Japanese Tea Garden (San Francisco, California)

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For other places with the same name, see Japanese Tea Garden (disambiguation).
Japanese Tea Garden
Japanese tea garden Golden Gate Park.JPG
Japanese Tea Garden
Japanese Tea Garden (San Francisco, California) is located in San Francisco
Japanese Tea Garden (San Francisco, California)
Type Public
Location San Francisco, California, United States
Nearest city San Francisco
Coordinates 37°46′12″N 122°28′13″W / 37.770122°N 122.470231°W / 37.770122; -122.470231Coordinates: 37°46′12″N 122°28′13″W / 37.770122°N 122.470231°W / 37.770122; -122.470231
Area 5 acres (2.0 ha)
Created 1894 (1894) by Makoto Hagiwara
Status Open year round
Website japaneseteagardensf.com

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 garden's 5 acres (2.0 ha) contain many sculptures and bridges.


The tea garden in 1904

After the conclusion of the 1894 World's Fair, Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese immigrant and gardener, approached John McLaren with the idea to convert the temporary exhibit into a permanent park. Hagiwara personally oversaw the building of the Japanese Tea Garden and was official caretaker of the garden from 1895 to 1925. 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. After San Francisco's 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition closed, he obtained the two large ornamental wooden gates, and probably also the Tea Garden's prominent five-tiered pagoda, from that fair's Japanese enclave.[1]

The Hagiwara family lived in and maintained the Japanese Tea Garden until 1942, when Executive Order 9066 forced them to leave San Francisco and relocate to an internment camp with thousands of other Japanese-American families. The garden was renamed the "Oriental Tea Garden" and fell into disarray.

In 1949, a large bronze Buddha, originally cast in Tajima, Japan in 1790, was presented to the garden by the S & G Gump Company. The name "Japanese Tea Garden" was officially reinstated in 1952. 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 by contributions from Japanese children and presented on their behalf as a symbol of friendship for future generations.

Nagao Sakurai also redesigned the area in front of Tea House.[2]

Fortune cookies and the Tea Garden[edit]

A decorative moon bridge in the Tea Garden

The first evidence of fortune cookies in the United States is in connection with this tea garden. The descendants of Makoto Hagiwara lay claim to introducing the fortune cookie to the United States from Japan. Visitors to the garden were served fortune cookies made by a San Francisco bakery, Benkyodo.[3]

It is now known that fortune cookies originated in Japan as early as 1878.[4]


Although picnicking is not allowed in the park, an alfresco dining area is available to visitors wishing to purchase specialty teas, meals and snacks. The park also features floral displays near the koi ponds.[5]


Tours of the garden are given daily.[6] The morning walks also include a tour of Golden Gate Park’s Stow Lake and Strawberry Hill.

The tour’s content typically includes, among other subjects, the origins of the garden in San Francisco’s Midwinter Fair of 1894; the flora, such as the pine, maple, and cypress trees, as well as the Garden’s cherry blossoms, azaleas, and camellias; the various structures and elements, e.g., the lanterns, bronze Buddha, and pagoda; the development of the garden over time, such as the addition of the Zen garden in 1953 and the reconstruction of the main gate in 1984; and, not least, the distinguished and anguished history of the Hagiwara family that ran the garden for most years before World War II.[7]

Although all tours cover much of the same material, each guide brings his or her personal knowledge and experiences to the tour. Tour guides continually work to improve their presentations through lectures and presentations provided by the park’s staff and fellow guides, as well as through their own research and study.

Regular tours of the garden were first sponsored by the San Francisco Parks Trust, formerly Friends of Recreation and Parks, through the Golden Gate Park Walks Program. By 2007, however, only one volunteer, Ted Evans, was still giving tours. In 2010, when it appeared that all of the Golden Gate Park Walks Program would become defunct, Evans suggested that the Parks Trust turn the Program over to San Francisco City Guides.

In turn, under the Park Partners Program, the Parks Trust provided City Guides with fundraising expertise, financial services, insurance, and administrative support. In 2011 the San Francisco Parks Council and San Francisco Parks Trust merged to form the San Francisco Parks Alliance, the current fiscal and administrative sponsor of City Guides.



  1. ^ PPIE Found Remnants - Architecture - Japanese Gates and Pagoda. Retrieved 2013-01-10.
  2. ^ "Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park". BeachCalifornia.Com. 
  3. ^ New York Times. 2008. Jan. 16. p. F1, F6 ("Solving a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a cookie," by Jennifer 8 Lee)
  4. ^ Jennifer 8. Lee. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles (2008)
  5. ^ "Japanese Tea Garden". Sf-Attractions.com. 
  6. ^ "Japanese Tea Garden". San Francisco City Guides. City Guides. Retrieved 11 February 2015. 
  7. ^ "The Japanese Tea Garden San Francisco". San Francisco Travel Secrets. Copyright San-Francisco-Travel-Secrets.com. Retrieved 11 February 2015. 


  1. Ono, Gary (2007-10-31). "Japanese American Fortune Cookie: A Taste of Fame or Fortune -- Part II". http://www.discovernikkei.org/forum/en/node/1935.
  2. Jennifer 8. Lee. (January 16, 2008. p. F1, F6). Solving a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside a Cookie, New York Times. Retrieved on March 15, 2008.

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