My Mom has a green thumb. She has her own magic of making sure that the ground is fertile and healthy, helping plants grow to bear fruit and flowers. Although I do not have a thumb as magical as hers, I do share her love for nature and gardens. I thought of her when my Dad, our relatives, and I went to Hakone Gardens in Saratoga Hills in California last July 4, 2017.
I appreciate how the Japanese view gardens: the elements are not just for aesthetics, but there are also philosophical ideas behind them. This is probably why I felt so peaceful, strolling around the area, going through the bridge over the pond, and passing through paths with tall trees, bamboo, and flowering bushes.
It was before lunch when we arrived, as you can see from the sharp, harsh, and dark shadows in the photographs below. Still, I hope you appreciate the beauty of Hakone Garden through these photos.
There is much care and detail the organization and the community have devoted to preserve this garden.
Besides reminding me of my Mom, being in this garden reminded me of an animated movie by Makoto Shinkai, The Garden of Words or Kotonoha no Niwa.
I was specifically reminded of the tanka in the movie.
“Narukami no sukoshi toyomite
Ame mo furanu ka?
Kimi wo todomemu.
Narukami no sukoshi toyomite
furazu to mo
“A faint clap of thunder
Perhaps rain comes
If so, will you stay here with me?
A faint clap of thunder
Even if rain comes not
I will stay here
Together with you.”
Hakone Garden inspired these feelings within: there was romantic energy as much as there was a serene one, but I felt the serene one more. Walking along this place is like an inward journey towards our souls.
This place called me to relax, to reflect, to be.
It was an authentic experience of Japan here in the West. (However, I still plan on visiting Japan with my family or friends someday!)
According to a plaque in the historic building called the Cultural Exchange Center in Hakone, the building is an authentic reproduction of an early 1800’s Kyoto-style tea merchant’s house named En So En, which was located in Yawata City in Kyoto.
Arch. Kiyoshi Yasui, devoted in traditional Japanese buildings, designed and built the Center in 1992. He even had all the materials like the artifacts and ornaments flown from Japan. The plaque honored Mr. Yasui, along with Dr. Morihito Nagai, who generously provided a significant portion of the funding for the Center.
The last thing that Hakone Garden reminded me of was a novel I liked as a child (and a movie too!): Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. Although Hakone is not a secret garden, it still feels like it had a particular magic within, waiting to show itself to a person willing to see beauty in everything.
“One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands out and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun–which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with the millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in someone’s eyes.” – Frances Hodgson Burnett
After our garden stroll, my family and I had sushi before finding a spot where we could watch the fireworks for the 4th of July.
I made a vlog about our visit to Hakone Garden, by the way! You may know more about my thoughts about our visit there through it.
All photographs and videos were shot with Fujifilm X10.