arranged in the shape of a rose. All in all, I would rate the food and experience 10/10. Despite the distance, I am sure we will be frequent visitors.

I was telling my colleagues at the Australia Japan Society of Queensland about my recent experience, and they explained to me about the history of the resort in which ‘Tsuruya’ is housed. I was not aware of the early investment by Iwasaki Sangyo in the region and that the company was also considered one of the early trail-blazers in opening up Queensland to tourists from Japan.

In the 1970’s, Mr Yohachiro Iwasaki (deceased) purchased a substantial parcel of land in Yeppoon with the vision of building a world class resort. The vision was realized with the opening of the Capricorn International Resort in 1986. The resort marked one of the first major investments into the Queensland Tourism Industry by a Japanese company and was considered a leading tourism destination in its day.
I also learned that the Iwasaki Group have a long-standing commitment to the region and have given back to the regional and broader Queensland community via a number of initiatives including the Iwasaki Sangyo Prize. In 1996, at the tenth Anniversary celebration of the opening of the Capricorn Resort, Iwasaki Sangyo Co. (Australia) Pty Ltd announced a donation to the Queensland Government for the purpose of a Japanese Language Education Fund for secondary schools throughout Queensland.

The funding has supported the delivery of various programs to enable students of Japanese in Queensland to further their studies and understanding of Japanese culture and the country itself. These programs have no doubt nurtured the professionals who continue to build on the bilateral relationship between Queensland and Japan.

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