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Nikka Yuko Timeline

  • 1963

    1963 - Canada Announces Funding

    The Government of Canada announces funding for centennial projects. The City of Lethbridge Centennial Committee endorses the project to build a Japanese garden.

  • 1963

    1963 - The Plan

    The concept of building a Japanese garden is promoted by three enthusiastic supporters, Reverend Yutetsu Kawamura, a local Buddhist minister; Cleo Mowers, Editor and Publisher of the Lethbridge Herald, and Kurt Steiner, Manager of Lethbridge Travel and Convention Bureau. With the support of the City of Lethbridge, the project grows into the major centennial project for Lethbridge and southern Alberta.

  • 1964

    January 1964 - Committee

    The City of Lethbridge appoints the Japanese Garden Committee to oversee the development of the Garden, however, the construction remains a project of the City of Lethbridge.

  • 1964

    January 1964 - Members Appointed

    The initial meeting of the Committee is held. Members of the committee include: Mayoral appointments C. Mowers (Chairman), Dr. T. H. Anstey, S. J Clarke, K. Steiner, Mayor F. Sherring, Alderman D. Wilson, Alderman E. S. Vaselenak, S. Sakumoto, M. Takeda, and Dr. R. Hironaka.

  • 1964

    February 1964 - Dr. Tadashi Kubo

    The Committee learns that Dr. Tadashi Kubo, a Professor of Urban Landscape Design, University of Osaka Prefecture is building a Japanese garden in San Diego. Mayor Frank Sherring visits Dr. Kubo in San Diego and invites him to Lethbridge to talk to the Committee.

  • 1964

    April 1964 - Location

    The City of Lethbridge asks Dr. Kubo to determine the feasibility and location for the proposed garden and, after he concludes that the necessary rocks and plant material are available, hires him to design an authentic Japanese garden.

  • 1964

    September 1964 - Design Approved

    Dr. Kubo returns with several designs for the garden, and City Council approves the preferred design, which would become Nikka Yuko Centennial Garden.

  • 1964

    October 1964 - Project Begins

    The project officially begins following the arrival of Masami Sugimoto as the resident landscape architect in combination with the appointments of Tosh Kanashiro as site supervisor along with Mel Murakami, a master carpenter and manager of the Lethbridge office of Bird Construction, who becomes the volunteer construction superintendent.

  • 1964

    November 1964 - Masami Sugimoto

    Commencing in November and continuing into the spring of 1965, approximately 300 tons of rocks are carefully inspected by Mas Sugimoto and transported to Lethbridge from the Crowsnest Pass. All of the rocks are donated by William Kovach, except the large boulders used to create the waterfall, one of which weighs approximately 17 tons. Extra care is taken to preserve moss and lichens.

  • 1964

    December 1964 - Soil

    Over the course of several months, approximately 13,000 cubic feet of soil is used to create the undulating terrain of the Garden.

  • 1965

    March 1965 - Quality Check

    On his third visit, Dr. Kubo is impressed by the quality of the stones selected and he confirms the foundation of the waterfall and bridge as well as the appearance of the mountain that was built over the winter.

  • 1965

    April 1965- Fumiaki Yamashita

    A qualified gardener, Fumiaki Yamashita, arrives from Japan to assist Mas Sugimoto.

  • 1965

    June 1965 - Society is Formed

    The Lethbridge and District Japanese Garden Society is formed and elects its first board of directors. The City of Lethbridge transfers responsibility to construct the project to the Society and decides the day-to-day operation of the garden, once complete, will also be transferred to the Society.

  • 1965

    August 1965 - Ariso Beach

    A group of Japanese volunteers, primarily seniors, gather flat stones from the banks of the Old Man River near Monarch. These pebbles are later hand placed to form the Ariso beach on the pond and the shore of the streams within the garden.

  • 1965

    September 1965 - Kumakura Construction Company

    Brothers Tohoru (President) and Minoru Kumakura (Managing Director) of Kumakura Construction Company come with four other tradesmen to re-erect the pavilion, which was originally designed and constructed in Japan before being disassembled and shipped to Canada. These skilled craftsmen also build the front gate and fence, azumaya, bell tower, and bridges.

  • 1965

    Fall 1965 - Donations & Trees

    The Garden actively solicits donations of hundreds of mature trees and shrubs from the communities of southern Alberta. Each offer is inspected by Mas Sugimoto and, if acceptable, arrangements are made to excavate and transport the plant to the Garden. The plant list shows 436 trees and 230 shrubs.

  • 1965

    December 1965 - Additional Donations

    The Lethbridge Japanese Canadian Citizen’s Association makes a financial donation to the Garden.

