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The Nitobe Memorial Garden: A Little Slice of Japan in Vancouver

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The Nitobe Memorial Garden: A Little Slice of Japan in Vancouver

We all share the same sentiments when visiting the Nitobe Memorial Garden. Either you enjoy a quiet stroll surrounded by nature, you want to learn about Japanese culture and history, or you're just looking for a peaceful oasis within the city.

No matter what it may be, we've made this guide from our own visits to the garden to help you make the most of your experience.

When was Nitobe Garden built?

The Nitobe Memorial Garden opened to the public in 1960 as a tribute to the versatile Dr. Inazō Nitobe. — diplomat, educator, agronomist and politician. His main goal was to “to become a bridge across the Pacific.”

Dr. Nitobe's works have consistently helped folks in the West get a better grasp of Japanese culture, especially during a time when Japan seemed incredibly unfamiliar to most Westerners.

Sadly, he passed away on October 15th, 1933, in Victoria, British Columbia, while he was on his way to Japan after attending a conference for the Institute of Pacific Relations in Banff, Alberta.

Nevertheless, the Nitobe Memorial Garden stands as a testament to his legacy and gives visitors a peek into Japanese culture and sheds light on a significant piece of Japanese-Canadian history.

When was Nitobe Garden built
(Image by the NAJGA via https://najga.org/reference/nitobe-memorial-garden/)

Time Zone

Pacific Standard Time (PST) (UTC-8)

Best Time to Go

The best time to go to the Nitobe Memorial Garden is during the spring (April to June) and fall (October to December) seasons, as the garden is especially photogenic during these times of the year. 

In spring, the garden is filled with vibrant cherry blossoms in full bloom, while during the fall season, the garden transforms into a picturesque landscape with colorful maple foliage.

Things to Know

Rates

If you’re thinking about swinging by the Nitobe Memorial Garden, you can grab your tickets online. The ticket costs differ depending on your age, and once you’re in, you’ve got until 4:30 p.m. to soak up all the garden goodness you want.

See the table below for the complete breakdown of ticket prices at the Nitobe Memorial Garden:

AGE RATES
Adult  $7
Senior (65 years old and above)$6
Non-UBC Student  $6
Youth (13 to 17 years old)$6
Children (6 to 12 years old)$4
Young Child (0 to 5 years old)FREE
Family (2 adults and up to 4 kids under 18)$18

Students of the University of British Columbia (UBC) receive free admission to the Nitobe Memorial Garden upon presentation of a valid student card, as well as UNA Community Services Cardholders and Garden members.

Schedules

The Nitobe Memorial Garden is open on Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 4:30 pm. However, do take note that the garden is closed annually during January and February.

Oh, and it’s a smart move to give their website a quick peek the week you plan to visit because sometimes they kick things off a bit late for special events.

Parking

If you’re heading to the Nitobe Memorial Garden, you can park right across the garden’s entrance at the Fraser River parkade. It’s $1.50 per hour, or you can go for the $6 all-day parking deal until midnight. 

To pay for parking, you can download the Honk mobile app. But, if you’re hoping to score some free parking, there are a few spots along Marine Drive, but they’re few and far between, so don’t bank on finding one too easily.

How to Get Around

By Bus: You have two choices here. First is the #R4 41st Ave bus, which drops you near University Hill High School. From here, the garden is a 15-minute walk away. You can also take the #68 UBC Exchange campus shuttle.

By Car: From downtown Vancouver, just hop on West 4th, 10th, or 16th Avenue headed towards UBC. The entrance you’re looking for sits on the west side of SW Marine Drive.

By Bike: Cross the Burrard Street Bridge and bike towards W Broadway to University Boulevard. Then, turn right onto Lower Mall and head straight towards Nitobe Memorial Garden.

