Locations: 611 SW Kingston Avenue
Completion Date: 1967
Proclaimed by Nobuo Matsunago, the former Ambassador of Japan to the United States, as “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan,” the Portland Japanese Garden is a 5.5-acre haven of tranquility and beauty nestled in the West Hills of Portland.
Designed by Professor Takuma Tono–considered one of the most important landscape architects of his time in Japan–in 1963, the Portland Japanese Garden draws its influences from Shinto, Buddhist, and Taoist philosophies. Within the 5.5 acres, the garden consists of five distinct garden styles, each asymmetrical in design and reflect nature in an idealized form.
From the garden description:
“When we enter 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. In a deep sense, the Japanese garden is a living reflection of the long history and traditional culture of Japan. Influenced by Shinto, Buddhist, and Taoist philosophies, there is always “something more” in these compositions of stone, water, and plants than meets the eye.
Three of the essential elements used to create a Japanese garden are stone, the “bones” of the landscape; water, the life-giving force; and plants, the tapestry of the four seasons. 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, not overpowered by it. As Professor Tono wanted to incorporate native trees in our Garden so that it would blend naturally with its environment, some of the plantings here are on a larger scale.”
The five gardens on the 5.5-acre property consist of: the Strolling Pond Garden (chisen kaiyu shiki niwa), which features an authentic Moon Bridge and tortoise and crane stones, symbolic of longevity; the Tea Garden (roji) with an authentic Tea House; the Natural Garden (zouki no niwa) that winds its way down the south hillside; the Sand and Stone Garden (karesansui) featuring the “stark simplicity of weathered stones rising from a bed of “sand” (white gravel) ranked to suggest the sea; and the Flat Garden (hira niwa), featuring two islands of plantings depicting a sake cup and gourd-shaped bottle within a sea of raked white sand.
Open year-round, the Portland Japanese Garden impressed me with its abundance of color and texture in mid-December. Like most Japanese gardens, a stream twists and winds through most of the garden. Soothing sounds of water gurgling and flowing past accompany the meandering path’s descent into the garden. I’ve always been fond of Japanese gardens for their tranquility and very deliberate and symbolic, yet naturalistic garden design. Though the garden would probably look its best in autumn, for an overcast and damp wintry day, the Portland Japanese Garden is an excellent place to steal away for quiet contemplation.