Named for Dr.Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933), a one-time Japanese ambassador to Canada, the garden is considered one of the best traditional Japanese gardens in North America, and was the first Japanese garden ever built in Canada. It's also one of the best kept secrets - of the locals I polled, only 1 out of every 10 had ever been there, and I, to my chagrin, was in the 'not been' category until a few weeks ago.
One of the first things you see upon entering the garden is the Kasuga-style Nitobe Lantern, dedicated to Dr. Nitobe's memory. According to the map we were given, this lantern is sometimes interpreted as a Father Figure. Beyond it are 2 paths by a waterfall which represent alternate passages through childhood; one is short & easy , the other longer & steeper.
If you were to stand at the head of the pathway and look back, you would see the restored tea house, Ichibō-an (Hut of the Sweeping View). It's one of the most calming and serene places I've ever been.
The waiting room to which we were taken at the beginning of the Tea Ceremony.
Unlike North American design, Japanese design tends to see inside and outside as being at the two ends of a continuum rather than being separate entities, which is why the veranda (engawa) is an essential aspect of the house; it acts as a transition space and is carefully oriented to give the best views of the gardens outside.
Set just before one of the major water-crossings at the garden, the stone expresses Dr. Nitobe's lifelong wish to be a "bridge across the ocean".
The 77-log bridge
The Garden is host to 6 water-crossings, all of which hold a special significance.
The Devil-losing Bridge
This zig-zag bridge by the iris pond instantly became my favourite. Afterwards I found out it's name which refers to the belief that evil spirits (who are by tradition thought to travel only in straight lines) cannot follow anyone across such a bridge. Hmm...
Yes, the water really was that green.
Island of Eternity
This view of the "Island of Eternity" from the main path. The island is in the shape of a turtle, which I thought rather odd until it was explained to me that the turtle is a symbol of longevity in Japan.
So there you have it. If you're interested in finding out more about the garden, visit the Nitobe Garden's website. If you want to learn about the tea ceremony (which is a whole post unto itself), click here for the Urasenke Foundation's website.