Past: Our Roots

After the Wold Exposition

From 1914 through 1954, the Japanese Tea Garden remained the same until it was dismantled to make room for the Children's Zoo.

"After the world exposition, the city was not going to pay to upkeep and maintain the garden so they looked for a Japanese couple to run the tea house. Some of my earliest memories was painting the bridges every three years with red paint; taking down the shoji screens and replacing them with rice paper around the garden was also a chore. Of my fondest memories of the tea house was one of peace; nice and quiet, surrounded by lush trees. I enjoyed living there growing up as the eldest child of three. My parents used to harvest bamboo shoots when they grew to be about twelve inches tall and prepared them for food. The living quarters consisted of two bedrooms and one bathroom, an attic upstairs.
The Tea House was opened to the public. The customers of the Japanese Tea House enjoyed their tea, sandwiches (ham and chicken salad) and noodles around porch that surrounded the tea house. Inside, you would find tatami mats, traditional flooring of Japan made of bamboo. Visitors could also find one of a kind gifts that his parents imported from Japan. I believed that my mother was accredited to being the first to incorporate green tea powder with ice cream! More of my recollections were of the koi pond. It contained 50-100 koi and the famous wisteria arbors. I remember a professional Japanese photographer asking my mother to pose for him in front of the wisteria, the photo is now known as the wisteria photo. After the photographer returned back to his homeland, he blossomed into a very prominent photographer."
~ Moto Asakwa

The Garden Today

Our deeply rooted history has carried us forward to the Japanese Friendship Garden we know today. Key citizens of San Diego invested their time and efforts to rebuild the Tea House. Lovers of the beauties of past ages regretted the passing of the Japanese Tea House and garden in Balboa Park. The San Diego citizens rejoiced over the opening in August 1990, of the first phase of the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego. The second phase of improvements to the existing 2.5 acres was completed in 1999. The third and final phase is set to be complete by 2015 for the Centennial Celebration of Balboa Park as a gift to the City of San Diego. This phase is comprised of 9 additional acres, which include a 200 Cherry Tree Grove, large Azalea and Camellia Garden, Tea & Herb Garden, Children's Garden and Tea Pavilion with an outdoor amphitheater. A portion of the canyon expansion will be open to the public by August 2013.

Today, the Japanese Friendship Garden is visited by close to 100,000 people every year from all over United States and around the world. Legacies have helped in all stages of our development from the earliest days. It is our responsibility to continue to build upon this legacy and continue to promote friendship among diverse cultures.

The Garden’s expansion project will be our gift to the citizens of San Diego as we continue to provide the community with educational programs to foster better understanding of Japanese culture and horticulture.

Sinto Ceremony

Cutting Ribbon with Larry Marshall and Abby Wolfshimer

Grace Brophy