Seattle, known for its lush greenery and appreciation for nature, is home to several stunning Japanese gardens capable of transporting even the most stressed visitor into a world of tranquility and zen.
As you embark on a journey to discover these serene oases, you’ll find a perfect blend of traditional Japanese landscaping and Pacific Northwest charm. It’s a must do to be added to any bucket list while staying at a Seattle Vacation Home. Let’s dive into the lush world of the best Japanese gardens in Seattle.
The History of Japanese Gardens in Seattle
You might be wondering why there are so many Japanese gardens in Seattle. There are several reasons why this is the case.
Seattle has a long-standing history of cultural exchange with Japan. During the early 20th century, Japanese immigrants played a significant role in shaping the city’s cultural landscape. Their influence is still visible today, and Japanese gardens serve as a symbol of this historical connection. You can continue your exploration of this history at the Japanese Cultural Community Center or Seattle Asian Art Museum.
Sister City Relationship
Seattle has had a sister city relationship with Kobe, Japan, since 1957. It’s actually Seattle’s oldest sister-city initiative! This relationship promotes cultural understanding and exchange between the two cities, leading to the creation of Japanese gardens as a way to showcase and celebrate Japanese culture in Seattle.
Aside from gifts for the gardens (more on that below), the two cities share their cultures via jazz festivals, high school exchanges, and more!
Japanese gardens often serve as community gathering places and offer educational opportunities to learn about Japanese culture, gardening techniques, and Zen philosophy. Visitors and locals alike are drawn to the tranquility and beauty of these gardens, making them valuable assets for the city’s tourism industry.
Overall, the presence of numerous Japanese gardens in Seattle can be attributed to the city’s historical ties with Japan, the appreciation for nature and aesthetics, and the desire to create spaces for cultural exchange and relaxation within the urban environment. These gardens are a testament to the enduring bond between Seattle and Japan and reflect the city’s commitment to embracing and celebrating diverse cultures.
When is the Best Time to Visit Seattle Japanese Gardens?
Seattle’s Japanese gardens provide an ideal setting for both relaxation and exploration. But when is the best time to visit these gorgeous gardens? The answer depends on what you are looking for.
Spring is a wonderful time to visit Japanese gardens in Seattle, as the trees and flowers come alive with vibrant colors and fragrances. Sakura (cherry blossom) trees are especially beautiful during this time of year–it’s almost as if you’re walking through sweetly smelling snowflakes!
The warm days of summer see the gardens come alive with lush greenery. The blooming of hydrangeas adds a splash of color to many of Seattle’s Japanese gardens, making it a great time to take photos and observe nature up close.
Fall marks the start of Seattle’s rainy season, adding another soothing ASMR layer to the gardens. The changing colors of the leaves and plants create a blazing landscape perfect for contemplation and relaxation.
Winter in Seattle is relatively mild compared to other cities, so don’t let the cold weather put you off from visiting Japanese gardens! The stark contrast between the barren trees and the vibrant colors of the evergreens make for an interesting sight.
Six Must Visit Japanese Gardens Around Seattle
1. Seattle Japanese Garden
- Website: seattlejapanesegarden.org
- Address: 1075 E Lk Washington Blvd, Seattle, WA
- Hours: 10:00-18:00
The Seattle Japanese Garden is nestled within the Washington Park Arboretum and offers an authentic Japanese landscape featuring meticulously pruned plants, a picturesque pond with koi fish, and a teahouse.
Stroll along the serene paths, cross the iconic Moon Bridge, and find peace amidst the carefully designed scenery. They also host seasonal gardening workshops, educational programs, and festivals throughout the year! Visit the garden website to view its events calendar.
Pro Tip: The Seattle Japanese Gardens offers daily guided tours at 12:30 pm while in season.
2. Kubota Garden
- Website: kubotagarden.org/aboutus
- Address: 9817 55th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118
- Hours: 7:30-20:00
The Kubota Garden, a 20-acre urban oasis, showcases a marriage of Japanese and Northwest gardening styles. Curated by garden designer Juki Iida, this formal garden will transport you to Tokyo.
Meander through streams, waterfalls, and a rock garden. The garden was a vision of Fujitaro Kubota, who wanted it to be a public space. In the 1970s, the family asked the City of Seattle to buy the garden but was refused. Then, in the late 1980s, developers wanted to buy the property and build condos. But the community fought back! They convinced the City to buy the garden in 1987, thanks to Councilwoman Jeanette Williams.
The community formed the Kubota Garden Foundation in 1989 to partner with the City and ensure the whole garden would be preserved, just like the Kubota family wanted.
