Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Golden Gate Park's Japanese Garden Tells Tales Of What Immigrants Add To US And The Waste Caused By Xenophobia

We ended up at the Japanese Garden after dropping off our grandson at his pre-school.  Our timing was great - as we walked in Mary Ann Provence was about to start a tour of the garden and invited us to join.  There were six of us altogether.

From the garden's website (and covered in Mary Ann's talk):

"Originally created as a “Japanese Village” exhibit for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, the site originally spanned about one acre and showcased a Japanese style garden.  When the fair closed, Japanese landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara and superintendent John McLaren reached a gentleman’s agreement, allowing Mr. Hagiwara to create and maintain a permanent Japanese style garden as a gift for posterity.  He became caretaker of the property, pouring all of his personal wealth, passion, and creative talents into creating a garden of utmost perfection.  Mr. Hagiwara expanded the garden to its current size of approximately 5 acres where he and his family lived for many years until 1942 when they, along with approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans, were forced to evacuate their homes and move into internment camps.  When the war was over, the Hagiwara family was not allowed to return to their home at the tea garden and in subsequent years, many Hagiwara family treasures were removed and new additions were made."
It's all in there - Makoto Hagiwara's great contribution and then his forced evacuation due to xenophobia in 1942.  They even changed the name to Oriental Gardens in WW II and it wasn't until many years later it became the Japanese Garden again.

The rock is the head of a dragon - the hedge winds on up the hill with a rock tail.

Rocks are a key foundation of Japanese gardens. They give it structure, we were told.  Trees and flowers come and go, but rocks stay.  Other aspects - water, walks, fish.  There might have been one or two more.  Oh, yes, bridges.

Most of the paths were gravel, but this stone path, our guide pointed out, was to force you to slow down as you approach the zen meditation garden.

Here the gravel is sculpted to look like ripples in water.  You're supposed to look at it, not walk in it.  But the squirrels, she said, don't follow the rules.

The free tour was one of many offered by San Francisco City Guides.  They do give you the chance to make a donation at the end, but there's no pressure.

Mary Ann was a great guide and she also gave us a great tip - next door at the DeYoung Museum you can go to the top of the 9 story tower to the observation room which is floor to ceiling glass windows all the way around.  That part of the museum is free.  And the view is stunning.  My camera could not in any way capture it, but here's a couple of glimpses.

To the north.

To the northeast.

And here's the tower from in front of the Cal Academy of Science where I checked out the earthquake simulation room Sunday.  If you look closely (or click on the picture to enlarge it) you can see people in the observation room on the top level.


  1. Oh, to be there today -- it is v. cold here (if sunny) in Ottawa. Lovely photos, a balm for my eyes, but horrible treatment back in the day. My own experience of the internment was to be born in a Japanese hospital that had been taken over, in Los Angeles. So crowded with new babies, for my first 4 days I had to sleep in a drawer (the top one, left open!) In those days, mothers got to stay in hospital, looked after, for up to a week. Now? dismissed the same day?

    The steps up and over the bridge do not look usable. Did you try them?

  2. The steps are, indeed, usable to get over the bridge. I've done it on a previous visit. But they were cleaning the pond it goes over the other day so no one was going over it.


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