Nikka Yuko A gar­den cel­e­brat­ing our Ja­panese an­ces­try

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - News - By Shirley James

Es­tab­lished dur­ing Canada’s Centennial in 1967, Nikka Yuko was built to rec­og­nize con­tri­bu­tions made by cit­i­zens of Ja­panese an­ces­try to the mul­ti­cul­tural com­mu­nity of Leth­bridge, Alta. and as a sym­bol of in­ter­na­tional friend­ship. 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”.

The idea for Nikka Yuko be­gan with a small group of peo­ple: Rev­erend Yutetsu Kawa­mura, a Cana­dian Bud­dhist priest; his wife Yoneko; and Cleo Mow­ers, pub­lisher of the Leth­bridge Her­ald. Their vi­sion was to cre­ate a Ja­panese-style gar­den that re­flected the mag­nif­i­cent moun­tain and prairie scenery of south­ern Al­berta. In Ja­panese gar­den de­sign phi­los­o­phy, na­ture is in­ter­preted through ab­stract and artis­tic sym­bol­ism which re­sults in a very in­trigu­ing land­scape. When Kurt Steiner, the man­ager of the city tourism or­ga­ni­za­tion, heard the idea, he im­me­di­ately pro­moted it, and the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity came to­gether to cham­pion a unique event in a small Cana­dian city.

From the be­gin­ning, it was agreed that the gar­den must be au­then­tic and of the high­est qual­ity. Re­spected Ja­panese gar­den de­signer and land­scape ar­chi­tect Tadashi Kubo of Osaka Pre­fec­ture Univer­sity was com­mis­sioned to de­sign it. A Ja­panese gar­den not only re­flects the lo­cal nat­u­ral land­scape, but also the cul­ture. Kubo em­barked on an in­ten­sive study of the land, its peo­ple and their way of life, de­ter­min­ing how the gar­den would be used, be­fore sub­mit­ting the mas­ter plan. His col­league, Masami Sugi­moto, also of Osaka Pre­fec­ture Univer­sity, over­saw the con­struc­tion, eval­u­at­ing and ad­just­ing each de­tail on site un­til ev­ery as­pect of the gar­den was har­mo­niously bal­anced.

The Friend­ship Bell is an iconic part of the park.

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