Japanese Friendship Garden, Balboa Park

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San Diego, CA
Japanese Friendship Garden, Balboa Park
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Japanese Friendship Garden is a pleasant garden for a walk, in the middle of Balboa Park. Unlike other gardens in Balboa Park, there is an entrance fee. The tree-lined garden path takes you in a zig zagging loop down into a valley and back up. You pass koi ponds, bridges, flowers, a bamboo grove, a stream, boulders, a waterfall, an arch, a Japanese gate, spirit houses, and a large pavilion with beautiful Japanese architecture. There is also an art pavilion with paper doors, and an area with bonsai trees. Don't miss the giant Buddha sculpture. Kids enjoy climbing the gnarled trees. People come in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom but it can be a bit crowded at this time. Another time it is crowded is on the 3rd Tuesday of the month, when it is free to San Diego County residents. 

There is a tea pavilion at the entrance to the gardens, with lovely picnic tables. If you stand at the railing there is a lovely view of the gardens below. 
In the original 1915 Panama-California Exposition, for which Balboa Park was created, there was a Japanese Teahouse with a small garden beside it. It was closed after thirty years, but then shortly after, in 1955, plans began for building a much larger garden. Yokohama, Japan gave many gifts of support such as 100 cherry blossom trees (found in Safari Park), a snow lantern, and a friendship bell (found on Shelter Island). The architect planned a garden with three areas: mountain, lake, and pastoral. In 1990, the garden opened. Later, in 1999, the koi pond and waterfall, tea pavilion, upper garden, and bonsai trees were added.
Check out the other gardens in Balboa Park: the Zoro Garden, a sunken garden or stone grotto with two huge ficus trees with amazing roots, the Palm Garden with lovely hiking trails and incredible trees above you, and the Alcazar Garden, a formal garden with flowers, hedges, and lovely bell tower views. It is spectacular. In late spring and early summer check out the Rose Garden, packed with red, yellow, and all varieties of roses. It is high up overlooking a valley with nice cool breezes. Next to the Rose Garden is the Desert Garden, with cactus of all sorts, in amazing Dr. Suess-like shapes, and African trees. There is another garden as well, called the Kate O. Sessions Cactus Garden, which I haven't checked out yet.

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The path down into the garden.

Visitors standing on a bridge, among the cherry blossom trees in March.

Visitors on a bridge looking at blue heron.

The large pavilion with lanterns.

Looking down at the Japanese garden.

Trees galore.

Flowering trees.

Tree with white and purple flowers.

The Tea Pavilion at the entrance to the garden.

Tables with a view, at the Tea Pavilion.

Bamboo fence.

Winding path through greenery.

Rice paper doors, in Japanese building.

Sand patterns.

Trees of different colors.

Bamboo forest.

Stream with waterfall landscaping.

Pavilion with spirit house.

A couple walks along beside the bamboo.

Looking up at a gorgeous tree.

Winding path.

Bansai tree.

Another bansai tree, this time a Turkish Sweetgum.

Blossoming tree, in May.

Granite boulders and twisty tree.

Gate at the top of stairs.

View over hills.

Tree with nice shapes.

Bridge with decorations.

Shady path with yellow flowers above.

The last of the spring trees, in May.

Stream with clear water.

Wooden lookout over the stream.

Peaceful sculpture in the garden.

Waterfall, stream, and lovely boulders.

Boulders and rocks in the stream.

Weeping willow by the stream.

Red tree by the stream.

It's nice to watch the stream.

Large pebbles in the stream, by a lookout.

The pavilion with koi pond.

A child plays on a low tree trunk, while a parent watches.

Checking out the koi pond from the veranda of the pavilion.

Lanterns at the pavilion.

Koi fish.


Japanese Friendship Garden is located in Balboa Park. The best parking lot is the Veterans Museum Parking Lot, since it is never full. It is an eleven minute uphill walk from the parking lot. Parking is free.
Entrance is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors aged 65+, military, and students, and free for children aged 6 and under.


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Last Updated: Wed, 10 Jan 2024 17:28:16 GMT

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