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Japan in Seattle

Posted by Johnine Larsen on March 28, 2018
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Two Japanese Gardens are tucked away in Seattle—islands of tranquility amid the city’s bustle and development. Their peace and harmony feel priceless.

Kubota Garden


The 20 landscaped acres of Kubota Garden hides in South Seattle near the Rainier Beach neighborhood. Kubota Garden mixes traditional Japanese gardening with local Northwest plants in a beautiful display of streams, waterfalls, ponds, valleys, hills, bridges, and rocks.

The history of this place dates back to 1927, when Fujitaro Kubota bought five acres of logged-off swampland. A self-taught gardener, he had established a horticultural reputation for himself. In addition to what would become his namesake garden, he designed and installed the gardens at Seattle University and Bainbridge Island’s Bloedel Reserve. But in those early years, Kubota Gardens served as more than a beautiful, peaceful space—it was the site of his family’s home, the office for the Kubota Gardening company, a nursery for his business’ plants, and a center for social and cultural activities for Seattle’s Japanese community.

During the Japanese internment of World War Two, though, the gardens suffered. The Kubota family was interned at Camp Minidoka in Idaho, and the gardens lay abandoned for four years. After that dark period of U.S. history, the Kubota family thankfully returned and continued to maintain and expand Kubota Garden.

Kubota Garden has received numerous public recognitions. The 1972 government of Japan awarded Fujitaro Kubota the Fifth Class Order of the Sacred Treasure, “for his achievements in his adopted country, for introducing and building respect for Japanese Gardening in this area.” Almost a decade later, it was his garden was designated a Historic Landmark by the city of Seattle.

Today, gardeners from Seattle’s Department of Parks and Recreation and a host of volunteers maintain the garden.

9817 55th Ave. S
Seattle, WA 98178

6 a.m. – 10 p.m.


Seattle Japanese Garden

Smaller than Kubota Garden, Seattle Japanese Garden occupies only 3.5 acres in the Arboretum. Nevertheless, the formal garden is one of North America’s most highly regarded Japanese-style gardens. More than 100,000 visitors from more than 30 countries walk through the grounds each year.

Seattle Japanese Garden is a “stroll garden,” a style developed in Japan’s late-16th and early-17th centuries. A path winds around a central pond, and visitors walk through a variety of landscapes while circling the pond: microcosms of mountains, forests, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, islands, and the sea. The garden is meant to be explored slowly, with plenty of time to appreciate the detailed design and curation. Every item in the garden is deliberate, from the mix of traditional Japanese plants and PNW natives, to the granite rocks that were meticulously sourced from throughout the Cascade Mountains.

Seattle Japanese Garden has comforted visitors since 1960. Originally planned and installed by renowned landscape designer Juki Iida, the gardens continue to reflect a traditional Japanese style.

1075 Lake Washington Blvd E
Seattle, Washington 98112

Noon – 6 p.m. Monday
10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday (open until 7 p.m. in the summer)

Adults 18-64: $8
City of Seattle residents with ID: $6
Youths 6–17, Senior Adults 65+, College students with ID, & Disabled: $4
Children 0-5: FREE
On the First Thursdays of the month, admission is FREE for all visitors from 3 pm until closing.