When the Chinese Saved Hakone From Development

The Transformation of 1961

Hakone was purchased in 1961 by a partnership including the families of Joseph and Eldon Gresham of Saratoga, the prominent San Francisco families of George Hall, John Young, and John Kan, and the important Palo Alto family of Dan Lee.


Hakone was well taken care of by this partnership, especially by the Chinese-American families who had a special reverence this type of Japanese garden. In 1966 the partners sold the beautifully restored Hakone to the City of Saratoga for all to enjoy and to keep the gardens safe from development.


The City then hired Tanso Ishihara, a Kyoto-trained Japanese garden specialist, who enhanced the gardens' classical Japanese design, constructing the camellia hillside and high trails, and restoring the ponds, waterfalls and pathways. Working with renowned Japanese architect Kiyoshi Yasui, a 14th generation architect to the Imperial Household, Ishihara developed a master plan for expanding onto the surrounding 18-acre site.