Portland Japanese Garden

By Marlene Flynn

“It is the most beautiful and authentic garden in the world outside Japan.”

Those were the words of former ambassador of Japan to the United States, Nobuo Matsunaga, upon visiting the Portland Japanese Garden during the summer of 1988.

Tucked into the hills of Portland’s Washington Park just three miles west of downtown, a splendor both subtle and stirring calls to the visitor. Welcome to the Portland Japanese Garden.  

Here, the staggering beauty that is the Pacific Northwest becomes serene. Where the great national parks of the West impose, leaving the traveler to feel his insignificance – this garden beckons, inviting the visitor to encounter the intimate.

Photo by Ryan Stavely (https://flic.kr/p/8bDwzK)

Born out of a wish to grow cultural ties with Japan during the post-war years, the Portland Japanese Garden opened to the public in 1967. To visit now is to step into a place where foliage and flora do not compete – they are companions.  

One experiences satoyama: nature in symphony. Twelve acres with eight separate garden styles comprise the space. Shore pines and Douglas firs preside, with wisteria and winding streams and waterfalls to guide you toward the Tea House. An occasional Japanese maple on the path becomes a friend who thrills and delights.

The space is open to the public year-round. October is ideal, with a chance to see the garden aglow in autumn grandeur. Portland itself offers no shortage of greenery and long leafy walks – but the Japanese Garden is a chance to step into the hidden heart of the city.