This unique feature of Golden Gate Park gives visitors the opportunity to experience a traditional Japanese-style garden in the heart of San Francisco. First constructed in 1894 as part of the World's Fair, it is the oldest public Japanese Garden in the United States. The garden has gone through a number of changes and improvements over the years. The complex consists of many paths and ponds as well as a teahouse that plants and trees pruned in Japanese style. A number of sculptures and structures influenced by traditional Buddhist and Shinto beliefs pepper the landscape.
Learn more about this traditional-style Japanese garden in the video below:
Australian businessman George Turner Marsh first hired a Japanese craftsman to construct the site for the World's Fair. After the fair, the city of San Francisco bought it for $4,500. From 1895–1925, it was managed by gardener Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese immigrant. He imported plants, birds, and the now famous koi fish directly from Japan, tripling the size of the garden. Following his death in 1925, his daughter Takano Hagiwara and her children became the proprietors and caretakers of the garden.
During World War II, anti-Japanese sentiment swept the nation, landing the Hagiwara family in an internment camp until the end of the war. In their absence, the garden was renamed the "Oriental Tea Garden." The Hagiwara home and the original Shinto shrine were demolished, and Chinese women in traditional dress replaced Japanese tea servers. In 1952, the name "Japanese Tea Garden" was reinstated, but the Hagiwara family were not allowed to return to their home. Slowly, a period of reconciliation began, symbolized by the Lantern of Peace presented by the Japanese Consul General in 1953, in celebration of the Japanese Peace Treaty which was signed in San Francisco.
This Japanese tea garden, like all others, is considered a sacred place of ritual, representative of Japanese culture and religious philosophy. The three most prominent religions in Japan are Shintoism, Buddhism, and Taoism. All emphasize the importance of being one with nature. The placement of rocks and trees, the way the water flows, the route of paths, and other fine details must be executed in a way that promotes a natural flow. Shintos believe that the spirits of the ancestors and the spirits of the gods themselves are manifested in nature. These spirits are called Kami, and the garden's design promotes the happiness of these spirits.
Cover image by Asamudra at English Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)].