Tag Archives: Japanese gardens

Portland’s Japanese Gardens: Totally Like That One Anime

So the other touristy thing we did last week was hit up the Japanese Gardens, also in Washington Park right across the street from the Rose Gardens. It was a gray and gloomy morning, aka the perfect Portland morning, aka the perfect weather in which to wander a dense, mossy, slightly ethereal garden. I’m the last person to buy into the idea that Asian automatically equals exotic and mysterious, but this place was bananas, even when filled with old people with cameras. Somehow the rainy Pacific Northwest weather and rolling greenery of the southwest hills really go well with classic Japanese garden design. Even Portland’s shabby downtown looked shiny from up there.

From the parking lot there’s a shuttle that takes you up the hill to the entrance, or you can be a real man and walk the 0.2 miles through the pretty gate and up a nicely maintained path. We took the path, because we’re not wusses. Also we couldn’t pass up a photo opportunity.

Well, maybe that last one is just me.

I should point out that the path climbs the side of a hill, directly across from which is a steep cliff covered entirely in ferns. We’re talking ferns for days. Fernapalooza. Big damn ferns. I’m from the coast and even I was all, “holy shit! ferns!”

Neither Yean nor I have ever been there, despite living in Portland for quite a while now. I’m really not sure why. Well, actually I’m pretty sure I know why, and it MAY HAVE something to do with the eight dollar entrance fee. Which is not that bad! It’s just I am very broke, and also cheap. Because of being broke. But that eight bucks actually seems pretty low when you enter the gardens and see how immaculately groomed everything is, from the lobey trees to the carefully hidden and appropriately mossy stone figures strewn about the sides of the paths. Even the railings are decorative, one of which was a waist-high wall with a tiny roof on top. A roof! For a wall! So cute!

There was also cool shit like this rock garden. I really wanted to rake the gravel, y’all. I wonder how many two year olds, running around without the supervision of their hands-off hippie parents, launch themselves into this baby and mess it up. There wasn’t even a wall on the front of it. It was tempting.

This little birdy was, like POSING on this fountain while I fought with an old dude over the best position to get a shot. Also there was a fountain kinda like this one, but huge. It would make that clacking noise every few minutes as the bottom section filled with water and tipped into the pond, which we kept hearing but never saw. I’m not ashamed to say I made Yean and Mom stand there while I waited for it to tip because I’d only ever seen it in anime and was fascinated. “I think it’s, like, symbolic.” I said. “Yeah,” Yean said, “Symbolic of a commercial break.”

Anyway, it tipped and it was awesome and it’s possible I watched too much anime as a kid.

I really liked the natural garden area, which was this hilly little area with tiny streams and steps and paths cutting across it. It was way too dark to get good pictures, but it was like being in another word. The ground had a thick layer of moss on it, and there were little statues and tiny trees all around. I felt a little big and clumsy, and also concerned for the many old people carefully picking their way across the slick stone. We sat down on a bench and just stared for a bit, oblivious to the fact that fifty feet away, on the other side of a fence, cyclists in spandex were zooming down the road. In the middle of a hectic week, it was nice to have that quiet moment.

Also there was a nice reedy koi pond area, which we didn’t stick around for long because there was this ratty white dude with BO and a ponytail mansplaining to his companions about the history of pet koi. I’d like to say this annoyed me but really there’s nothing I love more than giving the “wtf?” look to a total stranger, walking ten feet away and turning to Yean all, “CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT DOUCHE?”

That’s just how I roll.

Then we went to the taco truck by my house. That’s also how I roll.

Portland Japanese Gardens
611 SW Kingston, Portland, Oregon 9720
10 am – 7 pm tues – sun
noon – 7 pm mon
(503) 223-1321

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