Visitors to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park will experience a taste of Japan at the Japanese Tea Garden. I recently visited in the early morning of a cool, crisp fall day and the peace and beauty of this garden are magnificent. I am a fan of public spaces and it was nice that few tourists were around (with most visitors being amateur photographers).
Gardens are considered an art form within Japanese culture and this garden is a find. Filled with bridges, pagodas, koi fish, ponds, fountains and dwarf trees, for any visitor to San Francisco, this garden is a must.
For an entry fee of $7.00, visitors will almost forget they are in the United States. In the fall, the leaves are starting to turn and the landscaping and coloring around the Pagoda are nothing short of stunning. The Pagoda itself is a Buddhist Shrine built in 1915. Around the Pagoda, visitors will discover dwarf trees which were maintained by the Hagiwara family until 1942. Unfortunately, the story surrounding the Hagiwaras is sad as during 1942, all Japanese Americans on the West Coast (including the Hagiwara family) were relocated to internment camps following the U.S. entry into World War II.
Visitors to the Tea Garden will experience a Bronze Buddha which was cast in Tajima, Japan in 1790. Nearby, the steeply structured Drum Bridge, which was commissioned in Japan in 1894, adds a unique feature. I am afraid of heights but this bridge is both scenic and unusual.
The ponds and fountains scattered throughout the garden (along with the koi fish) are a peaceful refuge from the city life of San Francisco. The grounds are so quiet and refreshing that I nearly forgot I was in a major city.
Be sure to also visit the interior Zen Garden which was designed in 1953. Zen gardens use stones to represent hills, mountains or islands, while sand and gravel are used to represent streams or water.
Located within the garden is a gift shop which has a special treat. For $2.00 (cash only), visitors can receive a Japanese fortune. There is a system involved as each visitor will pick a rod from a canister, which has a number on the bottom. The numbered rod corresponds to a stack of drawers, with each specific numbered box filled with pink fortunes. Visitors will randomly pick a fortune which rates a person’s overall luck, love life, gaming opportunities and job prospects. The fortune should be read in the garden and for those fortunes that are good, the luck will follow for a year. For those fortunes that are not so good (my first fortune was not great so I bought a second one), these fortunes should be tied to a rack outside the gift shop, so the luck does not follow the visitor.
Also be sure to stop at the tea room for hot teas or my favorite, green iced tea. Sipping tea in such a lovely setting is hard to beat.
The Japanese Tea Garden offers visitors a memorable experience in the heart of San Francisco. This garden is immaculate, quiet and elegant in its simplicity. Frankly, the $7.00 admission fee is one of the best $7.00 that I’ve ever spent. I easily spent several hours here.
Japanese Tea Garden
75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco, California 94118
Public transport: From downtown San Francisco on Market Street, pick up the Number 5 Fulton Street bus outside the Gap and exit at 8th Avenue at Golden Gate Park.