Armchair photo tours: A fall stroll in the Portland Japanese Garden

Fall colors at the Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon

Photos by Cheryl Landes

The Portland Japanese Garden in Washington Park is a beautiful place to wander and reflect. Paths wind past an authentic tea house and through eight separate garden styles, from a zen garden to a beautiful pool fed by a waterfall.

The garden is a serene, peaceful escape year-round. The peaceful sound of the waterfalls or water flowing through a bamboo fountain, birds singing in the trees, and the breeze tickling the leaves soothe the soul. On clear sunny days, Mount Hood’s snow-covered peak appears through the trees.

Although I love visiting the garden any time of year, rain or shine, fall is my favorite season. The maple trees turning yellow and red leaves add bright splashes of color among the giant native fir trees.

The 12-acre garden was designed in 1963 and opened to the public in 1967. The idea began in the 1950s by Mayor Terry Schrunk and Portland community members as a way to increase cultural ties between Oregon and Japan after World War II. This led to the formation of the Japanese Garden Society of Oregon.

The society wanted to create a beautiful, serene garden that forged a healing connection to Japan. Its intent was to blend the Pacific Northwest and Japanese landscapes in a way that visitors could experience both cultures in an inspirational, rewarding way.

The garden accomplished those goals. When Japan’s ambassador, Nobuo Matsunaga, visited the garden at its 25th anniversary in 1988, he said that it’s “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan.”

The Portland Japanese Garden is located at 611 SW Kingston Avenue, west of downtown Portland and north of the Oregon Zoo. Hours vary by season, and parking is available for a charge. For more information, visit

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