Zen Spot

In bustling Japantown, a hidden garden is the perfect place to relax.

In the heart of San Francisco’s Japantown, it can be hard to find those moments of peace that Japan is so famous for. Ramen joints and coffeehouses attract crowds, and the Japan Center is full of shoppers browsing the latest fashion from Tokyo’s Harajuku.

Yet a few yards away, the waterfall at Hotel Kabuki’s garden trickles into a koi pond. Large, curiously shaped rocks are laid among pebbles and a torii, or Japanese gate, marks this as a sacred place. A winding path leads past maples, pines, ferns, and varieties of low-lying shrubs. Exhale. Reflect.

The garden is the work of landscape architect Kimio Kimura, famous for his work on the Bay Area’s Hayward Japanese Gardens, one of the premier examples in the country. Kimura’s aesthetic veers so much from traditional teachings that his style has earned its own name: “Kimurascape,” perfected in the 1970s. His approach is to shape a garden more like an artist would, rather than letting nature call the shots. In a Kimurascape, trees are tamed rather than permitted to grow as they would in natural light.

Even if you’re not staying at Hotel Kabuki, these principles make it a very calming place to wander for a mini break from life.

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