Nature Notes: Appreciating Culture and Nature

November 2013
By Minako Nishiyama

I came to the U.S. last summer from Japan to complete a Master of Science program at San Jose State University. Several friends told me that there is a beautiful Japanese garden in Saratoga and recommended I visit.

So I went to Hakone Gardens in October. Hakone is the oldest Asian garden in the Western Hemisphere and is comprised of 18 acres of magnificent architectural and botanical beauty.

They also offer many cultural experiences such as tea ceremonies and annual festivals. When I went there, I noticed the stillness and peacefulness of the garden. Bamboo trees were sighing in the wind, and a waterfall was flowing calmly and silently. Then I was attracted to the beautiful colors of orange and red leaves. Yes, autumn is here.

In Japan, seasons play a very important role in our culture. Our admiration and respect for nature and seasons have been expressed in various forms of arts and in our daily lives. We eat different kinds of food called shun-no-tabemono as the season changes from spring to summer, and autumn to winter. We also have different kinds of cultural festivals in each season. We feel changes of the seasons through these rituals. 

Today, thousands of cultures are disappearing along with the degradation of natural environment. To protect nature is to protect cultural diversity. I want to learn more about cultural diversity in the U.S. and I want to appreciate it with our children. When I enter classrooms for Environmental Volunteer services, I am always surprised to see a diverse group of children. Meeting people from different cultural backgrounds is a treasure, especially for these youth.

Hakone Estate & Gardens

Photo taken by author.