Comments 8

A Landscape’s Story: The Nitobe Memorial Garden

Nitobe Japanese Zen Garden - Rocks and Water

With the focus on nature-culture relationships within the confines of the garden, I would like to share my experience at the Nitobe Memorial Garden at the University of British Columbia last week.

A Japanese Zen garden can itself be interpreted as a narrative of change, revolving around the natural and human cycles of birth, maturation, growth, and death. (At least that’s what the pamphlet says!) Here are some photos and descriptions of my journey through the beautiful and meticulously designed landscape:

Nitobe Japanese Zen Garden - UBC

“Each tree, stone and shrub has been deliberately placed and is carefully maintained to reflect an idealized conception and symbolic representation of nature. There is harmony among natural forms – waterfalls, rivers, forests, islands and seas – and a balance of masculine and feminine forces traditionally attributed to natural elements.” (Nitobe Memorial Garden website)

Nitobe Japanese Zen Garden - Small Lantern

 “Water crossings reflect different life stages such as marriage, spiritual growth, etc.” (Nitobe Memorial Garden guide pamphlet)

Nitobe Japanese Zen Garden - Stone pagoda

“…the 7-storey pagoda adds an exotic beauty to aid peaceful meditation. The buddha carving suggests a teenager’s search for life’s meaning.” (Nitobe Memorial Garden guide pamphlet)

Nitobe Japanese Zen Garden - Lantern and Stone Basin tsukubai

“Near the waiting pavilion and remembering lantern there is a stone basin (tsukubai) that is used for ritual cleansing before the tea ceremony.” (Nitobe Memorial Garden guide pamphlet)

Nitobe Japanese Zen Garden - Cherry Blossoms

“A Japanese garden is not only a place of beauty, but a place where the soul can find nourishment.” (Nitobe Memorial Garden guide pamphlet)


  1. Outstanding glob my friend. I grew up very close to nature and really appreciate your wonderful pics etc. Wishing you a stunning day!

  2. Nicole Brait says

    I love Japanese gardens. Thank you for sharing your experience at Nitobe Memorial Garden

    • Thanks very much. I was fortunate to be there when the cherry blossoms were blooming; it made the experience extra special.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experiences at the gardens.
    I have very fond memories of visiting the in campus Nitobe Gardens during my studies at UBC, ’91-’94. As an Art History major, I wrote a final 1st year term paper on the gardens. This meant having to visit the exquisite gardens often (it was a tough job, but I had to do it) during its magical transformations throughout the springtime. Most of all I remember the hatsu nishi (?) zig zag bridge. It reminds me to this day that if life doesn’t move forward as I’d like in a straight line, then all I have to do is take a step to the side and continue forward from there.

    • Ah yes, the Yatsu-Hashi bridge. It’s funny, because to the right of it there is a path that leads to a dead end. According to the pamphlet, it represents “the way of teenage rebellion”. I had a good chuckle at that interpretation; life definitely has its twists and turns, starts and stops.

      Thanks very much for sharing your story.

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