Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Visit to Portland Japanese Garden

by Lynnda

Purification bowl on the way to the entrance  LL
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the Portland Japanese Garden.  I'd never visited it before, and my one goal was to find a unique water chime that Kathy, the former head gardener at the Seattle Japanese Garden, talked about once at a Unit 86 meeting.  I never did find the water chime, and my guide, Rick, didn't know where it was either.  So, my one goal was thwarted, but the tour was very worthwhile.
To get to the garden, I choose to walk the long trail uphill rather than take the shuttle.  If one has difficulty walking, the shuttle would be the best option.  It was a steep climb to the entrance, but the woods that morning were cool and misty, allowing for a stillness prior to entering the garden.

Entry to the entry area, Portland Japanese Garden  LL

The Portland Garden is larger than the Seattle Japanese Garden by about 2 acres.  It houses 5 separate garden styles and is considered a teaching garden.

The pathway leading to the garden had an entry, and as you entered the garden, there was another more formal entry.  The first garden visited was the stroll garden.  The supports for the wisteria arbor had rotted and were replaced by concrete pillars that looked like logs.  As I walked through the arbor, there was a 5-tiered pagoda, very similar to the one in the Seattle garden that has 11 tiers. 

Wisteria arbor, Portland Japanese Garden,  LL
5-tier Pagoda, PJG - LL

Stones in front of the pagoda are arranged in the shape of the northern island, Hokkaido and although it doesn't show in my photo, there is a rose colored stone near the pagoda that represents the city of Sapporo, the sister city to Portland. 

After passing the tea garden, I crossed the zig zag bridge and was fortunate that no evil spirits were able to follow me.

AZig Zag bridge through iris beds, PJG - LL

Heavenly Falls, PJG -  LL

Imagine how beautiful that area is when the iris are in bloom!
Rick, the guide, said they are deep blue.  The lower pond is reached after following the path that leads away from the bridge.  The Heavenly Falls flows into the pond, and koi can be seen swimming lazily.  Rick told a legend of the koi struggling to swim upstream to spawn, and if they make it, they turn into a dragon.  Parents use this story to convince their children they must work hard and struggle to succeed, and they will be greatly rewarded for their efforts.

Sand and Stone Garden, PJG - LL

The sand and stone garden is enclosed in concrete walls, and there are benches on one side to allow people to sit and meditate.  Gardeners have to rake the sand about every week, and it is a difficult process that takes several hours.  They use large, heavy rakes, and can design the patterns as they wish.
Flat Garden, PJG - LL

The Flat Garden has 2 large plantings symbolizing a sake cup and a gourd filled with sake.  This is symbolic of pleasure, wishing happiness for all visitors.

There is a beautiful pavilion that has an expansive view out over the city of Portland and Mt. Hood.  Unfortunately, the day I was there, Mt. Hood was in hiding.  I must go back and see it another time.

As I review all the photos I took last week, I'm struck by how monochromatic they are.  There were a few colorful rhodies, but very different from the Seattle Japanese garden in April and May.  Perhaps that is more typical of Japanese gardens, but I love visiting the Seattle garden during the spring to watch the unfolding of all the Pacific Northwest rhododendrons and azaleas.

Unidentified tree, PJG - LL
I would have enjoyed spending more time in Portland's Japanese Garden, but this very short visit was so worth it.  I know I will go back and visit again, any time I'm in Portland.  It's a gem of a garden, and it was so interesting to see so many similarities to the Seattle Japanese Garden.  I encourage all to take a trip to Portland and take time to visit the garden.


  1. thank you for writing about beautiful Portland Japanese Garden, Lynnda! funny that you say it was more monochromatic than our garden, because the two times i went there it was just as showy and bright as our :). but then i saw it with all the irises out and the trees were flowering, so i thought great, SJG is not the only one with too much color in spring!

    drat, so you never found the water chime! crime! you will have to go back! i alas, i didn't see it, either. i remember looking it up on the internet after Kathy mentioned it and seeing wiki entry on Suikinkutsu:
    [...] It consists of an upside down buried pot with a hole at the top. Water drips through the hole at the top onto a small pool of water inside of the pot, creating a pleasant splashing sound that rings inside of the pot similar to a bell or a Japanese zither called koto.[...]

    oh wait, found it now! you and i didn't see it, because it is hidden under a basin we both saw! check this blog: pic and description at the bottom of the post :)

    1. Thanks, Aleks. Now I'll have to go back and find it. I'm already looking forward to the visit!

    2. i wonder if Suikinkutsu or water harp is related to deer chaser fountain Monzie once wrote about, remember?... i cannot figure it out looking at different internet pages.

      but check this video of Suikinkutsu (water chime) at Enkoji Temple, Kyoto, OMG!:
      under the video description there is a "suikinkutsu forum" link - in japanese, but second post on the left is an audio file if you want to hear a clear sound of the water chime - ■水琴窟の音

    3. Great video of Suikinkutsu! The deer chaser fountain was shown to us on our tour. It consisted of a trickle of water flowing into a bamboo tube that, when it became filled with water, would pivot downward, clunking on a rock, emptying all the water and making a distinctive thud, scaring the deer. This cycle of water filling the tube, pivoting, clunking and refilling continued regularly, thus keeping the deer on the move.

  2. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.