A trip to Portland to see the "Gifts from Japan" exhibition

Updated: Jun 24


Oregon "Fuji" (Mt. Hood), view from the plane. photo by Mitsuko Schultz.
Oregon "Fuji" (Mt. Hood), view from the plane. photo by Mitsuko Schultz.

Recently I visited the “Gifts from Japan” exhibition at the Portland Japanese Garden, in Portland, Oregon. This was the first time for me to visit Oregon. When I was arriving at the Portland airport I was amazed by how green everything seemed, especially after flying in from dry Los Angeles. I could see beautiful Mount Hood from the airplane. I heard that it is called “Oregon Fuji” among Japanese people and It really did resemble Mount Fuji in Japan.


If you have not read Beth Stone’s nice blog post about this exhibition please read it [click here for Beth's article]. The exhibition was in the Pavilion Gallery at the garden and it was a beautiful exhibition. I am very honored that my peony painting was included in this exhibition and to be included with such a wonderful group of artists. It was nice to see that each painting was labeled with a detailed description of the subject plant—the labels were written by Tania Marien. I really appreciate this effort by the exhibition organizers. (Click on any of the thumbnails to see a slide show of the photos below.)

Last year I had a chance to participate in a webinar lecture series organized by NAJGA, the North American Japanese Garden Association, where I first learned about the Portland Japanese Garden. Because of that lecture series I knew that I wanted to one day visit the Portland Garden. Originally the garden, designed by Professor Takuma Tono in the 1960’s, included five different gardens; a Strolling Pond Garden (Chisen Kaiyu Shiki Teien), a Tea Garden (Cha-niwa or Roji), a Sand and Stone Garden (Karesansui), a Flat Garden (Hira-niwa) and a Natural Garden (Zoki no niwa). In Japan, a typical one garden location features one or two styles of garden and so it was interesting for me to see many styles of gardens co-existing harmoniously in one location. I am originally from Japan and since I was a child I have visited many traditional Japanese gardens in temples, shrines and castles throughout Japan. When I was walking around the Portland Japanese Garden, I felt as if I was somewhere in Japan. I was also impressed by the integration and usage of Pacific Northwest native plants and how well maintained the garden was. In 2017, three new gardens; The Entry Garden (Water garden), Courtyard Garden (Tsubo-Niwa), and the Ellie M. Hill Bonsai Terrace were added and designed by Sadafumi Uchiyama, the then head of the Portland Garden, in collaboration with architect Kengo Kuma. I felt that these new additions are very representative of a changing modern Japan. (Click on any of the thumbnails to see a slide show of the photos below.)

Like Beth mentioned, the Portland Japanese Garden is situated within Washington Park, which itself is a large beautiful place that includes many interesting nooks and crannies, such as the International Rose Test Garden, the Hoyt Arboretum, and the Oregon Zoo. I wish I could live near this kind of a park.


The day after my Portland Garden visit I visited the Adelman Peony Garden in the Willamette Valley near Salem, south of Portland. The Adelman Garden is also known as “peony paradise” and indeed it was. The Adelman family grows more than 500 varieties of peonies spread over 25 acres. It is open to the public only one and half months of the year, during peony blooming season. It was spectacular to view so many blooming peonies, of various colors, pink, yellow, white, red, and coral in the fields. I have never seen this many peonies in one place before. There is also a display garden which included so many other beautiful flowers, in addition to peonies, such as irises, lupines, and clematis. (Click on any of the thumbnails to see a slide show of the photos below.)

I was also very excited to see the beautiful trees, lichens, moss varieties, and also the pretty flowers along the streets, in people's gardens, in churches, and on the grounds of the universities everywhere in Portland and Salem. (Click on any of the thumbnails to see a slide show of the photos below.)

For my return to Los Angeles, I took a train for the first time in the United States and it was a nice experience. I enjoyed the amazing views of Oregon forests with rivers and waterfalls, and the beautiful ocean views along parts of the California coast. Traveling by train I could enjoy the slowly unfolding scenery changes without having to drive. (Click on any of the thumbnails to see a slide show of the photos below.)



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