8 Garden Spaces

Learn about the eight distinct garden spaces of Portland Japanese Garden, from the lush green of the Strolling Pond Garden to the ma (blank space) of the Sand and Stone Garden.

Hugh Shogren, Jack Kato, and Professor Tono (1967-05)Portland Japanese Garden

A living museum

Professor Takuma Tono of Tokyo Agricultural University designed Portland Japanese Garden with the idea that it could be living museum with distinct styles that would offer examples of landscapes representative of eras throughout Japanese history.

Placing the Stone Bridge Rock (1963-11) by Photographer Credit: William RobinsonPortland Japanese Garden

Tono's vision was unique relative to most Japanese gardens, which typically adopt only one style. Through the 60s, he designed five historic garden spaces. In 2017, an expansion increased the number of gardens to eight. These are the garden spaces of Portland Japanese Garden.

Strolling Pond Garden in Fall (2014-11-02) by Photographer Credit: Wayne WilliamsPortland Japanese Garden

Strolling Pond Garden

The Strolling Pond Garden [chisen kaiyu shiki teien] is the largest of the historic garden spaces, consisting of upper and lower ponds connected by a flowing stream.

Irises in Strolling Pond Garden (2023-06-28) by Portland Japanese GardenPortland Japanese Garden

Historically, strolling pond gardens were attached to the estates of aristocrats and feudal lords [daimyo] during the Edo period (1603–1867). 

The Upper Pond features the iconic Moon Bridge, while the Lower Pond has a Zig-Zag bridge [yatsuhashi] that weaves through beds of Japanese iris against the backdrop of the stunning Heavenly Falls.

Moon Bridge in Fall, Portland Japanese Garden, 2009-10, From the collection of: Portland Japanese Garden
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Sapporo Pagoda Lantern, Photographer Credit: Katya Gimro, 2021-12-18, From the collection of: Portland Japanese Garden
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Irises by the Zig-Zag Bridge, Portland Japanese Garden, Photographer Credit: Ray P. Fortner, 2014-06-26, From the collection of: Portland Japanese Garden
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Tea House Viewed from Tea Garden after Rain (2016-02-12) by Portland Japanese Garden and Photographer Credit: Tyler QuinnPortland Japanese Garden

Tea Garden

A Japanese tea garden [cha-niwa or roji] is a place for quiet reflection on the beauty of nature and the art of living in harmony.

Tea Garden (2009-04-03)Portland Japanese Garden

The Tea Garden consists of inner and outer gardens, connected by a pathway [roji] that leads to the Kashintei Tea House. 

Tea House (2008-05-14)Portland Japanese Garden

Kashintei (literally “Flower-Heart Room”) is the name of the authentic Tea House that sits in the heart of the Tea Garden. The structure was made in Japan, shipped in pieces, and reassembled in the Garden.

Sand and Stone Garden (2017-01-29) by Photographer Credit: Don SchwartzPortland Japanese Garden

Sand and Stone Garden

Gardens of raked sand or gravel and stone are referred to as karesansui gardens which literally translates to “dry landscape.”

Sand and Stone Garden (2014-10-16) by Photographer Credit: Wayne WilliamsPortland Japanese Garden

This style was developed in Japan in the late Kamakura period (1185–1333). An important Japanese aesthetic principle underlying these dry landscape gardens is yohaku-no-bi, meaning “the beauty of blank space.”

Sand and Stone Garden Raking, 1982, From the collection of: Portland Japanese Garden
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Rose pattern in the Sand and Stone Garden, 1983-06, From the collection of: Portland Japanese Garden
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Flat Garden viewed from Pavilion (2016-12-29) by Photographer Credit: Julia TaylorPortland Japanese Garden

Flat Garden

In a garden such as the Flat Garden [hiraniwa], the designer works to balance the flat planes of the ground with the volume of stones, clipped shrubbery, and trees. This creates a depth of space.

Moonviewing raking pattern in the Flat Garden (2020-10-01) by Portland Japanese Garden and Photographer Credit: Jonathan LeyPortland Japanese Garden

Every year at the time of Portland Japanese Garden's Moonviewing Festival, gardeners create a checkered pattern, called ichimatsu moyo (市松模様), with the sand in the Flat Garden. This pattern was inspired by the refined simplicity of the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto, Japan.

The Flat Garden was carefully designed to highlight the distinctive beauty of all four seasons. With black pines to represent winter, vibrant red and orange hues in fall, delicate cherry blossoms in spring, and summer medleys of verdant greens; the Flat Garden evokes a year-round serenity.

Flat Garden in Fall, Photographer Credit: Julia Taylor, 2016, From the collection of: Portland Japanese Garden
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Flat Garden in Spring, Photographer Credit: Chris Bidleman, 2019, From the collection of: Portland Japanese Garden
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Flat Garden in Late Summer, Photographer Credit: Tony Small, Portland Japanese Garden, 2014-10-18, From the collection of: Portland Japanese Garden
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Flat Garden Circle and Gourd Islands, 2019-05-14, From the collection of: Portland Japanese Garden
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Saka's Pond in the Natural Garden (2008-10-27)Portland Japanese Garden

Natural Garden

The Natural Garden was created to encourage visitors to rest and reflect on the essence and brevity of life. It is the most contemporary of the original five gardens, done in a style referred to as zoki no niwa.

Natural Garden Waterfall (2016)Portland Japanese Garden

This garden focuses primarily on deciduous plants and is laid out to present seasonal change. Originally called the Hillside Garden, the denseness of the trees and shrubs here evoke a wildness not seen elsewhere in the Garden.

Entry Garden Pathway (2023-05-03)Portland Japanese Garden

Entry Garden

The Entry Garden, part of the 2017 expansion of Portland Japanese Garden, continues along a landscaped walk up a terraced stone pathway and through towering firs and big leaf maples growing naturally along the hillside in a lush native forest.

Tsubo-Niwa (2023-05-03) by Portland Japanese GardenPortland Japanese Garden

Tsubo-Niwa

Occupying very little actual space, the tsubo-niwa (courtyard garden) in the Cultural Village nevertheless incorporates each essential element of a Japanese garden: stone, water, and plants. 

Ellie M. Hill Bonsai Terrace by Photographer Credit: Julie Taylor and Portland Japanese GardenPortland Japanese Garden

Ellie M. Hill Bonsai Terrace

The art of bonsai, the creation of a miniaturized landscape that fulfills the human yearning for a connection to nature in the smallest of spaces, is on display at Portland Japanese Garden with rotating seasonally resplendent specimens. 

Flat Garden and Pavilion from Beneath the Weeping Cherry (2014-03-24) by Photographer Credit: Jonathan LeyPortland Japanese Garden

Pavilion Gallery

The Pavilion Gallery is used for exhibitions and special events. Architectural features include shoji (translucent paper panels) and verandas that connote the integration of house and garden. 

From sunrise to sunset, this is a day at Portland Japanese Garden.

Credits: Story

Photos by:
Wayne Williams
Katya Gimro
Ray P. Fortner
Tyler Quinn
Roman Johnston
Julia Taylor
Jonathan Ley
Chris Bidleman
Tony Small
Jack Jakobson
Portland Japanese Garden

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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