More people visit gardens annually in the United States than visit Disneyland and Disney World combined, and more than visit Las Vegas in any given year. Factors that may motivate garden tourism include less access to nature in one’s own backyard (more people living in urban settings), less time spent in woods and fields, and less knowledge of agriculture. So, Come and relax in the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco to experience the intangible benefits that nature brings to the soul. Yes it’s a popular tourist attraction, but it’s still a peaceful and lovely place to wander. There is such a feeling of peace in the garden even on a busy day. The visitors seem to melt into the greenery. The garden’s lush, harmonious landscaping pays homage to the traditional Japanese art of the garden.
The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, California, is a popular feature of Golden Gate Park, originally built as part of a sprawling World’s Fair, the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. The oldest public Japanese garden in the United States, this complex of many paths, ponds and a teahouse features native Japanese and Chinese plants.
The Japanese Tea Garden is a stroll-style garden of 5 acres (2.0 ha) in which visitors can enjoy from the paths and bridges, many different views of the ponds, flowering cherry trees, azaleas, oriental magnolias, camellias, Japanese maples, dwarf pines, cedars and cypress. Visitors can enjoy a cup of traditional green or jasmine tea and cookies in the teahouse, served by a waitress in a beautiful silk kimono. The fortune cookies that are served were originally introduced in 1914 at the Tea Garden by Makato Hagiwara through his baker. An interesting fact is thatthe designer of the Japanese Tea House and Garden, Makoto Hagiwara, is often credited with the invention and introduction of the popular fortune cookie concept to the American public.
Here comes the History of the Japanese Tea Garden. The California Midwinter International Exposition held in Golden Gate Park in 1894 offered an opportunity to set up cultural displays from other countries. A Japanese Village placed west of the Horticulture building took form with pavilions, gardens, and a traditional teahouse. Makoto Hagiwara, a wealthy local Japanese landscape designer and member of Japan’s aristocracy approached John McLaren with the idea to convert the temporary exhibit into a permanent park. He specifically requested that one thousand flowering cherry trees be imported from Japan, as well as other native plants, birds, and the now famous goldfish. Makoto Hagiwara funded, built, and managed the project by depleting the family fortune for his labor of love.
Maintaining a closed society, Japan remained a great unknown to most Americans at this time. The few who immigrated to San Francisco proved very different from the local Chinese population. The village offered an opportunity for Mr. Hagiwara to share his unique culture.
The first fortune cookies served in the United States were to patrons of the Japanese Village at the Midwinter Fair. Mr. Hagiwara asked his baker, Ben-Kyo-Do, to produce the Japanese “Tsuji ura sembei” or sembei cookies served at Shinto shrines during the New Year celebration. Sweetened to appeal to Western tastes, the cookies were served, often gratis, with tea by the Japanese Village’s kimono-garbed hostesses as welcome refreshment to visitors. Modern fortune cookies are not Chinese in origin, and yes, they did originate in San Francisco in 1894.
Golden Gate Park officials decided to retain the Japanese Village following the closing of the fair. Makoto Hagiwara and his family, who had built the village, agreed to continue it as the Japanese Tea Garden under a handshake agreement with John McLaren, the famed superintendent of Golden Gate Park. The family lived in and maintained the garden until 1942, when the federal government sent the Hagiwaras a notice to quit, evicting them and transporting them to an internment camp. George Hagiwara and Sakoye Antoko crated a bronze antique from the Tea Garden in 1942 before they were evacuated to an internment camp.
The renamed Oriental Tea Garden fell into disrepair, lacking the intricate care necessary to maintain it. Hostesses still served tea, but now they were Chinese women wearing their traditional Chinese garb. After the war, the city refused to honor McLaren’s promise that the Hagiwara’s could resume management of the garden, and also failed to reimburse them for the cost of creating and maintaining the garden, although it reinstated the name Japanese Tea Garden in 1952.
