The first public Japanese garden in the U.S., this rustic stroll-garden was constructed by Japanese immigrant and landscape designer Makoto Hagiwara. It originated as part of the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, but upon the exposition's closing, Hagiwara asked park superintendent John McLaren if the exhibit could become a permanent addition to Golden Gate Park as a gift to the city. Hagiwara funded the garden construction himself, going to great lengths to procure art, and exotic plant species from Japan. He was caretaker from 1895 until his death in 1925, expanding the garden to five acres.
The Hagiwara family lived in and maintained the garden until 1942, when they were forced into internment camps for the duration of World War II.
The garden has since undergone several additions and renovations: the dry garden designed by Nagao Sakurai in 1953, the rebuilding of the tea house and gift shop by R.G. Watanabe in 1959, and a hedge trimmed to resemble Mt. Fuji dedicated to Hagiwara in 1979. In 1985, supervisor Kensuke Kawata rebuilt and replaced the garden’s three gates, and the Long Bridge was added in 1988.
Golden Gate Park, including the Japanese Tea Garden, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.