The most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan occupies a 5 1/2-acre site directly above the International Rose Test Garden. Designed by Professor Takuma Tono, a Japanese landscape master from Tokyo, the garden took 4 years to complete and was opened to the public in 1967 on the site of the old Portland Zoo. The immaculately tended grounds contain superb examples of ancient Japanese gardening styles influenced by Shinto, Buddhist, and Taoist philosophies. Plants, stones, and water are used to create areas of serene and contemplative beauty.
From the plaza, you pass through another gate to enter the five different gardens that comprise the Portland Japanese Garden. The Strolling Pond Garden is the largest garden on the site, with a picturesque Moon Bridge crossing the Upper Pond. Within the Tea Garden you'll find a ceremonial teahouse constructed in Japan (using pegs instead of nails), reassembled here in 1968. Farther south, the aptly named Zig-Zag Bridge leads through a waterside area planted with May-blossoming Japanese irises to the Lower Pond, where giant koi slowly navigate below a waterfall. The ponds are filled with enormous, brilliantly colored koi.
The Natural Garden covers the south hillside, where stone steps wind down past shallow, meandering waterscapes. The abstract, Zen-inspired Sand and Stone Garden is at the end, with weathered stones rising from a bed of gravel that’s been raked to suggest the sea. Plantings in the Flat Garden, to the north, are meant to resemble a sake cup and gourd bottle, symbols of pleasure and happiness. The large wooden pavilion behind the Flat Garden is used for special events and provides a majestic view of Portland and Mount Hood from its eastern terrace.