Touch Grass: Portland Japanese Garden

By Adrian Keller Feld

Founded in 1963, the Portland Japanese Garden is renowned for its complex network of paths and plants, ensconced within Washington Park. The Garden was founded after World War II to be a place of healing and peace, despite resistance efforts, and now brings in over 350,000 guests annually, a number that increases every year. ADA-compliant, the Garden has worked to be able to bring the tranquility and beauty of nature and design to many people, even providing a complimentary shuttle up the hill from the parking lot to the main garden, for those unable to do the walk. The space not only has stunning views and outdoor areas, but also a gift shop one can get lost in, two spaces for rotating art exhibits, a tea house, and a café serving tea and small dishes, where a reservation is recommended and well worth it. The Japanese Garden itself is the main event however, with it actually being segmented into five different gardens: the strolling pond garden, tea garden, natural garden, sand and stone garden, and the flat garden. Each of these spaces flows seamlessly into the next, creating a meditative experience.

The Portland Japanese Garden is a masterwork of planning, with intentional choices at every corner, including a focus on being true to its Japanese inspiration. Per the Garden’s website, when the former Ambassador of Japan to the United States Nobuo Matsunaga visited the Garden, he said it was, “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan.” Care and attention to detail are present throughout the Garden but shine in a section dedicated to Bonsai trees, where they showcase spectacular works of precision, including some hundreds of years old. The Garden is a top destination in Portland so is often busy, but the calm atmosphere and twelve-acre space disperse the energy of the crowds well. Each season brings a different face to the Garden, a fact highlighted on its website and with books and other merchandise in the gift shop, but Fall especially is known to bring a fantastic color to the space.

Tickets to the Garden are $17.95 with student ID, however, people can access the gardens for free with a library membership in Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties, though numbers are limited and it can be difficult. The Garden is open Wednesday to Monday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., closed on Tuesdays. Public transport from Reed to the Gardens is not convenient, so driving is the best way to reach them, with a twenty-minute drive, and paid parking. For public transit, there are a few different buses that can be taken, each requiring around a ten-minute walk on either end and a transfer, bringing the total travel time to over one hour. While it is not as easily accessible as the Canyon or Rhododendron Garden, the Japanese Garden is well worth a trip, if the opportunity arises, and can be a great way to escape the bubble of Reed and explore another area of Portland, along with experiencing some local history in the garden’s complex founding. 

To learn more about the Garden, they have a detailed website at, as well as following them on Youtube @PortlandJapaneseGardenOfficial, and Instagram @portlandjapanesegarden. So, go out and touch the grass in the Portland Japanese Garden!

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


We would love your thoughts, please comment!x