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San Francisco, CA--Welcome to the Japanese Tea Garden, the oldest Japanese-style garden in the United States.


In Japanese culture, the garden is considered one of the highest art forms. The garden expresses in a limited space the essence of nature by the use of specially-selected plants and stones arranged in harmony with the landscape. Often plants and stones are placed to express a traditional symbolic meaning, or to display the beautiful seasonal colors of trees and shrubs.


The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, is a stroll-style garden, 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.



The Beginnings: 1893 - 1894
The Japanese Tea Garden originated in the Japanese Village exhibit of the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894, which was held in what is now the Music Concourse Area of Golden Gate Park.


Entirely constructed by Japanese artisans, the village was a joint effort of both East and West. The people most responsible for its design and construction were M. H. deYoung, the expositioner's director; George Turner Marsh, a local importer of Japanese art goods; John McLaren, Golden Gate Park's legendary superintendant and the exposition's landscape engineer; and above all, Makato Hagiwara, a wealthy local Japanese landscape designer. According to McLaren, Hagiwara actually constructed the garden, its pavilions and the teahouse, and initiated the idea of a traditional tea garden as a Japanese Village exhibit.


1895 - 1925
After the exposition closed on July 4, 1894, San Francisco's Park Commissioners purchased the shoronomon (the temple belfry gate which served as the main entrance gate to the garden until 1985) and the ni-kai-yashiki (the Two Story House that later was remodeled into the Gift Shop). Some of the Japanese Village structures were dismantled and removed from Golden Gate Park, but many garden features, such as the rustic teahouse pavilions, the Drum Bridge and stone lantern, and the beautiful fan palms on rock clusters near the Main Gate, were retained.

In 1966 the Asian Art Museum wing of the deYoung Museum was completed, with its large picture windows overlooking the eastern section of the Japanese Tea Garden. This section of the garden was relandscaped and a stone arrangement designed by Roy L. Hudson, Assistant Superintendant of Parks, was added. This section of the garden presents a restful interlude between the busyness of the rest of the garden and the interior displays of the Avery Brundage Collection housed the Asian Art Museum.


1969 also marked the hundredth anniversary of the first settlers from Japan, and to commemorate this event, the Committee for Japan Week in San Francisco donated the large stone lantern located west of the South Gate outside the garden.


1970 - 1993
In 1972 Otto Miller, Section Supervisor of the Garden for 25 years retired. Mr. Miller was hired as a gardener under John McLaren and made many improvements to the Garden; E. J. Schuster became supervisor of the Japanese Tea Garden in 1972.


Inside and to the right of the Main Gate stands a large stone with a beautiful bronze plaque designed and executed by the sculptress, Ruth Asawa. Ms. Asawa is well-known for her many exquisite fountains located throughout San Francisco. The plaque reads "To honor Makoto Hagiwara and his family who nurtured and shared this garden from 1895-1942," and was dedicated on March 26, 1974.


The Maple Lane landscape located in the northwestern part of the garden was relandscaped by E. J. Schuster in April 1977, with the addition of a new stone lantern, field stones and a "sprinkled hail stone pavement" - a So pavement - for the path.

In 1979 a new landscape with Mt. Fuji as the main theme in the form of a clipped hedge was designed by E. J. Schuster for the area just inside and to the left of the Main Gate. This landscape honors Makoto Hagiwara, who came from an area in Japan near Mt. Fuji. Visitors sipping tea in the teahouse will be able to see Mt. Fuji in the distance, beyond the pond.


Restoration of three aging gates in the garden began in April 1985. One of Japan's leading shrine and temple builders, Mr. Kensuke Kawata was selected as chief designer and supervisor of the gate construction. Because of the extensive rot, the old 1894 Main Gate entrance and the 1915 Temple Gate located near the pagoda were completely removed. New gates were constructed on those sites. The South Gate was partially rebuilt; this gate originally stood at the Japan exhibit of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.


In 1986, the Recreation and Park Department named the roadway in front of the Japanese Tea Garden "Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive" in honor of the Hagiwara family.


A new rustic style Long bridge with a slightly curved deck was constructed in the center of the garden in 1988. It is similar to the bridge in the garden during the Hagiwara era.


As a special tribute to the 100th Anniversary of the Japanese Tea Garden in 1994, the Friends of Recreation and Parks donated funds for the restoration of two Meija era (1868-1912) large bronze lanterns in 1993. The lanterns, which rest on cement pedestals have been located at each side of the Torii Gate since 1912.




Early in 1895, Makato Hagiwara was placed in charge of the Japanese Tea Garden, where he remained for the next thirty years, in recognition of his role in establishing and maintaining one of Golden Gate Park's most popular and beautiful attractions, During those thirty years, the small garden within the Japanese Village's one-acre nucleus was expanded to five acres, including the chain of lakes and western plateau. Not only did Hagiwara plan and supervise the work, but he also financed a large portion of it as well.


