I have wanted to go to Kubota Garden for many years now. We actually tried to go once, but it was on Mother’s Day and let me just say, “Do yourself a favor, stay away from gardens on Mother’s Day.” It was so crowded that we left and I kind of forgot about Kubota Garden, until recently, when something reminded me that I wanted to go there. I thought Dora would enjoy going there, so I typed “Kubota Garden” into Google to get the address. Well, imagine my surprise when Google suggested that I try “Kubota Garden haunted”! According to Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Seattle (referring to the Heart Bridge in Kubota Garden):
When walking over this bridge from west to east, sensitive visitors may feel the rush of unseen men running past them as if they are being chased. The sensation is not detected when walking east to west. One psychic described the men as short, dressed in black or dark Asian clothing, and wearing small cloth hats. These spirits are frightened, but they dash across the bridge in silence.
There is no record of civil disturbance taking place in the Kubota Garden. But in the early days of World War II, Japanese living in this neighborhood – including the Kubota family – were rounded up by military police and loaded on trucks destined for internment camps in Idaho. The sadness and horror of that experience may have created an energy vortex isolated at the Heart Bridge.
Obviously, as an educated and enlightened individual, I immediately dismissed this notion with a quick snort of laughter, but still, every time I planned to head out to Kubota Garden, I found myself saying things like, “Oh, it’s too rainy” or “Dora is too tired” and so forth. Then last week, we happened to be exiting the freeway, when right before me was a sign stating that Kubota Garden was 1.5 miles away! Of course, I still went to our intended destination and dilly-dallied there. When all was done, however, I had no excuse, other than irrational paranoia, to not go to Kubota Garden. It was sunny and clear, not too hot, not too cold. In other words, a perfect day to explore a beautiful 20-acre garden!
Kubota Garden was built by Fujitaro Kubota, an emigrant from the Japanese island of Shikoku. Fujitaro Kubota was a self-taught gardener, who installed many gardens throughout the Seattle area. Originally, Kubota Garden served as his family home, his landscaping business’s office, and his design and display center. Thanks to the Kubota family’s generosity, the garden also served for many years as a center for cultural and social gatherings for the Japanese community in the Seattle area. The garden was abandoned for four years, while the family was interred, but Fujitaro and his sons rebuilt it soon after the war. In 1981, the garden was declared a historical landmark. In 1987, the City of Seattle acquired the garden from the Kubota family. It is currently maintained by gardeners from the Department of Parks and Recreation and many dedicated volunteers.
Kubota Garden is nothing like the Japanese Garden in the Seattle Arboretum, which completely surprised me. Kubota Garden does not have all the Japanese maple trees that I usually associate with Japanese gardens. Plus, there is much more natural vegetation and winding trails in Kubota Garden. My best guess as to why Kubota Garden is so different, comes directly from the garden’s website, which states that Fujitaro Kubota “wanted to display the beauty of the Northwest in a Japanese manner”. The site does not say that he wanted to recreate a Japanese garden in the United States, instead he wanted to use Japanese design principles to work with the landscape that is native to the Pacific Northwest.
Dora and I really enjoyed Kubota Garden. I loved following the smaller trails, which were often hard to find and entailed walking through forest overgrowth which resembled “tree tunnels and caves”. Dora loved jumping over the river stones, playing under the giant wooden umbrella, and running up and down the Moon Bridge, which symbolizes the difficulty of living a “good life” – “hard to walk up and hard to walk down” (they aren’t kidding about the “hard” part, the bridge looks normal, but when you start to walk up or down it, it is amazingly steep, though not dangerously so).
I’m also happy to report that, though we crossed over the Heart Bridge in both directions a number of times, we neither saw nor felt any evidence of the garden being haunted!
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