It turns out you don’t have to travel all the way to Japan to have an authentic Japanese garden experience. The Nikka Yuko Garden in Lethbridge is a masterpiece of artistry (and one of the best throughout all of Canada), all within the city limits.
The garden was first established during Canada’s Centennial in 1967, a way to recognize the contributions made by citizens of Japanese ancestry to the community of Lethbridge.
Its name is drawn from the Japanese word for Japan “Nihon” and “Kanada” followed by “Yuko”, meaning friendship.
While at first glance the garden certainly feels like Japan, its trees, shrubs and bushes are all native to Canada but are cut and shaped in a Japanese style. They adapt to the seasons, making a trip to the garden spectacular in any season (including a winter light festival, which lights up the garden with 100,000 lights). Be sure to check the website for the months and hours of operation.
The result is a stunning garden that incorporates several Japanese practices, creating a perfect place of zen, contemplation and harmony.
Here are some must-knows about the Nikka Yuko Garden for your next visit to Lethbridge:
East meets…East: The garden offers drop-in yoga classes at specific times, and you can even rent a mat if you’re visiting from out of town. The classes take place in various spaces within the garden. Visit the website for details.
Catch the Light: The first and last hour of operation for the garden is typically the best time to experience it with fewer crowds, and it often provides the best lighting for photography. See hours of operation here.
Best Insider Tip: According to Michelle Day, executive director of the garden, one of her favourite times to visit the garden is in the rain. “I love the sound of the raindrops on the roof of the pavilion, and how the rain moves through the trees.”
Take a Guided Tour: Tours are available at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. daily, and are included with admission.
Play a game of “Hide and Seek”… sort of: The concept of “Hide and Reveal” isn’t a kid’s game, but a garden design feature that allows the scene to reveal itself as you move through the garden. The whole garden is arranged in a way that your eyes never have to compete for a view, so it relaxes your mind. We could all do with a little more relaxation.
It also borrows some views: The concept of “Shakkei” means “borrowed view.” Using beautiful nearby features like a large, man-made lake in the background gives the garden an even larger presence, thanks to this “borrowed view.”
More than just trees: A wide range of activities and events are available at the garden throughout the day and season, including a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, a Sunset Sake tasting, the opportunity to try on a traditional outfit, Taiko drumming and more.
As the garden matures, just like the rest of us, it’s a form of “wabi-sabi,” meaning “rustic beauty.” It’s the idea that things become more beautiful as they age. Who knows, with all of that zen going on, maybe a few regular visits to the Nikka Yuko Garden is like finding the fountain of youth?
If you go: The garden offers free guided tours with admission as well as peace- and serenity-focused activities in the morning, and cultural events like a traditional tea ceremony, traditional outfits and Taiko drumming in the afternoon. There are also a number of events throughout the season. Learn more here.
Read more about Nikka Yuko on ZenSeekers.com.
Paula Worthington is a travel and lifestyle writer, content creator and Founder of Worthington PR & Story, a multi-faceted communications firm for brands with a story to tell. She’s an avid traveler, with an interest in off the beaten path destinations and adventures. She’s also authors www.wanderswild.com. Follow her adventures on Instagram @p_worthington.
Although we do our best to provide you with accurate information, all event details are subject to change. Please contact the facility to avoid disappointment.