Hakone Japanese Gardens
Neil Wiley

Not every hike must be a challenge. Sometimes it’s good to stroll, saunter, amble, ramble, or just mosey along. Here is an easy walk that your family might enjoy.

A walk to tranquility
Hakone Gardens in Saratoga offer unique peace and beauty. You can hike a quarter-mile from Big Basin Way up to the gardens or drive up to a parking area near the entrance. You’ll soon find yourself in a different world, a place where ancient traditions reshape nature into a formalized design and where small details have large meanings.

The plants convey this tradition. Artfully pruned Japanese maples, hinoki cypress, black pines, and other conifers were imported from Japan between 1915 and 1917. Large specimen oaks, madrone, and California laurel were here before the garden, but giant redwoods, maples, and other trees were added. Smaller California holly, California lilac, buckeye, and elderberry fill the surrounding slopes. Exotic bamboo was imported from Japan and other countries. These plantings provide ever-changing foliage, color, and form.

Paths wind through four gardens: hill and pond, zen, tea, and bamboo. You walk around the large pond filled with colorful koi, up to a gentle waterfall, and to many vista sites and restful pauses. It is a short walk through 18 acres of traditional beauty filled with historic buildings, plants, stones, and lanterns. It is a short walk worth taking.

The garden is located at 21000 Big Basin Way in Saratoga. It is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It opens one hour later on weekends. Fees are $5 for adults, $3.50 for seniors and students 5 to 17 years old, and free for children 4 and under. For more information, visit www.hakone.com.