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The Most Peaceful Place in Seattle, Washington

Greenery in the form of shrubs, grasses and trees stacks towards the sky in layers of radiating hues of green from a fading pale lime to a deep pine. The only break in the cascading layers of fauna is the sparkling blue of the ponds below and the pale shade of the sky above. That is the Kubota Garden of Seattle, Washington.

The garden is a full twenty acres of gentle hills and spreading valleys with streams, waterfalls, and ponds alike amongst the green plants and stacked rocks classically tied to Japanese gardens. The spot is a sanctuary of nature in an otherwise bustling stretch of cityscape in Washington state.

Upon visiting when I lived there, I was struck to find that every path just kept going on and on, winding through more and more turns of thick foliage that seemed to swallow up the pathway on the horizon and erase any memory of the city nearby.

Kubota garden walkway. Photo by Franki Hanke. 

Fujitaro Kubota, a 1907 immigrant from the island of Shikoku, Japan, is to thank for this natural haven. In 1927, he bought five acres of land in the Rainier Beach neighborhood and started the garden. In 1923, he started the Kubota Gardening Company. His goal was to display the beauty and nature of the Northwest in the Japanese style. More of his work can be found in the Seattle University campus gardens and the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island.

Over time, the garden continued to grow as Fujitaro bought more land and used the space as both a display example of his work and a nursery. Over the decades, more features were added to the garden, from a natural stream and pool, to rocks to create the mountainside feature with waterfalls, carved stone and reflection pools. The mountainside element required over 400 tons of stone.

Slug on a stone, close up. Photo by Franki Hanke. 

The amount of work done in stacking and carving rocks to create the vision of the park is inherent in the sheer distance the park seems to have from the city so close. The pathways weave in and out of the landscape like a visitor is in a world apart.

After 45 years, the Japanese government awarded Fujitaro with the Fifth Class Order of the Sacred Treasure. He died the next year at 94 years old, but his garden remains as both a slice of natural beauty in Seattle and a peek into Japanese culture.

Now the space is owned by the City of Seattle and maintained by the Department of Parks and Recreation (along with many volunteers) while additional land around the core property is owned by the Open Space Program for protecting the Mapes Creek and ravine.

In a city that is growing rapidly and awake with flickering lights long into the dark, cold evenings, the Kubota Garden is a breath of nature and a portal into another land entirely through the intersection of Washington’s native plants and Japan’s classic style. For hipsters and visitors alike, it’s the most peaceful place in Seattle, Washington for sure.

Franki Hanke, or Francheska Crawford Hanke for long, is a student at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in English with a Professional Rhetoric focus and Digital Media Arts. She writes weekly for The Oracle (as a senior reporter) and Hamline Lit Link (as managing staff). Her work has also appeared in Why We Ink (Wise Ink Publishing, 2015), Piper Realism, The Drabble (2017), Canvas (2017), Oakwood Literary Magazine (2017), and South Dakota Magazine.
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