Japanese Friendship Garden

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2215 Pan American Rd. E, San Diego, CA 92101
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Open:
Daily 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Summer)
10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Winter)
In the Japanese Friendship Garden, you can experience the beautiful native plants, architecture, and gardening styles of Japan without leaving San Diego!
Japanese Friendship Garden
Japanese Culture
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Experience Authentic Japanese Culture at the Japanese Friendship Garden

Japanese Friendship Garden GroundsJapanese Friendship Garden Entrance

The Japanese Friendship Garden, often shortened to simply “JFG,” is in Balboa Park in San Diego, California. The garden sprawls across a full 12 acres of land, offering an authentic traditional Japanese garden experience right in the heart of San Diego.

The history of the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego begins with a partnership between San Diego and its sister city Yokohama. Both cities are cultural hubs, and both have created the Japanese Friendship Garden as a way to not only bridge the gap between them but also to educate visitors about the value of nature.

The garden originally opened in 1991 as a much smaller version of its current self. In 1999, the garden received a renovation designed by the Japanese landscape artist Takeo Uesugi. At this time, notable attractions like the Activity Center, the Exhibit Hall, and the Koi Pond were added.

The most recent renovation occurred in 2015, which expanded the then three-acre garden by a full nine acres. This expansion allowed for the addition of the Inamori Pavilion, a large camellia and azalea garden, and a grove filled with 200 cherry trees. Now, the garden hosts over 240,000 annual visitors, many of whom come from across the nation and all over the world.

The flowers, trees, and shrubs in the garden are all native to Yokohama, but they have been adapted to survive in the San Diego climate in harmony with the rest of nature. This is symbolic of the relationship between the sister cities, with the garden inspiring a love and appreciation for Japanese culture in San Diego residents.

The Japanese Friendship Garden is included in the Go San Diego Card, which provides great savings. Purchasing a Go San Diego Card ahead of your trip lets you save up to 50% off the cost of regular admission on over 55 San Diego attractions and activities. Additionally, if you purchase the Go San Diego Card through our website you can get an additional discount.

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During Your Visit

At the Japanese Friendship Garden, you can walk the grounds at your own pace. You are free to enjoy a leisurely stroll through the paths while taking in all of the gorgeous scenery around you.

As you’re touring the Japanese Friendship Garden, you’ll make your way through the Upper Garden and the Canyon, which feature different types of flowers and different architectural installments. Along the path, you’ll spot the dry stone garden, Dragon Bridge, the stone waterfall, the Bosatsu statue, and many other interesting set pieces.

Many of the plants in the garden only bloom during certain parts of the year. For information about which blooms are in season when you make your trip to JFG, check out the official website.

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Local Tips
What’s the best pass to maximize savings?

Families often choose unlimited admission and save up to 55% with the All-Inclusive pass when they visit just 2 attractions per day over 1, 2, 3 or 5 days.

Locals who prefer flexibility as they go often chose the Explorer Pass and save up to 60% off normal ticket prices.

Japanese Friendship Garden Installments and Attractions

Touring the garden grounds is only half the fun. Inside the Japanese Friendship Garden are many different attractions that serve to captivate and education visitors of all ages. These exhibits bring Japanese culture to the forefront of the JFG experience.

There are also some rotating exhibits at the Japanese Friendship Garden which vary based on the season. The official website has more information about the current featured exhibits.

Japanese Artifacts

The Japanese Friendship Garden houses many different artifacts from Japanese history in its museum. Their collection is full of woodblock print artwork, authentic Japanese antique furniture, intricate doll houses, and beautifully designed kimonos.

Examining the artifacts in the collection provides insight into Japanese culture and life. Each artifact represents a different part of art and creative expression central to traditional customs.

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Don't miss Festivals & Activities
The Japanese Friendship Garden hosts many local educational programs, activities, festivals, and horticultural classes that focus on the relationship between nature and Japanese culture.

Bonsai Collection

The Japanese art of bonsai actually started as a Chinese invention, but it has since exploded in Japanese culture. The art involves guiding the growth of small, ornamental shrubs and trees, as well as carefully tending to them as they mature.

Many people believe bonsai to be naturally small trees. However, bonsai trees are actually kept small through pruning and by using small pots, not by their genetics. Therefore, the art of maintaining bonsai is central to growing them.

