On the Garden Path: Portland Japanese Garden

Japanese garden in Oregon harmonizes with nature

Tea Garden

Peaceful Place: Subtle plantings suit the calmness of the Tea Garden.

Laura Davidson

Content Tools

“A Japanese Garden is not only a place for the cultivation of trees and flowering shrubs, but one that provides secluded leisure, rest, repose, meditation, and sentimental pleasure. … The Garden speaks to all the senses, not just to the mind alone.” – Professor Takuma Tono, designer of the Portland Japanese Garden

The Portland Japanese Garden offers garden lovers in the Oregon city Far Eastern beauty right in the Northwest. Through plants, stones and water, beautiful and serene areas emerge to harmonize with nature. Five garden styles, each ideal for meditation and contemplation, make up the more than five-acre attraction.

Garden styles

In the Flat Garden (Hira-niwa), the most formal of the gardens, deep evergreen foliage contrasts with white sand, which has been raked to represent water. The area’s plantings and seascape of sand evoke each of the four seasons.

The largest of the gardens, the Strolling Pond Garden (Chisen-kaiyu-shiki), features an antique, five-tiered pagoda lantern as the centerpiece. A wisteria arbor leads visitors to the lantern, which was a gift to Portland from Sappora, its sister city in Japan, in 1963.

The garden also features the Moon Bridge, which takes visitors over the Upper Pond, where crane sculptures huddle. A creekside path leads to the Lower Pond, where visitors enjoy watching the more than 50 koi swimming around. Another attraction in the garden is the Zig Zag Bridge, which wanders through beautiful iris beds.

Plantings in the Tea Garden (Roji-niwa) are not showy, because nothing should detract from the calming aspect of the ritual of tea. Two small gardens line the path to the Tea House (Kashin-tei). The Tea Garden is a garden within a garden, in which everything has a purpose.

Ponds, waterfalls and shallow streams meander under small bridges in the Natural Garden (Shizen-shiki-niwa), where trees, shrubs, ferns and mosses grow naturally. This garden is symbolic of the spiritual journey of life. Visitors enjoy the carved-stone, roadside guardian figure, Jizo, whose job is to protect those in need.

Last but not least is the Sand and Stone Garden (Karesansui-niwa), which is the most abstract of the gardens. It reveals the simplicity of weathered stones rising from raked sand. This style of garden is generally found in Zen monasteries.

For more information visit the garden’s Web site, www.JapaneseGarden.com.