Tucked between a water reclamation plant and a golf course, the Japanese Garden in Van Nuys is a delightful reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. The garden was funded by the City of Los Angeles and was constructed over a three-year period and officially dedicated in June 1984.
Japanese Garden is ranked in the top ten for public Japanese Gardens in the United States. The garden was designed by Dr. Koichi Kawana, who designed more than a dozen major Japanese gardens in the United States.
Star Trek Starfleet Academy
One of the most interesting facts about the Japanese Garden is has been used as a backdrop for many films and television shows. You may recognize the main building as Starfleet Academy. Star Trek The Next Generation, Star Trek Voyager, and Star Trek Deep Space Nine all included scenes shot at the gardens. The building in real life is a water reclamation plant.
The Shoin Building, which projects over the lake and is next to the tea house, is one of the garden’s key architectural features.
Traditionally, a Shoin was a residential dwelling for upper-class monks, samurai, and aristocrats during the 14th and 15th centuries. The building’s exterior is true to the typical Chinese shoe style, but the inside is actually designed to hold meetings and small gatherings.
The garden has several different areas, all meticulously designed and maintained. A dry garden uses stones and gravel to simulate the ocean and ocean waves, with large stones in the center of the gravel depicting islands.
There is a wet garden with waterfalls, lakes, greenery, and stone lanterns. Three kinds of bridges can be found in the garden: fording bridges, transition bridges, and viewing bridges. Each serves a specific design purpose. Other attractive garden features include ginkgo trees, the oldest living species of tree, and beautiful stone lanterns.
Yin and Yang
The garden is designed to balance the positive and negative forces, Yin and Yang. The entire garden is very inviting and will bring on a feeling of calm and contemplation. The tranquility is a nice antidote to the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Several benches in the garden are perfect for sitting, meditating, or just relaxing and enjoying the serene atmosphere.
Donald C. Tillman Reclamation Plant
The garden’s placement adjacent to the Donald C. Tillman Reclamation Plant means that the garden is irrigated with reclaimed water. The Reclamation plant also irrigates the adjacent golf course and fills Lake Balboa. The Reclamation Plant is also “Starfleet Academy.”
Japanese Garden Events
Events are also held in the garden, so check the schedule to see if you want to time your visit coincide with one of these activities. Sample events include an origami festival and community fairs and festivals. The venue can also be rented for weddings and other social events.
Docent-led tours are available by reservation only, on Monday and Thursday morning. The tours last a little over an hour. The docents are knowledgeable and friendly, and if the tour works with your schedule, this is a great way to get a deeper understanding of the garden’s history, function, and plants.
Visiting the Japanese Garden: The garden is for self-guided tours Monday through Thursday from 11:00 AM until 4:00 PM and Sunday from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM (the last gate entry each day is at 3:15 PM). Closed to the public on Friday and Saturday. Due to the variety of plants in the garden, it is worth visiting the garden in different seasons to see the foliage blooming or changing color during different times of the year. The low entry price makes it a very reasonably priced family outing.
Please call on the day you wish to visit to make sure the garden is open. There is a gift shop on-site with a wide selection of items from Japan, including books, ceramics, dolls, papers, tea, greeting cards, and more. Admission fees are paid at the gift shop.
Japanese Garden is located at 6100 Woodley Avenue in Van Nuys, northwest where the I-405 and SR 101 intersection. From 405, take the Burbank Blvd exit to the west and then turn north on Woodley Avenue. Website.