Visiting Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden at CSULB

We took a quick trip to the Japanese Garden at Cal State University, Long Beach (CSULB), to see if it would be a good place for our little daughter to explore.

It’s a beautiful garden with so many things to see, such as a decent size pond, koi fish, and a ton of beautiful plants.

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What Are The Highlights of The Japanese Garden?

Asides from taking a million photos of our baby Quinn, the cultural aspect of the Japanese Garden was intriguing. It’s always fascinating to learn about other cultures, and this was a great way to do it. We didn’t have a tour guide, nor some pamphlet about Japanese culture and their garden. But visually, the distinction of what’s in place of the Japanese garden vs. a typical garden helped us understand the culture a little more.

For instance, Japanese gardens are unique in their selection of plants, such as the Bonsai tree. Remember Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid? The bonsai tree alone, along with the garden’s layout, makes it different from everything else.

We also liked that the garden was so well-kept. The plants were healthy and vibrant, and everything looked neat and tidy. Ah, the word tidy is also familiar. Heard of Tidying Up featuring Marie Kondo?

The koi pond was probably our favorite part. We liked it because there was a bridge that goes over the koi pond. It’s a beautiful spot to take photos and relax for a bit.

Random fact, koi fish can cost up to $10,000! We’d be able to pay off our house if we sold 50 of those. That would be disrespectful to Japanese culture, so we’ll keep that thought to ourselves.

What Could Be Improved AT The Japanese Garden?

I thought the Japanese garden at CSULB was a bit small. Granted, we went on a weekday afternoon, so it wasn’t too crowded. But I feel like if it were any busier, the place would feel cramped. It’s not like there are many places to sit and relax, so that might be something they want to work on.

We felt there wasn’t enough privacy because the Japanese garden was small. Not that we were doing anything suspicious, but being alone in the garden has a special charm to it. We didn’t feel like we could sit and appreciate the garden because people were walking by us all the time.

The other thing is that there are no restrooms inside the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden! So if you have to go, you’d probably have to use one of the restrooms on the school’s campus. Not a big deal, but it’s something to note nonetheless. Or, if you’re like me (the father) who has IBS, come prepared.

Since there were no restrooms and no places to hide, we couldn’t breastfeed our baby girl or change her diapers. Nevertheless, we still brought a diaper bag (although we couldn’t use it until we returned to our car).

What Etiquette is Required At The Japanese Garden?

One important thing we didn’t know until we had left the garden was etiquette. You definitely can not bring food or drinks to the Japanese garden. Therefore, if you think this is a place to have a nice little picnic, nope. You’re better off going to El Dorado Park.

You can only feed the fish that the Garden provides. So don’t try to feed the fish with your leftover meals. Not only is it bad for the fish, but you’ll probably get in trouble too.

If you vape or smoke, this is not the place for you. You can’t smoke inside the garden at all.

Don’t think about throwing your ninja turtle in the pond, either.

In general, use common sense and be respectful of the property.

How Can You Feed THe Koi In The Japanese Garden?

To feed the koi fish, there’s a certain time to do that, where you’ll need to make reservations as well. We saw a couple of students there doing it, so we asked them about it.

It was great for Quinn to see all the koi fish as a group and then see them get fed.

When is The Japanese Garden OpeN?

If you plan on going in the future, the Japanese Garden at CSULB is open every day from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm, Tuesday through Friday. Admission is free for everyone. Although it’s free, you’ll want to make reservations. You can do so by accessing their online portal:

We made reservations 20 minutes before we got there, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get a spot.

What Are The Parking Options At The Japanese Garden?

One thing I always complain about is a paid parking lot. I get it; it’s on a college campus, but still. CSULB requires a parking permit (I remember those days as a student. It was expensive back then and probably more expensive now!).

We parked at Lot G4 and paid $5 for 60 minutes. Yes, that’s 60 minutes to find the best picture to take of baby Quinn in the Japanese Garden.

I don’t know if I’m getting older, but back then, we would print out the parking ticket and place it on our car’s dash. At CSULB, they use License Plate Recognition (LPR) on campus.

What is The History of The Japanese Garden?

The garden was built in 1981 and is named after Earl Burns Miller. He was a CSULB professor and the first president of the Associated Students.

The garden spans 1.3 acres, which includes a koi pond, teahouse, bonsai collection, and much more.

Edward R. Lovell was the architect and designer of the garden. Loraine Miller Collins, the wife of Earl Burns Miller, selected Edward.

Collins had this to say about the garden:

“The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden at California State University, Long Beach, is a very special place. It was designed and built as a living memorial to my late husband, Earl Burns Miller, the first president of the Associated Students of CSULB. In planning the garden, we wanted to create a place on campus that would be beautiful and serene, where people could come to relax, reflect, and enjoy the natural world.”

And that’s exactly what it is. A beautiful, serene place where you can take a break from reality and appreciate nature.

How Can You Contribute to The Japanese Garden?

You can donate to the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden. It’s a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, so any donation would be to help with the upkeep of the garden, as well as to help with educational programming and events.

How Can You Volunteer At The Japanese Garden?

If interested, you can become a volunteer at the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden. As a volunteer, you would help with things such as leading tours, working in the garden, or helping with special events.

It’s a great way to give back and learn more about Japanese culture and the garden itself.

One of the perks of volunteering is that you get private membership privileges, also known as Friends of the Garden.

What Was The Overall Experience At The Japanese Garden Like?

Taking our daughter to her first Japanese garden in Long Beach was a great experience. It was something we’d do again, but perhaps one that’s a little bigger so we can fully enjoy it.

The one at CSULB is still worth checking out, especially if you’re a student or faculty member. And it’s free to get in, so that’s always a bonus.

I'm a professional marketer from Los Angeles, California. More importantly, I'm a brand new father who can't wait to take my beloved partner and daughter on all sorts of hiking trails. My mantra is that work will always be there, but watching your little one grow happens once in a lifetime.

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