Our spring break stay-cation this week included a trip back in time and a visit to Japan all in one. On the recommendation of our friend Laure (aka Frog Mom), we set our GPS for Saratoga’s Hakone Gardens to soak in what turned out to be a glorious spring day. Hakone Gardens, established in 1915, is an authentic replica of Japanese Samurai or Shogun’s estate garden, designed by a descendent of a storied imperial gardening family. Nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains, just a few minutes beyond Saratoga’s quaint downtown, it’s a truly wonderful place to stroll, hop across stepping stones, and feed the koi — and to let your imagination fly.
Among the garden’s most exquisite features are the Moon Viewing House, constructed using a traditional technique that uses no nails, twisting canopies of wisteria, and groupings artfully sculpted trees. Kids will love the pond’s flock of brightly colored koi, waterfalls and hilly paths to climb. Samurais did not design their gardens with strollers in mind, so if you visit with a very little one, be sure to bring a backpack carrier or plan to get your workout in by hoisting your little squirmer around the garden.
Lucky for us our spring visit also coincided with cherry blossoms in full bloom, buzzing bees, and tender new shoots in every shade of green. In Japan the cherry blossom season is called Sakura and Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) picnics and parties are festive (and I hear raucous) affairs. According to tradition however, the delicate blossoms also provide a reminder about the fleeting nature of time. I certainly felt the preciousness of the moment, of sharing a perfect spring day together. But I think Luca probably put it best when he said “mom, this day is great– especially if we can get frozen yogurt afterwards.”
If your longing for Japan lingers, try one of our favorite Japanese recipes here at casa Stacie, “Harumi’s 3 Topping Rice” or make a trip to San Francisco’s Japantown for a bite of handcrafted mochi at Benkyo Do and a shopping spree at Nijiya Market.