Designer of the Portland Japanese Garden
The design of the Portland Japanese Garden is the unique vision of the late Professor Takuma Tono, considered one of the most important landscape architects of his time in Japan. Born in Osaka on April 2, 1891, Takuma Tono and his family moved to Kyoto, the home of many of Japan’s greatest traditional gardens. He attended Hokkaido University, graduating in 1916, and continued his studies at Cornell University, where he received his Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture in 1921.
When the devastating Great Kanto Earthquake struck Tokyo in 1923, Tono returned to Japan and took a position at Waseda University in 1924, where he taught until his resignation in 1943. While still at Waseda, he established his own design studio in the Ginza district of Tokyo. His international background led to several commissions to design gardens for foreign embassies, including the American Embassy. In 1953, he began teaching landscape architecture at Tokyo Agricultural University, becoming a full professor in 1958, a position he held until his retirement in 1969. He is most noted in Japan for teaching Western landscape design principles learned at Cornell and designing Western style public parks in Japan, as well as for his work in creating Japanese gardens in the US. As one of the earliest members of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), Tono was also well known as a garden designer in the US.
In 1961, he was commissioned by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to design a replica of the famous sand and stone garden of Ryoan-ji temple in Kyoto, earning him recognition for his efforts to introduce Japanese garden design concepts internationally. By this time, he was already in consultation with members of the Japan Society of Oregon who were exploring the possibility of building a Japanese garden in Portland.
With a climate not unlike that of central Japan, Portland was the perfect place to build such a garden, and late in his career, Professor Tono took up the challenge of turning the former Washington Park Zoo site into a world-class Japanese garden. The Garden opened to the public in 1967.
Takuma Tono died in Tokyo in 1985 after a lifetime of significant contributions not only to the people of Portland, but to the world of contemporary landscape design.
See some of Professor Tono’s original designs on our Historical Background page.