Early History

Hakone - the Early Years


In 1915 San Francisco cultural leaders Oliver and Isabel Stine, inspired by both a lifelong interest in Japanese Culture and their travels throughout Japan, purchased 18 acres of Saratoga hillside to build a summer retreat for family and friends. Stimulated by displays at the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exhibition, Mrs. Stine traveled to Japan to gather ideas and when she returned home named her retreat after one of her favorite places in Japan, Fuji-Hakone National Park.


The garden began on a logged out hillside with a dramatic view of the "Valley of the Heart's Delight", as Silicon Valley was then known. It was designed in the style of the Japanese Edo Period (early 19th century) when hillside sansos, or country villas, were popular. All the classic elements of a hill and pond garden are found at Hakone, including a master stone, a worshipping stone, a guest isle, meandering pathways with centuries-old lanterns, and residential-style architecture popular with samurai.


Stine retained the finest Japanese builders and garden designers available. Renowned architect Tsunematsu Shintani was selected to design the Upper "Moon Viewing" House in 1917 and landscape gardener Naoharu Aihara, born to a family of Imperial gardeners in Koyobashi, Tokyo, designed the gardens. The Lower House was built in 1922.