Geography has rarely ever been a strong point in movies and ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013) definitely proves that point as it leaps and jumps between different parts of the capital without too much respect for distance or time. I even cycled this trail five years ago in the order of which it appears on screen.
A funeral takes place at Zojoji Temple (4-7-35 Shibakoen, Minato-ku) but for some local residents it soon becomes apparent that the action scenes that follow were not shot at this Tokyo location as there are no ponds or water features there. That’s where the Chinese Garden of Friendship comes in. Scenes shot there were blended in with the Zojoji ones to make it seem like it was all at the same place. The reality though is that the two locales are about 7,800 kilometres (4850 miles) apart as the gardens are actually located in Sydney, Australia.
The Chinese Garden of Friendship ($6 entrance) is in Darling Harbour and I intended to visit them on my last trip in 2012 but sadly I didn’t quite have enough time. They were a priority on this trip though as they were not only used in ‘The Wolverine‘ but also featured in a very short (and pretty pointless!) post-end credits scene in ‘The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert‘ (1994).
Filming of the sixth film in the X-Men franchise took place in September 2012 but it was far from a simple shoot. Many of the garden features had to be altered to transform it into a more typical Japanese garden. Different plants such as bonsai and conifers were brought in, Chinese calligraphy and dragon motifs were removed or covered up, and a huge temporary pavilion was built in the middle of the lake.
Fox Films Australia and the director James Mangold inspected the Chinese Garden for suitability and the production crew then spent about 10 days getting it ready for filming with minimal disruption whilst carefully respecting the cultural significance of the garden. Some may say that the tranquil environment of the garden was anything but peaceful in the film as Logan (Hugh Jackman) runs, leaps and slashes his way round the place causing all manner of violent mayhem.
The filming style was very fast paced with close-ups on the actor’s faces and pretty much no lingering shots of the backdrop. Luckily, computer technology can easily help slow it all down and grab some screenshots. Armed with a load of these, I entered the gardens with the main aim of seeing how many of them matched up to reality. Due to the set dressing added during filming though it was not easy to replicate many of them at all. The following half a dozen comparison shots are the best I could get but I’m still not quite certain that all are correct. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!
Of course these gardens are famous in their own right and very few visitors are probably not even aware of its place in movie history. Once I’d done all I could with trying to replicate the screenshots, I could properly enjoy the serenity of a place which is right in the middle of Sydney. With all the sounds of city-life erased I really did feel like I was back in Asia for the hour I was there.
The Chinese Garden of Friendship opened in January 1988 as part of Sydney’s bicentennial celebrations and was symbolically named to acknowledge the bond between China and Australia. It’s a fact that there is no single vantage point for being able to see the whole garden which is filled with beautiful bamboo plants and glistening waterfalls.
‘The Wolverine‘ was filmed on a beautifully sunny day which meant the hanging foliage surrounding the pond reflected in it’s waters. Sadly, such weather didn’t repeat itself for my visit. It was a little cloudy but I was just relieved that it didn’t rain as the forecast had predicted it would. It may have not been portrayed that way in the aforementioned film but this garden is a beautiful and peaceful place for anyone needing a rest from all that is happening beyond it’s walls.
Click here to read ‘The Wolverine Filming Locations’
Click here to read ‘Review: Films Set In Japan – The Wolverine (2013)’
Click here to read ‘Tokyo Daytripper: Zojoji Temple a.k.a. The Wolverine Temple’