3. Kobe Terrace Park
- Website: seattle.gov/parks/allparks/kobe-terrace
- Address: 650 South Main St, Seattle, WA
- Hours: 06:00-10:00
This hillside in the International District is a picturesque oasis. Mt. Fuji cherry trees and winding pathways create a stunning landscape. A magnificent four-ton Yukimidoro stone lantern, gifted by Kobe, Japan, adds to the enchantment.
As the name Yukimidoro means “View of the Snow,” this garden perfectly captures the beauty of Mount Rainier in the distance (and makes it a must-visit in the winter!). This park offers a delightful space for contemplation, observation, and leisurely strolls.
The lower part of Kobe Terrace is the Danny Woo Community Garden, which consists of small plots of vegetables, herbs, and flowers that community residents maintain.
4. Bloedel Reserve Japanese Garden
- Website: bloedelreserve.org/japanese-garden
- Address: 7571 NE Dolphin Dr, Bainbridge Island, WA
- Hours: 10:00-17:00
This Japanese garden should be on your list if you take the popular and accessible day trip from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Only a 30-minute ferry ride from Seattle, Bainbridge Island is your gateway to exploring the sprawling 150-acre reserve featuring a beautifully designed Japanese garden.
Stroll through tranquil landscapes, meadows, and forests, all carefully curated to evoke a sense of harmony and balance. The Bloedel Reserve’s Japanese Garden has been recognized as one of the top gardens in North America by the Sukiya Living Journal’s annual ranking.
One of the distinguishing features of Bloedel’s Japanese Garden is the Sand and Stone Garden, located in front of the impressive Japanese Guest House. Make your way down the winding path and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere!
5. Yao Garden
- Website: bellevuebotanical.org/the-gardens
- Address: 12001 Main St, Bellevue, WA 98005
- Hours: 06:00-20:00
Step into a serene oasis as you pass through the traditional Japanese gate into this captivating garden. A harmonious blend of Pacific Rim influences awaits, with elegant Japanese maples and rugged basalt from the Columbia River standing side by side. You can walk underneath enchanting Japanese lanterns while vibrant azaleas steal the spotlight alongside magnificent rhododendrons and viburnums.
After your walk, you can visit Copper Kettle Coffee Bar in a unique mid-century home that has been transformed into a key architectural feature on the garden’s highest point. Along with various coffee beverages, they also offer Sweet Alchemy ice cream and a selection of delicious plant-based dishes.
6. Japanese Garden at Point Defiance Park
- Website: metroparkstacoma.org/point-defiance-park-gardens
- Address: 5400 N Pearl St, Tacoma, WA
- Hours: Dawn until dusk
If you explore a bit south of Seattle, Point Defiance Park, located in Tacoma, Washington, is a beautiful natural enclave that showcases a harmonious balance of nature.
The park features a world-class zoo, stunning beaches, picturesque hiking trails that meander through ancient cedar and Douglas fir forests, and lush rhododendron thickets.
The Japanese garden within the park is abundant with azaleas, rhododendrons, Japanese cherry trees, crabapple trees, and various types of pines. Additionally, the garden is enhanced by an oriental footbridge, a serene waterfall, Japanese lanterns, and a quaint “tea house.”
Honorable Mention: Weyerhauser Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection
- Website: bonsai-nbf.org
- Address: 2515 South 336th St, Federal Way, WA
- Hours: 10:00-16:00
Although not technically one of the Seattle gardens, this bonsai collection has to make it onto the list! This collection houses one of the most significant public bonsai displays outside Japan. About a 30-minute drive from Seattle, you can explore this collection of over 60 tiny trees.
The bonsai collection features diverse trees from Japan, China, Korea, and other countries. It highlights the skill and intricate techniques used in bonsai cultivation, appealing to enthusiasts and newcomers.
The collection is carefully maintained year-round, making it a popular destination for visitors. Explore the beauty of these miniature trees and learn about the art of bonsai in the serene setting of the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden.
Find Your Zen in Seattle’s Japanese Gardens
In the vibrant city of Seattle, the Japanese gardens offer a haven of serenity and natural beauty, perfect for anyone seeking a peaceful escape.
From the elegance of the Seattle Japanese Garden to the hidden gems like Kubota Garden and the artistic beauty of the bonsai collection, each garden promises an enchanting experience.
Whether you visit during the cherry blossom season, the fiery fall, or any time in between, these Japanese gardens will leave you with a sense of tranquility and appreciation for the wonders of nature.
Book your Seattle getaway today!