April 25, 2024
Visit San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden for flowers and a history lesson

Welcome to the Bay Space Bucket Record, exactly where readers propose points to do all around the Bay, and we go out and do them. Obtained an notion for some thing to do or a issue you want answered? Mail it to us! Right now, Joe C. asks us to examine out the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.

Inch for inch, there is no position additional attractive in San Francisco than the Japanese Tea Garden, primarily in spring. About each corner anything new amazes: historic gates towering about stone walkways, hummingbirds sipping from waterfalls, cherry trees exploding in blossoms like frozen fireworks.

The wonderment continues into the beautiful tea property itself, which overlooks the specifically manicured vegetation and gives a variety of Japanese treats and eco-friendly tea, and the reward store with its ceramics, colourful kokeshi dolls and fortune cookies. Of course, fortune cookies – no offense to what many others have claimed, but it is likely the back garden was the birthplace of this crunchy handle in America.

“The proof details towards (caretaker) Makoto Hagiwara introducing the fortune cookie” concerning 1906 and 1914, suggests yard supervisor Steven Pitsenbarger. “It’s a modification of a Japanese senbei, or cookie, that was additional savory like a rice cracker with soy sauce in it. Makoto took that product and then turned it to American tastes – he manufactured it sweeter.”

The Japanese Tea Yard, the oldest of its kind in the U.S., owes its existence to Australian emigrant George Turner Marsh. “Marsh was a dude who sold Japanese artwork. He had a shop down on Current market Avenue starting up in 1876 and then expanded to have outlets in Monterey, Santa Barbara, Pasadena and Coronado,” states Pitsenbarger, who’s creating a book about the garden’s historical past. “Oftentimes in association with his shops, he’d have Japanese gardens.”

Marsh realized the 1894 California Midwinter Intercontinental Exposition (aka the Midwinter Truthful) was coming up, and believed it’d be a grand possibility to debut a illustration of Japanese lifestyle – or at least as Westerners imagined it.

The allure of the arched “Drum Bridge” at the Japanese Tea Garden transcends the generations. (Karl Mondon/Bay Space News Group) 

“What the Tea Back garden started out as was the ‘Japanese Village’ show. It is a world’s honest, so stand for the globe, ideal?” says Judi Leff, a San Francisco humorist and historian. “For example, they experienced ‘Cairo Avenue,’ where you could see supposedly how factors went in Egypt, though I imagine they took some license with that. I really don’t know if they ended up conferring with gurus on Egypt at the time.”

“The full Midwinter Fair was really a location for white people today to appear glance at brown folks from all over the planet,” explains Pitsenbarger.

The first show had a theater, a demonstration house, a bazaar that hawked Marsh’s arts merchandise, two tea homes and a cafe, and a studio where by one particular of Marsh’s Japanese workers entertained website visitors with stories and images. “He would do sketches for you,” Pitsenbarger carries on, “kind of like when you go down to Fisherman’s Wharf and can have a person do a sketch of you on the location.”

Whilst a good deal of this seems awfully stereotypical, it could’ve been worse… in a distinctive way?

“For ‘authenticity’ Marsh determined to increase rickshaws pulled by serious Japanese adult men. Of class, that was regarded as racist as hell. Even in the 1890s, they ended up like, No! – Japanese-Individuals demanded he fall the plan,” suggests Leff.

“So as an alternative he got German adult men with darkened faces dressed in ‘Oriental’ clothes to faux to be Japanese males pulling the rickshaws. There is a good picture on OpenSFHistory of this rickshaw becoming pulled by, you know, Fritz in its place of Yoko.”

When the reasonable finished, the metropolis acquired the exhibit and retained Makoto Hagiwara as caretaker. He moved his spouse and children into a home in the back garden and enriched the grounds with specimens from Japan. When he died, family users ongoing to are likely the garden and, for their challenging perform, were being sent to an internment camp just after Pearl Harbor was bombed.

Blooming azaleas and cherry trees blind website visitors coming into the Japanese Tea Backyard garden in San Francisco. (Karl Mondon/Bay Space News Group) 

The metropolis transformed the identify of the web site to the Oriental Tea Yard, for the reason that you couldn’t call something Japanese at that position. “They ruined anything that seemed Japanese (together with the spouse and children property). That was genuinely stupid,” suggests Leff. “When the Hagiwara spouse and children arrived back from the camps, they ended up not authorized again into the back garden. Then in 1952, I guess adequate time experienced long gone by that we appreciated the Japanese all over again, so they renamed it the Japanese Tea Back garden.”

Currently, the backyard stands as a testomony to its hundred-as well as several years of surgical cultivation. The identify “tea garden” is a misnomer, nevertheless, simply because in Japanese culture, those are purposeful paths to a tea household.

“When Japan very first opened its doors, and we commenced observing Japanese immigrants and arts and society in this article in the West, for some rationale men and women latched on to the phrase ‘Japanese tea backyard,’” Pitsenbarger states. “I imagine it evoked an picture for them. Anything obtained named a tea backyard garden, no matter if it was a restaurant or even often society girls would have a bash in their yard, and put up a couple of lanterns and say they were being possessing a ‘Japanese tea garden.’”

It is technically a “stroll backyard garden,” which in Japanese terms is a larger sized backyard garden wherever different sights and sights unfold as you round the turns of the route. Seasonal sights at the moment contain blooming cherries and azaleas, and as the temperature warms, the back garden will grow to be fragrant with purple wisteria.

“Spring is often a good time in a Japanese back garden, since almost everything feels like it’s alive,” claims Pitsenbarger.

Calendar year round, there’s a dry backyard with boulders and gravel evoking mountains and drinking water and actual, soaked h2o populated with 50-yr aged koi. There are swaying clumps of bamboo, historic dwarf trees, patinaed sculptures of wildlife and a moss-carpeted grove of cryptomeria (Japanese cedar) so modest you could park a pair of cars and trucks in, but that feels like an outdated-progress redwood forest.

Website visitors wander the manicured pathways at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco. (Karl Mondon/Bay Location News Team) 

Careful notice is necessary to navigate creek paths designed from disconnected chunks of rock and an virtually Willy Wonkaesque “Drum Bridge” people climb around like a ladder.

“The exaggerated curve of the Drum Bridge was a well-liked introduction in world’s fairs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” Pitsenbarger says. “Ours dates to the origin of the back garden in 1894. It was designed by Shinsichi Nakatani, a carpenter who labored for George Turner Marsh. Some temples in Japan with curved bridges assert that you leave your sins behind when crossing these bridges.”