For nearly 100 years, the splendid Japanese Friendship Garden San Diego has delighted visitors with its beauty and serenity. Created as a gesture of friendship between the U.S. and Japan, the garden features calming elements such as a sand and stone garden as well as koi pond with a central island. The garden is idyllic for leisurely strolls.
The Japanese Friendship Garden is beloved by San Diegans and visitors alike. Whether the purpose of your visit is to find your spiritual center, admire the splendor of a trickling stream or a masterful garden, or simply to enjoy a cup of tea, you will soon discover why this garden is such a special place.
The Japanese Friendship Garden San Diego is located in Balboa Park, the nation’s largest urban cultural park and the most popular destination in the city. As with many of Balboa Park's distinctive features, the Japanese Friendship Garden traces its origins to the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. A Japanese Tea Pavilion was built for the expo, and strong community interest kept the garden open for thirty years after the fair ended.
In 1950 San Diego and Yokohama, Japan, became sister cities, and the Japanese Friendship Garden San Diego was constructed to symbolize the cities' shared ideals. The Zen design incorporates elements such as a sand and stone garden, a koi pond with a central island shaped like a turtle to symbolize longevity, and a shishiodoshi. A shishiodoshi is a bamboo pipe that fills with water until, like a see-saw, it tips and strikes the rock below, creating a noise that is meant to scare away evil spirits.
The Japanese Friendship Garden San Diego is a three-tiered experience, named “San-Kei-En” in Japanese, which means “three scene garden." This represents water, pastoral, and mountain scenes. While the garden is meant to capture the essence of Zen, an inherently Japanese element, it is truly a dual-cultured garden, incorporating the local regional landscape and climate of Southern California.
The Friendship Garden serves not only as a monument to the friendship between Japan and the United States, but also fosters a respect for the cultural arts and a sense of awe at the quiet power of nature.
Here is a somewhat poetic look at some of the tranquil and inspirational scenes you will behold at the Japanese Friendship Garden, through the words and sentiments of its caretakers:
“The haunting sounds of the distant Shakuhachi drift in the air as we walk through the gate on the winding path into the garden.”
“The scenery of the Garden draws us outside the Exhibit House. Meandering the path, we walk toward the "Tsukubai" and its lantern (funatsuki). The drip of water accentuates the quiet. Startled, a cat slips by, caught sipping the water.”
“We sit under the "Fujidana", overwhelmed by the profuse purple blossoms. Transfixed by the "Sekitei", our gaze wanders among and between the mysterious rocks, then slips away to the arching trees and flowering plants. The serenity of the garden creates our sense of harmony with nature.”
The Japanese Friendship Garden will provide a place of respite, aesthetic value, and tranquility. Save on admission to the Japanese Friendship Garden, plus San Diego's top museums, sights, and tours all for one low price with the Go San Diego Card!