Photos courtesy the Portland Japanese Garden
the garden: Overlooking
Portland like an ancient Japanese emperor's castle,
the Japanese Gardens offer five different gardens
in it's more than 5-acre space. Take a guided
tour or wander through the garden on your own,
enjoying the plants, ponds and views.
What to bring: The garden is located on Portland's
west hills so comfortable shoes and weather-appropriate
attire are a must. Photography is allowed for
personal use, but no tripods are allowed without
permission. No smoking, pets, food or drinks or
cell phones are allowed in the garden.
Open every day but Thanksgiving, Christmas and
New Year's Day.
Winter hours (October 1 - March 31): Monday: Noon
to 4 p.m.; Tuesday - Sunday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
(Last admission taken at 3:30 p.m.)
Summer hours (April 1 - September 30): Monday:
Noon to 7 p.m.; Tuesday - Sunday: 10 a.m. to 7
p.m. (Last admission taken at 6:30 p.m.)
Getting there: From I-405 (downtown Portland)
follow signs for Highway 26 West. Take Highway
26 West and take the Oregon Zoo and Forestry Center
Exit. Bear right after the exit and follow signs
for the Forestry Center. Continue up the hill
past the Forestry Center and make a right onto
Kingston Drive. There will be a wood sign for
the Japanese Garden and Rose Garden just before
the turn. Follow Kingston Drive just under two
miles through Washington Park. At the stop sign
make a left and just ahead you will see the Japanese
Garden parking lot on the left, across the street
from tennis courts.
Tips: Give yourself plenty of time when
visiting the gardens. Each garden is filled with
unique plants, features and symbolism. A quick
tour of the gardens takes about 45 minutes - but
with a tour guide they can take more than an hour.
you can, visit the garden more than once, as there
is much to see. The garden is outdoors and has
many uneven surfaces and wood bridges. Make sure
to wear comfortable shoes and weather appropriate
garden is on a steep incline, so getting to it
on foot takes a small walk up a switchback. People
can take a shuttle up to the top, which runs about
every 15 minutes from the parking lot - less frequent
in the winter months. There is also handicap parking
near the entrance at the top of the hill.
History: In 1958, Portland and Sapporo, Japan,
became sister cities creating a broader interest
in Japanese culture. Several business leaders
and the mayor of Portland decided it would be
appropriate for Portland to have an authentic,
traditional Japanese garden.
June 4, 1962, the Portland City Council adopted
an ordinance to create a Japanese Garden Commission
to establish a garden in the site of the former
Washington Park Zoo. In 1963 Professor Takuma
Tono, head of the Landscape Architecture Department
of Tokyo Agricultural University, was commissioned
to design and supervise the development of the
garden. The garden was open to the public in the
summer of 1967.
more information or to schedule a tour of
the Japanese Garden visit their web
site at or call them at 503-223-9233.
Rest and repose in the Portland Japanese Garden
time Marilyn Depew walks through the Japanese Garden, she notices
really is amazing to be able to walk through the garden for years
and years and still make new discoveries," Depew says while
walking down the strolling garden's zigzagging bridge. "I think
that says a lot for the designer when he envisioned this place."
has been a volunteer tour guide at the Japanese Garden in Portland
for many years, showing and explaining the unique garden to everyone
from students to seniors.
tours are free - unless you have a big group - and people get so
much out of them," she says. "I have had people tell me
they learn something new each time they visit. You really get a
lot out of the garden if you go willing to learn about Japanese
culture, art and philosophy."
5.5-acre garden is five gardens in one, featuring five different
types of authentic Japanese gardens. A trail connects all of the
gardens together, revealing their features along its meandering
other communities might have Japanese-themed gardens, Depew says
the Portland Japanese Garden is unique. During the 35th anniversary
of the garden in 1997, Kunihiko Saito, Japanese Ambassador to the
United States, said: "I believe this garden to be the most
authentic Japanese garden, including those in Japan."
lived in Japan during some of the 1960s and when I came to Portland
I was amazed at how authentic it is," she says. "The Japanese
Garden designers are very good at hiding and revealing different
aspects of the garden. There isn't one place in the garden where
you can see the entire thing. You have to walk through and experience
a flat garden that features white sand and evergreen plantings to
the natural garden, which has a stream that flows down the hill
symbolizing the journey of life, there are many meanings and lessons
to be learned from the different gardens.
really feel that people should visit the garden more than once,"
she says. "Spend some time listening, smelling and just feeling
the breeze of the garden. It really does relax and soothe you."
and her fellow volunteer tour guides take an eight-week training
class before giving tours. Some, like Depew, also do research outside
of the class to learn more about the symbolism and history of Japanese
gardens. Depew says Japanese gardens are based on three elements:
stone, plants and water. She also says the garden uses the borrowed
scenery from the huge trees framing the garden - something not done
in Japan - and the incredible views of the Cascade Mountains on
I love the garden during the winter months," Depew says. "You
can see how the design works and it isn't as crowded."
garden is open year round - closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas
and New Year's Day - and is surrounded by many different area parks,
gardens, the Oregon Zoo, World Forestry Center and the Portland
Children's Museum. Making it just one of the many attractions in
Portland's west hills to visit.
is a great place to come and learn and slow down," she says.
"That's what Japanese gardens are about - finding shelter and
peace from the big world."
by Patrick Johnson, a free-lance writer based in Canby, OR.