For years San Mateo residents have loved the Japanese Garden in Central Park for its serenity and beautiful nature. Next month marks the Japanese Garden’s 50th Anniversary and the City of San Mateo recognizes the Garden’s significance to not only the landscape but also to the community. Throughout the month of August there are multiple events to commemorate the beautiful garden. Check out the City’s website for more information.
One of the finest gardens in California, San Mateo’s Japanese Garden was designed by the same landscape architect who designed the Zen Garden in the Golden Gate Park Japanese Tea Garden: Nagao Sakurai of the Imperial Palace of Tokyo. Sakurai beautifully incorporated beautiful cherry trees, Japanese maples, Bonsai, and more to create a tranquil landscape perfect for taking a walk, meditating, or simply enjoying nature.
One great feature is the kidney shaped koi pond full of fish splashing around. There is a bridge crossing over the pond for you to soak up the calm atmosphere while standing over the fish. While walking through the garden you’ll find your eye drawn to many different aspects you may not have seen previously, like the granite pagoda. There are many other features to marvel over in the garden, including a tea house and bamboo grove.
History of the Japanese Garden
The Japanese Garden came to fruition through efforts to rectify racial tensions with Japanese Americans after World War II. Over the 20 years or so from the end of WWII to the groundbreaking of the Garden, the San Mateo community underwent a healing process culminating in 1963.
“Sister City” Relationship Established
San Mateo’s mayor of the time, Roy Archibald, proposed a sister city relationship to Mayor Tasuku Fujito of Toyonaka, Japan. “Sister cities” is a concept that was proposed by President Eisenhower in 1956. The purpose of these sister cities is to promote “citizen diplomacy” around the world by linking U.S. cities to cities in other countries. San Mateo established its sister city relationship with Toyonaka in 1963. Gifts were exchanged between San Mateo and Toyonaka; the El Camino bell now sits near the entrance of the Toyonaka City Hall, and a few years later, Toyonaka contributed the granite pagoda to the San Mateo Japanese Garden.
Momentum for the Garden Blossoms
Following the sister city development, another community project began in San Mateo: the Japanese Garden. The San Mateo Gardeners’ Association had proposed to maintain and landscape the garden in a public location sometime in the 1950s, but until the sister city relationship was put into place, a location had not been chosen. This sister city relationship with Toyonaka led to the suggestion of a one-acre site in Central Park. This suggestion was taken and that is where the Japanese Garden is today.
To make the garden as successful as possible, a Japanese Garden Koen-Kai (support group) club was organized. This club selected Nagao Sakurai to design the grounds and raised money for its completion. Start-up funds were also granted by the City. The Garden was started on October 22, 1965, and many organizations – both companies and individuals – donated money, materials, and volunteered labor to make sure the Garden was finished. The Gardeners’ Association, for example, donated 6,000 man-hours for the completion of the Garden. It was at this time that Toyonaka contributed the pagoda.
A Significant Community Landmark Established
With a dedication ceremony at Central Park, the Garden was officially completed in August of 1966. There was a banquet following the ceremony at the Villa Hotel and the Mayor of Toyonaka sat at this banquet as guest of honor. The Japanese Garden has maintained it’s beauty and is a gem located in the heart of our community.
San Mateo is proud to boast such a beautiful and serene garden amid the hustle and bustle of urban downtown. It’s significant history and success is something the City is proud of. Be sure to come to one of the many events happening in August to commemorate the hard work that previous San Mateo residents put into making the Garden as successful as it is. And if you can’t make one of the events, make time to take a stroll through and ponder the considerable history the Garden holds!
The Japanese Garden is open from 10:00am – 4:00pm, Monday – Friday and 11:00am-4:00pm on the weekends. The Garden will be open for extended evening hours from 5:00pm to 7:00pm on Thursdays through August 25th. There are public koi feedings at 11:00am and 3:00pm, Monday – Friday during the spring and summer. No dogs are allowed in the Japanese Garden.