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Wednesday, October 3, 2018


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San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden offers an oasis of natural beauty, tranquility, culture and harmony within a bustling urban environment all within the heart of the City’s Golden Gate Park.  

Originally created as a “Japanese Village” exhibit for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, the site originally spanned about one acre and showcased a exotic but temporary Japanese style garden. 

When the fair closed, landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara and superintendent John McLaren reached a gentleman’s agreement, allowing Hagiwara to create and maintain a permanent Japanese style garden as a gift for posterity.  The Tea Garden is the oldest public Japanese garden in the U.S.

Baron Makoto Hagiwara
and his daughter, 1924
Hagiwara became caretaker of the property, pouring passion, and creative talents into creating and maintaining an urban garden of exquisite beauty. Hagiwara expanded the garden to its current size of approximately five acres during his caretaker tenure from1895 until his death in 1925.

Today, the Japanese Tea Garden endures as a popular attraction in the Bay Area, featuring classic elements such as an arched drum bridge, pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping stone paths, native Japanese plants, serene koi ponds and a zen garden.  Of course, Cherry blossom trees bloom throughout the garden in March and April.

The Tea House has been a part of the Japanese Tea Garden since its creation at the Mid-winter Fair in 1894, though it has been rebuilt several times.  The Tea House is located by the water, and is surrounded by views of different aspects of the garden.

The Tea House currently offers six kinds of tea: Jasmine, Sencha, HojiCha, Genmaicha, Green, and the traditional tea used in ceremonies, Matcha. It also offers a variety of snacks, some of which are savory including Edamame and Tea Sandwiches, and some of which are sweet including Kuzumochi and Green Tea Cheesecake.

[Captions at end of post]
Photos by Phyllis Shess,]


CAPTIONS [top to lower]
1. Main gate, Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
2.  Tea House in the center of three-acre paradise is as tranquil as it is beautiful.
3. Pagoda (Treasure Tower) on a hillside with waterfall is a five-tiered Buddhist shrine installed as part of the garden's exhibit in the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. A pagoda is a narrow building with a multi-tiered roof style that originates from the Buddhist religion in India and East Asia.[7]
4.  Main pond of the oldest (1894) public Japanese Garden in the US.
5.  The significance of various elements in the garden can be attributed to the fundamental principles and characteristics of Shintoism, Buddhism, and even Taoism.
6. A taiko bashi, or drum bridge is a highly arched pedestrian bridge found in Chinese and Japanese gardens. It is thus named because when reflected on the water, the full circle shape it creates resembles a drum. This design is also referred to as a Moon bridge.
7.  Tea and snacks available at the Tea House restaurant.
8.  In the native Japanese religion, ponds were created for sacred reasons as places for the gods to roam while the surrounding stones were utilized as seats.
9. Zen Garden.  Though not all Japanese rock gardens follow the same design, a proper, traditional rock garden follows very specific guidelines. Some of the techniques followed consist of most, if not all of the following: the color of stones used, size and shape of stones, placement, asymmetry, and overall garden geometry. The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park follows most of these techniques. During the fall season, it uses completely uniform straight lines, which is meant to represent waves in an ocean. The stones are a pale gray color so as to avoid taking attention away from the overall pattern of the stones, which is similar to most rock gardens. The color of larger rocks, as well as the moss growing on them, is also taken into heavy consideration to avoid diverting attention from the garden as a whole.
10. Peace Lanterns. The stone lanterns seen around the garden, like the Lantern of Peace (9,000 lbs) that followed World War II, are representative of the five elements of Buddhism. The bases of the lanterns symbolize the earth, while the next section is water, the light is fire, and the following two sections symbolize the air and spirit respectively. The lanterns as a whole symbolize the coming together of all five elements in the harmony of nature.
11. Long Bridge.  Center of harmony, this bridge's Japanese design, which was adapted from the Chinese, has 3 main functions: to slow people down, to let barges on the canal go smoothly under the bridge, and to contemplate reflections in the water below.
12. Stepping stones lead to the small island in the main pond.
13. The coming together of water and stone is symbolic of the yin-yang in numerous locations throughout the San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden, as seen in the waterfalls, water basins made of stone, flat stones across the ponds, waves in the stones of the dry Zen Garden and a stone boat filled with water.
14. Secluded pond near the west gate is part of the aesthetics of the garden, which adopts the principle of concealment, which involves spiritual messages that come in pieces to ultimately reveal a larger picture. 


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