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Japanese Friendship Garden, San Diego

3.8
#26 of 65 in Parks in San Diego
Garden · Hidden Gem · Nature / Park
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The Japanese Friendship Garden, also known as Sankei-en ( 三渓園 ) is a twelve-acre Japanese garden located within Balboa Park in San Diego, California. It is an expression of friendship between San Diego and its Japanese sister city Yokohama that binds the two cultures to create a unique experience for visitors from all over the world; over 240,000 people from across the United States and the world visit the garden annually. Representing a new concept in the development of a Japanese garden outside Japan, the Japanese Friendship Garden is designed to present an atmosphere of elegant simplicity (shibui) and quiet beauty. The garden's naturalistic design is guided by the original principles/techniques of the Japanese garden while incorporating elements of the regional San Diego landscape and climate; in terms of features, the garden is well known for its unique placement, sukiya-style buildings, koi ponds, and landscape exhibits. The Japanese Friendship Garden also hosts many local educational programs, activities, festivals, and horticultural classes that focus on the relationship between nature and Japanese culture.
The Japanese Friendship Garden was built and continues to be maintained under the philosophy that, "a garden is always in a state of change but the basic elements of trees, shrubs, rocks and water designed in natural balance create a peaceful, harmonious, and transcendental environment conducive to contemplation and meditation."
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Japanese Friendship Garden reviews

TripAdvisor traveler rating
TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.0
361 reviews
Google
4.6
TripAdvisor
  • This is a very pretty garden. The garden contains a nice walkway, a couple of koi ponds, small waterfalls, a bonsai exhibit and a little museum. Check online to find out if anything special is... 
    This is a very pretty garden. The garden contains a nice walkway, a couple of koi ponds, small waterfalls, a bonsai exhibit and a little museum. Check online to find out if anything special is...  more »
  • The Friendship Gardens are terraced Japanese-style gardens located in the heart of Balboa Park. Meandering paths go through the gardens, which include pagodas with art, a Buddha sculpture, waterfalls....  more
    The Friendship Gardens are terraced Japanese-style gardens located in the heart of Balboa Park. Meandering paths go through the gardens, which include pagodas with art, a Buddha sculpture, waterfalls....  more »
  • Visit here if you’d like to see a variety of gardens and ponds featuring Japanese nature. Japan is a zone 7 for plants, similar to the northeast. It is strange seeing bamboo plants when they invasive....  more
    Visit here if you’d like to see a variety of gardens and ponds featuring Japanese nature. Japan is a zone 7 for plants, similar to the northeast. It is strange seeing bamboo plants when they invasive....  more »
Google
  • One of my favorite places in Balboa Park. Have walked by it many times and was blown away by how big the garden is once you're inside. The beautifully landscaped terrain takes advantage of the natural slopes within the area. So many beautiful plants and flowers. Pro tip: take a few moments to sit and read the program info before you walk through, it will help you to appreciate all of the details and planning that goes into this special place. It is a lot of walking, but there are nice gravel sloped paths for those who can't do stairs. Can't wait to return!
  • Well worth the small price of admission. Very nice buildings set in a beautiful environment. The setting slopes down to a gully...getting down is easy, getting up could be exerting for some people. There is a wheel chair path that offers a more gentle slope. I wish they could have labeled some more of the trees and plants. Just a thought.
  • Absolutely adorable natural park within the city. The little tea house in the front is worth waiting in line for, they have authentic Asian teas and snacks. The park inside is fairly large too and very peaceful, calming and quiet. Large enough to where you can leisurely stroll around for half a day. Definitely recommend for locals and tourists alike, especially in spring and fall! (Photos attached from fall)
  • Really cool little garden. Was under construction when we went, appears they're adding a large water feature. Cherry blossoms were blooming, great site to see. Grounds were very well taken care of. Definitely worth a visit. If you find my review helpful, please click like.
  • This is the first time my friend and I went in to Japanese friendship Garden who is so happy that it is open again after 2 long years. They are doing a lot of building here and making the place even better and more Serene than ever. There will be more waterfalls and hopefully more entertainment if you are a member. The garden is free to locals every third Tuesday otherwise it's $12 for adults, $10 for students and children under 3 is free.

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