Osaka Garden on Wooded Island in Jackson Park ... My favorite public spot - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Osaka Garden on Wooded Island in Jackson Park ... My favorite public spot

Osaka Garden view with the Museum of Science and Industry to the north

Many of Chicagoland’s most cherished public spaces are tucked away in the hearts of neighborhoods, known only to a lucky few. This summer, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) want to shine a spotlight on these special places across Chicagoland through the “What Makes Your Place Great? Your Secret Corner of Chicagoland” contest.

From June 2 through July 26, 2010, entrants can e-mail original photos or videos showcasing their favorite undiscovered public places across Chicagoland, along with a 250-word-or-less description, to The four chosen winners will win a prize package that includes passes to the Brookfield Zoo, Shedd Aquarium, Chicago History Museum, or CAF – and the chance to be featured in a CAF tour this fall. 

To get your creative juices flowing, MPC staff will be profiling their favorite spaces throughout the summer. To enter your own favorite space, read the complete contest guidelines at

Oh, how I hesitate to share!  My favorite public space in Chicago is a hidden gem.  Tucked inside Jackson Park—to the south of the Museum of Science and Industry and the park’s lagoon—is Wooded Island.  Also known as Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary, the island is a lovely spot to walk or bike while keeping your eyes peeled for interesting birds and plants.

While on Wooded Island, follow a bridge on the north side of the lagoon and you will be on the path to Osaka Garden.  Entering this Japanese garden is like stepping into another world for a short time.  The atmosphere is serene and the views are simple yet stunning.  When I enter the garden, my shoulders drop and my breathing deepens.  The energy there encourages park adventurers to … relax!  On any given day, you might see visitors meditating, practicing martial arts, taking photographs, or simply sitting alone to read, sometimes walking and talking quietly with loved ones.

Osaka is currently maintained by the Chicago Park District.  Since its creation more than a century ago for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the garden has been through many waves of neglect and care.  In 1995, the garden was officially named for Osaka, Chicago’s Japanese Sister City.

The Garden's theme, from 1893 to the present, is peace—between humans and nature, within people, with the spiritual realm, and between peoples.  This theme certainly comes across to me when I take a few minutes to reflect in the garden.

As a south east side resident, I appreciate how much green space we have to enjoy.  It is one of the many perks of living in South Shore and one of the ways my husband and I experience our community…with neighbors who utilize our parks for recreation.  At least, for as many months of the year as possible!  So, what's your favorite public space?

MPC and Placemaking Chicago are grateful for the generous contributions of our sponsors and donors: The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Prince Charitable Trusts, and Perkins+Will.


  1. 1. Karin on June 19, 2010

    Can't wait to check it out!

  2. 2. ruth marz from Plainfield Ill. on June 10, 2012

    Extremely difficult to find this place Drove from Plainfield, Ill. over 1 hr. and was very disappointed. Would never recommend it to anyone.

  3. 3. Matt from Chicago on August 31, 2012

    It's not really a tourist trap for suburbanites like say, Millenium Park, it's a secluded part of a beautiful city park. This is a place for those of us who live here. A nice respit of nature if you're visiting say, the nearby Museum of Science and Industry, but hardly worthy of a 1-hour drive by itself.

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