Hakone Gardens (Saratoga, CA)

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Located in Saratoga, California Hakone Gardens may very well be the oldest residential Japanese garden in the entire Western Hemisphere. Created by two patrons of the arts from San Francisco the garden was designed and the buildings were built by local Californian Japanese-American landscape architects and architects in 1915. The first building built was the Moon Viewing House that is seen in the photos below but additional buildings were added later by Isabel Stine and later owners.
The Moon Viewing House was built using a style of architecture preferred by samurai and in my opinion the garden is also designed with a kind of energy that is incredibly active making the garden feel lyrical. Compared to meditation gardens, and other kinds of serene Japanese gardens, which are also included, it really made the whole setting symphonic and we lingered there for a lot longer than we’d planned.
The garden was purchased by the city of Saratoga in 1966 because Hakone had fallen into such disrepair. Since that time, luckily, it has been restored.
Now for the best part, if you have seen the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), you have already seen the garden a little bit since it was used as a filming location. I unfortunately do not remember the movie well enough to tell you any more than that though.
It is a beautiful garden, and unlike other gardens I have visited. The fact that if overlooks Silicone Valley is rather charming too.
(PS: Hakone Gardens is also possibly connected to the famous fortune cookie debate. If you were unaware that they were originally made by Japanese Americans, you should read more about it. It is a pretty funny food history and I love tales that get people so wound up.)
The common houseplant Variegated Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum Variegatum).
Moon Viewing House.
Amazing Weeping Japanese Maple.
Amazing Weeping Japanese Maple.
Amazing Weeping Japanese Maple.
Native Californian Arctostaphylos. The red back and the yellow green of the bamboo contrast nicely.
Tea House.
Moon Viewing House.
Master Stone.
Garden protector.
This is great joinery.
Entrance to Moon Viewing House.
I cannot recall right now what this was officially called, but it was the most amazing part of our visit.
From inside, each of the opening worked perfectly to frame the garden as if you were looking at art on the wall.
This design technique is something we in the West have tried to master too but the Japanese garden is not complete until you have completed this effect.
The light was bright, but everything lined up perfectly to please the eye.

Tomorrow I will post scenes from Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco. As for today, I’m off to see my old friend the Pacific Ocean. I plan to send my happy thoughts to Japan while I collect agate stones along the beach for our garden. It will be a nice way to spend the last two days of my vacation before returning home.

One thought on “Hakone Gardens (Saratoga, CA)

  1. wow..this is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and your pictures certainly captured its essence…those weeping Japanese maples are almost unreal…

    Like

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