San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden

The oldest public Japanese garden in the United States is a place of peace and beauty nestled in Golden Gate Park.

Refresh your senses with a saunter through the Japanese Tea Garden, at the east side of Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. This peaceful respite is dotted with miniature pagodas, stone lanterns, koi ponds and cherry blossom trees. You’ll easily find your own private spot among the five acres (two hectares) of benches and walkways. Enjoy views of plants, trees and the sky, while contemplating the beauty and harmony of nature.

Established in 1894 as a temporary exhibit for the World’s Fair in San Francisco, the garden was conceived and developed by landscape gardener Baron Makoto Hagiwara. When the fair closed, Hagiwara turned it into a permanent feature and expanded its size. His family and descendants maintained the garden until shortly after the United States entered World War II.

Some of the highlights of the garden include the meditative Zen Garden, the many water features and the Lantern of Peace, a 9,000 pound (4,082 kilogram) bronze lantern which was presented as a gift of reconciliation after World War II.

The Japanese Tea Garden is a glorious sight year-round, but perhaps the best time to visit is in the spring when thousands of cherry blossom trees are in bloom. The fall is also a treat, when the changing leaves present a colorful display.

In the middle of the garden and overlooking its beautiful landscapes and south-facing pond is the impressive Tea House. It’s here that Hagiwara introduced the fortune cookie to the United States, serving them to visitors, a tradition that continues to this day. Every Wednesday and Friday morning, from mid-March to January, kimono-wearing staff members perform tea ceremony demonstrations with centuries-old rituals and practices that present the matcha, a powdered green tea.