The Japanese influence on Pacific Northwest garden design and plant material has been enormous, and luckily, thanks to the region’s cultural ties to Japan, Seattle (and Portland) have the best examples of Japanese gardens outside of Japan. This garden is lovely any time of year, but it is absolutely gorgeous in the springtime months of April and May, when the cherry trees are in bloom, or in the fall, when then bright orange and red tints of the Japanese maples add a burnished luster to the scene. The Seattle Japanese Garden, designed and constructed under the supervision of Japanese garden designer Juki Iida, fits like a jewel into its 3 1/2-acre setting within the University of Washington Arboretum. Opened in 1960, the garden has now had over 60 years to mature and is the oldest formal Japanese garden in the Pacific Northwest. This is a “strolling garden” with several meticulously created miniaturized landscapes within it. It is meant to be seen one landscape at a time, like a scroll of painted landscapes that unrolls and reveals new vistas as you follow the winding path around the central lake from one viewpoint to the next. Take your time—that’s the point. In addition to a gorgeous selection of trees and shrubs, you’ll encounter all the elements used in formal Japanese garden design—water, rocks and sand, bridges, stone lanterns, and water basins. Blue herons often fly over from Lake Washington and help keep the koi (Japanese carp) population in check. You may see them along the shores and on the rocks in the lake.