Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mrs. Stine's garden

Some 25 years ago, when I was exploring my new homeland, I came across Mrs. Isabel Stine's garden on highway 9. Mrs. Stine — often referred to as Mrs. Oliver Stine — is better known as the patron behind Gaetano Merola, the founder of the San Francisco Opera. In fact, Puccini's Madama Butterfly (the most-performed opera in the U.S.) had its West Coast premiere in Mrs. Stine's garden. Oliver and Isabel Stine also financed the construction of the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

It was at this exposition, that Mrs. Stine fell in love with the Japanese tea house. The same year she bought the 18 acre property on highway 9, in Saratoga.

During my first visit, I was not impressed by the garden, with its buildings infested by termites and mother Nature clearly having the overhand on the gardeners, with the formal Japanese garden almost disappeared in the wild Santa Cruz Mountain vegetation. Therefore, I never returned, until recently.

I was surprised by the restoration. The garden was taken over by a foundation, which expanded on Mrs. Stine's construction achieving an almost complete formal Japanese garden. The foundation built a new Cultural Exchange Center (CEC), which is rented out for executive retreats.

Although the garden is strictly Japanese, its is used for various ethnic events, showcasing the multi-cultural amalgam of the Silicon Valley. For example, this year it hosted a Chinese New Year festival, while next year it is planning a Nowruz festival for the Persian New Year.

I do not know why it has been named Hakone Garden by Mrs. Stine, because it does not evoke Hakone (elevation 410 m) to me. In fact, to me the view of Silicon Valley from the CEC terrace (elevation 130 m) is more evoking the view of Kyoto (elevation 40 m) from a terrace of a restaurant in a formal Japanese garden along the Philosopher's Walk.

This is a view from the CEC:

View of Silicon Valley from the terrace of the CEC at Hakone Garden, Saratoga

This is a view from a restaurant in Kyoto (at right is Mrs. Nonaka, see next post):

view from a restaurant terrace on the Philopher's Walk

But then, everybody has their own experiences. Evoking is also the source at the restaurant in Kyoto

source at the restaurant in Kyoto

and that at the upper tea house in Saratoga's Hakone garden (note the effect of climate on vegetation):

Source at Hakone Garden

which is used

Getting water at the source

for tea ceremonies (茶道 , sadô)

Small tea house at Hakone Garden

Speaking of tea, Hakone Garden has also a larger tea room:

Middle Tea Room at Hakone Garden

In fact, the entrance to this tea room

Entrance to the middle tea room at Hakone Garden

reminds me to a similar view on the Philosopher's Walk:

Entrance to a store on the Philosopher's Walk in Kyoto

Some more images from Hakone Gardens in Saratoga:

Hakone Garden, Saratoga

Hakone Garden, Saratoga

Hakone Garden, Saratoga

Hakone Garden, Saratoga

Hakone Garden, Saratoga

Hakone Garden, Saratoga

Hakone Garden, Saratoga

Hakone Garden, Saratoga

Hakone Garden, Saratoga

(to be continued)