0712 Park City - garden Park
Image: Will Austin

The Garden Park

Kubota Garden
9817 55th Ave S, Seattle

This 20-acre Japanese garden, operated as a city park since 1987, forms a testament to perseverance and an inspiration to the self-taught everywhere. Fujitaro Kubota, who began building it in 1927 as a demonstration garden for his landscaping business, once told an interviewer his only official training had been an introduction to botany in a night class. But he had a superb instinct for the harmony of plants, water, landforms, and bridges, and he worked tirelessly on it until his death in 1973. It hardly matters whether the plant compositions are “correct” in the classical Japanese idiom; the important thing are the feelings: grace, harmony, and serenity. And thanks to its profusion of color, Kubota Garden is that rare park that’s beautiful on 
a gray, drippy day.

In the early 1980s, a developer threatened to overtake the garden with a 450-unit condo project. Rainier Beach residents arose in a fury, and in the end the city declared it a historic landmark and bought it from the Kubota family for the public to enjoy for free.