Gifts From Japan – A Beautiful Exhibit at the Portland Japanese Garden Invites Contemplation

Updated: May 20

by Beth Stone


Robert Hori, Gardens Cultural Curator & Programs Director at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens and Guest Curator viewing the exhibit introduction.
Robert Hori, Gardens Cultural Curator & Programs Director at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens and Guest Curator viewing the exhibit introduction.

Washington Park is a wonderful public oasis in Portland Oregon. Its 400+ acres include 2300 species of trees and 12 miles of hiking trails. The park’s crown jewel is the Portland Japanese Garden. Strolling upward through the entry garden leads to grand views of Portland and Mt Hood from the Pavilion Gallery. Beautifully integrated individual gardens exemplify each of eight traditional Japanese styles encompassing 12 acres. It seemed to me the most beautiful of the gardens was always whichever one I was presently in.








Asuka Hishiki's "Pinus nigra, Black Pine, Half Cascade Style" is hung so the Flat Garden surrounds the painting.

From now until July 4, 2022, the Pavilion Gallery is home to Flora Japonica, Gifts from Japan. With Gallery doors open, framed botanical art joins hands with nature’s creations in the Flat Garden for a unified glorious display.








Stepping stones inspire the layout of artwork in the gallery.
Stepping stones inspire the layout of Fall and Winter artwork in the gallery.

Akihito Nakanishi explained his vision for the gallery layout as two-fold. First was a tribute to the seasons: to one side, Fall with Chrysanthemums and Persimmons. Winter is arranged on the opposite wall with Camellias and Umbrella Pine. The four walls in the center burst with the Spring and Summer species which will be prevalent throughout the show’s duration. The second vision was of stepping stones. Whereas Spring and Summer artworks are aligned by vertical centers like a horizon, Fall and Winter take placement inspiration from garden stepping stones. Akihito collaborated with a garden designer to help position those works.




Opening attendees get up close and personal with Akiko Enokido's Camellia rusticana.
Opening attendees get up close and personal with Akiko Enokido's "Camellia rusticana ‘Yukitsubaki’."

Thank you to all those who contributed their artwork for this show. Assembling works from the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California (BAGSC), the Pacific Northwest Botanical Artists, the Oregon Botanical Artists (OBA), and guest artists from Japan was a monumental task. The breadth of styles and subject matter give this show a fascinating depth. Special thanks go to Akiko Enokido, BAGSC member in Japan, for assembling and sending the exemplary works of her colleagues from Japan.


The knowledge and enthusiasm of Guest Curator Robert Hori of The Huntington and his ties to the Portland Japanese Garden and BAGSC was central to the realization of the Gifts from Japan exhibit.


The careful consideration for integrating the Flora Japonica botanical art into the historic Japanese gardens continues with more Gifts from Japan in the Calvin and Mayho Tanabe Gallery. Here the history of Japanese Gardens in America is explored including the role of Yokohama Nursery Co. Ltd., and also of Japanese immigration in bringing Japanese plants into cultivation here.


Again, this gallery contains an ambitious collaboration of diverse institutions and artifacts: 18thc maple leaf illustrations and an Ikebana scroll from Sokaen Bunko; 19thc Lily Catalog woodblock prints from The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens; postcards from California State Long Beach; and handcrafted artworks from the Japanese American Museum of Oregon (also in Portland).


Note that one postcard depicts “G. T. Marsh & Co Japanese Tea Garden Cor California and Fair Oaks Ave Pasadena Cal”. This Japanese house and garden were purchased by Henry Huntington in 1911 and moved to San Marino to anchor the current Japanese garden at The Huntington.

Plum and Nightingale Carving, c. 1942 – 1945. Crafted by an unknown Issei man while held at Tule Lake concentration camp during WWII.
Plum and Nightingale Carving, c. 1942 – 1945. Crafted by an unknown Issei man while held at Tule Lake concentration camp during WWII.

I was particularly touched by the handcrafted Carved Panel, Shell Corsages and Brooch. Japanese Americans incarcerated here (in their own country) during WWII, discovered tiny shells in ancient lake beds which they used to fashion beautiful floral objects.


The spirit of these artists is captured by Gifts from Japan – A Horticultural Tale Told Through Botanical Art. Here individual contributors and curators were drawn together to weave history, plants and the arts into one whole, reminding us of the importance of natural beauty to uplift and enrich our lives.



View at the PORTLAND JAPANESE GARDEN

611 SW Kingston Avenue Portland, OR 97205

May 14 – July 4, 2022










See a slide show gallery of artworks from the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California (BAGSC), the Oregon Botanical Artists (OBA), and guest artists from Japan along with photos from the exhibition opening and links to more information by clicking HERE.


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