Osaka Japanese Garden, located on Wooded Island in the middle of a lagoon in Jackson Park, is perhaps the most idyllic spot in all of Chicago. Sitting on one of the rock formations in the garden, surrounded by rare pines, red maples, cherry trees and lily pads, it's hard to believe you're still in a sprawling metropolis. (However, a glance toward the nearby, giant lantern-like Museum of Science and Industry, offers that helpful reminder.) Stone walkways, a cascading waterfall and Japanese lanterns add to the sense of authenticity. While the garden itself is small, with even the most strolling pace completing a full circle inside of fifteen minutes, it remains worlds away from the surrounding city.
Built as a garden in 1893 as part of the World's Columbian Exposition, the garden was renovated in the 1930s and then again in 1977, when it became part of the Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary. In 1992, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Chicago's sister-city-relationship with Osaka, the garden was renamed Osaka Japanese Garden. In addition, Osaka donated funds to build a Torii formal gate, made by hand in the traditional tongue and groove method rather than hammer and nails.
Today, the garden is popular with neighborhood residents, romantics (a recent visit revealed a wedding proposal in action; sadly, though, the bride-to-be declined) and bird lovers from all over the city. According to the Chicago Park District, more than 250 different species have been spotted from Wooded Island, and 48 species have nested here. Cultural festivals and performances are also common, including the annual Osaka Garden Festival held each September.
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Rockwood