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The Portland Japanese Garden is a traditional Japanese garden occupying 5.5 acres in Washington Park (Portland, Oregon). It is operated by the Japanese Garden Society of Oregon, a private non-profit corporation, which leases the site from the city.

The garden is made up of the five individual gardens described below:

The Flat Garden – raked gravel with moss ‘islands’ shaped like a sake cup and a gourd, resembling the garden at Sambo-in in Kyoto. The garden can be viewed from a deep-eaved event pavilion built in the Kamakura period style.

Chisen Kaiyu Shiki Teien – the Strolling Pond Garden  is two ponds connected with a meandering stream.  The upper pond features a ‘moon bridge’ while the lower pond holds a yatsuhashi 八橋 or ‘zig-zag bridge’.

Cha-niwa– the Tea Garden, consisting of uchiroji 内露地 or ‘inner garden’ and sotoroji 外露地 or ‘outer gardens’, contains a teahouse built in Japan with traditional carpentry techniques, as well as a machiai 待合 or waiting booth for tea ceremony guests.

Natural Garden – a hillside garden leading to the Sand and Stone Garden. This garden features different styles of steps and stepping stones, tiny bridges, rivulets and shallow streams.

Karesansui Garden karesansui 枯山水 –  or ‘Sand and Stone Garden’, is an abstract composition surrounded by a mud-plastered wall similar in style to those often found at Zen temples in Japan.

From Michael Roybal:

I was able to visit the Portland Japanese Garden this weekend.  I managed to but together a few interactive 360 degree views anyone would like to view them. Note, it may take some of these a bit of time to load.  The smallest is about 500 Meg.  The largest 1.3 Giga Pixals

  • Portland Japanese Garden: Sand and Stone Garden . The description from the website the Portland Japanese Garden maintains: (Karesansui) Gardens of raked sand (or gravel) and stone are referred to as karesansui (literally, “dry landscape”) gardens. This style was developed in Japan in the later Kamakura period (1185–1333).Many Chinese landscape paintings of the Southern Sung dynasty were imported to Japan in the 14th and 15th centuries by Zen Buddhist priests, and they were emulated by Japanese artists like Sesshu (1420-1506). An important Japanese aesthetic principle underlying both landscape paintings and dry landscape gardens isyohaku-no-bi, literally “the beauty of blank space.”
  • Portland Japanese Garden: Flat Garden The description from the website the Portland Japanese Garden maintains:  The Flat Garden (hira-niwa) is an example of how gardens in Japan have continued to develop the dry landscape style of the karesansui garden over time.In a garden such as this one, the designer worked to balance the relationship between the flat planes (the ground) and the volume of stones and clipped shrubbery and trees to create a sense of depth of space. The garden is meant to be seen from a single viewpoint either from within the Pavilion or from the veranda.
  • Portland Japanese Garden: Natural Garden (My Favorite of these, and the highest resolution. ) The description from the website the Portland Japanese Garden maintains:  The Natural Garden was created to be an environment that encourages visitors to rest, relax, and reflect on the very essence and brevity of life.This garden in its current configuration is the most recent addition to the Portland Japanese Garden, and it is also the most contemporary style, referred to as zoki no niwa, a style which includes plant materials that fall outside the list of plants traditionally associated with Japanese gardens.

A collection of many more Portland_JG_Pictures

From Terry Gerlach:

History of the garden: Portland became a sister city with Sapporo, Japan in 1958 and 5 years later made plans for a Japanese Garden. It is fortunate that leaders and volunteers at that time had the fore site to set up the Japanese Garden Foundation and the Japanese Garden Society of Oregon to run and manage the affairs of the garden.  The Society is a not for profit organization funded by membership, donations, memorials, gift store sales, grants and gate admissions.  Because of this the garden is much better than being a part of the parks department or botanical garden.

On June 4, 1962, Portland City Council created a commission to establish the garden on the site of the former 5.5 acre Washington Park Zoo.  The first meeting of the Japanese Garden Society was held in 1963 and planning for the garden
began.  Professor Takuma Tono of Tokyo Agricultural University was hired to design and supervise construction of the new garden.  His initial plan was for five gardens representing different historical development in Japanese Garden Architecture – the Stroll Garden, the Tea Garden, the Sand and Stone Garden, the Flat Garden, and a moss garden which was not successful due to too much sun exposure.  This garden was rebuilt as the Natural Garden.  Sapporo gifted to the garden a 2000 pound 15 foot tall 50 year old pagoda lantern which is the feature view when passing through the Wisteria Arbor.  There is a stone arrangement at its base in the shape of the island of Hokkaido with a red stone to represent Sapporo.  Yew hedges and the original large firs and cedars allow a glimpse of the Heavenly Falls in the distance.   At this time, the first of 8 Garden Directors arrives from Japan.  Early Society leaders need to be thanked for this series of professional garden directors as each have added special advances to the development of the garden.

