This beautiful Japanese Garden had its beginnings in 1959 through the guidance of “Duke” Yoshimura. Born in Sacramento and educated in Japan, Yoshimura had returned to the United States, entering high school to learn English. “Duke” would come to serve in the armed forces during World War II, where he also taught judo.
In 1959, “Duke” came to work in Micke Grove Park and asked Mr. William Micke for permission to build a Japanese Garden for the Japanese community to show solidarity with the people of San Joaquin County. Mr. Micke thought it was a wonderful idea and set aside three acres for the garden.
A committee of residents from Stockton, Lodi and French Camp was formed to solicit $5,000 in pledges and approximately 100 hours of volunteer labor from each member of the Japanese Gardeners Club.
“Duke” contacted Nagao Sakurai, who had served 20 years as landscape architect at the Imperial Palace in Japan before coming to design gardens in the United States. Mr. Sakurai agreed to design the garden, and it was dedicated in April, 1965.
The garden is surrounded by 60 Kwanzan flowering cherry trees with five Akibono flowering cherry trees in the central area of the garden.
Three religions have an influence in the garden. Shintoism is expressed in the use of stones, Buddhism is visible in the use of lanterns and Taoism is manifested in the islands.
There are 11 lanterns in the garden, all being stone except for one which is concrete. The five-story pagoda lantern situated on the north hill was donated by Lodi’s sister city; Kofu, Japan. Each story is representative of fire, water, earth, air and atmosphere. The long rod on the top has nine rings and has a kinship to Buddha. The flame-shaped tip denotes protection against fire.
Koi fish in the pond have been known to live for 200 years. The fish, with ring markings on its scales designating age, can grow to three feet in length. Colors range from red, blue, white, brown, black and yellow.
The garden’s angle bridge represents Chinese belief that evil spirits travel in a low straight line, therefore unable to follow across this bridge. The red arch bridge, meanwhile, is of typical Japanese design and includes eight bronze lotus flower bud finials.
The large building in the garden is a pavilion designed by Hoji Wada of Stockton, who also designed the garden’s entrance gate. It provides a beautiful backdrop for outdoor weddings, which are popular in the garden.
- Parking: $5 per vehicle (weekdays), $6 (weekends and holidays), $10 (special holiday weekends - Easter, Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day). Please note: credit cards not accepted at kiosks.
- Four-hr. rental (Friday - Sunday and holidays only, includes Tea House) - $550
- Two-hr. rental (Monday - Wednesday only, includes Tea House) - $275
- Cleaning/damage deposit - $150
- Rehearsals (Thursday only) - $55 per hr.