The bonsai collection in the Japanese Friendship Garden contains dozens of bonsai trees. Many of them are over a hundred years old, as bonsai trees have a long lifespan and it’s not uncommon for them to be passed down through generations in a family. While bonsai is most popular in Japan, the bonsai collection in the JFG reflects the growing bonsai community in California.

Kannon Bosatsu

The bronze kannon bosatsu statue is an art piece of a Buddhist bodhisattva. It was originally created during the Tokugawa period, which lasted from the early 1600s to the mid-1800s, by the renowned Japanese ironsmith Takumi Obata. In the 1900s, the statue was brought to America and displayed in the Middlegate Japanese Garden in Mississippi.

After damage in 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina, the statue was purchased and donated to the Japanese Friendship Garden in 2017. At the time, it had significant structural damage and physical wear and tear. Since then, the state has been restored to its former glory.

The kannon statue is on display in the Japanese Friendship Garden’s lower garden, set next to a babbling stream and gorgeous flowers to make a peaceful corner of the garden.

Koi Ponds

The koi in the garden are renowned for their beauty, and for good reason. All of the koi are show quality, and they have won various awards and received widespread recognition. They were all born in Japan and carefully selected by the Koi Club of San Diego.

The JFG Koi Ponds are filled with 20 different species of koi fish, including white and orange Kohaku or “Fire Engine” koi, the black and orange spotted Kin Hi Utsuri koi, and the bright yellow Yamabuki Ogon. The variety of colors and scale patterns make the koi ponds an amazing sight.

Inamori Pavilion

The Inamori Pavilion is located in the lower garden section of the garden. It is an indoor space primarily used for ceremonies and receptions. It often houses rotating exhibits and events held by JFG.

The outdoor deck of the pavilion provides a beautiful view fully immersed in nature. It is a popular photography spot for many guests.

Cherry Blossom Grove

Cherry blossoms are very special trees in Japanese culture. The trees bloom for only about two weeks before the petals begin to fall. Because of this, they are often used to represent the brief nature of life.

Every spring, the Japanese Friendship Garden invited guests to come see the cherry blossoms while they bloom. This week-long festival ties back to the Japanese custom of hanami, which translates literally to “watching blossoms.” It is a tradition that has been practiced in Japan for thousands of years, which makes it all the more special to enjoy right in San Diego.

With over 200 cherry blossom trees, springtime is really a sight to see in the garden.

Education Opportunities for Kids

JFG offers many educational activity sheets for kids to fill out while they visit the different attractions. Children are encouraged to write their own story about friendship, complete a crossword puzzle, write a haiku, color and identify different koi, complete a garden lantern scavenger hunt, and draw their own dry stone garden.

The garden also has educational programs available for different age groups. The first is suitable for children from Grades 3 to 8, while the second is better suited for older kids at Grades 9 and above.

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Important Guidelines and Tips for Your Trip

In order to make the most of your trip, make sure you know the rules of the garden before you go, as well as other relevant information that will make your visit as low-stress as it can be.

Parking

Parking is available throughout Balboa Park. Some of the closest lots are The Prado Valet Parking Lot and Alcazar Garden Parking Lot, both of which are within a five minute walk to the garden.

Garden Rules

When walking through the garden, visitors are asked to stay on the paths and refrain from harming the wildlife. This includes picking flowers, climbing trees, and feeding the koi. No smoking is allowed in the garden.

Where to Eat

Light fare is offered in the Tea Pavilion. Like the rest of the garden, the Tea Pavilion helps visitors experience an authentic Japanese experience by serving dishes such as rice bowls, sushi, and Japanese teas.

Outside the garden, Balboa Park contains many different restaurants and food stands. No outside food is allowed on the grounds, so all meals must be completed before or after entering the garden.

Pet Policy

JFG does not allow pets on the premises outside of special events. However, service animals are allowed, provided they are kept on leash at all times.

Special Event Reservations

You can reserve sections of JFG for private events like wedding ceremonies and parties. The garden venue offers plenty of amazing photo opportunities with lots of space for guests.

For more information on how to reserve space at the Japanese Friendship Garden for private events, check the website for availability and current rates.

Nearby Attractions

Balboa Park and the surrounding area are full of fun attractions. If you walk through the garden early in the day, or if you’re planning a multi-day trip to San Diego, keep the fun going by checking out the famous beaches of San Diego.

If you’re planning on checking out multiple attractions, the Go San Diego Card is a great way to go. You can save more money and reduce the hassle by making arrangements ahead of time.

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