Portland’s Japanese garden

By | Category: Travel destinations

Portland Japanes garden in spring – with the cherry blossom out. Image © David Cobb

The main reason for the popularity of gardens is that they can be oases of calm in an otherwise noisy and busy world. For some reason, Chinese and Japanese gardens seem to be even greater areas of tranquillity.

Outside Japan, few Japanese styled gardens are large but the largest of those is to be found in the US city of Portland in the state of Oregon. Originally covering about 5.5 acres, another 3.4 have been recently added bringing the whole Portland Japanese Garden to nearly 9 acres.

When the garden opens to the public on April 2nd, the expansion will have cost $33.5 million, a significant sum so why has it cost so much?

Largely it is due to the cultural village that has been built on the site. The Japanese architect Kengo Kuma (he is behind the National Stadium which is being constructed for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics) and Japanese gardener Sadafumi Uchiyama, designed the new Cultural Village to provide a wider experience of traditional Japanese arts and culture.

Based on monzen-machi, Japan’s “temple towns” surrounding sacred shrines and temples, the Cultural Village features an authentic medieval castle wall standing 56 metres long and 5.6 high. Built with traditional hand tools and techniques under the Suminori Awata, a fifteenth generation Japanese master stone mason, the wall incorporates 800 tons of Oregon granite.

In the same mould, there is a the Umami Tea Café by Ajinomoto, designed to “float in nature,” and the Garden House, constructed to host horticultural workshops. There will be three “Art in the Garden exhibitions each year with the first, “Hosokawa Morihiro: The Art of Life, A Rebirth in Clay,” will run from  April 2 until May 21. Outdoors, the Tateuchi Courtyard will feature seasonal performances and demonstrations. In addition, there are three new gardens: an entry garden with cascading ponds and a water terrace, a tiny urban garden and a bonsai terrace. The private Bill de Weese chabana garden — the first in North America — will grow flowers for tea ceremonies.

This isn’t the end of the development of the garden for the International Institute for Japanese Garden Arts & Culture will open in 2018.

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