San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden Steps

SF: Japanese Tea Garden, Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Bridge

The Japanese Tea Garden in the Golden Gate Park is also free Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays if you enter in before 10am. Otherwise, it is $8 to enter. Naturally, we woke up super early to take advantage of anything budget friendly.

This was probably one of my favourite attractions in San Francisco. It’s an extremely peaceful park and everything is Japanese styled. We joined a free city tour where the guide gave us a history lesson about the garden and other noteworthy aspects of the park. The garden was originally maintained by the Hagiwara family, until anti-Asian feelings (especially towards Japanese) permanently forced the family out during World War II. Our world never seems to learn, and it seems to be a cycle of racism throughout the years.

As a side note, San Francisco folks are a peaceful bunch – we ran into zero riots or protests after Trump’s win Tuesday night. I felt as though it was business as usual here.

Other interesting facts about the park:

  • A scene from Memoirs of a Geisha was filmed on the moon bridge here
  • The house that Hagiwara lived in still stands today, and serves as the gift shop
  • There was a house that Hagiwara’s daughter lived in, which was demolished during World War II to remove any traces of the Japanese; the only remaining structure is the gateway to the original house
  • A plaque at the exit has small frogs crawling on it – this is supposed to signify an invitation to the Hagiwara family if they ever want to return
  • There are 47 koi fish swimming around in the ponds
  • Officially, this is where the first fortune cookie was created (though Los Angeles disputes this claim)
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San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden

Our next visit was to the California Academy of Sciences still in the Golden Gate Park for another bout of geekiness. Again, this was a much larger museum and was a cross between Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum and Ontario Science Center. We checked out their gem display, anthropology exhibit, planetarium and rainforest sphere. I’d have to say the rainforest sphere was informative and very cool. We were able to go through and learn about the different levels of a rainforest, while experiencing the real heat of one – all without ever leaving North America! We ensured that we were able to watch all the shows – the 3D planetarium movie, the coral reef fish feeding and penguin feeding. Make sure you do your research and go in with a plan!

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Can you hear me roar?

Another nice stop in the Golden Gate Park is Stow Lake. We didn’t spend much time in here as my feet were killing me, but it is a lovely park to take a stroll in or rent some boats to take out onto the lake. We were more or less on a mission to get back to the Golden Gate Bridge and walk across it. Unfortunately, the last bus that comes back across the bridge is at 5pm, so we were forced to make the trip there and back by foot. According to the visitor’s center, it’s about a 30 – 45 minute walk. We found that it took us approximately 40 minutes to walk across, stopping to take photos, and 20 minutes to charge back. It can get really windy up here in the evening, so I’d recommend wearing a lot of layers.

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Trek across the Golden Gate Bridge

The 2016 San Francisco guidebook suggested Burma Superstar (309 Clement St.) for dinner, which was also recommended by our AirBNB hosts. Luckily it was kind of close by to our accommodations, so this was the perfect end to our day. We had family style food, and shared their popular Tea Leaf Salad, Nan Gyi Dok and their Pear Sorbet for dessert. As we left, we could see we had beaten the line up (phew!), so it’s clearly a very popular restaurant.

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Burma Superstar’s Pear Sorbet

All personal photos – KW

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