We are all influenced by our life experiences. Some experiences change the direction of our lives. Such is the origin of this authentic Japanese garden built by Oliver and Isabel Stine. The 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition had such an impact on this San Francisco couple that Mrs. Stine spent most of 1916 visiting Japanese gardens in the Fuji-Hakone National Park region of Japan. Where many of us would be content to bring back souvenirs of such a trip Mrs. Stine brought back an architect and landscape architect to design the 18 acre estate and garden in complete authenticity.
Hakone garden is identified as a Hill & Pond style garden created for strolling and enjoying the changing views of the garden. The garden pamphlet states “the first documented Japanese garden plan was made in 618 after the introduction of Buddhism in the fifth century A.D.” The placement of plants, stones and water are essential for a harmonious experience in Japanese gardens. The now nearly 100 year old garden is a National Trust for Historic Preservation site. The upper Moonviewing House and lower Zen Garden house are original buildings on the property.
The Stines had the resources to design, build and enjoy this wonderful garden for a number of years. Then as with all unique treasures time changes the course. Rarely is the inspiration and passion of the garden creator, Isabel Stine matched by those that follow. The expense and maintenance of this garden passed through several arrangements coming to the city of Saratoga in 1966. Today a separate foundation and connections with Japan continue to preserve this garden.
The garden is beautiful, peaceful and engaging. Escaping traffic you drive up a steep hill to reach the garden. You can explore the bamboo (Kizuna-En) garden, walk through a wisteria pavilion, around the koi pound and to the Moonviewing House. The shades of green and the abundant shade make this a destination on a hot summer day. The garden railings, the setting all seem fragile but this reminds you of how rare this garden experience is in this present day.