Introduction to Portland Japanese Gardens:
The Portland Gardens sits on five and a half acres of land and is comprised of five different distinct Japanese garden styles. When you visit a Japanese garden, we generally expect to be greeted with a sense of peace, tranquility, and harmony. This is what Japanese gardens are all about, being one with nature. This garden style is heavily influenced by Taoist, Buddhist, and Shinto philosophies and is rich in symbolism.
There are three primary elements designers use to create Japanese gardens. The rocks and stones form the backbone of the design; the water is considered the life giving element, and the plants are a rich tapestry that represent the four seasons. Beyond the physical design itself, these elements always offer something beyond what meets the eye. The general concept behind most Japanese gardens is to imitate nature in an idealized way. Other elements of this style include bridges, arbors, water features, stone lanterns, and even pagodas.
The Flat Garden at the Portland Japanese Gardens:
One of the gardens at the Portland Japanese Gardens is the Flat Garden. This garden is a perfect example of how the karesansui dry landscape garden has continued to develop and evolve over time. This particular garden is designed to be viewed from a particular set of viewpoints from either the pavilion of the veranda. The designer of this Japanese garden sought to achieve a balance between the relationship of the ground (flat planes) and the assorted trees and shrubbery, forming a stimulating sense of depth.
The shoji doors on the veranda frame this garden in a way not much different from that of a landscape painting. Visitors looking out over the garden might think they are looking at a fine piece of art! The Flat Garden offers its seasonal view throughout the entire year. There is a century old Japanese maple that signifies Fall; a collection of black pine trees bring in the winter; weeping cherry trees announce the coming of spring; and the summer is depicted by the vast "water" of raked gravel that surrounds the Gourd and Circle islands in the design. The Flat Garden is a highlight for guests year round!
The Tea Garden at the Portland Japanese Gardens:
The Portland Japanese Gardens also has a Tea Garden for guests to visit while there. A Japanese tea garden is traditionally a place where one goes for quiet reflection. One might consider all the beauty nature has to offer and ponder the notion of harmonious living with nature and other people. The path to the Tea House in the gardens is placed out in a wooded setting with carefully laid stepping stones to guide your way through a rustic garden complete with lanterns.
The purpose of the path leading up to the tea house is for one to take a peaceful stroll through the natural setting, giving him or her time to detach themselves from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This is intended to be a spiritual practice that is focused on reaching a heightened awareness of the beauty of life, via the relatively simple task of sharing tea with friends.
The Tea House itself is called Kashinei, which in Japanese means Flower Heart Room. This authentic structure was created in Japan by master artisans and first dedicated in 1968. It has sliding papered walls that open up to allow guests to witness tea gatherings from outside the structure.
The Strolling Pond at the Portland Japanese Gardens:
The Strolling Pond Garden is the third garden in the Portland Japanese Gardens and is made up of two ponds, and upper and a lower pond, that is connected by a small intimate stream. The Upper pond was designed with a moon shaped bridge crossing, while the lower water feature has a bridge that winds its way through various iris beds that are set against an amazing waterfall.
This style of Japanese garden was at its peak during the Edo period when you would typically find strolling ponds attached to wealthy estates. It was not unusual for these gardens to be designed as a reflection of a distant place the lord or aristocrat visited once. It was also common for them to be styled after a famous Chinese landmark, or even after one's place of birth.
Earlier Japanese pond gardens were actually viewed by boat as opposed to walking adjacent pathways. These types of pond gardens were called chisen senyu shiki and were quite popular during the Heian period. While these types of pond gardens served many as inspiration in their art and poetry, in ancient times these larger Japanese gardens were more a display of wealth and luxury for the owner.
The Natural Garden Portland Japanese Gardens:
The fourth garden in the Portland Japanese Gardens is the Natural Garden. This garden was designed to offer visitors an environment where they could relax and rest, and take time to reflect on the brevity of their lives. This is most recent garden added to the collection and is far more contemporary than the other four. Primarily a deciduous plant garden, here visitors will experience seasonal changes throughout the entire year.
The tranquil essence of the Natural Garden is designed refresh and restore all who walk through it. The primary focus of this garden is the waterway however it is interesting to note as you walk through that just about all of the trees are leaning ever so slightly in the direction the water is moving.
The fifth and final garden is another karesansui, or dry landscape garden called the Sand and Stone Garden. These types of gardens are often referred to as Zen Gardens although many garden designers will say that is not an accurate description. These gardens are often found as parts of Zen monasteries and are built adjacent to abbot's living quarters.
This particular karesansui at the Portland Japanese Gardens was built in the 1960's by Professor Takuma Tono and is said to be inspired by a two thousand year old of a previous incarnation of Buddha.
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