Frequently Asked Questions
Have an unanswered question? Contact us directly.
Planning a Visit
- When is the best time of year to visit?
- How much time should I allow to visit the Garden?
- How do I get to the Garden?
- May I have a wedding, commitment ceremony or reception at the Garden?
- May I bring my pet in if it’s on a leash or if I’m carrying it?
- May I bring a picnic?
- Do you serve food or tea?
- What are your photography policies?
- Are there any free days or events?
- When are your tours? Do I need a reservation?
- How can I get a group rate?
- May I rent the Garden’s Pavilion for a personal event?
- Why do you open at 12 p.m. on Mondays and 10 a.m. the rest of the week?
- How is the Portland Japanese Garden different from the Lan Su Chinese Garden?
- Is the Garden wheelchair and stroller accessible?
- Is the Garden run by the City of Portland? Do you receive tax dollars to help with operations?
- How many Japanese gardens are there in the United States?
- Who runs the Garden?
- How can I get a job at the Garden?
- Can I volunteer as a gardener?
- I have some Japanese antiques I would like to donate to the Garden. What should I do?
- Why doesn’t the Garden post the names of plant material?
- How do you keep the Garden free of weeds?
- How can I encourage moss to grow in my garden?
- Where does the Garden get the white sand used in the Zen Garden and the Flat Garden?
- How do you rake the sand?
- Where can I find lanterns and other stone artifacts?
Planning a Visit
Any time of year is a good time to visit the Portland Japanese Garden. Japanese gardens are created with imagination and designed to display nature’s beauty in all seasons.
Spring is the time for fresh greenery and subtle blossoms. Cherry blossoms appear briefly in late February, while late spring flowers include azalea, camellia, and wisteria.
Summer’s sunlit shades of green yield an unbroken, calming visual experience.
The vibrant colors of fall make autumn a popular visiting time. Autumn is a celebration of nature’s gift of life in the past year, and a transition to the peacefulness of winter.
Winter reveals the pure essence of the garden, when all has been stripped away to expose its fundamental structure, spirit, and quiet beauty.
Depending on your pace, it usually takes most visitors 45 minutes to one hour to tour all five gardens within the Portland Japanese Garden. The Garden is also a place to linger, reflect, and meditate, so we encourage you to take your time and enjoy.
There are routes by both public transportation and car. Please visit our directions page for more information.
To protect the Garden’s tranquility, authenticity, and environment, we do not allow weddings, commitment ceremonies, or receptions at the Garden. We refer those interested in a garden setting to the Lan Su Chinese Garden.
Only trained animals assisting people with disabilities are allowed in the Garden. Please refer to current ADA regulations regarding service animals for more information.
No food or drink (except water) is allowed in the Garden. There are picnic areas nearby in Washington Park.
No food or drink is served in the Garden. Drinking fountains are available. There are nearby concession stands in Washington Park.
Our tea house is a traditional part of the Japanese tea ceremony, used for demonstrations and special occasions. It is not a restaurant.
All photographers, whether amateur or professional, must protect the Garden environment. Portrait and wedding photography are not allowed at the Garden. Please see our photography policy.
The Portland Japanese Garden offers a full calendar of events every year, including traditional festivals, ikebana exhibits, art shows, and workshops. Please note that some events are included with admission to the Garden, while for others there is a small fee. Members receive significant discounts to events with a fee—please see the membership page for a list of the many benefits of membership and to become a member.
We offer public tours three times a day during summer, and once on Saturdays and Sundays during the winter. These tours are offered at no additional charge with paid admission, no reservations required. See details about public tours on the visitor information page.
Group rates for private tours and school groups are available with a reservation. Please see the tours page for more information.
We ask that groups of ten or more be arranged at least two weeks in advance. You can place a reservation from our web site, or call (503) 223-9233. Please see the tours page for more information. Group rate eligibility is determined by the Tour Coordinator.
Pavilion rental is not available to the general public. We rent the Pavilion only to corporate members of the Portland Japanese Garden for off-site retreats or meetings. Visit our membership webpage for more information.
The Garden receives its heaviest traffic on weekends. Each Monday morning, our gardeners require a full six hours to care for the Garden.
