Despite all the unfortunate events that 2020 has brought, Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is hoping to bring extra joy and light into the city once again with their fifth annual Winter Light Festival.

After months of careful planning and implementing new regulations, the garden will open its gates to the public from December 3 to January 30.

This year, Nikka Yuko is honoured to announce their title sponsor, Panasonic Canada Inc., has come on board to provide the garden with projectors that will create an immersive animated experience throughout the pathways.

“Panasonic Canada has been an incredible support of Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden and our plans to continue expanding the Winter Light Festival each year,” says Michelle Day, executive director of Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. “The Winter Light Festival celebrates many Japanese and Canadian customs throughout the winter months and this partnership allows us to not only create an incredible new experience for our guests but also teach them about the various holidays recognized in Japan.”

Guests will follow the animated fictional story of a Japanese student, Yuki, in Canada who is determined to make it back to Japan for his sister, Hana’s, Coming of Age Ceremony but faces challenges along the way. The story will be told through five one-minute shorts designed and animated by Keith Morgan, a CG-Generalist and compositing artist from Lethbridge. Morgan has assembled a talented crew of animators from across North and South America to help create the videos which will be projected throughout the garden pathways as guests stroll through the lights.

The garden is no stranger to adapting to new regulations surrounding the ongoing pandemic and is working to ensure safety for guests and staff throughout the winter months.

“The safety of our guests and staff is our number one concern and we’re very lucky that this is a completely outdoor experience. That makes it easy to social distance safely and eliminates touch points for our guests,” Michelle Day.

Similar to the summer season, staff members will be outfitted with protective masks, bathrooms and common areas in the Visitors Centre will be sanitized regularly, and the pathways in the garden have been designed for one-way traffic only to prevent large gatherings or bottlenecks. In addition, Nikka Yuko will only be allowing 200 guests per hour inside the four-acre garden.

“In previous years we would see an average of 666 guests per hour, up to 1,000 guests per hour during the festival,” says Day. “The capacity limits this season will allow guests more freedom to move through the garden and enjoy the lights without the larger crowds.”

To mitigate the capacity restriction, Nikka Yuko will be open four days a week instead of the usual three and staying open later to ensure everyone gets an opportunity to visit the garden.

Perhaps the most important factor guests will need to know is the changes to purchasing tickets this season. To eliminate the usual long lines inside Nikka Yuko’s Visitors Centre, guests must now purchase tickets online or over the phone.

There will be no tickets available at the door, so the garden is encouraging all those wishing to visit to plan ahead and purchase their tickets for a specific hour before coming to the Winter Light Festival.

(Nikka Yuko New Release)