Last week while attending a training conference in Portland, Oregon, I was very fortunate to have the chance to visit what is considered to be the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan. It was designed by Professor Takuma Tomo in 1963 and encompasses 5 1/2 acres of land with five separate garden styles.
Japanese gardens have an ancient history influenced by Shinto, Buddhist, and Taoist philosophies. Upon entering a Japanese garden the hope is to realize a sense of peace, harmony and tranquility.
There are three primary elements used in every Japanese garden design: stone, the "bones" of the landscape; water, the life-giving force; and plants, the tapestry of the four seasons. As you stroll through, you will see other important elements which include stone lanterns, water basins, arbor and bridges.
The Wisteria Arbor leads us to an antique 5-tiered stone pagoda lantern given to Portland from its Sister City, Sapporo, Japan.
The Strolling Pond Garden (chisen kaiyu shiki newa) features the authentic Moon Bridge.
The lower pond holds tortoise and crane stones, common symbols of longevity.
Within the Tea Garden (roji) there is an Inner Garden (uchi roji) which surrounds the ceremonial Tea House.
The Zig Zag Bride (yatsuhashi) leads through iris beds to the lower pond . . .
. . . . which holds the Garden's beautiful koi, that swim beneath the very beautiful Heavenly Falls (I love that name).
The Natural Garden (zoki no niwa) winds its way down the south hillside.
There are beautiful ponds, waterfalls and shallow streams that meander under small bridges, trees, scrubs, ferns and mosses.
The Sand and Stone Garden (karesansui) features the stark simplicity of weathered stones rising from a bed of "sand" raked to suggest the sea. This garden style is typically found in Zen monasteries.
The Poetry Stone is inscribed with a haiku which reads, "Here, miles from Japan, I stand as if warmed by the spring sunshine of home."
The Flat Garden (hira niwa) is designed using a sea of raked sand. The two islands of plantings depict a sake cup and gourd-shaped bottle, signifying pleasure and a wish for the visitor's happiness. Very cool.
As you enter the garden visitors are asked to "discard worldly thoughts and concerns and to see themselves as a small but integral part of the universe".
We are asked to turn off our cell phones so we may feel the Garden's mood of peace and harmony. I love this rule. Nothing would destroy my peace and harmony more than someone on their cell phone chatting away loudly. The price for admission is $9.50 for adults (with some discount prices offered for seniors and children) and it is so worth it.