Deep inside Jackson Park, behind the Museum of Science and Industry, lies one of Chicago's greatest hidden treasures - an authentic Japanese garden. Originally built in 1893 as part of Japan's contribution to the World's Columbian Exposition, the garden survived several decades of neglect and the outbreak of anti-Japanese settlement in the wake of America's entrance into World War II. In 1983, thanks in part to the funding from Osaka, Chicago's Japanese sister-city, the garden was restored to its former grandeur.
The Osaka Japanese Garden is located on the Wooden Island, an artificial island in the pond in the middle of the park. Once you reach the island, walk along the north-south trail until you see this gate
Inside, you'll find a smaller pond. The carefully maintained trails loop around it - one bridging across it and another winding around the edge until it reaches an artificial waterfall.
Past the waterfall, the path leads to a garden pavilion. It was originally built to hold Shinto rituals for the visitors' benefit. This day, it is mostly used as a meditation spot and a venue for occasional performances.
And this is what you'll see if you step inside and look towards Lake Michigan
Once you leave the pavilion, walk along the other edge of the pond. The views you'll get are nothing short of spectacular:
You may notice a small rock in the middle of the pond. This is known as the Turtle Island. It was designed to be viewed from afar but never touched, like the Island of Immortals of the Chinese and Japanese mythology.
Before you cross the bridge and walk out of the garden, take a look at the garden's northeast tip, near the water. This is known as the Kasuka Lantern. It is one of the few pieces of the garden to survive completely intact since 1893.
The garden may be small, but it more than makes up for its size with richness in experience. It's not really that quiet - too many kids tend to hang out there for that. But the island still seemed to have a calming effect. Most people who visit sit down and rest for a bit before continuing with their everyday lives. And the fact that so many people don't know about it doesn't hurt at all.
Osaka Japanese Garden can be reached via 59th Street/University of Chicago and 63rd Street Metra Electric stations, as well as all of the buses that serve the Museum of Science and Industry.
For more information:
The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Osaka Japanese Garden page
If you like any of the photos, you can purchase the prints in several different sizes. Click here for more info.