Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Portland's Japanese Garden

The term "Pacific Northwest" is used with reference to the geographical region between the Pacific Ocean in the west and Rocky mountains on the east.  Oregon and Washington states of the United States of America and British Columbia province of Canada form the core geographical areas of the region.  Sometimes even Alaska and the northern mountainous regions of California are also included in this term.  The area has bountiful natural beauty with the Pacific ocean on the one side and the coastal mountains, Cascade range, Olympic mountains, Columbia mountains and the Rocky mountain range on the other.  The Mount Rainier National Park with the 14,410 feet high Mount Rainier in the Washington Cascades is one among the many tourist attractions in the area.  Columbia river that runs through the region and joins the Pacific ocean has cut a deep and wide gorge around the rim of the Columbia plateau and created many beautiful tourist spots.  It is said that after Mississippi, more water flows through this river in the entire country. Vancouver BC, Seattle and Portland are the major cities in the Pacific Northwest. Water bodies, hills and rich vegetation have made the area attractive to visitors. Many man made monuments and attractions have enhanced the places of tourist interest.

"Japanese Garden" in the city of Portland, Oregon is one such man made attraction for the tourists. Pacific Northwest has a large Japanese population and Portland is one of the centers that attracted Japanese in big numbers since the last decades of 19th century. Sapporo city in the Japanese island of Hokkaido is the sister city of Portland, Oregon. The Japanese Garden in Portland is made and supervised by the Japanese Garden Society of Oregon on a Not-for-Profit basis.  Proclaimed as the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan, the garden is formed in the west hills of the city of Portland. Spread over an area of 5.5 acres, the natural hilly slopes provide the setting for the garden.  The five distinct garden styles that constitute a typical Japanese Garden are blended here to give the desired effect of realizing a sense of peace, harmony and tranquility. The garden generates a feeling in the visitor of being a part of nature.  The garden aims to provide a living reflection of the history and traditional culture of Japan.

The layout of the garden is influenced by the Shinto, Buddhist and Taoist philosophies. The visual compositions of stones, water and plants provide a higher blend of aesthetic sense than meets the eye. The three essential elements of a Japanese garden are harmonized to provide the composite experience to the visitor.  Stones form the bones of the landscape with water acting as the life giving force.  The third element, plants, provide the tapestry on which the multiple colors of the seasonal flowers provide the final dimension.  Stones are used to give shape to the layout with well laid pathways and Pagodas, stone lanterns, water basins completing the visual effect.  Size of these visual aids is maintained in relation to human scale to give a feeling of being one with the nature.  Native trees that were existing at the time of creation of the garden are retained to enable blending with the natural view around the garden.  Carefully placed stone stepping along the pathway in wooden settings gives comfort while moving around in the garden.

The garden is basically divided into five parts; Flat Garden, Standing Pond Garden, The Tea House Garden, Natural Garden and Stand & Stone Garden.  The visual effect on the visitor varies with the seasons as each season brings with it its own flowers and colors.  The best time to visit is said to be when the riot of colors is displayed with the roses in full bloom.  Our visit was in winter and yet the garden gave its edition of wintery pleasure.  Each tree and plant in the garden was cut and trimmed appropriately and gave a view of perfection and aesthetic delight. The birds, fish and other small animals enhanced the natural beauty of the garden.

A wooden hall created within the garden provides place for exhibition of paintings, talk shows and lectures. Workshops for Bamboo Fence Building, Stone Pavement Making, Maple Pruning demonstrations and Pine Pruning are conducted here. A Kadomatsu workshop for preparing Japanese New Year decorations is also held for interested members of the society and general public.

Our visit to the garden last Sunday was on a rainy day.  Moving around in the garden appeared to be impossible when we started our journey towards the garden. Fortunately for us, the rain took rest for two hours just as we reached the garden and resumed as soon we finished our visit and returned to the parking lot.  Visit to the Japanese Garden in Portland will always remain a memorable experience.                        


  1. Wish you and your family Happy Sankranti. The explanation of the guarden and the photos uploaded are tempting to visit Place.

  2. Nice to read.

    R Jagannathan,

  3. made an interesting reading. The narration and the photos gave a feeling of my taking a tour of the garden . Infomative. Thanks

  4. Very informative reading. I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for your efforts.