  • 1965

    December 1965 - Roof Raising

    Reverends Yutetsu and Leslie Kawamura bless the pavilion in a traditional Japanese roof raising ceremony, believed to be first of its kind in Canada

  • 1966

    March 1966 - Nikka Yuko

    The garden’s name, Nikka Yuko (Japan-Canada friendship), is approved after much discussion.

  • 1966

    April 1966 - Inspection

    Dr. Kubo arrives to inspect the progress of the construction of the garden and expresses pleasure and satisfaction with the results.

  • 1966

    July 1966 - Open to Public

    The Garden is open to the public and the Lethbridge Herald reports that it is the biggest crowd to attend a single ceremonial event in Lethbridge.

  • 1967

    June 1967 - Final Walkthrough

    Masami Sugimoto returns to Lethbridge to supervise the final changes prior to the official opening.

  • 1967

    July 1967 - Official Opening

    The official opening of the Garden is attended by Prince and Princess Takamatsu of Japan. Thousands line Mayor Magrath Drive and pack four deep at the entrance to the garden to greet the royal couple. Masami Sugimoto escorts the Prince and Princess through the garden.

  • 1972

    May 1972 - Dr. Kubo Returns

    Dr. Kubo returns to Lethbridge at the invitation of the Society to inspect the maturing garden. After a complete inspection, Dr. Kubo provides 21 recommendations to enhance the garden’s overall harmony and aesthetic appeal.

  • 1981

    May 1981 - Dr. Kubo's Final Visit

    Dr. Kubo and his wife visit Nikka Yuko, and he states that as the Garden’s architect, it is his duty to keep a watch on the project. Unfortunately, it is Dr. Kubo’s last visit as he passed away in the summer of 1990.

  • June 1990 - Masa Mizuno

    Masa Mizuno, a master Japanese gardener from Portland, Oregon is hired, and in turn mentors a local arborist to prune and lower the height of many trees and plants to gradually bring them into conformity to the original design. The project was originally expected to take seven years, but has now become an ongoing garden process.

  • 1992

    May 1992 - 25th Anniversary

    The Garden celebrates its 25th anniversary with a visit from Prince and Princess Takamado, representing Japan’s Imperial family.

  • 1998

    June 1998 - Stone Path

    A stepping-stone path is added to the garden.

  • 2004

    December 2004 - Joya no Kane

    First Joye No Kane (New Year’s Bell Ringing) led by local Buddhist minister Reverend Yasuo Izumi. This has become an annual event.

  • 2007

    July 2007 - Visitor Centre

    New Visitor Centre officially opens with a ribbon cutting ceremony and performances by Momiji Dancers.

  • 2013

    2013 - Broder Donation

    A large donation from Alex Yanoshita is made to the garden in honor of Robert Boswell Broder, who owned Broder Canning Co. Broder is warmly remembered by Japanese Canadians. At a time when the City of Lethbridge banned Japanese residence and employment in the City, Broder fought City Council to hire Japanese Canadians, who – during the Second World War – were designated as ‘Enemy Aliens’.

  • 2015

    2015 - Municipal Historical Resource Designation

    Nikka Yuko receives Municipal Historical Resource Designation.

  • 2016

    June 2016 - New Building

    Nikka Yuko begins planning for construction of a new community building adjacent to the garden.

  • 2016

    November 2016 - Winter Light Festival

    First Winter Lights Festival is held at the Garden. This popular event has become an annual highlight at the garden.

  • 2017

    July 2017 - 50th Anniversary

    50th Anniversary celebration of Nikka Yuko with Princess Ayako of Takamado representing Japan’s Imperial Family and escorted by Dr. Masami Sugimoto during the tour of the garden. She is the daughter of the royal couple who came to celebrate the 25th Anniversary.

  • 2017

    October 2017 - Provincial Historical Resource Designation

    Nikka Yuko receives Provincial Historical Resource Designation.

  • 2018

    2018 - New Building Construction Begins

    City of Lethbridge approves the development of a new building at Nikka Yuko and contracts local firm, Songer Architecture, to design the new facility.

  • 2021

    November 2021 - Bunka Centre Opens

    Nikka Yuko Bunka Centre opens to the public.

  • 2022

    July 2022 - 55th Anniversary

    Nikka Yuko celebrates its 55th Anniversary with the Official Grand Opening of the Bunka Centre.

  • June 2023 - Sugimoto Returns

    Landscape architect, Masami Sugimoto, returns to the garden with his daughter. During his visit, he provided his expertise in maintaining the garden for the future.