Nitobe Memorial Garden, Vancouver, CanadaBRITISH COLUMBIA, GARDENS & PARKS, STAFF — By Cathie Nichols on November 4, 2016 at 23:23
Text & photos © Catherine Nichols
Imagine a place where it’s bumper-to-bumper traffic for the better part of most days and evenings in the summer. The tourists have descended on your city and there’s nowhere to escape. It takes you 30 minutes to get anywhere (at a minimum), and you just want to get home from a long day at work.
Now imagine you’re one of the tourists of the aforementioned crowded city and you’re not used to all the traffic you are surrounded by. You don’t know where you are most of the time. Your attention is constantly on your cell phone because it’s giving you directions in its tiny, tinny electronic voice.
You’re stressed out, sweating, and have stopped at one too many unprotected intersections. The sheer number of pedestrians is overwhelming because they have the right of way and there seems to be a never-ending supply of them. Each light allows eighty pedestrians to cross and only one or two cars to sneak through.
The noise, the sights, the sounds, the smells, oh my! Welcome to Vancouver, British Columbia, a beautiful city surrounded by mountains, the ocean, various species of evergreen and deciduous trees, and—in the limited summer—tourists galore.
Now imagine you’ve stumbled upon an oasis in the desert. The deafening decibels accosting your ears are muted and everywhere you look the city of Vancouver has vanished. All that lies before you is a carpet and a canopy of green. In place of the honking horns, you hear birds and water burbling. There are bees and bugs and, if you’re lucky, a ladybug will land on your shirt. You can feel your shoulders moving away from your ears and a smile returning to your face. You’re taking full, deep breaths, gulping in the chlorophyll. Ahhhhhh. . . .
Welcome to Nitobe Memorial Garden, located within walking distance of the University of Vancouver.
The gardens are contained on 2.5 acres and have easily accessible trails. My family and I were the harried tourists previously mentioned. We were combining looking at the University of Vancouver with the Museum of Anthropology, finding a lunch place that six people could agree on, and throwing in Nitobe Gardens as something to do to kill time until the planned late afternoon events. No doubt, and without question, the gardens were my favorite and I am so glad we took the time to wander in.
As frequent guests of the Japanese gardens in our hometown, we were deeply impressed with the layout and size of Nitobe. Although Nitobe is much larger than the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego, it is still easy to see all there is to see in about an hour or two—providing one doesn’t go on a guided tour or take part in an authentic Japanese tea ceremony.
Although guided tours are available to enjoy, we opted to wander around on our own. We didn’t get an education on all that the gardens represent but we really needed a mental summer vacation. We had just come from the Museum of Anthropology, which is overflowing with hundreds of thousands of ancient artifacts (maybe millions!). We needed to get back to the green and forget about stuffing more knowledge into our overstimulated brains.
We each walked in silence, stopping to breathe in the clean air, sit on a bench under a shady tree, ponder the pond, capture the koi with a camera, and marvel at how serene every nook and cranny was in this authentic Japanese garden.
Back on our feet after taking time out on a bench, we noticed a few art pieces strategically placed throughout the gardens. Come to find out, each sculpture has a meaning.
As we became more comfortable, everyone in our party went off in a different direction to be alone with nature. When we came back together, every teen and adult felt rejuvenated and ready to move on to the next activity.
My family and I visited the gardens in July a little after 1 o’clock in the afternoon, and we were nearly the only people there. Each season has its highlights. Since we were there in the summer, we saw many flowers in bloom, including water lilies.
Plenty of parking can be found at the University, although you will have to walk to reach the gardens. It’s not far, but it may be best to drop off any elderly family members at the entrance and then park the car.
My advice is to take lots of pictures. But, most importantly, take your time to soak up every square inch of the tranquil hideaway that is Nitobe.
Originally from the East Coast, Catherine Nichols has spent the last 29 years in San Diego, and stays in the area because of its extraordinary beauty and a lovely lack of humidity. Accused by her three children of looking at too many rocks while visiting Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and the deserts of Nevada, she continues to marvel at the ever-changing southwest landscape. With trips to Washington DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Portland, and Europe planned, Catherine plans to reawaken her desire to see the world, and leave no stone unturned. Catherine writes in her blog at iBloggoneit.com and tweets as @bloggoneit.