Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hakone Gardens and Kyoto Palace Restaurant

The weather was BEAUTIFUL here on Saturday (for January at least :-) at about 60 degrees so we decided to take advantage of it and do something outdoors. It ended up being our Japan themed day, since both places were in relatively the same area.

We first stopped at Hakone Gardens, which is the oldest Japanese Estate Garden in the Western Hemisphere. It was initially the personal garden and retreat of the Stein family who helped establish the San Francisco Opera. Mrs. Stein traveled around Japan for a year visiting their gardens and wanted to create one for her family in Saratoga, California. It is only $5 to visit the gardens and we were surprised by fairly large number of people visiting. I am sure that the gardens are much more spectacular when the Wisteria is in bloom but it was still quite lovely.

The gardens are perched on a hillside (the drive up is extremely steep- nearly straight up at times) but provides gorgeous views of the surrounding area.

They had a fairly extensive Bamboo garden that was fenced off to prevent local deer from devouring it

The landscaped area in front of the moon-viewing house was definitely the most picturesque

My favorite part was the four waterfalls

It was just a nice, relaxing day- but I would recommend going during the spring/summer time when more of the trees are in bloom.

I have been trying to get us out of our dining out rut- we tend to go to the same places over and over again. In an effort to expand our horizons, had a sale awhile back where you could buy $25 off gift certificates to local restaurants for only $2!! So, I bought several for San Francisco and Mountain View areas. Since Campbell is right next to Saratoga, we chose to head to Kyoto Palace which is a teppanyaki. Downtown Campbell is quite charming- neither of us had been there before so it was fun to walk around before our dinner reservation. We ate fairly early- 5 pm- and there were only a couple of tables that were filled. We actually ended up getting our own private show- aka no other couples were at our grill so it was almost like having our own personal chef. I was most impressed that he was able to flip an egg into the air and then perfectly crack it on the side of his spatula. The food was pretty much like Benihanna, but the meat portions seemed much more generous (to me anyways).

Poor William- he has to put up with my lacking chopstick skills. I have my own technique that works pretty well but William was trying to show me how to do it the proper way. Well, I was struggling with that, so much so that our waitress brought me special "trainer" chopsticks.

They have a paper wedged in between them and are wrapped in rubber bands. So embarrassing that she saw me struggling. It was quite easy to have proper technique with those but when I tried with separated ones, my hand easily tired and I kept losing proper position. I then went back to my old way but my hand were just too tired and so I just ate with my fork for the rest of the meal. William served his mission in Japan so he is quite dexterous with chopsticks so I am very glad that he is patient with me :-)

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