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Nikka Yuko Centennial Garden


Other Names:
Lethbridge Japanese Garden
Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Nikka Yuko Centennial Garden, better known as the Japanese Garden, is a 1.6 hectare (4 acre) garden prominently located at the west end of Henderson Lake, a man-made irrigation lake surrounded by mature trees. The Garden was built in Lethbridge, Alberta to celebrate Canada’s Centennial. It was built as a “Canadian garden in the Japanese style” with the Garden and its built elements designed to create a unified statement of natural and manmade structures which brings the art form of the Japanese gardens to Canada. The Garden and its unique wooden structures are designed and constructed in the “Sukiya” style of traditional Japanese Architecture.

Heritage Value
The Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is significant for a number of symbolic/landmark values that recognize the influential contributions of the Japanese culture within Lethbridge and Southern Alberta. The Garden is also significant due to the design/style/construction principles and techniques used throughout the building and maintenance of the garden.

Built to celebrate Canada’s Centennial in 1967, the Garden and its built elements create a unified statement of natural and manmade structures which brings the art form of Japanese gardens to Canada. Thus, the Garden symbolically brings the mountains, lakes and prairies of Canada together with the Japanese heritage of Southern Alberta into a place of serenity for the City.

The Garden also recognizes the struggles and hardships endured by the early Japanese immigrants and their ultimate contributions made to the southern Alberta community and as a symbol of the international friendship between Canada and Japan. Its name was created from the Japanese words Ni (from Nihon meaning Japan), ka from Kanada or Canada, and Yuko, which translates as "friendship" to mean “Japan-Canada friendship”. As the name suggests, the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden has and continues to be utilized as a catalyst for the promotion of the friendship between Japan and Canada. In 2012 the Japanese Garden was presented with a commendation from the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs for the promotion of friendship between Japan and Canada.

The Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden and its structures are designed and constructed in the “Sukiya” style of traditional Japanese architecture. The unique wooden structures are constructed of Asian “Hinoki” cypress wood. All of the structures and bridges were built in Kyoto Japan, disassembled, crated, and brought to Lethbridge where they were re-assembled by craftsmen from the Kumakura Construction Company in Kyoto, Japan.

The Garden is designed so that a long formal procession occurs prior to the entry of the Garden, providing the visitor with a view of the wood and copper fence that creates the Garden compound with the Tea Pavilion as the predominant structure. A formal gateway greets the visitor at the end of the long straight walkway.

Other features of the Garden include a dry rock garden or Karesansui that forms an enclosed meditation garden for the Tea Pavilion. The style shows strong influence from the Kamakura and Muromachi Periods (1192-1573) and is similar in character to the Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto, Japan. A central pond symbolizes the seas with the built earth mounds (hills) and rocks representing the Rocky Mountains. The Garden does not feature flowers as the colour is seen to be a distraction to the serenity of the Garden.

To further the Garden to be a “Canadian Garden in a Japanese Style” the rocks, stones, planting material, trees and shrubs are all native to southern Alberta, all of which were donated by local citizens as their way to participate in the Centennial celebration and recognition of the Japanese heritage found in southern Alberta. The rocks are from the Lethbridge region near the Canadian Rockies and Foothills. Smaller flat rocks that line the creeks and ponds were hand-picked from the local Oldman River Valley by the members of the Lethbridge Community.

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Nikka Yuko Centennial Garden include, but are not limited to, such elements as its:

- Site and location in Henderson Lake Park;
- fenced boundaries;
- design technique of shakkei, or ‘borrowed view’;
- ornamental rocks collected from southern Alberta and used throughout the Garden, including Ariso (stone pebble) Beach;
- stone lanterns, hand crafted in Kyoto, Japan;
- wooden construction, stucco panels and concrete base of the Main Gate and the two minor gates;
- wooden construction, seating arrangement, and Fukinsei (asymmetrical design) of the Azumaya (Summer Pavilion);
- wooden Moon Bridge with wooden handrail;
- Yarimizu (narrow and shallow winding creek) arched wooden bridges;
- stone pagoda with five tiers denoting earth, water, fire, wind and sky; and
- Prairie Garden, an open space which evokes a Prairie landscape.

The character-defining elements of the Tea Pavilion include, but are not limited to, its:
- Form and massing;
- Sukiya design style;
- wide overhanging roofs of varied pitch and orientation with overhanging eaves exposing the rafters on the underside;
- roof ridges capped with clay tile;
- wood railings and decks;
- shoji screens;
- Karesansui (adjoining dry garden);
- Okame masks with wooden plaques mounted in attic space;
- cypress wood flooring and Tatami mats;
- wood and stucco fencing; and
- interior and exterior wood battens and painted paneling.

The character-defining elements of the Bell Tower include, but are not limited to, its:
- bronze bell, cast in Kyoto and commissioned specifically for the Nikka Yuko Centennial Garden;
- suspended wooden bell striker; and
- wood structure on concrete base.


Street Address: Mayor Magrath Drive S
Community: Lethbridge
Boundaries: Block M, Plan 1178GT
Contributing Resources:

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
49.6895867 -112.8089045 Digital Maps NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type
5505013 370029 Digital Maps


Recognition Authority: Local Governments (AB)
Designation Status: Municipal Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2015/07/06

Historical Information

Built: 1967/01/01
Period of Significance: 1967_Current
Theme(s): Building Social and Community Life : Education and Social Well-Being
Historic Function(s): Leisure : Tourist Facility
Current Function(s): Leisure : Tourist Facility
Architect: Tadashi Kubo

Additional Information

Object Number: 4664-0357
Designation File:
Related Listing(s): 4665-1385
Heritage Survey File:
Website Link: http://www.nikkayuko.com/index.asp
Data Source: Planning & Development Services City Hall, 910 - 4 Avenue South Lethbridge, AB, T1J0P6
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