Both are gardens in a historical style from East Asia, designed on principles of harmony and respect for nature. But the differences—in style and geography—are as noticeable as the similarities.
The Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland’s Chinatown is an urban garden, fit for a scholar-poet in Ming dynasty China. It occupies one square city block, containing elaborate architecture, paved courtyards, and a central pond. Painterly compositions of rugged rock and exotic plant species are poetic and inspiring.
The Portland Japanese Garden evokes the surroundings of an estate in pre-modern Japan. It occupies over five acres of wooded land, surrounded by an additional five acres of protected forest. Its architectural features—including the Antique Gate, Pavilion, Tea House, Moon Bridge, and Zig Zag Bridge—fit harmoniously into an outdoor garden setting that reveres the basic elements of nature: plants, stones, and water. Vistas, landscapes, and winding pathways are leisurely and meditative. Five traditional Japanese garden styles seamlessly unfold, from a very formal style into a rustic or natural style.
Is the Garden wheelchair and stroller accessible?
The Garden was constructed on a hilly site in the early 1960s, prior to awareness of access requirements. It includes steep hills, uneven steps, and gravel pathways. However, many visitors using wheelchairs and strollers visit the Garden and have expressed satisfaction with their experience. For more information about the Garden’s accessibility please call 503-223-1321.
The Japanese Garden Society of Oregon is a private, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. We rely on gate admissions, membership dues, and donations for our annual financial health. We do not receive city, county, state, or federal tax dollars. As a local not-for-profit organization, we are not financially supported by any entity in Japan.
There are nearly 60 public Japanese gardens in the United States. Most are connected to city park systems or botanical garden societies. By contrast, our independent, not-for-profit organization is devoted solely to the Portland Japanese Garden and operates year-round through admissions, membership dues, and donations.
The Japanese Garden Society of Oregon’s Board of Directors hires a Chief Executive Officer to operate the Garden. The Chief Executive Officer is supported by department heads as well as office, gift store, gardening, and gate staff. The number of employees is approximately 30.
Applications for seasonal staff positions can be obtained at the admissions gate or can be downloaded from our employment page when positions are available.
Because maintaining a traditional Japanese garden requires great attention to detail, we currently work with just a small number of volunteers in our Horticultural Support Program. These volunteers trim off spent flowers (deadheading), clean the ground underneath azaleas, cut back ivy, skim waterways, remove weeds, and more. Please check the volunteer page for more information.
The Garden does have collections, including netsuke, tea ceremony utensils, paintings, calligraphy and other objects. We are always interested in enhancing these collections, but our storage space is limited. If you have something to donate, please send a digital photograph with a written description of the object, and a curator will get back to you with a response as soon as possible. Due to the volume of such inquiries we receive, we thank you in advance for your patience.
This was not normally done in traditional Japanese gardens, which emphasize natural, abstract beauty. To minimize signage and to help those with an interest in horticulture, we offer a selection of books on Japanese gardens in the Garden Gift Store.
Hand weeding is done regularly—it takes a lot of patience, good knees, and a good back!
Try growing moss with a moss spore package, available at many garden nurseries. (Transplanting a patch of moss to a new surface is problematic, because each moss is best adapted to the surface where its spores choose to take root.)
Originally, shirakawa “sand” (they actually are gravels) from Japan was imported for use in the Garden. The rounded edges of this sand are ideal for holding raked patterns. However, Japan rarely exports this precious resource. Currently, the Garden uses sand from a source in Canada which nearly replicates the sand from Japan. Our supplier, Oregon Decorative Rock, now carries this in grades #3 and #4.
Our gardener plans the pattern in advance to leave no footprints. After weeding by hand, they use an aluminum landscape rake to smooth the surface flat. A second, custom-made rake is used to create wave patterns. Consisting of a heavy wooden block with triangular notches made about 3 inches apart, this specialized rake is not commonly available. Other gardeners often use only one rake—the aluminum style or traditional bamboo—to produce different effects.
Many of the Garden’s treasured old lanterns were handcrafted in Japan and purchased or generously donated. Granite is the preferred material because it will not crack in harsh, cold weather. Asian-style antique stores are often a good place to find lanterns and other stone artifacts.