Monday, June 09, 2008
The charm and grace of the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park derives as much from what it's missing as it does from what it contains. Only a grossly insensitive person could fail to notice the complete absence of trash -- no shards of plastic bags or bits of paper cling to the shrubbery, no soda cans blight the sparkling pools, and there is scant evidence of even vegetable debris such as leaf litter and pine needles here.
Its immaculate, pristeen, and manicured state amplify the tranquility and languid, late-spring serenity of the garden, and this ambience is further enhanced by its centerpiece, a magnificent bronze seated Buddha cast in Japan in the late eighteenth century.
This is a "wet, walking" garden, as opposed to the "dry" variety of Zen rock-and-raked-sand landscaping also native to Japan. Its gentle, grassy slopes, punctuated with stone monuments, bonsai trees, and numerous shrubs and bamboo groves, are interspersed with narrow streams which the visitor crosses by steppingstones or tiny footbridges, and nearly imperceptibly-moving pools. You can get a small pot of green tea here, and slacken the pace of a too-busy life for an hour or so.
This garden, as diarists and chroniclers of the 1700's were wont to say, "shews how delightfully the hand of man (sic) is capable of felicitous improvement to the beauties of nature."
Designed in 1894, the garden was maintained by the Makoto Hagiwara family, who also resided within its walls, for 47 years, until they were sent to a concentration camp in 1942. During the war it was neglected, but the arrival of its resident Buddha in 1949, a gift of the Gump department store family, signaled its renaissance.
Admission to the Japanese Tea Garden is free on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings from 9:00 until 10:00 a.m.