Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park
The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is, of course, a favorite attraction. On April 3 the azaleas, magnolias and cherry blossoms are in full bloom, the sun is shining, 75 degrees—what could be better?
This 5-acre garden, the oldest Japanese garden in the United States, was originally created as a “Japanese Village” exhibit for the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. Makoto Hagiwara designed and paid for the bulk of this rural-type garden and was officially appointed caretaker the same year. He passed away in 1925 and his family continued to live there in a 17-room house in the Sunken Garden area. In 1942, as with others of Japanese heritage, the family was forced to leave. The San Francisco Recreation & Park Department has maintained the garden since.
Though late in coming, Hagiwara Makoto and his family were honored in 1974. A road along the garden is now named Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive.
Also of interest: San Francisco Parks Trust http://www.sfpt.org/
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My first encounter with a Karesansui garden was at the Huntington Library/Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. I’ve had some question marks over my head ever since.
Karesansui gardens are those made up of light colored gravel or sand, with some larger rocks in situ. You’ll probably see linear effects made by a wooden rake. The fine gravel is immaculately clean.
Shitenno-ji Honbo Garden in Osaka, Japan
When these staged scenes are encountered they offer a sense of calm and contemplation. So I thought it would be a tranquil afternoon learning about this type of garden. Peace was not to be had—conflict was.
There is much complex information about this type of garden, much theorized and debated symbolism, philosophical attitudes, and age-old historical reference to explore.
To boot, there is controversy about the term we wantonly use today—‘Zen Garden.’ How we often use the term may not be culturally consistent with the origins. And take note that we must not bandy about the terms ‘contemplation’ and ‘meditation’ when we speak of the Karesansui. (more…)
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