For most of us, autumn is over. Oh, there is still some color on the trees around here, but leaves are falling at an alarming rate…assisted by copious amounts of rain. That’s how we roll. As I write this the cat is sitting in front of the sliding door watching the rain, swiveling his head as maple leaves fall from the trees. He, being a fair-weathered feline, is happy to watch from the comfort of the indoors.
I am a fall fiend. The colors, the pumpkins, the comfort food. The comfort food. I always briefly mourn the passing of summer, but I do not mind the slide into the rainy season. I am a quintessential Pacific Northwesterner.
Two weekends ago, before we tipped into November, I asked the husband to join me on a little outing to Kubota Garden. Somehow, in all of the years I’ve lived here, I’ve never visited this Japanese Garden in South Seattle. Perhaps because I wasn’t on Instagram until this year. Because it was the repeated photographs of vibrant maples in this garden cluttering my feed that compelled me to visit.
We elected to go up on Sunday rather than Saturday because, well, I-5 traffic in the greater Tacoma, Seattle, Everett, Bellevue, Auburn (the list goes on…) now sucks on Saturdays, too. It used to just be Monday through Friday. Now it atrociously sucks Monday through Friday and somewhat sucks on Saturday. Good times.
The one event we had to keep in mind on Sunday was the Seahawks game. Because there’s always something. And, there’s nothing like a Seahawks game to clutter the freeway with rabid fans, flags fluttering, grills smoking in the back, heading to the stadium where they will roar and scream and stand out in the rain for…what is it? six hours for a game these days?…to see their beloved team win. Or lose.
I’m happy to report that we were able to beat the traffic and arrived at the garden around 9 am. There were already cars in the lot, but not too many.
Rather than attempt to explain the history of the garden in my own words, I’m going to borrow straight from the Kubota Garden website (www.kubotagarden.org). It’s not plagiarizing if I put it in quotes and give credit where credit is due.
“In 1927 Fujitaro Kubota bought five acres of logged-off swampland in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle and began his garden. A 1907 emigrant from the Japanese Island of Shikoku, he established the Kubota Gardening Company in 1923. Fujitaro was a man with a dream. Entirely self-taught as a gardener, he wanted to display the beauty of the Northwest in a Japanese manner and was soon designing and installing gardens throughout the Seattle area. The gardens on the Seattle University campus and the Japanese Garden at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island are public examples of his work.
As Fujitaro’s landscaping business prospered, his Rainier Beach garden grew to include twenty acres. It was the family home, the business office, the design and display center. And nursery to grow plant materials for the gardens installed by the Kubota Gardening company. The family was very generous in sharing access to the garden, and for many years it was a center for social and cultural activities for the Japanese community in Seattle.
In the thirties, a natural stream was enclosed in a pool and surrounded with maple, pine, iris and stone. In the forties during the Second World War, the garden was abandoned for four years while the Kubota family suffered internment at Camp Minidoka in Idaho. Fujitaro and his sons, Tak and Tom, rebuilt the landscape business after the war and began extensive plantings of nursery stock. Many of these nursery areas are still present today. In the sixties, Fujitaro placed over 400 tons of stone to create the Mountainside with featured waterfalls, reflection pools, carved stones and the plants that he had worked with throughout this life.
In 1972 the Japanese Government awarded Fujitaro Kubota with a rare honor, 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.” Fujitaro died in 1973 at age 94. He had always hoped that the garden would one day be open to the public, both to enhance the quality of life in Seattle and to increase America understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture.
When the 20-acre property became a target for condominium developers, community groups encouraged the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board to designate the 4.5-acre core area of the garden as a Historical Landmark. In 1981 the American-Japanese Garden created by Fujitaro Kubota was declared to be an Historical Landmark of the City of Seattle.
In 1987, thanks to the efforts of many dedicated individuals, the City of Seattle acquired the garden from the Kubota family. The garden is now maintained by the gardeners of the Department of Parks and Recreation and many volunteers. The Open Space Program of the City of Seattle has purchased approximately twenty-eight acres of land adjacent to and around the garden to remain as a natural area protecting Mapes Creek and the ravine.”
It is a stunning garden. We spent about two hours wandering the paths. And the color? Exquisite. This will be a place that I return to each fall. And, I’m curious about what it looks like in spring, too.
I’m glad, also, that we arrived relatively early. By the time we left there were tons of people wandering about and the streets surrounding the garden full of cars. We relinquished our primo parking spot to a lucky late-comer and contemplated lunch. Wandering the grounds of Kubota had made us hungry for…Qdoba.
Happy wife, photo card full of stunning colors, happy husband, belly full of mexican, we made our way home. A good time was had by all.