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Our History

“A Japanese Garden is not only a place for the cultivation of trees and flowering shrubs, but one that provides secluded leisure, rest, repose, meditation, and sentimental pleasure…

The Garden speaks to all the senses, not just to the mind alone.”


In 1958, Portland became a sister city to Sapporo, Japan, which created a broad interest in Japanese culture. Soon after, several business leaders and the Mayor of Portland decided it would be wonderful for Portland to have a traditional Japanese Garden.


On June 4, 1962, the City Council created a commission to establish the garden on the site of the former Washington Park Zoo.


The Japanese Garden Society of Oregon was formed in 1963 by Portland citizens interested in promoting a more intimate relationship between the peoples of Japan and our city and state. Takuma Tono, a Tokyo Agricultural University professor and internationally recognized authority on Japanese landscape design, was commissioned to design and supervise the development of the garden and he began landscaping the garden that year.


In the summer of 1967, the Portland Japanese Garden formally opened to the public. The 5.5-acre Japanese garden is composed of five separate gardens: Strolling Pond Garden, Tea Garden, Natural Garden, Flat Garden, and Sand and Stone Garden. Through the careful use of plants, stones, and water, areas of serene and quiet beauty emerge. These peaceful spots in the garden lend themselves to meditation and contemplation.

1968 – 1994

A special feature of the Garden is the Kashintei Tea House, where formal tea ceremonies are periodically demonstrated. The tea house was built in Japan, disassembled, and then rebuilt on its present site in 1968. The Garden’s lovely Pavilion was opened in 1978 and houses special, rotating exhibitions relating to Japanese culture and the arts. The Service Center was built in 1994 and houses the nationally acclaimed Garden Gift Store.

In 1988, His Excellency Nobuo Matsunaga, Ambassador from Japan to the United States, visited the Portland Japanese Garden and proclaimed it to be “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan.” In 1998, His Excellency Ambassador Kunihiko Saito exclaimed over the beauty of the Garden and also agreed to its authenticity stating, “I believe this garden to be the most authentic Japanese garden, including those in Japan.”


The Portland Japanese Garden offers events, workshops, and cultural holiday celebrations. The Garden is host to over 300,000 visitors a year who come to experience this peaceful setting of spectacular beauty.

The Garden is a not-for-profit organization funded entirely by donations, membership, memorials, grants, gate admissions, and gift store sales. The land, which is located in Washington Park near the Rose Gardens, is leased from the City of Portland.