The Amazing Akao Herb And Rose Garden In Atami, Japan And Are We Nearly There?…..
The Amazing Akao Herb And Rose Garden In Atami, Japan And Are We Nearly There?…..
When we got off the train in Atami, we looked around and felt a bit perplexed as to why we had decided to travel there.
Without a doubt, this very popular seaside town looks a bit worn and washed out.
The area is very steep and hilly, and the green hills are full of huge resorts overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
But the downtown is lined with empty stores, and shops selling mostly old fashioned clothes and cheap household items.
The shops do not seem to attempt to lure any tourists.
Atami’s popularity as a seaside resort and hot spring town seems to be slowing down.
In the 1980’s Japan experienced an economic bubble.
In those days of extravagant spending, Atami used to be a busy weekend getaway from Tokyo.
Atami, which is only an hour by train from Tokyo, was highly popular amongst the locals as a destination for business retreats.
To cater to this surge in corporate demand, huge resorts sprung up in the area.
These concrete sprawling structures, perched on the hills of Atami, give the perception that Atami is much larger than its 40,000 population.
The economic bubble did not last more than ten years, and Atami’s popularity as a weekend indulgence for corporations ended.
Japanese businesses simply couldn’t afford to continue spending on luxury employee getaways.
Consequently, Atami experienced a significant decline, although it is still somewhat popular as a short getaway for Tokyo residents who come to the seaside to escape from the concrete city.
But with the availability of low cost airlines like Peach, people nowadays can fly to more remote and exotic and beach destinations for very little.
Atami is certainly a shadow of its former self, but since we have not been here before, we can only rely on what we see and feel around us.
We made our way to our hot springs hotel on the hills.
The hotel has fabulous indoor and outdoor baths, and the room we reserved was spacious, with a nice seating area.
We spent two nights in Atami, and by the time we left, we had a great time and felt that we could have enjoyed another day.
We did not have time to visit the Plum Tree Garden, nor any of the museums in the area.
Our walk around the Ginza area, the main shopping street and the beachside, was not so memorable, but the marina was nice and the Pacific Ocean was very blue.
We found a beach cafe that made us good cheese sandwiches with fries, and we continued our walk along the pier.
On our second day, we decided to visit the Akao Herb and Rose Garden and to have lunch in the Italian restaurant inside the gardens.
We decided to walk from our hotel to the gardens.
Like I mentioned before, the area is very hilly, and we had to climb up and then back down a very steep mountain before we neared the gardens.
Along the way we noticed a white stupa on one of the mountain tops.
It was a Buddhist temple, and we walked to see it along the way.
It was a lovely Indian temple with great views of the sea.
The stupa was inlaid with stone carvings and four golden images of the Buddha.
There were lions beside each image.
In one set of carvings, I saw an old couple on a long pilgrimage, climbing up, supporting themselves with walking poles.
I had a feeling that this old couple was Jules and I, struggling up the mountains on a pilgrimage.
Spontaneously, I told Jules:
“Look at us there, still struggling up the mountain.”
“Wow, it really looks like us, but they are using hiking sticks, which we never use.”
“Yes, but we had gotten very old, still searching for ascension….. we now needed the poles…. look how old we got…”
Suddenly Jules said in an optimistic tone of voice:
“Yes…But look how close we are.
We are right below the Buddha!
We are really nearly there!”
I looked at the stone carvings and saw that he was right.
The two old pilgrims were indeed right below the seated Buddha and so very close to the accomplishment of their goal….
I was grateful for his optimism.
It really cheered me up.
Becoming disheartened or indulging in self-pity is one of the biggest wastes of our spiritual powers that a person can do.
It is an obstacle on our way of progress.
Anyone indulging in self-pity has, at least momentarily, lost his way towards the light.
When I find myself indulging in self pity, I immediately turn it into counting my blessings and expressing my gratitude.
Gratitude is the song of the soul, and it will lift any individual into joy and light, no matter what her condition is.
The most important thing is to be aware when you find yourself slipping into self pity, and then to quickly correct it.
I do it by noticing that I no longer feel so good, and then asking myself what is bothering me.
From the stupa, we went down a very steep road towards the ocean.
The rose garden entrance was at the end of this steep descent.
We were thirsty and a bit hungry from our strenuous walk, so we first sat at the Italian restaurant to have lunch.
We had a herb pasta and a herb salad.
They also served herbal loose teas from the herbs they grow in the garden.
After lunch, we paid the garden admission fee, which was larger at this time of the year, because all the roses were in full bloom.
Every year for one month only (mid May to mid June), the roses are all in full bloom, creating a tantalizing experience of colors, shapes and heavenly scents.
It is one of the leading rose gardens in the world.
We have never seen or walked inside a better rose garden anywhere in the world.
This garden boasts 4,000 rose bushes of 600 varieties.
Some of the roses were in the shape of round tennis balls.
Some had three centers and many had colors I have not seen before.
On top of the rose-covered hill, there is a cafe designed by world-famous architect Kengo Kuma, who also designed the new National Stadium in Japan.
Huge pine tress have been planted on the forested hills, as well as many arbors, rose tunnels and climbing vines of wild roses to enjoy and to walk through.
The garden is large and it is spread out on a very steep mountain side, overlooking the Pacific.
There are many stairs to climb to reach the different elevations, and beautiful walkways among the rose bushes.
There were lots of people walking around, but nothing detracted from the wonderful experience.
In fact, after the coronavirus scare and the stay at home request, it was nice to see people out and enjoying themselves.
I was experiencing pure joy, smelling the air so fully scented with the aroma of roses, and adoring the beauty surrounding me.
At the top of the hill, we sat in the beautiful cafe and had mini cheese cakes and coffees.
While sitting in the cafe in this beautiful garden overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean, we noticed a house perched on the cliffs.
We talked about how we once desired so many earthly things.
We have learned from our own experiences what the real cost is of having too many houses and possessions.
Once, we so wanted a beautiful modern house overlooking the sea.
We bought and renovated two houses in a scenic part of New Zealand.
We renovated them with native exotic woods and a European modern kitchen, beautiful furniture, a sauna, an art studio and everything else we wanted and more.
After enjoying it for a few years, we realized that what we loved most was to have free time and to roam the world, with very few possessions and on foot.
Suddenly, needing to fly to NZ twice per year for a few months, to take care of a garden and house, seemed like such an obligation, not so much of a fun life.
We would go after the long winter, to find that everything needed our care, despite paying for a gardener and a house keeper.
We would work in the garden and do house maintenance for most of the time we were there.
A house or a boat is a major obligation, requiring effort, money and time.
Time is such an asset.
It is the freedom to go anywhere you want and stay as long as you want, instead of needing to spend your time caring for a property that stands empty for most of the year.
It was getting late in the day and when we left the garden, it started to rain.
We decided to take the bus back to our hotel instead of getting wet, as we had not brought our umbrellas with us.
We had a really fun time in Atami, a city that at first glance looked a bit washed out, with paint peeling on the buildings.
We enjoyed the hot springs in our hotel, the rewarding mountain climb and this stunning rose garden.
Before going to sleep, I looked on the internet for a rose flowered summer dress.
Perhaps I wanted to remember the magic I felt in this garden, and bring a little bit of it home with me.
But no fabric design that I saw captured the glorious roses that I saw today.
That night I kept my conscious awareness at the moment of falling asleep.
It felt as if I had fallen backwards into an ocean of soft and multi-colored roses.
I was just pure energy, suspended in the softness of the roses, until my consciousness drifted off to sleep.
With love and tenderness,
Tali and Jules