San Francisco’s 107-year-old Japanese tea garden pagoda has been restored

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – San Francisco Department of Recreation and Parks officials announced that the towering pagoda of the Japanese Tea Garden, one of the few surviving structures from the 1915 World’s Fair, has been restored to its former glory.

The Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States, and its pagoda is five stories high.

On Wednesday night, public officials, history buffs and members of the Japanese-American community celebrated the completion of the two-year project with ceremonies and taiko drums.

London Mayor Breed said: “The pagoda at the Japanese Tea Garden is part of our urban fabric, telling the story of San Francisco’s rich Japanese history and culture. This restoration ensures that the iconic pagoda will remain in Golden Gate Park for residents and visitors for generations to come. future generations to enjoy.”

“For more than 100 years, the pagodas of Japanese tea plantations, which have attracted millions of residents and tourists, have experienced significant damage throughout their history,” said Yasushi Noguchi, Japan’s consul general in San Francisco. “Now that it has been properly restored, it can continue to promote Japanese culture and aesthetics. This pagoda is an iconic landmark in Golden Gate Park and an integral part of San Francisco’s beautiful and diverse spirit.”

(Image courtesy of the San Francisco Department of Recreation and Parks)

The pagoda was built as a temporary indoor display inside the Food Palace at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. It relocated to the Japanese Tea Garden in 1916, where it sat outdoors for over a century. While it has undergone regular maintenance, this is its first full restoration.

All carpentry, roofing and masonry work was done by Rec and Park’s structural maintainers. Carpenters removed rotting wood from the interior and exterior and found Japanese characters that indicate some of the pagoda’s original parts were salvaged from shipping containers.

(Image courtesy of the San Francisco Department of Recreation and Parks)

Carpenters replaced some damaged wood with 100-year-old rosewood salvaged from two storage tanks at Camp Mather. Bandits recapped the pagoda’s five roofs, while the painter brought its vermilion decorations back to life.

For the first time in decades, traditional bells and giboshi adorned the pagoda. All products are custom made in Niigata, Japan.

The carpenter recorded the layout of the heavily damaged spire’s copper trim, then created a new spire from recycled Douglas fir flagpoles, painstakingly tapering it on a 16-foot lathe to replicate the original shape.

“Restoring a temporary interior structure built more than a century ago was extremely challenging, but the end result was stunning,” said Phil Ginsberg, general manager of San Francisco Recreation and Parks.

The pagoda restoration is the first half of an approximately $2 million restoration that also includes a redesign of the surrounding landscape and restoration of the Long Bridge, which will be completed in the fall of 2023.

Hoichi Kurisu, a designer who has built Japanese gardens in the US and overseas for more than 50 years, will lead the project with his daughter Michiko. Their company Kurisu LLC will open up the area around the pagoda to make it more cohesive with the rest of the garden and create a gathering space for taiko drums, bonsai demonstrations and other cultural events. The design will use stones donated from the Tatsuyama quarry in Takasago, Japan.

“The Japanese Tea Garden Pagoda is the treasure of Golden Gate Park that all San Francisco people should experience,” said Drew Becher, CEO of SF Parks Alliance.

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