Recharging in the San Mateo Japanese garden

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I was hoping to visit the Japanese garden in San Mateo Central Park after reading about it in the book Quiet Beauty: The Japanese gardens of North America. Happily, I managed to make that visit earlier this summer, the same day we saw the digital art exhibit at PACE. So if you do plan a trip to this part of Silicon Valley, consider experiencing two different aspects of Japanese culture in the same day and see both together.

The garden opened in 1965, following the signing of a sister city agreement between San Mateo and Toyonaka in 1963. It was designed by Nagao Sakurai, who had created several other American Japanese gardens, including the dry garden in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park (1952). It is a stroll garden built around a central pond that is fed by a waterfall. Two wooden bridges transect the pond; of these, the first is more prominent - an arched bridge with numerous fat carp swimming beneath it.

As you loop around the pond, you encounter lush foliage, eye-catching rock formations and a series of beautiful views, punctuated by unique features: the stone pagoda, the waterfall, the viewing pavilion and the tea house. This is a wonderful place to visit and attracts a different crowd from the garden in Golden Gate Park: more local families spending time outdoors, not so many camera-toting tourists on a deadline. Highly recommended.

Japanese Garden, San Mateo Central Park
San Mateo, California
Permanent attraction

Above: pathway near the viewing pavilion. All photos: SF.

Below: looking in through the main gate.

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Below: view across the pond towards the arched bridge; there are carp in the water, and you can see the main gate again, this time from the inside.

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Below: view from the arched bridge, looking towards the second bridge; you can enjoy the contrast between the trees and the local office block architecture.

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Below: five-storey stone pagoda, donated by the City of Toyonaka.

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Below: plaque on the pagoda.

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Below: waterfall.

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Below: reflections on the water; contrasting arrangements of rocks.

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Below: the second bridge.

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Below: many shades of green.

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Below: pine trees.

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Below: view looking back to the second bridge; you can see the arched bridge in the background.

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