By Lethbridge Herald on November 28, 2017.
It’s been a treasured jewel in Lethbridge for the past 50 years. Now the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden has been honoured with a Provincial Historic Resource designation.
The Hon. Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture & Tourism, confirmed the designation on Oct. 19. The Lethbridge and District Japanese Garden Society and Mayor Chris Spearman made an official announcement at the garden on Tuesday.
The recognition is reserved for places of outstanding provincial significance that are associated with an important aspect of Alberta’s natural or human history.
The Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden was built in 1967 to celebrate Canada’s centennial. It was established to recognize the contributions of Japanese citizens to the city and as a symbol of international friendship. After the Second World War, southern Alberta had the third-largest Nikkei population (descended from Japan) in Canada.
“This is an incredible story,” said James Phelan, Nikka Yuko’s marketing and events co-ordinator. “We’re so happy to share this living monument and the legacy of the contributions of Nikkei in Lethbridge. It’s something to really celebrate — this friendship between the Nikkei people and the friendship with the nation of Japan. That’s what this historical designation means today.”
The garden also has a long legacy of hosting distinguished visitors. Prince and Princess Takamado of the Imperial Family of Japan officially opened the garden in July 1967. This year, the garden also celebrated its 50th anniversary and hosted Princess Ayako of Takamado.
The garden is now protected under Section 20 of the Historical Resources Act, which will help preserve the garden for future generations and ensure it is used as the original designers intended.
Management already consults with colleagues in Japan before making any changes within the garden. Now any major structural changes will have to be approved through the Minister of Culture & Tourism.
“It’s an incredible amount of prestige,” said Phelan. “It really helps us step even further into (being) one of the leading historical resources in southern Alberta, one of the leading Japanese gardens in Canada. So we’re very happy today.”
“There’s only a few Japanese gardens in Canada and Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is a true gem of the south that we want to share with the world,” said Michelle Day, Nikka Yuko’s executive director.
Nikka Yuko is Lethbridge’s 15th Provincial Historic Resource. Others include Fort Whoop-Up, the Galt Museum and the Bowman Arts Centre.
Mayor Chris Spearman said he’s proud of the garden and feels the designation is well-deserved. He commended the hard work and leadership of the society and the garden’s staff for achieving the designation.
Spearman said it will help elevate the garden and the city to a new level nationally and internationally.
“I think we’ve always been proud of Nikka Yuko in our city but it’s been too closely kept a secret. We’ve been modest and unassuming about this wonderful asset in our city but we need to promote ourselves. By stepping out and saying this is a site that’s very much worth visiting … and the fact it keeps changing means there is a reason for people to come back.”
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