What to Expect at the Nitobe Memorial Garden

Admission is by-donation around November to mid-March

Admission is by-donation around November to mid-March
(Image by UBC via https://visit.ubc.ca/)

If you’re planning a visit from November to mid-March, we’ve got a sweet deal for you. During those months, the Nitobe Memorial Garden is open on a donation basis from 10 am to 2 pm, so you can chip in whatever amount you’re comfortable with.

But, keep in mind this special deal is only available on Wednesdays through Sundays. For the rest of the year, the standard admission fees apply.

There are two ponds in the garden

There are two ponds in the garden
(Image by UBC via https://visit.ubc.ca/)

At the Nitobe Memorial Garden, there are two ponds. There’s a bigger one with a bridge in the middle and a pathway that loops around the garden. 

Then there’s a smaller pond with a path lined with stepping stones and a tiny bridge connecting it to the main water area. Ornamental koi can be found swimming around the ponds.

People generally walk slow around the garden

People generally walk slow around the garden
(Image by UBC via https://visit.ubc.ca/)

To fully appreciate the different ponds, bridges, trails, and nature, expect that visitors here walk slowly through the garden’s tranquil paths. Here’s a full detailed map of the garden.

The Nitobe Memorial Garden has plenty of sights to see, including a traditional Japanese tea house, lanterns that symbolize light dispelling darkness, native BC trees that are pruned in the traditional Japanese style, and stone statues.

There are Japanese tea ceremonies here

There are Japanese tea ceremonies here
(Image by UBC via https://visit.ubc.ca/)

Right at the tea house’s entrance is a leaning cherry tree that encourages folks to step in and join a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. This event usually happens from May to September, between noon and 4pm, every last Saturday of the month.

During these chado (the way of tea) ceremonies, the host and guests share a lovely moment sipping matcha tea. Keep in mind, though, that there’s an extra $10 charge on top of the regular garden admission fees for the tea ceremonies.

Garden tours are included with admission

Garden tours are included with admission
(Image by UBC via https://visit.ubc.ca/)

If you’re up for it, you can join volunteer-led garden tours, and the best part is they’re included with your admission to the Nitobe Memorial Garden. It’s a neat way to delve into the garden’s history, purpose, and the variety of plants and collections it holds.

Just head over to their website and peek at the drop-in tour schedule to find out when these volunteer-led garden tours are happening.

Places to Stay near the Nitobe Memorial Garden

West Coast Suites

Address: 5961 Student Union Blvd, Vancouver, BC V6T 2C9, Canada

Phone: +1 604-822-1000

Pricing: $$

Book Now

The West Coast Suites inside UBC appears to have it all: comfy rooms with fully equipped kitchens, easy access to the Nitobe Memorial Garden, and close proximity to YVR.

The hotel has a modern yet cozy atmosphere accentuated by room amenities like carpeted floors, contemporary furniture, and a great kitchen with a full-size fridge, dishwasher, stove, and coffee maker.

Carey Centre

Address: 5920 Iona Dr, Vancouver, BC V6T 1J6, Canada

Phone: +1 604-225-5920

Pricing: $

Book Now

Carey Centre’s biggest asset is its location, as it’s conveniently close to the UBC bus loop for easy access to the Nitobe Memorial Garden. Plus, prices here remain affordable despite low or high booking seasons.

Rooms here are quite basic, so before you book, know that this is a student dorm, and it very much feels as such. Inside are comfy beds and a TV; it’s not a very big space, but the bathroom is tidy with toiletries.

Gage Suites

Gage Suites
(Image by UBC via https://suitesatubc.com/)

Address: 5959 Student Union Blvd, Vancouver, BC V6T 1K2, Canada

Phone: +1 604-822-1000

Pricing: $$

Book Now

A 12-minute walk to the Nitobe Memorial Garden is the Gage Suites. The rooms here have a refined and stylish atmosphere with hotel-like modern decor. Think sleek furniture, contemporary artwork, and large windows.

