“A gentle silence descended on them, suggestive of the flow of time.”
Sputnik Sweetheart, Haruki Murakami
My first stroll through the Japanese tea garden was on a typically foggy San Francisco day in July when I randomly stumbled upon it while on my first run through Golden Gate Park.
It was gray and drizzly when I left the airbnb rental with no expectation beyond exploring the park. I weaved through the treelined streets of Cole Valley, past Ice Cream Bar (feeling content to indulge in as much dark chocolate gelato as I wanted once I finished my run). I was still learning the area, but I knew where Haight Street was and how to avoid it, so I wouldn’t have to dodge hippie hobos and tourists.
It was fairly early and the park was quiet and blanketed in fog. I ran from one narrow trail to the next with little worry where it would take me. One trail dead ended at a road packed with morning commuters. I ran along the road for a while, feeling the edginess of the waiting drivers. Horns honked, engines hummed, and I was ready to sneak back into the protection of the park with its towering trees and winding paths. I retraced my steps, running from one dirt trail to the next. I ended up in the heart of the park between the Botanical Garden the Japanese Tea Garden.
The timing was accidentally perfect. It was a Wednesday morning 5 minutes to 9am. And the garden has free entrance Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 9-10am. After entering through the gate, I felt transported back to Japan. I couldn’t wait to bring Blaine here. I was surrounded by stone lanterns, bamboo, and in the distance was a 5 story pagoda.
It turns out the garden is 121 years old and it’s the oldest Japanese garden in the US. The 5 acres are filled with cherry blossoms, azaleas, oriental magnolias (my favorite!), camellias, and Japanese maples.
Even when full of tourists (which is most of the time), the garden is entirely relaxing. When it’s crowded, you can often find a quiet place to sit in the back near the rock garden and you can always sip tea in the teahouse while you people watch and admire the perfectly manicured nature that surrounds you.
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