What’s 47 miles south of San Francisco, encompasses 18 acres, has koi in the pond and is celebrating its 100th birthday? If you haven’t yet discovered the tranquil Hakone Estate & Gardens in the pretty town of Saratoga, Calif., you’re in for a treat. Long before anyone gave a thought to computers, Hakone Gardens has overlooked Silicon Valley and is now on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the oldest Japanese estate, retreat and gardens in the Western Hemisphere.
It wasn’t always clear that Hakone Estate & Gardens would survive to see its centennial. Inspired by the beauty of San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition to announce the city’s rebirth, Oliver and Isabel Stine fell in love with the Japanese pavilion.
Peter Stine explains that this was a “real inspiration to my grandmother to become a part of Japanese culture and to bring that here to this site to develop the gardens.” As Oliver Stine was a busy and prominent San Francisco real estate executive, the couple were in a position to purchase 17 acres in Saratoga, Calif. A trip to Japan (chronicled through the diary of their 10-year-old son) was undertaken to acquire authentic furniture and a skilled garden consultant, kicking off Isabel Stine’s dream project.
Following a long history of private ownership, nurturing and care by a succession of families, Hakone Estate & Gardens, under the stewardship of the City of Saratoga, is currently looked after by The Hakone Foundation. The two-year period from 2015-2017 marks the commemoration of a century’s worth of illustrious history for Hakone.
Today, Hakone is a place (a map is seen here) of harmony and tranquility featuring a Cultural Exchange Center of historic artifacts, peaceful interiors and glorious exteriors including a moon bridge over the koi pond, waterfall, Zen Garden, Bamboo Garden and Tea Garden. They offer docent-led tours, traditional tea ceremonies in tatami mat rooms, kimono wearing demonstrations, origami and storytelling, photo shoot days, Shamisen concerts and cultural festivals which showcase ancient civilizations, including Lunar New Year and Spring Festival.
Open throughout the year, Hakone Gardens welcomes everyone (general admission is $10). The venue at 21000 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, Calif. has parking and is available for special occasions such as birthday celebrations, anniversaries, retirement parties, memorial services, graduation parties and corporate retreats.