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L.A. Beat

Bunka Centre officially opens at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden

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It’s been the culmination of a lot of work, fundraising and co-operation, but the Nikka Yuko  Japanese Garden opened their new Bunka Centre, Thursday, July 14.


Booming Tree Taiko open the Bunka Centre at the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, July 14. Photo by Richard Amery

“ It’s a wonderful building,” summarized Brad Hembroff, president of the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden committee.


 The building, designed by Elizabeth Songer, provides a cultural hub for visitors to experience and learn more about Japan and the history of Nikka  Yuko Japanese Garden through exhibits, workshops, and ongoing programs and events. While the  garden and the structures inside it reflect traditional Japanese culture, the Bunka Centre offers visitors a modern technology-enhanced experience using augmented reality and interactive experiences, including a memory booth, meeting rooms, display rooms and rooms for art exhibits.

 Bunka means culture in Japanese.


Lethbridge’s Songer architecture inc designed the new Bunka Centre to suit a variety of uses and was recently announced as the winner of the 2022 Prairie Wood Design Awards in the industry award 

category for the Centre.


Hembroff noted the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens has been a hub for cultural activities and fellowship since it first opened in 1967.


“The Bunka Centre tells the story of the Japanese Gardens. It’s history is not static. It will continue to evolve,” he said.


“ It‘s been an absolute team effort,” he continued, thanking all of the  volunteers and partners who helped fund, build and organize the new Centre. Several government grants and fundraising  efforts funded the new building.

“It’s an incredible honour to gather here with all of you,” said MP Rachael Thomas, on hand to help cut the ribbon.

The Nikkei Cultural Society Minyo Dancers open the Bunka Centre at the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, July 14. Photo by Richard Amery


The garden was built as a Centennial project designed as a monument to the 

contributions made to southern Alberta by Canadians of Japanese origin. Nikka Yuko, which means Japan-Canada Friendship, is a Canadian garden done in Japanese style that reflects and highlights  aspects of both cultures inside the city’s largest living art piece. 


“ It truly  took a community to pull this off,” Thomas continued.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen thanked city council and former mayor Chris Spearman for helping spearhead this project.


“ Nikka Yuko Garden is a cornerstone of tourism in Lethbridge. The economic impact is huge.” Hyggen said

“When I come here, I feel at home. It’s very impressive,” said  Tatsukuni Uchida, Consul General of Japan in Calgary, noting the centre helps  foster Japanese-Canadian relations.

 Celebrations continue tonight at there Yates Theatre at 7 p.m. with performances by the mini Dancers and  an extended performance by Booming Tree Taiko drummers from Edmonton.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. beat Editor

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