The tranquility and elegance of the gardens at Hakone beautifully express the Japanese ideal of the garden as a space in which art and nature merge seamlessly. The cultivation of nature in miniature dates back to the introduction of Buddhism to Japan in 538 AD. Thus began the tradition of transforming a garden into a blissful dwelling place to experience timeless beauty.
Hakone is made up of a variety of hillside gardens, historic buildings, multi-tiered waterfalls and koi ponds, strolling gardens, unique lanterns, stonework, and many other elements of Japan's ancient civilization. The harmonious location of plants, stones, waterfalls, and ponds are the essence of a Japanese garden and offer sublime beauty in all seasons. Hakone has four principal gardens.
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The Hill and Pond Garden
The Hill and Pond Garden was created for strolling. The pond is set on the slope from which a waterfall drops into the lake below. This garden, completed in 1918, is the heart of Hakone. As you stroll the twisting paths surrounding the pond, you will discover the power of aesthetic form underlying the enchanting views. The natural stone borders and the reassuring sounds of the running water are broken by the fanciful stones standing in midstream near the waterfall.
The Zen Garden
The Zen Garden is a dry garden primarily for meditation viewing: it is never entered. One contemplates the raked pattern of gravel and large stones that represent water and islands. Accents at Hakone include a shrine lantern, a black pine tree, bamboo and moss. After years of careful cultivation, a tiny compact bed of mosses provide a gentle green bed for the stones.
The Tea Garden
The Tea Garden path provides a soothing, tranquil journey over moss and stepping stones. Guests participate in a transforming realm of beauty and elegance as they purify their hands at the tsukubai, or water basin before tea ceremony. Enclosed for privacy, this cool serene enclosure of delicate plant life prepares visitors to enter the tea ceremony rooms.
The Bamboo Gardens
This longstanding garden has been the recipient of much tender loving care. The Bamboo Society has been caring for the garden for many years. They began receiving very special, fragile, and highly prized bamboos from Yasui in Japan in 1985. Volunteers built a USDA-approved greenhouse near the old concrete water tank at the top of the garden. Some of the bamboo came from local gardens in Saratoga and Los Gatos, while other specimens have been donated from other parts of California, Japan and around the world.