Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens opens new Bunka centre


The Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens is proud to reopen their new building The Nikka Yuko Bunka Centre after six years of hard work, planning and collaboration.

“ We could not have done this without the co-operation with the city,” said Lethbridge & District Japanese Garden Society president Brad Hembroff.

The Nikka Yuko Bunka will be open for the Festival of Lights, Nov. 26. Photo by Richard Amery

 The new building will be officially completed and open in time for the Nikka Yuko Festival of Lights on Nov. 26.


“We’ll be opening it in three phases,” Hembroff continued, adding the first phase is Nov. 26 after final  pieces like inside doors to the main room and office carpeting will be completed. It will feature the opening of the café, gift shop and large event space.


The second phase features the opening of the programming spaces in the spring, weather permitting. 


The final phase will be the official grand opening for Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens’ 55th anniversary celebrations, July 14 next year.


 The new building features a front desk and gift shop greeting visitors. Right behind that will be a room dedicated to costumes, so people can come and dress up and tour the gardens in costume if they wish.

 There will be a café and coffee shop, next to a big set of windows showcasing the gardens themselves.

 There is a bigger room for special events and presentations and smaller rooms for special cultural activities including bonsai tree creation, cosplay and Sumo wrestling.

 Another room will be dedicated to the Memory Capture project, a  collaboration with  Panasonic Canada and  Matrix to create exhibits and displays  featuring augmented reality and digital projection to  tell the story of Nikka Yuko and recognizing Japanese residents and their descendants and the impacts they have had on Southern Alberta and the challenges they have faces. it will  feature an interactive sound booth to allow visitors to hear the stories from  those involved.


Inside the Nikka Yuko Bunka Centre which will be open for the Festival of Lights, Nov. 26. Photo by Richard Amery

 Lead architect Elizabeth Songer of Songer Architecture, which designed the building, noted the new building reflects  the humility and honour of  Japanese culture.

Brad Hembroff announces the opening of the Nikka Yuko Bunka Centre which will be open for the Festival of Lights, Nov. 26. Photo by Richard Amery


“This is a brand new building honouring time honoured traditions of Japanese culture,” she said, noting the roof slopes at the entry.

“Visitors enter at the most humblest part of the building,” she said.


“The windows show the peace and serenity of the gardens,” she added.


  Songer said they have been working  with the City of Lethbridge since 2018.

“It’s quite simple and referential to Japanese culture,” she continued.

 She noted the building was completed  close to the set budget.

The new cultural centre was approved in 2017 as part of the City of Lethbridge’s 2018-2027 Capital Improvement project to facilitate growth at Nikka Yuko.

The previous building, which had the gift shop, offices and meeting rooms will continue to be used for Nikka Yuko activities as well.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor