Where We Live: The Portland Japanese Garden


A haven for tranquility and beauty

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — One of the most beautiful and serene spaces in Portland reopened to the public last week. Visiting the Portland Japanese Garden is like stepping into another world. There are few places in the world quite like it, and it is an important part of where we live.

“It really, truly is considered to be the finest, most authentic Japanese Garden in the world,” said Stephen Bloom, CEO of the Portland Japanese Garden. “The original garden was five and a half acres, and has since grown to about 12 acres with our expansion in 2017.”

An undated photo of Takuma Tono, who designed the original Portland Japanese Garden. (Courtesy Robbie Robinson)

Nestled atop Washington Park, Portland’s Japanese Garden opened in 1967 as a symbol of peace between nations that two decades earlier were at war. Most of Portland’s significant Japanese-American community were sent to concentration camps during World War II. But in the late 50s, even amid much anti-Japanese sentiment, Portland started reaching out to Japan—establishing a sister city relationship with Sapporo and other economic ties.

“And then out of that came this idea that they would memorialize this through a Japanese Garden where people could come together and learn about Japan in nature,” said Bloom.

Tokyo Agriculture University professor and Cornell University graduate Takuma Tono designed the original five and a half acres.

“It’s considered his masterpiece for his entire career,” said Bloom.

It took nearly two decades to build out using artisans from Japan and Portland. It has five different garden styles, where gardens in Japan typically have one. The tea house was constructed in Japan and reassembled in Portland. The money came from private sources.

During normal circumstances, half a million people visit the Japanese Garden every year. It is also a Japanese Cultural Center.

“And, in fact, we are the largest Japanese Cultural Center in the world outside of Japan,” added Bloom.

The original garden cost about $250,000. The expansion in 2017 cost $37 million raised from private sources. Although the garden is open, visitors are being limited and social distancing measures are in place.

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