San Jose native Shozo Kagoshima has spent his life working at Silicon Valley institutions, first at the Winchester Mystery House and now as executive director of the Hakone Estate and Gardens in Saratoga. Kagoshima joined the Hakone team in the midst of the garden’s centennial celebrations for the Stine and Tilden families, which purchased and established Hakone as a symbol of Japan in the Silicon Valley.

Name: Shozo Kagoshima

Occupation: Executive Director of Hakone Estate and Gardens

How long have you lived/worked in San Jose?

I was born and raised in San Jose. I grew up in Saratoga and graduated from San Jose State.

What made you want to stay in San Jose and pursue your career?

I worked at the Winchester Mystery House in high school and kept working there part-time. When I graduated, I  got a full-time position and stayed there for 35 years. In 2015, I began working for the Hakone Foundation when I saw an opening for an executive director. The opportunity came up and I decided to pursue it. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country and the Bay Area is probably one of the best places to live.

What do you like most about San Jose?

The climate, for sure. It’s nice year-round with no extreme highs or lows and there’s a lot of activities to do within a close proximity. You can get to the beach in an hour or the mountains in four hours.

What is one one thing you would change about San Jose?

I’ve seen San Jose grow, going from orchards to high tech—and with that comes traffic. I think that’s everyone’s complaint, along with high housing and the cost of living. If traffic could be less congested and affordable housing, that’d be nice.

What San Jose event do you most look forward to every year?

I love the start of baseball season. I was born and raised as a San Francisco Giants fan, so I like to follow the Giants and see them beat the Dodgers

How do you like to hang out when you’re not working?

I belong to the Los Gatos Cigar Club and have been a member since 1998, when it first opened. It’s a nice place to just hang out, relax, be with friends.

What do people value most about the garden?

The beauty and tranquility. It’s nice to leave the Valley and come here to the peace and quiet. When I get here in the morning, I can hear the birds chirping. The garden is so beautiful, no matter what season, and it just leaves a good feeling. It’s a great place for people to come, get away and get a piece of Japan without having to travel to Japan.

What is your favorite part of the garden?

The pond area with the koi fish, moon bridge, waterfall and flowers with all of their beautiful colors. I make time to get out from behind the desk and go out in the gardens and just take in all the beauty.

What is your favorite event that Hakone puts on?

Our biggest event is the annual matsuri in May. Last year was my first one and there were quite a few people here to celebrate Japanese culture. It’s a fun opportunity and it’s a free event for the public which draws the large crowds.

Do you have a most treasured moment or story while working at the garden?

Seeing the kids as they are feeding the koi. They are all excited to have an opportunity to feed the fish, and the fish come close to the kids. They’re enthralled by that. It is their first opportunity experiencing a Japanese garden.