Meaghan and I paid a visit to a great Portland attraction this weekend; the Japanese Garden. This is one of my favorite locations to visit in Portland and I consider late September to be the best time for a visit. We were fortunate enough to get almost exactly the right amount of rain this weekend and decided to take the opportunity to see the gardens at their most beautiful. The rain brings out a wonderful depth of colors in the greenery and ensures that the many water features are alive with activity. If you’ve never taken a walk around the gardens here in Portland, then I suggest that you set aside sometime on this coming weekend and drive up there. It takes about two hours at a leisurely pace to see and enjoy all of the features with time enough to take some photographs.
From the moment you enter the gardens, the chaos of the city fades away and a tranquility falls all around. All of the buildings are designed appropriately to blend in with the surroundings and after only a few paces you wouldn’t recognize the entrance hut or gift shop as anything other than a natural part of the garden itself. One of the most fun things about the gardens is that there is no set route to follow. There are many little paths leading in various directions each of which reveal many little hidden features and areas, inviting you to explore and exercise your curiosity.
After exploring around the entrance area for a short while, we ventured deeper into the gardens and came upon a hidden trail through some trees. Meaghan clapped excitedly and headed off down the little stone path to see what lay at the end. We finally reached a wooden bridge that looked over a pond filled with Koi. The edges of the pond were decorated with little waterfalls, shallower ponds and other water features and the surface of the water was covered with water-surfing insects; or food as the fish called them. The rain had brought many of the fish to the surface and we enjoyed watching them feeding. This pond is an incredibly peaceful place and it’s very easy to get lost for longer than you mean to by simply sitting, watching, and enjoying all of the sights and sounds around you. After waving farewell to the fish, we continued our journey through the park and came upon something called “The Poetry Stone”. I don’t know the exact translation, despite Meaghan telling me what it was while we were there, I remember that is something like “Although I am far from Japan, I am glad to share in the tranquility of this little piece of home.” Looking over the edge behind the poetry stone, we were treated to a spectacular view of the sand and stones exhibit that appears down one of the later trails in the park.
The gardens are divided into two sections, these upper and lower areas being delineated by a tree lined archway. A tall stone lantern stands in a small clearing as though to greet you as you pass underneath the arch. I believe that the gardens occasionally sell tickets for moonlight tour groups whereupon the lanterns are lit. I can only imagine that seeing the park by moonlight with small tealights guiding the way must be simply amazing. Every time I visit I swear that I’ll do the moonlight tour next time, but just never quite seem to get around to it. Perhaps next time!
After passing under the archway and entering the lower gardens, a winding path that is elevated just above one of the many small waterways leads you to this waterfall. I could literally sit here and enjoy the sights and sounds of the water for an entire day. Take a deep breath and relax into the moment, close your eyes and just let go. Let all of the tension of the outside world wash away and get lost in the infinite ripples of the water. Walk away refreshed and relaxed, smiling and happy. Continuing our journey, we passed a small winch of unknown function before arriving at a lovely little house that showed the simplicity and elegance of the period lifestyle.
We were only caught in the rain a handful of times, and even then it was light enough that the trees provided adequate shelter and cover. Not once in the two hours we were there did we get wet, and the sounds of the rain showering on the trees around us only served to enhance the atmosphere of the gardens. Although I have visited this place several times now, I always seem to find something new each time I am there. They landscape is filled with tiny little touches like this Buddha stone, or the tiny Japanese symbols that adorn the end of beams in building or on fences, or the occasional etched name of a garden sponsor in some of the flagstones or fences. It’s fun to just wander around and look for all of the little touches and truly appreciate the time and effort that someone has taken to create something beautiful.
To top off the day, as Meaghan and I stood at the end of the last garden trail we were greeted by a rainbow as we looked out over Portland. I leave you with this final selection of photographs from a really fun day out at one of Portland’s best attractions.