A few weeks ago we moved to Portland, Oregon, with the expectation of being to experience more Japanese culture than where we came from, South Florida. One of the most famous Japanese things in Portland is the Portland Japanese Garden (Japanese: ポートランド日本庭園), and we took a trip there as soon as we had time.
Although I had pretty high expectations, I must say they were pleasantly met and I took the chance to pull out my old Nikon DSLR and take some pictures on something other than a iPhone. Some of the pictures came out nicely so I’ve made a little picture gallery here for you to check out.
To tell the truth, we actually went here twice in the last two weeks. The first time, it was so hot, so sunny, and so crowded that we just didn’t enjoy ourselves, and left after 30 minutes or so. Fortunately we had chosen to buy a family membership in advance, which at the current price of $75 is actually a great deal, and children under 18 are free. If you are a photographer, it’s good to know they have photographer memberships, which for around $155 allow you to freely sell your pictures of the garden (see this page for details).
While the garden was extremely beautiful and sufficiently large, there was a few minor annoying points: unsightly construction (though I’m sure it will be great when it was finished), many steps (this part was very like Japan), a bunch of “employees only” areas (understandable, but still a little frustrating), and worst of all the terribly gaudy displays that were used for the Bonsai plants. I didn’t include a picture of these, but just imagine giant, light-brown wooden fingers with black joints enclosing the precious, aged plants. No offense to the artist, I think these contraptions were interesting and artful in their own way, but they just didn’t fit with the Bonsai plants very well, standing more out than the plants themselves.
One final tricky part about the gardens is the parking. If you go at a peak time (which for us was around 11am on a day with warm weather) then you may have to drive around until you finally find a spot, and then hope your parallel parking skills are up to par. Fortunately there is a pretty easy solution to this. If you become a member you can visit the park for special member-only early hours, and when we did this we practically had the place to ourselves for an hour or so. Also, paying the parking fee becomes easier if you use their mobile app, which even alerts you when your time is almost run out. And they do give tickets there (we didn’t get one, though we saw another person or two get a parking ticket).
Also, there are a few other fun places around, like an arboretum, a rose garden, and an extra-sized playground, some within walking distance of the Japanese gardens.
If you do decide to go, there may be changes to the appearance of the plants depending on the season, so you might want to check in advance. In early June, at least this year, everything seemed to be in spectacular full bloom.