Portland Japanese Garden

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Portland Japanese Garden
Portland Japanese Garden maple.jpg
Japanese Maple in the garden
Type Japanese garden
Location Portland, Oregon, United States
Coordinates 45°31′07″N 122°42′29″W / 45.51872°N 122.7080°W / 45.51872; -122.7080Coordinates: 45°31′07″N 122°42′29″W / 45.51872°N 122.7080°W / 45.51872; -122.7080
Area 5.5 acres (2.2 ha)
Opened 1967
Visitors 200,000[1]
Status Open to the public
Collections Strolling Pond Garden
Natural Garden
Sand and Stone Garden
Flat Garden
Tea Garden
Budget $2,980,000 (2010)[2]
Website japanesegarden.com
Wintertime vista

The Portland Japanese Garden is a traditional Japanese garden occupying 5.5 acres (22,000 m²), located within Washington Park in the west hills of Portland, Oregon, USA.


Flat Garden

The 5.5 acre Portland Japanese Garden is composed of five distinct garden styles.[3] As a Japanese garden, the desired effect is to realize a sense of peace, harmony, and tranquility and to experience the feeling of being a part of nature.[citation needed] In a deep sense, a Japanese garden is a living reflection of the history and traditional culture of Japan. Influenced by Shinto, Buddhist, and Taoist philosophies.

Three of the essential elements used to create the garden are stone, the "bones" of the landscape; water, the life-giving force; and plants, the tapestry of the four seasons.[3] Japanese garden designers feel that good stone composition is one of the most important elements in creating a well-designed garden. Secondary elements include pagodas, stone lanterns, water basins, arbors, and bridges. Japanese gardens are asymmetrical in design and reflect nature in idealized form. Traditionally, human scale is maintained throughout so that one always feels part of the environment and not overpowered by it. As Professor Tono wanted to incorporate native trees in the Portland Japanese Garden so that it would blend naturally with its environment, some of the plantings at the Garden are on a larger scale.[4]


The garden has five major sub-gardens, each a different degree of formality:[3]

  • The Strolling Pond Garden is the largest and contains multiple areas. In one, rocks built into the path are arranged as the Big Dipper constellation. There is a 100 year-old five-tiered pagoda lantern,[5] a gift from Portland's sister city of Sapporo with ornamental rocks forming the shape of Hokkaidō island and a red stone for Sapporo. Several ornate or whimsical bridges cross the creeks between ponds. There is also a handmade moon bridge.[5]
  • The Natural Garden has multiple ponds, waterfalls, and streams. Trees, shrubs, ferns, and mosses grow in their natural state.
  • The Sand and Stone Garden contains weathered stones rising from rippled sand suggestive of the ocean. The tranquil rake patterns are often present in karesansui (Japanese rock gardens).[5]
  • The Flat Garden is typical of urban garden design, but here it contrasts with the park's folds and contours. Raked white sand represents water and vividly contrasts with lawn, moss, evergreens, and azaleas.
  • The Tea Garden has two areas, each devoted to enhancing the tea ceremony: an outer waiting area and an inner garden surrounding the authentic tea house, constructed in Japan by Kajima Construction Company and assembled onsite in 1968.[5]

The Garden Pavilion was built in 1980 in Japanese style by local builders: it has a tiled roof, wooden verandas, and Shōji sliding doors. It is the center of several Japanese cultural festivals, art exhibitions, and other events.[6] The west veranda faces the Flat Garden, and the east veranda overlooks downtown Portland and Mount Hood, which resembles Mount Fuji.[7] Dozens of authentic stone lanterns are present throughout the garden. The lower entrance features a 100-year-old authentic temple gate, a 1976 gift of the Japanese Ancestral Society of Oregon.[5]

Garden guides receive eight weeks of training, including the history and symbolism of the garden.[3]

History and awards[edit]

Strolling Pond Garden

The garden was designed by Professor Takuma Tono, one of the most important Japanese landscape architects of his time. The garden was dedicated and design began in 1963, though the garden opened to the public in 1967.[5] The Portland Japanese Garden occupies 5 acres of Washington Park, a public park of the City of Portland. It is operated by a private non-profit corporation, the Japanese Garden Society of Oregon, which leased the site from the city in the early 1960s and whose members elect the trustees of the Society. Stephen D. Bloom has been the chief executive officer of the Japanese Garden Society since 2005.

In a study conducted in 2004 by the Journal of Japanese Gardening, it was ranked a very close second place out of 300 public Japanese gardens outside of Japan for highest quality.[8] The Japanese ambassador to the U.S., Nobuo Matsunaga, said "I believe this garden to be the most authentic Japanese garden, including those in Japan."[3] This is notable because a traditional Japanese garden normally takes hundreds of years to evolve and mature, but the Portland Japanese Garden evolved much more quickly—a fusion of hurried western style and stately eastern expression.


The garden adopted a plan on January 7, 2011, for garden expansion.[9] Plans include a new lower garden with a new admissions gate. A new garden will also be built in the place of the old admissions gate.[citation needed]

The last construction occurred in 1994 when the gift shop was built.


The Japanese Garden is close to Washington Park's main entrance, at the top of Park Place, just above and a short walk from the International Rose Test Garden. Parking can be scarce on sunny days, but TriMet line 63 stops nearby, as does the Washington Park Shuttle.

The Portland Japanese Garden is across from the tennis courts. Also, the Washington Park and Zoo Railroad has a station by the rose garden. During the summer, it connects to the Oregon Zoo, World Forestry Center, MAX, Portland Children's Museum, Oregon Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Hoyt Arboretum.

After a short ascent up the hillside one reaches the admissions gate. The Japanese Garden provides a shuttle from the parking lot for easier access to the gate. Handicap parking is also available at the top.

Even though located in a public park, there is a substantial admission fee (ranging up to $9.50 per adult as of 2014[1]).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Japanese Garden Portland - A Place Of Peace". Uniquely Portland. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  2. ^ "2010 Annual Report". May 10, 2011. p. 7. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Patrick Johnson. "Rest and repose in the Portland Japanese Garden". Oregon.com. Oregon Interactive Corporation. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  4. ^ Portland Japanese Garden website
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Portland Japanese Garden". The Oregon Encyclopedia. 
  6. ^ "Ishimoto Yasuhiro's Katsura at Portland Japanese Garden". PortlandArt.net. February 11, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Frommer's Review of Portland Japanese Garden". NY Times. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  8. ^ "North America's Top 25 Japanese Gardens". Sukiya Living Magazine. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  9. ^ "Garden Expansion". Portland Japanese Garden. Retrieved 2011-01-15. 

External links[edit]