In 1949, a large bronze Buddha, originally cast in Tajima, Japan in 1790, was presented to the garden by the S & G Gump Company. In 1953 the Zen Garden, designed by Nagao Sakurai and representing a modern version of Kare Sansui (a dry garden which symbolizes a miniature mountain scene complete with a stone waterfall and small island surrounded by a gravel river) was dedicated at the same time as the 9,000-pound (4,100 kg) Lantern of Peace, which was purchased with contributions from Japanese children and presented on their behalf as a symbol of friendship for future generations.
In March of 1974, the City of San Francisco placed a bronze plaque in the garden to honor the family for their accomplishments and service. Unfortunately, the garden bears little resemblance in look and aesthetic feel to the Japanese Tea Garden of the Hagiwara family. Restoration of the garden has been an ongoing project, with the gates repaired in the mid-1980s and many of the rare plant varieties recently returned.
Today, there are flashes of the original Japanese Tea Garden, such as the Monterey pine located by the Main Gate, but overall, much of the original tea garden has been erased. Erik Sumiharu Hagiwara-Nagata, the great-great- grandson of Baron Makoto Hagiwara, the creator of the Japanese Tea Garden, continues the family tradition as a recognized expert in horticulture. Mr. Hagiwara-Nagata donated one thousand flowering cherry trees to the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and a smaller number to the National Cemetery in San Bruno in honor of the centennial anniversary of the Japanese Tea Garden.
There are a plenty of attractions in Japanese Tea Garden. Visitors can ramble around the winding paths, clamber over the Moon Bridge, and see the largest outdoor Buddha outside of Asia, the bronze “Buddha Who Sits through Sun and Rain without Shelter,” cast in Japan. The Japanese Tea Garden is most enchanting in April when the cherry trees are in bloom. The Tea Garden is so popular that to enjoy even a few moments of the intended serenity, visitors should arrive early on a weekday morning or come on a rainy day by allowing time for tea and cookies. There is a beautifully carved ornamental water basin – tsukubai – in the shape of a boat, a gift in 1966 of the S. & G. Gump Company. This ancient vessel originally came from a villa near Tokyo that was destroyed during the war. If you look closely, you will see a carved turtle on the inside of the boat.
There are a lot of things to do in Japanese Tea Garden which include: Meditation and Relaxation, Sipping a Cup of Tea, Capturing the Creative Greenery, Taking Wedding Photos and Purchasing a Souvenir. The scenery of land surrounding the Japanese Tea House is one that encourages, promotes, and fosters meditation and relaxation. Finding a quiet corner filled with indulgent scents and creative energy is an easy task to accomplish when it comes to reading a book or finding peace within. While tea drinking takes a far backseat to the visual excitement of the Japanese Tea House, you may nonetheless purchase a cup to sip while roaming about the captivating grounds. When visiting the Japanese Tea House, it is a must to carry along a camera so you may capture this gentle moment forever. The enchanting landscape to the colorful blooms to the striking architecture, you are never at a loss when it comes to creating a special memory.
While the Hagiwara Gate is a terrific place to execute and grab hold of the perfect wedding snapshot; there are plenty of locations beyond the entrance that set a memorable scene. The brick terrace, the Sunken Garden, the Temple Gate, as well as the Crane Sculptures are all worthy options. Explore a handful of Japanese-inspired souvenirs as you visit the Gift Shop. Don’t forget to bring cash on hand when visiting this attraction because both the Gift Shop and the Japanese Tea House do not accept credit cards.
A visit to the Japanese Tea House and Garden creates an intense awakening of the senses with the sounds of an azalea-covered waterfall, the sights of regal lanterns and statues, and the intoxicating scent of sweet wisteria and other magical blooms. With a history dotted with devotion and creativity, the Japanese Tea House and Garden has been a favorite stop for guests touring the Golden Gate Park. Although the name of this incredible site suggests you’d stop by for a sip of tea, this is probably the least enticing draw associated with this alluring attraction.