Room features are very ‘dormy’ with well-stocked kitchenettes, but hey, it’s near the beaches like Kitsilano and Jericho, plus it’s a few minutes walk to public transit.

PG House by UBC

PG House by UBC
(Image by Huanhuan via https://www.bluepillow.com/)

Address: 4686 8th Ave W, Vancouver, BC

Pricing: $$

Book Now

Staying at the PG House by UBC feels like a suburban retreat in the heart of the city. The property entrance is lined with lush greenery that feels as if you’re walking through the queen’s gardens.

You can’t go wrong here—it’s a few minutes away from UBC, the house itself is spacious, there’s free parking, and staying here feels quite like a home away from home.

HI Vancouver Jericho Beach

Address: 1515 Discovery St, Vancouver, BC V6R 4K5, Canada

Phone: +1 604-224-3208

Pricing: $

Book Now

HI Vancouver Jericho Beach is 10 minutes away from UBC, and it’s got beautiful waterfront views. Room options are pretty versatile too, offering shared spaces for solo adventurers and family suites that can accommodate up to eight people.

If you’re up for it, we’d recommend you wander the park trails across this hostel. It would be a waste not to.

Places to Eat near the Nitobe Memorial Garden

Gather

Gather

Address: 1935 Lower Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1X1, Canada

Phone: +1 604-822-2622

Pricing: $

Website

Healthy food and drinks are what Gather is all about, and you’d be surprised to see the variety they’ve got, including vegan meals, Japanese poke bowls, Latin American dishes, and handmade smoothies.

Our personal favorite is home cooking (which has a daily rotating menu). The butter chicken is exquisite in our opinion but the mushroom tortellini is unbeatable.

Mercante

Address: 6488 University Blvd, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Z4, Canada

Phone: +1 604-827-2210

Pricing: $$

Website

Pizza is undoubtedly the ultimate comfort food for people of all ages, and here at Mercante, you’ll be doing your tastebuds a favor by indulging in their traditional Italian pizzas, cooked in a hot stone hearth oven.

Our top pick? Get the ‘Salami Piccante’. It has a light and tangy taste from the tomato sauce and a spicy kick from the generous amount of salami.

The Point

Address: 2205 Lower Mall MD Building 6, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada

Phone: +1 604-822-9503

Pricing: $$

Website

This joint close to Wreck Beach serves up yummy comfort foods with Asian flavors. You can’t go wrong with anything on their menu, and it’s right at the heart of the UBC campus and near most of the campus housing.

Try to grab a seat on the outdoor patio. It’s a great sunny spot to enjoy your meals while looking at the campus gardens.

Koerner’s Pub

Address: 1758 West Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2, Canada

Phone: +1 604-827-1443

Pricing: $

Website

If you’re up for some good eats and a couple of brewskis, head over to Koerner’s Pub along West Mall, where ‘nobody goes home until they have killed the night’, or so their slogan says.

Their drink choices are impressive, but we strongly suggest trying out their super smash burgers—get that with a side of fries and an extra helping of bacon.

Triple O’s

Address: 2015 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2, Canada

Phone: +1 604-822-3256

Pricing: $

Website

If you’re looking for quick service and good ‘ol fast food, then Triple O’s is the way to go. It’s a great Canadian take on burgers and milkshakes, and there’s a good variety of burgers as well.

Plus, don’t miss out on their tasty fish and chips; they serve up generous portions of fries that are almost too much to handle.

Apps to Download for a Trip to the Nitobe Memorial Garden

Maps.me: free, detailed offline maps with turn-by-turn navigation for driving, hiking, or biking.

iOs | Android

Garden Compass: take photos of flowers, plants, and pests and send it to  a horticultural expert for an accurate answer.

iOs | Android

Street Food Vancouver: locates Vancouver’s best food trucks and carts and shows their schedules.

iOs | Android

Transit: real-time public transit data in Vancouver that shows bus routes and times.

iOs | Android

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