Statement on Osaka Way Renovation Project

February 6, 2024

Fountain surrounded by cobblestones

The Estate of Ruth Asawa is generally supportive of the current efforts to renovate Osaka Way in San Francisco’s Japantown. It is our understanding that the current design proposals are far from final, and that:

  1. Asawa’s cobblestone design will be mapped out prior to temporary removal and replaced as it was in a way that is ADA accessible with cobblestone or very similar material.
  2. The existing wooden benches with the concrete panel bench ends and the cobblestone seating around both fountains will remain with slight adjustments made to the cobblestone seating to make them ADA accessible.
  3. Most importantly, the Origami Fountains will be returned to working order in consultation with fountain experts.
  4. The refinement of the design will take place with our estate’s input over the course of the next year prior to the start of construction.
  5. There will be a clear plan and funding in place to ensure that the fountains and all of Osaka Way is cared for in the future.

Based on our many meetings and hours of conversations with the planning team, our family has every reason to believe that great care will be shown to preserve the different elements of Ruth Asawa and Rai Okamoto’s design.

In our research, we found that changes were made to smooth portions of the cobblestone river with Asawa’s approval in the 1990s, and that she was aware that additional upgrades to the cobblestone river may be necessary at a later date.

As some of you may know, Ruth Asawa’s public art practice was both community focused and inclusive, and while we cannot speak for Asawa herself because she is no longer with us, we believe she would support The City’s efforts to make the cobblestone walkway ADA accessible in the best interest of the Japantown community. There are other cases, including her insistence on a parking garage at the deYoung museum in Golden Gate Park for seniors and people with disabilities, where Asawa advocated for increased accessibility.

In recent weeks we’ve had the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the historic landmark designation process– something we would be open to supporting in the future. For now, however, our focus remains on restoring the fountains to working order and preserving the other elements of Asawa and Okamoto’s design.

Our family thanks the Japantown community and those individuals working tirelessly behind the scenes for their support and hopes the fountains are flowing as Asawa intended in the very near future. We hope the planned renovations make Osaka Way an inclusive gathering space for both San Franciscans and tourists alike.

The Estate of Ruth Asawa