The Japanese Garden was inspired by widespread fascination with Asian culture in the west at the beginning ot the 20th century. Japanese gardens were a popular feature at world's fairs and expositions of the time, including the World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago 1893), Louisiana Purchase Exposition, (St. Louis 1904) and Panama–Pacific International Exposition (San Francisco 1915).
It was also a popular feature in the estates of many wealthy Americans, including Henry Huntington who was able to acquire many of the garden’s plants and ornamental fixtures from a property in nearby Pasadena that had failed as a commercial venture. Purchased in its entirety by Huntington, the materials also included the Japanese House. The moon bridge, commissioned by Huntington, was built by Japanese craftsman Toichiro Kawai.