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The Japanese Garden along Lake Caliraya (in Laguna) is a memorial park built by the Japanese government in the 1970s in order to commemorate the Japanese soldiers who died during the Second World War. According to some locals/legends, it is also the burial site of General Yamashita of the Yamshita treasure fame. An altar located at an elevated portion of the garden is usually visited by the Japanese; in this shrine/altar, they offer prayers and gifts to the spririts of the dead soldiers. According to the Laguna government website, the main altar/shrine is made up of marble and located in an elevated part of the garden. But I was not sure if I found the right one
The Japanese Garden may be a memorial park but it is open to the public as playground and picnic area at a minimal fee of PhP 10 per person. Tourists and guests can take leisurely strolls among its gardens (reportedly covering 11 hectares of land!); rest and eat at the picnic huts on the lower level of the park; or just appreciate the amazing scenery of Lake Caliraya and Sierra Madre mountain range.
We have been to Japanese Garden countless of times already. We especially apprecitate the fresh air/gentle breeze that seems to be in short supply in the lowlands. Kids and adults alike will enjoy having a race along the one hundred steps going up to the topmost elevation where you will be rewarded by an amazing sight of Lake Caliraya with a mountain as a backdrop.
When we went to Japanese Garden last October 2009, the ponds were muddy due to the recent storms that ravaged the region. However, aside from muddy ponds, almost all structures were intact as were the trees and plants.
If you plan to visit Japanese Garden, make sure that you have snacks/meals and drinks with you. There is a small store at the park but it is better if you bring your own just in case supply is short at the store (you won't find convenience stores nearby).
As Japanese Garden is located along Lake Caliraya at Bgy. Talaongan, Cavinti, Laguna (near Lagos del Sol Resort), it is better if you bring your own means of transportation (car, jeep, etc.) since there are few public vehicles that pass along the area; if a jeepney passes by, it is most probably already full of passengers. On the other hand, it's best if you stay overnight in a resort or campsite in Lake Caliraya so you can better appreciate its surroundings.
How to get to Japanese Garden (Lake Caliraya)
By commuting: Take a ride at the Sta Cruz-bound bus of HM Transit on EDSA Cubao or Green Star on LRT/Taft Ave. The bus will go through South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and will exit at Calamba tollgate. Get off at the terminal in Pagsawitan, Sta. Cruz, Laguna then ride a jeepney with "Lumot" signboard. The Lumot-bound jeepney will take you directly to Lake Caliraya/Japanese Garden. (Note: There are few public transport/jeepneys that descend from Cavinti/Lake Caliraya. Please consider this when planning your trip.)
By private vehicle:
Through South Expressway…
Take last exit to Calamba, turn right to Calamba Junction towards Los Banos all the way to Pagsanjan Church. Turn left passing through to Palacol Bridge going toward Barangay Bagong Silang and start ascend to Caliraya Lake.
From Edsa take Ortigas Avenue turn right at the first intersection after the Cainta junction towards Taytay. Following the main highway bound for Laguna pass through the eight municipalities of Rizal. Make a U-turn at Barangay Bagong Silang, Lumban to start ascend to Caliray Lake.
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