1925 - 1942
When Makato Hagiwara died in 1925, his son-in-law, Goro Tozawa Hagiwara, succeeded him as the garden's manager. Goro undertook the systematic plantings of cherry trees, the beautification project proposed long before by Makato Hagiwara.


Upon Goro's death in 1937, Takano Hagiwara, Goro's wife and the only child of Makoto, became proprietess of the Japanese Tea Garden. She held her position for several years, assisted by her children, Sumi, George and Haruko. However, after the outbreak of World War II, mounting pressures directed against West Coast people of Japanese descent forced the eviction, in May 1942, of Mrs. Hagiwara and her children from their garden home.

During the ensuing shameful period of the War Relocation, when American citizens of Japanese ancestry were evacuated from the West Coast, strong anti-Japanese sentiment resulted in the demolition of many Hagiwara-owned structures. This act of prejudice, as well as the later conversion of the Japanese Tea Story House into the present Gift Shop, destroyed the village character of the garden, a character to which the traditional o-chaya service of green tea was integrally related.

With the departure of the Hagiwara family came many profound changes, including the elimination of the word "Japanese" from the garden's name. Thereafter, it became known as the "Oriental Tea Garden."


1942 - 1949
From 1942 until April 1949, the Park Department maintained the garden and operated the Tea Garden concession.

In 1943, Julius L. Girod, the superintendant of Parks, constructed the brick terrace and below it the Sunken Garden, a landscape he designed on the site of the Hagiwara's former home.


Other alterations followed. The removal of Hagiwara's Shinto Shrine resulted in the relocation of the Buddhist pagoda, originally standing about sixty feet to the west of its present site, into the shrine enclosure. This somewhat incongruous placement of the pagoda within an area bounded by the mizugaki - a Shinto shrine fence in traditional picket form - explains also why the torii - a Shinto gate - now faces a Buddhist "treasure tower" instead of a Shinto shrine.

In 1949, the S. & G. Gump Company presented to the garden the very old and large bronze Buddha, which is located at the eastern end of the Long Bridge. It was cast in bronze at Tajima, Japan in 1970.

1950 - 1959
From April 1940 until 1958, the teahouse and Gift Shop were leased to Mr. and Mrs. Alan Agnew, a couple who had lived for many years in the Orient, while the garden's management continued under the Park Department.


These years were a period of reconciliation, during which time, in 1952, the name Japanese Tea Garden was officially reinstated. On January 8, 1953, Yasasuke Katsuno, the Japanese Counsel General, presented a 9,000 pound Lantern of Peace on behalf of the children of Japan. The Lantern of Peace was purchased with small contributions from the children of Japan and was given as a symbol of friendship toward future generations in the United States. San Francisco was chosen to receive the lantern because the Japanese Peace Treaty was signed here in 1951.


At the same time, Nagao Sakurai's Zen Garden, a modern version of the Muromachi period's (1392-1573) dry landscape - kare sansu - also was dedicated. The Zen Garden symbolizes in miniature a mountain scene, with stone waterfall, gravel river and island. The Lantern of Peace and the Zen Garden are located near the pagoda.

Since 1958, Tea Garden concessionaire Jack Hirose has funded many improvements for the Garden.
In 1959 the teahouse and gift shop were reconstructed and remodeled by the architect, R. G. Watanabe.


1960 - 1969
In 1960, the San Francisco Garden Club engaged the services of Nagao Sakurai, the same man who designed the Zen Garden, to redesign the entire pond area in front of the teahouse. Also in 1960, the Japanese Tea Garden's notable collection of beautiful stone lanterns was enhanced by the donation of twelve such lanterns by Parter Sesnon in memory of his parents.


In the summer of 1965, a major redevelopment was started on a hillside in the western part if the Japanese Tea Garden, just in front of the main pond. The Hagiwara-Fraser Collection of dwarf trees, lanterns and stones was transported from Oakland, under the supervision of Roy L. Hudson, Assistant Superintendant of Parks, and arranged and planted on the hillside according to a design by Samuel Newsom.


Many of these items had been the property of the Hagiwara family and were displayed in the Japanese Tea Garden until the Hagiwara family was evicted in 1942. The Hagiwaras entrusted their collection to their friend, Samuel Newsom, and later requested that it be sold. Dr. Hugh Frase purchased the collection and had it planted in his garden, where it remained until the death of his wife, Audrey. In accordance with her will, the entire collection was returned to the Japanese Tea Garden, where it was dedicated in an appropriate Shinto ceremony on April 1, 1966.


Just a few feet east of the Gift Shop 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.


From Japanese Tea Garden Guide Book

Japanese Tea Garden

The Japanese Tea Garden is both a lovingly landscaped garden and a teahouse concession developed by the Hagiwara family for the Midwinter Fair of 1894.

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. Allow time for tea and cookies.
Open daily 9 AM–6:30 PM.

(In Golden Gate Park)
San Francisco, California
United States of America
Telephone: (415-666-7200



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