Portland Japanese Garden

Portland Japanese Garden in Washington Park

There is a virtual tour of the garden available at this link.

It was a hot day at 108 degrees,  but in the Japanese Garden it was very cool.  Our tour guide, Andrew, did a spectacular job of weaving culture and language and history into our exploration of the landscape and architecture.  We learned that there should always be 3 elements-rock, shrubs, and water.  You always place the rock first and then everything else around it.  We also learned that every pond should have a tortoise which lives 10,000 years and a crane which lives 1,000 years.  We enjoyed the waterways and the foresty trails as well as the sandy rock areas like a Zen garden.  It’s called “dry water” when gravelly sand is used to represent water.

The tour started out at the “Wisteria arbor” with an antique 5 tiered stone pagoda lantern given to Portland from its sister city, Sapporo, Japan.  The stones at the based of the pagoda are in the shape of the island of Hokkaido.


We continued on to the “Strolling pond garden” passing the koi pond on the way.  The tortoise and crane stones in the “Strolling pond garden” are for longevity.

koi pond

strolling pond garden

The “Tea garden” was nicely tucked away with interesting architecture.

There were interesting stones on the bottom of the water under the “Zig zag bridge” along with lily pads on the surface of the water.  The waterfall at the end of the bridge was well worth the wait.

zig zag bridge


The “Natural garden” was a windy path with natural looking river streams throughout.  The guide told us that the shrubs in that area are maintained but in a “natural” way and it’s intended that you’re not able to notice that they are maintained at all.

natural garden

natural stream

The “Sand and stone garden” was probably my favorite of the entire garden.  It reminded me of a Zen garden.  It was perfectly raked with 1 large column rock and 7 smaller rocks facing it.

sand and stone garden

sand and stone garden

The “Poetry stone” was a beautiful piece of artwork along with the poetry and translation that was read to us.

The “Flat garden” was also spectacular with a sea of raked sand (a “dry lake”) as well as well placed stones and trees/bushes.  There were 2 grassy islands in the middle.

flat garden

flat garden

Our tour ended at the “Pavilion” with an amazing view of Mt. Hood. 🙂

mt hood

garden exit

I purchased a gorgeous silk, tie dyed scarf at the art sale in the pavilion.  I love that to me it represents the 3 elements-green shrubs, cream stones, and blue water.



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