Garden Visit: Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco


Back in December (2015) we were up for a quick garden outing and headed to Golden Gate Park to visit the Japanese Tea Garden, the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States.


I didn’t read the history of the garden while we were there, it was pretty crowded and there were photos to take! But this sad story can be found on the website:

Originally created as a “Japanese Village” exhibit for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, the site originally spanned about one acre and showcased a Japanese style garden. When the fair closed, Japanese landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara and superintendent John McLaren reached a gentleman’s agreement, allowing Mr. Hagiwara to create and maintain a permanent Japanese style garden as a gift for posterity. He became caretaker of the property, pouring all of his personal wealth, passion, and creative talents into creating a garden of utmost perfection. Mr. Hagiwara expanded the garden to its current size of approximately 5 acres where he and his family lived for many years until 1942 when they, along with approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans, were forced to evacuate their homes and move into internment camps. When the war was over, the Hagiwara family was not allowed to return to their home at the tea garden and in subsequent years, many Hagiwara family treasures were removed and new additions were made.




Just when I thought garden visiting couldn’t get any better, I walk into one that serves ethnic food. (What’s next – a beer garden garden?) It was packed, and looked like an absolutely perfect place to be on a Sunday afternoon.




The ginkos had been showing off their fall color since we arrived in California in early December, and fallen leaves made for beautiful golden carpets throughout the garden.



This photo doesn’t do it justice, but climbing the very steep Drum Bridge is a must when visiting the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco.

GardenOn.JapaneseTeaGarden11Japanese Tea Garden
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA

Hours: Mar-Oct: 9am-6pm; Nov-Feb 9am-4:45pm

Open daily, no holiday closures.
Admission: Mon, Wed, Fri: FREE before 10am
Adult: $8 (Non-Residents), Kids $2.

I’ve recently learned about the North American Japanese Garden Association, championing the art, craft and heart of Japanese gardens in the US and Canada. To read more about this organization, or find a garden near you, visit their website at