The Hagiwara Japanese Tea Garden, located in beautiful Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, boasts the claim of being the oldest in America. It’s a beautiful place of tranquility, heritage, and legacy and has amazed and inspired visitors for well over a century.
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Originally created as an exhibit for the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894, it began life as a temporary “Japanese Village,” beginning life with just 1 acre of land and a main feature showcasing a Japanese style garden. After the fair had run its course, the architect of the garden, Makoto Hagiwara, and the superintendent of the site, John McLaren, reached a gentleman’s agreement, securing the gardens’ future life as a permanent fixture. Hagiwara was kept on as the properties caretaker and, over the years, poured his passion, creativity, wealth, and experience into expanding the garden and perfecting the display. Over its lifespan, the garden has grown from its infancy of a mere 1 acre into the stunning 5 acres it now inhabits.
Unfortunately, the history of the garden and of America and Japan’s relationship as a whole is a little muddied. Up until 1942, Makoto Hagiwara and his family lived on the site looking after the estate. During the war, along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans, the Hagiwara family were forced to evacuate their homes and were relocated into internment camps. After the war had ended, they were not able to return and over the course of the subsequent years, many artefacts and treasures were removed from the home to make way for new additions. Their legacy now remains in name only.
The gardens have endured and to this day remains one of San Francisco’s most popular attractions for both locals and tourists alike. The site hosts an array of different features embedded in Japanese culture, and the classically recognized elements, such as pagodas, an arched drum bridge, stepping stone paths, stone lanterns, native Japanese flora, a Zen garden, and a serene koi pond, all continue to stun and impress the many visitors. It must be noted that the gardens are particularly breathtaking during the months of March and April, when the cherry blossom trees are in full bloom.
Opening Hours and Admission
The gardens are open daily with no holiday closures from 9:00am to 6:00pm during the summer season, which runs from the 1st of March through the 31st of October. During the winter period, the gardens are open from 9:00am until 4:45pm and this lasts from the 1st of November until the 28th of February.
Admission is free on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays if you arrive before 10:00am but the usual price for a ticket is $6 for adult residents and $8 for non-residents. Children enter for $2 at all times regardless of residency, and senior and youth tickets are $4 for residents and $6 for non-residents. Children aged 4 and under enter free of charge.
75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118, Phone: 888-875-8439