Japanese Friendship Garden


Location: Balboa Park (3 Miles Northeast of Downtown San Diego)

Open Daily: 10AM – 4PM (must enter by 3:30); Closed Mondays. (During Summer, the Gardens are Open Mondays and until 5PM during Weekdays.)

Cost: $4 ($2.50 for Students and Seniors 55+)

Features: Quaint Japanese Zen Garden, Koi Pond, and Visiting Exhibits

japanese-friendship-gardenJapanese Garden Highlights: Spread over 2.5 acres, the Japanese Friendship Garden provides a relaxing environment to take a break while enjoying Balboa Park’s museums. There is a zen garden, koi pond, and bonsai exhibit that provide an escape from our busy lives. You will find a small Exhibit House that hosts exhibitions that provide a look into Japanese culture. There is also a ceremonial gate, which represents San Diego’s ties with Yokohama, Japan, a sister city. There are plans to eventually expand the gardens to 11.5 acres.

When to Visit the Japanese Friendship Garden

  • Admission on the third Tuesday of every month is free to San Diego County residents. If you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy the tranquility of these gardens, it is best to avoid this day, especially during the summer months.

What to Expect

  • You can spend as little as a half hour walking through the garden and looking at the exhibits or much longer if you want to take time to relax and enjoy the tranquility.
  • Pick up the Museum brochure on your way in. It provides a map of the Gardens and takes you on a detailed self-guided tour. (The map is not provided on the Free Third Tuesdays noted above except to paying guests.)
  • There are plenty of benches in the Japanese Garden and Exhibit House to sit on and reflect in the tranquil environment.

Exhibitions at the Japanese Friendship Garden – You can learn about Japanese culture with temporary exhibits hosted by the Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego. Generally, one small exhibit is on display at a time.

japanese-friendship-garden-1Food – The Tea Pavilion outside of the Friendship Garden serves sushi, Japanese noodles and rice bowls with chicken, meat or vegetables, in addition to salads, sandwiches, traditional teas and other Japanese food. Teriyaki and Curry are two of the more popular seasonings. You can eat indoors or outside under the umbrellas. There are additional cafes near the entrances of some of the other museums in Balboa Park. There is also the Prado Restaurant, which is more of an upscale full service restaurant. You can read more about the food options on the Balboa Park web site.

No Smoking is allowed in or around the Japanese Friendship Garden.

Information on Visiting the Japanese Friendship Garden

Admission Prices: (Costs are Approximate)

  • Parking is Free
  • Standard Fee is $4
  • $2.50 for Seniors 55 and over, Students, and Military with I.D.
  • Kids ages 6 and under get in free.
  • General Admission is Free for San Diego County residents and for Active Military & their families on the 3rd Tuesday of each month.
  • Passport to Balboa Park – Pay one low price for a Pass that will allow you one entry into each of thirteen participating Balboa Park Museums. You have seven days to use the Park Pass once you begin using it. Tickets cost $39 ($21 for kids ages 3-12). For an additional fee, you can add a discounted San Diego Zoo Best Value ticket.  Also note, the Passport to Balboa Park Pass allows you to watch an IMAX movie at the Science Center. Passport to Balboa Park tickets can be purchased online or at participating attractions, except at the Zoo.

Directions from Google Maps to 2215 Pan American Road in San Diego, CA 92101. The Japanese Friendship Garden is near the center of Balboa Park, between the Casa de Balboa building, which is also home to the Museum of Photographic Arts (shown on the Google Map) and the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. It is also next to the Balboa Park Information Center.

Parking – There is a large parking lot just south of the Japanese Friendship Garden and the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. You can access it by turning from Park Boulevard onto Presidents Way (following the signs for the museums). Once on Presidents Way, make a right into the 2nd parking lot and head to the far end of the lot. You will have a small uphill walk past the Organ Pavilion to the Japanese Friendship Garden. Finding a parking spot can be difficult, especially during the summer.

You can also take the free Balboa Park Tram. To catch the Tram, head the opposite way on President’s Way (away from the museums). The Tram route starts near the end of the Presidents Way driveway. Once on the Tram, get off at the Prado stop near the Balboa Park Information Center and walk back down the Tram route less than 20 yards.

Traffic – Unless there is a major event at Balboa Park, which occurs a few times during the year, getting in and out of Balboa is relatively easy using Park Boulevard. If you approach Balboa Park using southbound SR-163, traffic occasionally backs up a little over a mile before reaching the Park Boulevard Exit, which is the same exit for the I-5 northbound. However, the delay will only take a few extra minutes. Likewise, if you are planning to get on SR-163 northbound after leaving Balboa Park, plan on a short delay during the mid and late afternoon hours as a few entrance ramps merge together before reaching the highway. (Learn how to get the latest traffic updates.)

Transit – Buses serving Balboa Park drop passengers off on Park Boulevard near the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the San Diego Museum of Natural History. The stop is underneath a pedestrian bridge, which you can take to reach Pedestrian Mall. The Japanese Friendship Garden is near the Prado on the opposite end of the Pedestrian Mall. (See San Diego Transit Information for the downtown transit map, which includes Balboa Park, and information for the online Transit Planner.)

You can also get off the bus at Presidents Way to catch the Free Balboa Park Tram. The Tram starts at the end of the driveway, on the east side of Presidents Way and circulates every 10 minutes from here to the main circle at the Prado stop, near the Balboa Park Information Center. You will pass the Japanese Friendship Garden about 20 yards before you get off the Tram. The Tram runs from 8:30AM – 6PM daily with extended hours during the summer and special occasions.

Balboa Park Map – The map shows a listing of all Balboa Park Museums, attractions, bus and tram stops, and places to eat.  You should also print out the Balboa Park Tram Map from the City of San Diego. It is not as detailed but is helpful because it includes names on each of the buildings. With the other map, you need to use a map key to find the name of a building.

Find More Attractions with Similar Themes or Location: Balboa Park, Ethnic Culture, Flower Gardens |

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