The Japanese Pool renovations have begun!

Your gifts are hard at work! With the success of our recent “Save Our Newts” fundraising campaign, we raised $150,000 to complete the critical renovations to the Japanese Pool. We are delighted to share the progress with you!

A Garden icon, sadly in need of repair

For nearly 80 years Garden visitors have been enchanted by the serene pool, waterfalls, lanterns, and stepping stones of the Garden’s Japanese Pool. It provides an elegant home for many aquatic plant specimens and a thriving population of native newts. Sadly, the Pool has been leaking for years and threatened the habitat of the local newts who arrive yearly to spawn.

This vital restoration work will eliminate the leaks in the Pool, provide a safe habitat for the Garden’s beloved newts and a space for recently acquired Asian water plants!

After the water and sludge have been removed from the Pool, any cracks in the cement base will be filled or patched, and then the entire base will be covered with an impermeable layer of polyurethane—similar to the liner of a truck bed. The Pool will be refilled and new wild-sourced aquatic plants will be put into the Pool, hopefully providing a suitable home for the newts for decades to come.

The captured newts will be returned to the Pool, but we can’t make them stay! They may wander back into the Garden but we anticipate their return with the winter rains.

Two men in a shallow pool holding plants and smiling

In preparation for the work UCBG horticulturists James Fong and Eric Hupperts remove plants from the Pool.

UC Berkeley student worker, Cole Bruhnke, captures newts.

Contented newts in one of the holding tanks at the Garden. Fresh water, perches and food are available for the newts.


The history of the Japanese Pool

When the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island closed in 1939, its Japanese exhibit was donated to the Garden on behalf of the Japanese government, with the aid of a donation from the UC Japanese Alumni Association. The exhibit was comprised of stone from Japan, including 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 and supervised Japanese workmen as they placed about 150 boulders to create the waterfalls and pool in the Garden in 1941.

The pool was damaged in October 1962 when it rained 38 centimeters (15 in) 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.