The Gardens of Portland, Oregon – The Unexpected Side of Portland – Part One

Portland is known for their great food, and the great outdoors. Japanese and Chinese gardens would not typically be considered top of the “must visit” list.

Having been to Portland more times than I can count, I decided that I wanted to see and experience something new and different. A local made the unexpected suggestion of visiting the Japanese Garden and the Lan Su Garden.

Part one of two blogs shares the experience of a morning well-spent at the Portland Japanese Garden.

The Japanese Garden has been deemed to be the most authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan.  While Japan is the very top of my bucket list, I don’t see a trip in the near future, so a visit to these gardens seemed a great initiation into a new culture.

The Japanese Garden is located in Washington Park so is not within walking distance of downtown Portland, but a quick bus or uber drive gets you there within minutes.

At the top of the meandering walkway, from the entrance to the start of the garden, was a beautiful setting that took my breath away.  The vivid colours and the architecture of the cultural centre nestled beneath the tall trees of the Pacific Northwest was a stunning sight.

Japanese Garden in Portland Oregon

The interior architecture was as interesting as the garden itself. The light and shadows created by the design was art onto itself.

Architecture of the Japanese Garden Cultural Centre

The City Overlook gave a spectacular view of Mt. Hood and I returned to this spot a couple times during my visit to soak in the view.  The integration of space and design to frame the view was well thought out and an integral part of Japanese design.

View of Mount Hood from Japanese Garden

The Sand and Stone Garden features an important and probably most well known of all Japanese design aesthetic, “the beauty of blank space”.

Sand and Stone Garden Portland

Although the tranquility of the waterfalls was ruined for me due to a couple screaming kids that were running around, the beauty was left unmarred.

Japanese Garden - Heavenly Falls

Much of the garden was meant for quiet reflection, and hidden benches and alcoves were fun to discover.

Strolling ponds

You could easily forget that you were actually in Portland, and let your daydreams take over from reality.

One of their goals is to introduce the ideals of a traditional Japanese Garden to the rest of the world: art of craft, connection to nature, and experience of peace.  All three were accomplished. I left feeling relaxed and stress-free.

An unexpected plus was found right across the road from the Japanese Garden – International Rose Test Garden. It has over 7000 rose plants and over 550 varieties. Although I was visiting in October when the flowers were at the end of their life, their fragrance was still lingering in the air.

International Rose Garden

There is definitely a good reason that Portland has been named “The City of Roses“.  Add it to the quirkiness that we love about Portland.


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