Gardening

San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden

Entrance to the Japanese Tea Garden.
Entrance to the Japanese Tea Garden.

Last post I “took you around” the California Science Academy in Golden Gate Park. This time, let’s look at the San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden. It’s only about 5 minutes by foot from the CA Science Academy, so you could easily visit the two on the same day.

This is the oldest public Japanese garden in the New World, dating to the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. It was completely revised after the exposition by the Japanese landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara who remained with the garden for almost 50 years, more than quadrupling its size. Sadly, Mr. Hagimwara was forced into an internment camp during the Second World War and was never allowed back into the garden he created.

Trees beautifully clipped in the cloud style.Although I visited in late January, the garden was lush and green and camellias and even a few almond trees were in bloom, a hint of the cherry trees that will follow in the spring.  As you stroll through this quiet garden, you’ll discover such typical Japanese elements as a drum bridge, pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping stone paths, koi ponds and a zen garden. Some of the ponds were drained and were obviously been worked on (bummer), but most of the garden was fully ready for visitors. I sat and watched a gardener on a ladder pruning some trees into the cloud style, sort of a giant bonsai. Most relaxing!

A quiet pond.
A quiet pond.

There is a gift shop and a tea house where tea ceremonies are held, but I was told you had to reserve months ahead to participate. It was from this tea house that the fortune cookie (which are Japanese not Chinese in origin) were first introduced into North America.

Cloud-style pruning.
Cloud-style pruning.

The garden is open from 9 am to 4:45 pm in the winter; to 6 pm in the summer. It cost me $7 admission as I was a non-resident; Californians pay $5. However, if I’d gotten there early enough, I could have gotten in free! There is free admission if you enter before 10:00 am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Well worth a visit: do drop by if you’re in San Francisco.

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