Hakone: Polishing A “Hidden Jewel” In the Silicon Valley

One of the oldest of its kind in the Western hemisphere, the Hakone Japanese Estate and Gardens in Saratoga, CA is entering a new phase in its century-old existence with the creation of a new masterplan.Hakone’s Executive Director and NAJGA member Shozo Kagoshima recently shared his thoughts with NAJGA about the masterplan.

NAJGA: Can you tell us about the circumstances that led to the creation of a new masterplan for Hakone? 

SK: The main reasons for coming up with a master plan were the preservation of a rare treasure, improving the visitor experience for both public visitors as well as private events, and to ensure that Hakone would be able to sustain itself for another 100 years and beyond.

Hakone UpperHouseMoonBridge

NAJGA: What are the highlights of this new masterplan and who are collaborating with the garden to make it happen? 

SK: The City of Saratoga commissioned the masterplan and the Hakone Foundation is working cooperatively with the City. The Portico Group out of Seattle, WA was selected as the consultant for the masterplan project. They have experience working with Japanese gardens such as Hakone, including the project currently underway at the Portland Japanese Garden.

There are four phases planned for the project. The first phase involves repairs to the pond and filtration system, and grading of pathways for accessibility. The second phase involves the addition of a new Visitor Services area, including new entrance, gift shop and restrooms, tea cafe and new landscaping. The third phase is regrading the parking lot for a better slope and accessibility, and the fourth phase will be the possible addition of a new event center to hold larger groups indoors year round.

Hakone Master Plan_ Site Plan

NAJGA: What is your projected timeline for implementing this masterplan?

SK: The masterplan was presented to the Saratoga City Council in late August this year and was unanimously approved. The environmental report will be the next item that will be worked on. From here, a plan for fundraising must be created, and building and landscape architecture must be selected to come up with formal designs and drawings for the project. There is no definite timeline as of yet as fundraising will be key to the project.

Hakone gateNAJGA: Part of the garden’s stated mission is enriching the culture of the Silicon Valley, which is one of the most economically vibrant areas in the whole continent. Can you tell us how the garden will continue to find its place in the Silicon Valley community? 

SK: Hakone has been a “hidden jewel” for a long time. We are in the process of creating a campaign to make Hakone more visible to the local community, as well as out-of-town visitors looking for sight-seeing opportunities. We will focus on Hakone’s historical status and cultural connections such as tea ceremonies and festivals.

NAJGA: Aside from the masterplan, what are the other priorities for the garden of the present management and board of trustees at present? 

SK: Sustainability. Creating a stable funding source through increasing attendance, memberships, and the donor base are top priorities.

Hakone garden staff
Hakone garden staff. (From left) Jesus Chiprez, Jeffrey Hallenbeck and Jacob Kellner.
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Hakone: Polishing A “Hidden Jewel” In the Silicon Valley