The picturesque Japanese Tea Garden found within the sprawling Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is the first and oldest Japanese Garden accessible to the public in the United States. Today, Japanese Tea Garden is one of the most popular attractions in Golden Gate Park attracting thousands of visitors every year.
San Francisco?s Japanese Tea Garden was originally designed by art-entrepreneur George Tuner Marsh as a Japanese settlement for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition ? an annual event that put the international spotlight on the City by the Bay. The original garden only spanned an area of one acre as its longevity was not taken into consideration. Just like the other attractions and structures found within Golden Gate Park, San Francisco?s Japanese Tea Garden was meant to be dismounted after the exposition.
After the 1894 exposition, one of San Francisco?s most famous and wealthiest Japanese residents Baron Makoto Hagiwara approached John McLaren, the superintendent of the Golden Gate Park back then, and the city government if he could transform the temporary into a permanent attraction. This comes as no surprise as Hagiwara was a prominent landscape architect of his time. McLaren and the San Francisco government agreed. Hagiwara landscaped the garden in the classic Japanese style. He was very hands on in its creation and had 1,000 cherry trees imported from Japan together with numerous native plants, goldfish and birds. Hagiwara served as the caretaker and his keen resided within the garden until 1942 when World War II erupted. He and his family were forced to settle at internment camps as with other Japanese Americans. After Hagiwara was evicted, the Japanese Tea Garden was renamed to Oriental Tea Garden and quickly disintegrated.
A humongous Bronze Buddha, which was made in Tajima, was donated to the garden courtesy of the S&G Gump Company in 1949. This signaled the resurrection of the garden to its original state and the name Japanese Tea Garden was once again used beginning 1952. A Zen Garden was added in 1953 designed by Nagao Sakurai which depicts a contemporary rendition of kare sansui ? a stone garden replete with cascading stone waterfall and an island bordered by gravels which represent a dry river. This Zen garden was dedicated simultaneously with the Lantern of Peace. Weighing at 4,100 kilograms, the lantern was bought by the joint effort of Japanese children to symbolize friendship for the years to come.
Today, the Japanese Tea Garden is a picturesque destination for those who want to relax and experience tranquility. It is masterfully and carefully planned space as gardens in Japanese culture are regarded as the supreme art form. Tree-lined winding paths, bridges, and numerous water elements can be found here. The central pond of the garden is bordered by dwarf trees while a brightly hued pagoda stands at the heart of the garden.
Visitors can enjoy sumptuous, authentic Japanese teas as well as delicious Japanese delicacies at the tea house while overlooking the calm waters at its own garden. For those who are not really into teas, sodas and other snacks are available.