December 17th, 2017

Japanese royal visit to highlight Nikka Yuko 50th anniversary

By Mabell, Dave on June 27, 2017.

Mayor Chris Spearman, alongside Garden Society chair Charles McCleary, speaks during an announcement that Japanese Princess Ayako will be helping to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Japanese Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald

A royal visitor will join southern Albertans celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Japanese Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden.

Princess Ayako, a descendent of the royal couple who flew to Lethbridge for the garden’s grand opening in 1967, will take part in day-long celebrations on July 14. The next day she’ll be the guest of the University of Lethbridge – also marking its 50th anniversary.

“We were thrilled to learn that Princess Ayako will be coming to visit Lethbridge in just a few weeks,” Mayor Chris Spearman said as the event was announced Monday.

The visit “highlights the significance of the milestones we are celebrating this summer, for both our country and our community.”

The invitation to attend, the mayor said, was extended when he and other members of city council visited the Japanese Imperial Palace as part of trade mission in February.

“The royal family was very interested in Lethbridge,” he said.

Alberta’s lieutenant governor, Lois Mitchell, will be here to welcome the princess, Spearman added.

Japanese royalty came to Lethbridge to help celebrate the garden’s 25th anniversary as well as its official opening, pointed out Charles McCleary, chair of the garden society’s board of governors.

“It’s an honour to be able to share the garden with Princess Ayako,” he said. “What better way to celebrate our 50th anniversary than with Japanese royalty? We hope the community will come out and celebrate this significant event with us.”

As well as unveiling a commemorative plaque and touring the garden, the princess is scheduled to attend the Nikkei Cultural Society’s “Bon Adori” dance and be the guest of honour at that evening’s “Experience the Friendship” banquet at the Enmax Centre.

Residents and visitors will be offered free admission to the garden from noon to 1:30 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. on July 14 and then 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on July 15.

On July 15, U of L chancellor Janice Varzari and campus officials will offer the princess a tour of the university as part of the day’s events. The U of L has academic links with nine universities in Japan, the chancellor pointed out, including a 36-year relationship with Hokkai Gakuen University in Sapporo Hokkaido.

“This visit will be a significant part of our 50th anniversary celebrations,” she said.

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