Thursday, April 2, 2015


Portland has both a Japanese Garden and a Chinese Garden. My daughter and I thought we would only have time for one or the other, and so we read the descriptions and reviews of both gardens and tried to choose just one. They both got rave reviews, but as my daughter had lived in Japan twice, we opted for nostalgia and the Japanese Garden. The evening before we flew home, however, we discovered that our flight had been changed, giving us just enough time to add the Chinese Garden.

So which was better? Having been to both, I still can't make a recommendation of one over the other. 

THE JAPANESE GARDEN covers 5.5 acres in Portland's West Hills neighborhood, a nice break from the noise and commotion of the city, which is important as traditional Japanese gardens seek to unite the visitor with nature and provide a sense of peace and tranquility.
We visited the garden at the end of the day when there were very few other visitors, and it was definitely peaceful and tranquil.

There are five sub-gardens: the Strolling Pond Garden, the Natural Garden, the Sand and Stone Garden, the Flat Garden, and the Tea Garden.
Stone formations and structures are an important part of all Japanese gardens:


Two different zen gardens in different areas of the park promote meditation.

ZEN #1:

ZEN #2:

In Japanese gardens there is something beautiful no matter the season, even in January in cold Portland:

Paths crisscross and meander between and among the gardens, all with places to sit, rest, and contemplate the glorious surroundings:

There was a bridge that looked vaguely familiar, like I'd seen it somewhere before. I checked it against Monet's Japanese Bridge, and yup, it was a match:
Japanese Bridge, Portland

And, of course, there must be all types of water--trickling, bubbly, glassy, tumbling, placid, reflective:
Japanese Garden, Portland, Oregon

A bit of wildlife doesn't hurt, even if it is the eternally unmoving type:

In contrast, THE LAN SU CHINESE GARDEN is compact--one enclosed city block in Portland's Old Town Chinatown.
We went on a day when free admission was offered in exchange for two cans of food for the local food bank, so it was relatively crowded. I wouldn't describe it as a tranquil place.
No sirree, this dragon doesn't exactly inspire peace and contentment:
And yet, the gently swooping roof lines and quiet waters did much to counteract the busy-ness all around us:
Lan Su Chinese Gardens, Portland, Oregon
There is a definite serenity in water that captures silhouetted shadows:

So many wonderful places to explore:

Just don't explore too closely:

As in the Japanese Garden, pathways lead willing walkers to many hidden nooks and crannies in the park.
Each sidewalk has a different personality:

Stones and living things sometimes look a lot alike:

All that exploring made us tired, and when we saw a tea house, we knew we had to stop and rest.

It was just what we needed:
Talk about atmosphere. There was even some lovely, screechy, live music played on an erhu by a charming man who broke into "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" when a child stood in front of him to watch him play:

Our snack energized us for more exploration:

We were impressed by this man creating calligraphy names for on-the-spot orders.  The price was incredibly low, and had we had more time, we would have had my granddaughters' names done, but the line was too long.

Who could possibly pass up the opportunity to walk down this pathway?

Final Analysis: Japanese Garden or Chinese Garden? 

I can't imagine choosing one over the other.  Just plan your time to do both! 

This was the final venue of our fantastic Mother-Daughter Adventure (if we don't count the chocolate tasting at the Portland Airport). Thanks to my lovely daughter for being one of the most beautiful flowers in the garden of my life. Our trip was a blast, and I hope some day we will be able to do it again!


  1. Glad you guys had an opportunity to jam together. Looks like it was a fabulous trip!

  2. There's so much fun to be had in Portland. I love the budding trees and flowers in the depths of Portland winter. What a great place to enjoy your daughter!

  3. These photos reminds me of visiting the gardens in China, with their interesting cut-out doorways and multiple window screens. I'm glad to get a write-up of both! Love the names of things--I need a Cosmic Reflection Terrace, yes, I do.