Till O&O!

October 26, 2017
Reception & Ceremony
The US Grant
Tickets Available Now!


Inamori Pavilion, Japanese Friendship Garden

The last jewel that will be built into the Balboa Park crown, the Inamori Pavilion in the Japanese Friendship Garden is uncompromisingly true to its Japanese heritage and is one of San Diego’s unsung treasures, although frequently photographed both privately and professionally, and a source of much pride in the community.

Taking full advantage of natural cedar or “hinoki” building materials, a broad “kirizuma” copper roof, and traditionally detailed interiors such as its delicately hand-painted “fusuma” doors, the Pavilion’s design also incorporates stunning waterfall and garden views, an acknowledged aspect of both historic and modern Japanese architecture.  Both the architect and landscape architect were award-winning professionals and native to Japan, though resident and longtime licensed practitioners in San Diego and Los Angeles. Their heritage is reflected in the authentic influence of ancient Japanese tea houses, but also in the significant influence on the Pavilion of Katsura, the 17th century Imperial Villa that often borrowed from by 20th century architects such as Bruno Taut, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Green and Green, as well as Walter Gropius.

Immensely popular for weddings and corporate events, the Pavilion’s traditional wrap-around veranda or “engawa” overlooking the quiet koi pond is also a favored location for  personal introspection and meditation, as well as artistic and musical programs that are often showcased within its sliding-door walls or “shoji”.  During the Garden’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival that draws thousands of people each year, the Pavilion is the ultimate destination for most visitors, cherished for its spectacular views and as an oasis of calm reflection in today’s busy world.

  • Orchid Nominee

  • Project Address:

    Balboa Park, Japanese Friendship Building, 2215 Pan American Road East, San Diego, CA 92101

    Project Owner/Developer:

    Japanese Friendship Garden

    Owner Contact Name/Email:


    Project Architect/Designer:

    RNT Architects, Inc.


  • Cynthia Guiang

    So beautiful – nomination is well-deserved! I used to think Golden Gate Park had such a beautiful Japanese Garden, but I just went there last month and San Diego definitely outshines it now.

  • Mitsuo Tomita

    Beautiful building in beautiful surroundings

  • khn

    Incredible addition to Balboa Park! So beautiful! What a treasure for generations to come!

  • Julianne Thomas

    Extraordinary pavilion true to Japanese great garden structures, beautifully built. It is the perfect destination in this garden for viewing and for functions. Every detail is exquisite.

  • David Kawamoto

    A gem hidden in a canyon of Balboa Park. The beautiful architecture enhances the Japanese garden.

  • Dave Gardner

    Congratulations to Kotaro Nakamura and his wonderful design team and especially to all of our building team subcontractors and vendors! So proud of your hard work to meet such demanding design standards and details. Inamori Pavilion is an example of many talented people who donated their time and expertise for all to enjoy.

  • ChaussonTheDream

    The Japanese Garden, though beautiful, always felt a little incomplete before the construction of the pavilion. I think it’s fair to say the pair make for a well cut gem in San Diego’s cultural crown!

  • Jon Osio

    Thank you for the nomination and to everyone that helped bring this about! We are so humbled seeing all the support we get day in and day out.

  • Philip Matzigkeit

    City life can be wearing. A visit to the Japanese Friendship garden and pavillion is a retreat into an authentic world of serenity and exquisite beauty. I bought an annual pass and go there often. Thanks to those who have worked so hard to build this.

  • Barbara Jane Barg

    Beautiful! I hope to visit one day. A little of Japan’s serene beauty and style right here in the U.S.

  • lookingforhonesty

    Simply loved the space created and the peaceful surroundings and calmness felt while walking through the gardens. Truly a space for quiet contemplation. Beautiful!

  • Gelareh Jokar

    This is truly a legacy project for Kotaro Nakamura and deserves an Orchid for his dedication to its design and construction. Not only did he bring his own background as a college-educated Japanese architect, but he took three trips to Japan to get this project exactly right. He studied tea houses from the 15th century to the modern day in Osaka, Kyoto, Yokohama and Tokyo, and was given a personal tour of the Emperor’s own private gardens in Kyoto. The landscape architect, Dr. Uyesugi, was actually awarded one of Japan highest imperial medals for his lifetime achievement in landscape design. I might be saying too much, but I worked in this firm while the Inamori Pavilion was under design. The whole team deserves this recognition for giving such a beautiful, culturally-accurate building to San Diego!

  • San Diego Dreamin’

    Generations of dreaming, decades of planning, years of building. The Garden is an oasis of serene beauty in this busy city for all of us to enjoy, but this building makes it complete. The vision of Dennis Otsuji and so many others, combined with the generosity of Dr. Kazuo Inamori and Kyocera, brought this gem to San Diego. We are all so fortunate!

  • khn

    San Diego does not know what it has! The classic “sukiya” architecture of this building, so beautifully represented here, was enormously influential throughout 20th century American modern and contemporary architecture, continuing through to today. Not only is this building stunningly beautiful and serene, it is nearly historic in its accuracy. Nothing else like it in the region!

  • Check Six

    San Diego does not know what it has! Nothing else like it in the region. I love to go there, take the meandering path through the garden, relax and just watch the koi pond. So peaceful! The deep eves, the smell of the hinoki cedar, the veranda and the shoji make me feel like I am back in Japan. The fact that it is the Japanese Friendship Garden, just makes it more special. And anyone can go there!

    • DonWood

      “And anyone can go there”… for a fee.

      • Check Six

        Free on Tuesdays!

  • Erika Shiraishi

    The Inamori Pavilion is truly a San Diego treasure and the perfect venue for Japan-related events.

  • Ralph Roesling

    Proud to be Kotaro Nakamura’s partner and to see the evolution of this project. It is a great addition to Balboa Park and serves the San Diego community in a very artful and elegant way.

  • Gladys Roby

    Such a serene setting, beautiful, beautiful!

  • Kendrick Nakamura

    Been here several times, always very nice

  • DonWood

    Usually I am against adding new privately managed buildings in Balboa Park, preferring to keep as much of the park as possible open and free. But I like this one, in part because of its architecture, and partly because it replicates a building that existed in the park in years past.

  • Sandra Francour

    I love everything about our wonderful Japanese Friendship Garden and the Inamori Pavillon brought it to a whole new level of excellence. Having lived in Japan and being familiar with Japanese architecture and gardens, this one is really outstanding! Well worth a visit over and over.

  • Jeremiah Magone

    I love how the word “architecture” applies just as much to the landscaping as it does to the building at the Inamori Pavilion. For example, the way the waterfall is purposefully framed by the rooftop on the deck creates a unique experience. It shows how architecture can be used to capture nature as a living work of art. On Wednesday mornings, they hold a yoga class on this very spot. This starts in a meditative way as the waterfall slowly comes to life, filling your senses and spirit with soothing sounds. This is an excellent example of how architecture can heighten the viewers perceptions and help them experience a quiet moment with sublime reflection.

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Orchids & Onions is an educational and fundraising program of the San Diego Architectural Foundation, a 501(c)3, nonprofit organization dedicated to education and the promotion of outstanding architecture, planning and urban design throughout the San Diego region.

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