The Kubota Japanese Garden is amazing. I just returned from visiting my son and his wife in Seattle, and together with my husband they tolerated garden after garden with me during my visit. I had visited this garden last winter, but summer made it perfect.
The first place we visited was Kubota Japanese Garden. A (free) public park since 1987, it was started in 1927 by Fujitaro Kubota, a Japanese emigrant. Today, it is maintained as a public park by the Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Kubota Garden Foundation. Mr. Kubota emigrated to the US in 1907, and gradually acquired the land for the garden. It was maintained despite Mr. Kubota’s internment during WWII, and the garden survives today as a historical landmark of the city of Seattle. A 501(c)(3) organization maintains and preserves the garden. Kubota’s vision included opening the garden to the public and increasing American understanding and appreciation of Japanese Gardens. The non-profit foundation provides additional fundraising, volunteer work, and publications to support the garden.
What makes it japanese
The Garden contains all the elements of a traditional Japanese Garden. Those primary elements are wood, water, stone, and earth. “Wood” consists of all living plants. “Water” is ponds, lakes waterfalls, streams. “Stone” is both sand and stone. “Earth” is hills, berms, and paths. Also contained in a Japanese Garden is structure (a house, building or sculpture); bridges; and borrowed scenery. This garden has it all.
The water starts at a high point in the garden, flows downward through the garden in a series of ponds that contained large koi and lily pads. The paths were lined with mosses and ferns. Appropriately, the elevation of the garden constantly changes.
The garden contains pruned pines, firs and spruces skillfully trained to appear layered, arched, and weeping. Japanese Maple trees over-arching hydrangeas, azaleas, lilies, hostas, ferns and mosses create a balance of texture and color. The garden “borrows” scenery from poplars, firs and pines that are part of Seattle’s Pacific Northwest ambiance.
Notice the variance in colors and texture in these photos. Dark green contrasts with bright chartreuse. The weeping, lacy forms of the firs contrast with the solidity of the rock path.
Bridges and paths wind their way through the garden. Can you see the waterfall deep in shadow here?
why we love them
Japanese gardens achieve the balance between order and wilderness. They bring light out of shadow, and smooth textures resolve confusing, complex structures of Japanese Maples, ferns, and mosses. Solid formations of rock contrast with lacy wisps of firs and pines. Presence of structure amidst foliage creates a sense of stability. Order is achieved and peace is restored. Science has shown that our souls are soothed by just the sound of running water. Japanese Gardening has intuited these concepts, which we don’t even have to stop and think about. We can just enjoy the feeling of relaxation we get while visiting.
If you find yourself in the Seattle area, don’t miss this free gem of a piece of heaven.