The Nitobe Memoria Garden honours diplomat Inazo Nitobe whose goal was “to become a bridge across the Pacific” by promoting greater understanding between Japan and the West (Nitobe Memorial n.d., para. 3). This goal is supported by many features at the garden that also reflect core Japanese beliefs and philosophy. One of those features is the symbolic 77 log bridge. The Japanese word for bridge is hashi, which is also a homonym for the word “edge,” thus suggesting that a bridge connects one world to another (Keane 1996, 171). Meanwhile, the Japanese word for 77 is kiju, which translates into “happy longevity” (Nakasone 2014, 238). Symbolically, then, the 77 log bridge is meant to connect Japan and the West in a happy, long-lasting relationship. More than that, the word hashi also has a spiritual meaning, representing the metaphorical connection between the earthly world and the spiritual world. (Keane 1996, 171). This connection is further represented by the duplicate reflection of the bridge and the surrounding vegetation in the water, suggesting self-examination and meditative reflection within the natural environment. Therefore, in addition to connecting Canada and Japan, the 77 log bridge also aligns with Buddhist beliefs that view Japanese gardens as contemplative environments that promote a spiritual journey. Crossing over the 77 log bridge thus symbolizes the spiritual journey from one world to the next.
Keane, Mark P. Japanese Garden Design. North Clarendon: Tuttle Publishing, 1996.
Nakasone, Ronald Y. “Late-Life, Mortuary, and Memorial Rituals in the Japanese American Community”, in Asian American Identities and Practices: Folkloric Expressions in Everyday Life, edited by Jonathan H. X. Lee, and Kathleen M. Nadeau, 235-250. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014.
“Nitobe Memorial.” The University of British Columbia, n.d., http://botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/visit/nitobe-memorial-garden/
Contributor: Jason Zhang