A little bit of peace in the middle of crazy! The Japanese Gardens, nestled in Balboa Park, is 6 1/2 acres of thoughtfully laid out plants, bamboo trees, shrubs, waterfalls, statues, pedestals, rock formations, benches and bridges.
All of which were put in a particular place for a specific purpose. The design comes from Dr. Kawana who is responsible for over a dozen other Japanese Gardens in the United States. The focal point of the garden, which you notice right as you walk in through the front gates is the Shoin building and Tatami Mat tearoom, which is literally at the other end of the garden but it is so majestic that you notice it instantly. The garden itself is very peaceful, organized and serene. It’s great to have a place to admire plants, meditate, take photographs and just sit by the lake and be still. Wildlife includes ducks and a variety of cranes, swans and geese that all call the garden home. As you walk through the gardens you realize that every single living thing around you has a different energy that plays in the overall Zen feeling that you come to expect from this type of garden. I took my dad when he came to visit last year and he loved the trails and going over the wooden bridges. I took my mom when she came to visit this year and she kept making comments on how good the ducks look. She has a weird sense of humor. Silly Asian moms!
Located in the gardens is the cement administration building. It’s pretty desolate inside but they offer a instructional videos that are playing on a cycle that explain the Japanese culture, the gardens beginnings, how to make origami, etc., The restrooms are also located in this building and there are plenty of cushy seating areas to take a break. You will also notice the lake you see outside actually runs through the building, which is pretty neat.
At the end of the administration building is a concrete walkway with stairs up to the lookout. If you go up the stairs to the main lookout you get a view of the entire garden. If you take the pathway to the right and up more concrete stairs you end up at the second lookout where you get a topographical view of the enormous Tillman Water Restoration plant. There’s a video playing on a big screen that explains the water recycling process, which is very fascinating. Because you are looking down on the plant you might not notice how big the facility is until you see a truck driving by one of the large water tanks and then the amazement of this process and what is actually going on (not to mention how big everything is) starts to set in.
The Garden offers docent-led walking tours (requires advance notice) and self guided tours. Hours are Monday through Thursday 11am to 4pm and Sunday 10am-4pm. There is a large parking lot and it’s only $3.00 to get in.