About Us

Japanese Treasures at the Garden

World Fair '39 Photos
Click each photo for larger view.
Photo Credit: Japanese Pavillion at the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in 1939.
Photos provided by Harvey Smith and Diana Yoshida.

Read more about the renovation of the Japanese Pool and the Obata Gate in these articles from our Winter 1998 Newsletter.
Details about the Haruko Obata moon lantern are available in this article from our Summer 2000 Newsletter.

Ozge Samanci

For nearly 70 years Garden visitors have been enchanted by the serene pool, waterfalls, lanterns and stepping stones of our Japanese Pool. It provides an elegant home for many of our Japanese plant specimens and a thriving population of native newts. Horticulturist Elaine Sedlack has cared for the Garden’s Asian collection for many years and she shares the history of this unique Garden feature, “When the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island closed in 1939, the Japanese exhibit was donated to the Garden on behalf of the Japanese Government and with the aid of a donation from the UC Japanese Alumni Association. The exhibit was comprised of stone from Japan with lanterns and a bridge displayed as a Japanese garden and pool. Kaneji Domoto, a prominent landscape architect in the Bay Area, assisted in designing the Japanese gardens at the Exposition. He also designed the reinterpretation of the display, supervising Japanese workmen as they placed about 150 boulders to create the waterfalls and pool in the Garden in 1941.”

The pool was destroyed in October 1962 when it rained 15 inches in just three days. Boulders and lanterns were swept away by a raging Strawberry Creek. Many of the original boulders were recovered along with one original Yukimi-gata (snow-viewing) lantern. The lantern stands by the pool today; a missing stone ring is a gentle reminder of the October destruction. The lantern and prominent stones around the Japanese pool are readily identifiable in photos taken at the Japanese pavilion at the Exposition.

Well-known Japanese-American artist Chiura Obata was later honored at the entrance to the pool with the Obata Gate, a Japanese  mountain-style gate designed by Paul Discoe and donated by landscape architect Geraldine Knight Scott in 1998. In February 2000 Mary and Richard Schroter donated an antique Tachi-gata stone (Kasuga-style lantern) dedicated to Haruko Obata (wife of Chiura Obata), a respected teacher of Ikebana, the art of traditional Japanese flower arranging.

Japanese Horticultural Treasures
Among the Garden's horticultural treasures are nearly 1000 specimens of Japanese plants, over half of which are of documented wild origin. They provide great seasonal interest to the landscape beginning with the showy azalea bloom in spring, the maple color in fall and the sculptural beauty of  the enormous Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans') in winter. This cultivar of Japanese cedar reposes in a graceful sprawl at the edge of the Gard en lawns and is related to our redwoods. The deep burgundy winter foliage of Cryptomeria adds a spark of color to the Garden's winter palette. We also have a growing collection of herbaceous plants and woodland plants from Japan.

View our Japanese Pool panorama here.

Publicity for our Japanese Treasures provided by:

Society for Asian Art

Flowers of the Four Seasons link