Right in the heart of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley where the 405 and 101 freeways intersect, you might be surprised to find The Japanese Garden, a 6.5-acre oasis that’s a perfect quick and refreshing getaway from the city right within the city.
I’d been interested in visiting The Japanese Garden for several months and tried to go once in the summer, but it was too hot at the time. So I decided I’d drop by again during the winter, which proved to be an ideal time to go.
The Japanese Garden
The garden was dedicated in June 1984 and is one of over a dozen that were designed by Dr. Koichi Kawana, a world-renowned artist, designer, architect, teacher and poet. It features three gardens in one: a Zen meditation garden; a Chisen garden with waterfalls, lakes, streams, and hand-carved stone lanterns; and the Shoin Building, which has a teahouse and a nearby tea garden.
I’ve been to a handful of Japanese gardens in various cities, and this is one of my favorites because I thought it was such an unexpected find in the San Fernando Valley. The entrance fee – which you pay at the gift shop – is $5 (cash only, unless you spend $6, at which point you can use a credit/debit card), and it’s an incredible deal for the amount of space you get to walk around and the calm that will inevitably come over you as you wander through the grounds.
At the gift shop you’ll be offered a map of the garden, which is useful if you want to know what kinds of plants you’re looking at or the names of the places within the grounds. I didn’t need it during my time there, and the paths are simple enough where you probably won’t get lost.
What’s also really cool is a three-fold pamphlet about the garden they give visitors at the gift shop. It goes over how the water used to maintain the plant comes from reclaimed wastewater that’s been processed at the D.C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant. The plant is named after after Donald C. Tillman, who worked as an engineer for Los Angeles from 1972 to 1980 and came up with the idea of having a Japanese Garden next to the water reclamation plant.
Fun fact: The lake at The Japanese Garden is 2.75 acres and is filled with water treated at the reclamation plant.
The Japanese Garden highlights: Wisteria Arbor, viewing arbor, and Shoin Building
My favorite part of the garden is the Wisteria Arbor, which you can get to by making a left onto the stone path that goes through the dry garden, visible immediately ahead when you enter the garden. If you go at a time that isn’t super busy, the arbor can feel like a little secret spot in the garden where you can meditate and just wade in peace and silence.
Another nice spot is the viewing arbor, located at the end of the garden close to the waterfall. There are several steps up to get to the viewing arbor, but foot traffic was light here when I visited, probably because it’s pretty secluded compared to the rest of the garden.
The Shoin Building where the tea house is located is another highlight. If you can get the space by yourself, or if you go and everyone is quiet, it’s a relaxing place to just be still in and appreciate the lake in front.
For $5, The Japanese Garden is a place you won’t want to miss in L.A., whether you call the city home or if you’re just in town for a visit.
The Japanese Garden is located at:
6100 Woodley Avenue
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Hours are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.