Traditional Japanese gardens create miniature idealized landscapes in highly abstract and stylized ways. Originally found in Imperial Palaces, Buddhist temples and Zen Shrines as far back as the 7th century, the gardens were created for recreation and aesthetic pleasure. Three of the essential elements used to create a Japanese garden are stone, the “bones” of the landscape; water, the life-giving force; and plants, the tapestry of the four seasons.
Consider by many as the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan, the Portland Japanese Garden is a 5.5-acre haven of tranquil beauty situated in the scenic hills of Portland, Oregon. With five unique gardens on the property, each with a distinct style, the beautiful park is a great place to visit. Below are some of our favorite gardens on the property:
Flat Garden: The Flat Garden shows the versatility and adaptability of those trying to capture the essence of a calm river on dry land. The “water,” made up of raked gravel, symbolizes enlightenment and happiness. It surrounds the Circle and Gourd Islands which are populated by beautiful trees and shrubbery. The garden is meant to be seen from a single viewpoint either from within the Pavilion or from the veranda. Viewing the garden from the outside-in keeps the illusion of a serene waterscape.
Strolling Pond Garden: The Strolling Pond Garden consists of Upper and Lower Ponds connected by an enticing stream. The Upper Pond features a Moon Bridge, while the Lower Pond has a zig-zag bridge through beds of iris against the backdrop of a stunning waterfall. Strolling pond gardens were once intended as recreational sites for the wealthy and were associated with the estates of aristocrats and feudal lords.
The Natural Garden: The most recent addition to the Portland Japanese Garden, The Natural Garden was created to be an environment that encourages visitors to rest, relax and reflect on the very essence of life. The design is more contemporary than the other gardens, using a style called Zoki No Niwa, which uses plant life unusually found in traditional Japanese Gardens. Most notable is the use of vine maple, which is indigenous to the Portland region. The garden has a steeper terrain than the others on the property and the denseness of the trees and shrubs create a drastic difference in atmosphere, offering something more “wild” yet equally tranquil in its own way.