Where to Find L.A.’s Most Exquisite Japanese Gardens

These hidden oases are scattered across the city
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There are many pockets of green space dotting the sprawl of Los Angeles, among them many beautifully manicured Japanese gardens. With their lush greenery, bridges, streams, and koi ponds, these spaces make for a restorative stroll on a lunch break or a weekend afternoon.

Descanso Gardens

With exclusively native Asian plans—including more camellias than anywhere else in North America—a picturesque bridge over a stream filled with koi, and a tile-roofed tea house, the Japanese garden at Descanso is a paradigm of serenity. It’s worth the trek out to La Cañada Flintridge just to wander in the shade of the Japanese maples and cherry trees. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, $9

Huntington Gardens

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When you’re railroad mangnate Henry Huntington and it’s 1912, and you want a Japanese garden in San Marino, dammit you get a Japanese garden in San Marino. More than 100 years old, this sprawling section of the Huntington estate boasts a moon bridge and a bonsai collection. It features a 5-room house built in Japan and shipped here, in pieces, in 1904. There’s also a similarly imported ceremonial teahouse, where you can watch demonstrations of a Japanese tea ceremony (though to drink tea yourself, you’ll have to walk over to the Chinese Garden next door). 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Tuesday, $23 weekdays, $25 weekends

James Irvine Japanese garden

The compact garden out back of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, a green respite in the thick of downtown, is known as Seiryu-en, “Garden of the Clear Stream” for its meandering creek. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (weekend schedule varies), free

Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden

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Just over an acre in size, this popular wedding spot on the CSU Long Beach campus, meshes a classic Japanese aesthetic with its SoCal locale. A winding path circles a pond—its smooth surface disturbed only by hungry koi. 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, free

Kyoto Gardens

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This downtown garden on top of the the DoubleTree by Hilton’s parking garage is named for the Kyoto area of Japan famous for its distinct style of gardens (a direct inspiration for several of the gardens on this list). Technically only open to guests of the hotel, the gardens boast waterfalls, reflective pools, and a view of the downtown skyline.

South Coast Botanic Garden

With its rippling pond, verdant shrubbery, and 200-year-old sculpted Okazaki Stone lanterns imported from Japan, this corner of the wide-ranging botanical garden is a Palos Verdes gem. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, $9

Pine Wind Garden

Open from sunrise to sunset every day of the week, this garden on the campus of the Torrance Cultural Arts Center makes for a modest but beautiful afternoon escape. Free

 

Thomas Harlander is a staff writer at Los Angeles magazine. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram. He recently wrote “These Are the Most Spectacular Vistas for Viewing the L.A. Skyline.”

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