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March 20, 2019 March 20, 2019

Winter wonderland

Posted on December 27, 2018 by Dave Sulz
Lethbridge Herald file photo by Ian Martens Visitors take in the colourful lights decorating Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden during last winter’s Winter Lights Festival.

The Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is literally aglow with the magic of winter.
The garden’s Winter Lights Festival, which some have called their new winter tradition, lets visitors stroll the garden paths beneath the stars and the glow of more than 115,000 colourful lights.
The event has proven hugely popular, attracting more than 14,000 visitors last year, including some from great distances. Nikka Yuko staff say the main visitors outside of Lethbridge hail from Medicine Hat, Calgary and even Australia. Visitors note they love how the beauty of the garden comes together with the light display.
The festival has helped raise the profile of the Nikka Yuko garden by attracting visitors previously unaware of the garden’s existence who came for the Winter Lights Festival, and then returned in summer to tour the garden in all its warm-weather glory.
The garden’s winter beauty has been catching on, with businesses booking client and staff gatherings at Nikka Yuko. Two winter weddings have also been booked for the scenic setting.
The festival is open on select nights throughout December and then on Fridays and Saturdays throughout January. It will conclude with the Setsubun Festival on Feb. 2, 2019. Garden staff have a special treat planned for New Year’s Eve, with a family fun night featuring horse and wagon rides, Pokemon Go and Anime movies. Regular admission will operate from 6-10 p.m. At 10 p.m., there will be colouring and the concession open until 11 p.m., at which time Rev. Yasuo Izumi, from the Buddhist Temple of Southern Alberta, will start the Joya No Kane service which includes ringing in the new year with the big bell.
When open on regular nights, festival hours are from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the gate and Visitor Centre for $7.50/person (free for children 10 and under). Tickets are also available at the Nikka Yuko website (nikkayuko.com). There are also various special packages to choose from, the most popular of which is the Tomodachi (Friendship) package where visitors receive two admissions, two hot beverages and two Matcha Maple Cookies from LakeView Bakery.
Nikka Yuko also offers an assortment of programs and cultural experiences such as Japanese Fairy Tale Stories with Tad and Tomo. The SAWA restaurant prepares hot curry soup some nights and will be doing Okonomiyaki (Japanese Cabbage Pancake) presentations and samples. Another treat is Okinawa Donuts from Koko’s Restaurant. Check the website and Facebook page for details about program updates.
Some nights of the Winter Lights Festival may be cancelled due to severe cold, snow or wind. The public is urged to check the garden homepage for any cancellation notification. Visitors are also welcome to call the garden at 403-328-3511.
Nikka Yuko staff are grateful for the support of the garden’s corporate sponsors who have enabled them to grow the light display and add unique cultural experiences. The title sponsors for 2018-19 are Sonny and Kim Nakashima, and the season’s theme is “Celebrating Japan-Canada Friendship,” chosen to mark the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Canada.

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