Some important dates:

  • 1964 –  the Kotoji lantern is made and gifted to the garden from Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa, Japan.
  • 1965 –  the Garden is open to the public for one week.
  • 1967 – It formally opened to the public June 1,1967 with an admission fee of 50 cents.
  • 1968 – The Tea House constructed in Japan by Kajima Construction Company arrives and is assembled and dedicated in the Tea Garden.  At this point, the Tea Garden consists of an inner and outer garden. A fifth garden, the moss garden is built.  It does not survive.  The Haiku stone and the Iyo stone in memory of first Garden President Philip Englehart arrive from Japan.
  • 1970 – the first Bonsai exhibition is held in the Garden.
  • 1972 – the Moss Garden was rebuilt as the Natural Garden, and a volunteer guide group was formed.
  • 1973 – the first koi were donated to the garden.  They did not survive and more were donated in 1974.
  • 1975 – the Gardens first machiai was built
  • 1976 – The Antique Gate donated by the Japanese Ancestral Society of Oregon was installed.  The garden holds its first Obon Festival.
  • 1977 – the Sogetsu School of Ikebana provides flower arrangements of roses in honor of the Portland Rose Festival.
  • 1978 – construction of the Pavilion begins.
  • 1980 – the Pavilion is dedicated in. It was built in Japanese style by local builders. It has a tiled
    roof, wooden verandas and Shoji sliding doors. The west veranda looks out at the Flat Garden
    and the east veranda overlooks the city and Mount Hood.
  • 1981 – the garden is open in winter for the first time.
  • 1983 – the Portland Chapter of Ikebana International presents a
    Chrysanthemum Exhibition. In 1986 the Garden House (maintenance building) was started,
    The Natural Garden was expanded to a new lower area.
  • 1987 – Professor Tono died in Japan at age 96.
  • 1988 – in memory of Bill DeWeese, former President of the Japanese Garden Society the hillside garden was build next to the Garden House.
  • 1989 – the Sapporo water fountain, a 25th anniversary gift from Sapporo, Japan was dedicated. The Tea Garden was
    expanded. It now consists of an Inner Garden, a Middle Garden and an Outer Garden.
  • 1990 – the Garden holds its first Moonviewing Festival. In 1991 the first public presentation of tea by Kashintei Kai.
  • 1994 – a new service center housing restrooms and a gift shop is built and new landscape is installed.
  • 1996 – The Suikinkutsu or Water Harp is gifted by the Japanese Garden Society of Tokyo and is installed by the south end of the Pavilion.
  • 1997 – the Heavenly Waterfall is damaged by a winter storm and is rebuilt with its height increased.
  • 2009 – a winter storm and freeze caused extended power outage and killed 40 of 48 koi.
  • 2010 – the Garden hosted the first ever gathering of the 8 former Garden Directors and current Garden Curator, Sudafumi Uchiyama. A major renovation and deepening of the lower pond addressed improvements needed for the care of the koi. A facility housing new pumps and filtration systems was built. This allows better control of pumping for upper pond, stream, lower pond and Heavenly Falls and should prevent another winter disaster for the koi.
  • 2014 – a new holding center building was added to quarantine koi and treat problems. It has facilities to aid veterinarian visits as necessary.
  • 2011 – In January 2011 the Garden adopted an expansion plan in response to increased numbers of visitors to preserve the tranquility of the garden. Internationally acclaimed architect Kengo Kuma agreed to design the project which should grow the garden by 3 acres and add a chabana garden, ticketing pavilion, garden house, tea cafe, cultural center and gift store. This project awaits some small opposition from not in my backyard neighbors, city political actions, permit approvals and some financial shortfall. All going well, fall closure of the garden for 6 months will permit major construction to begin.

The Garden is now approaching 300,000 visitors, 8000+ members and 400+ volunteers with 8 full time gardeners.  Chief Executive Officer is Stephen D. Bloom, Garden Curator is Sudafumi Uchiyama, Curator of Culture, Arts, & Education is Diane Durston.

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