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The Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon: Spectacular Views

Our two-week Oregon vacation was fantastic, making us wish to someday see more of this most scenic of states in the beautiful northwest.

Portland Japanese Garden, Portland, OR

Portland Japanese Garden, Portland, OR

Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden of Portland, Oregon, is in Washington Park, and if one wishes to find serenity, this beautifully designed garden will provide the perfect place.

Professor P. Takuma Tono was the designer of Portland's Japanese Garden. He is internationally known as an expert in Japanese garden designs, and the one in Portland ranks at the top in authenticity.

Vacationing one summer with my mother and niece, we had hoped to escape some of Houston's summer heat. We planned a trip to Oregon, which is in the Northwest part of the United States, thinking that we would enjoy some cooler temperatures for our two-week stay. Alas! A headline in The Oregonian, the Portland, Oregon's newspaper, said the following, on August 4, 1987: "August sun roasts Oregonians..."

Despite some record-breaking heat, we started our sightseeing and were delighted to find the soothing and restful grounds of Portland's Japanese Garden. Walking through a garden filled with artistically placed rocks, plants, and trees of varying heights and color hues, shimmering fish in the tranquil ponds of water, and other discoveries was so enjoyable that we almost forgot the heat.

In order to comprehend the beauty of a Japanese garden, it is necessary to understand - or at least to learn to understand - the beauty of stone.

— Lafcadio Hearn

Strolling Pond Garden

There are five distinct garden styles within the Japanese Garden, and the Strolling Pond Garden is aptly named.

Wandering through this Strolling Pond Garden, which is the largest of the five gardens within the Japanese Garden, the water reflections bounce back distorted images of the surrounding plants, rocks, and even passing clouds in the sky. It provides the subject matter for plein air painters or photographers who wish to freeze some of these delightful images in place for remembering later.

The bridge pictured in some of my photos in the Strolling Pond Garden is called The Moon Bridge and is a typical Japanese design. The crane is a typical sculpture found in Japanese Gardens no matter where in the world the gardens are located. It seems to fit in nicely with this aquatic setting.

The Flat Garden

In gardens like this, the raked sand has patterns symbolizing waves in the sea. There is not a footprint seen by the people who carefully instill these designs into the sand.

This Flat Garden was next to the Garden Pavilion, of which I did not take a photo. The Pavilion is the site for Japanese-type events as well as Society functions. It is not typically open to the public. On the east side of the Pavilion, a panoramic view of Portland and the gorgeous snow-capped Mount Hood is in the view from this elevated position.

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The Natural Garden

In this portion of the garden, one discovers small waterfalls splashing into streams of water with colorful fish swimming in the company of one another.

Trails lead one under native trees, which form a protective canopy of shade for the ferns and mosses which thrive in this environment. Other colorful shrubs and flowers, plus the occasional sculpture, add punctuation marks to this serene setting.

Other Areas

The other two gardens are called the Sand and Stone Garden and Tea Garden.

Visiting Portland's Japanese Garden is a treat for the senses and would offer a variety from season to season. I can imagine the gorgeous colors of the azalea bushes in the spring of the year or the multitudes of irises in bloom in early summer and the spectacular colored fall leaves which would adorn this garden! Winter, of course, would serve up its pristine beauty.

Portland's Japanese Garden sits on only five and a half acres which is not particularly large. One can linger, perhaps even meditate in all of the various settings within this invitingly scenic garden. We, however, were on a tour of the city, and my mother, niece, and I had to keep up with our tour group in moving throughout the grounds.

Please enjoy these photos and the videos in this article.

The Japanese garden is a very important tool in Japanese architectural design because, not only is a garden traditionally included in any house design, the garden itself also reflects a deeper set of cultural meanings and traditions. Whereas the English garden seeks to make only an aesthetic impression, the Japanese garden is both aesthetic and reflective. The most basic element of any Japanese garden design comes from the realization that every detail has a significant value.

— E. J. W. Barber


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Peggy Woods

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