Last summer, I visited the Portland Japanese Garden with my mother-in-law, Jan, who was visiting from England. I heard that it was a popular place, so we set off early in the morning, intending on arriving as soon as it opened at 10am.
The Portland Japanese Garden is located in Washington Park, a massive area just outside of the city, that includes the Portland Zoo, the International Rose Test Garden, and many museums. It's well-worth multiple visits. We took the MAX train and then had to take a free internal bus that loops around Washington Park. The bus ride took about fifteen minutes and we had a nice conversation with a young woman from a group of Mormon missionaries who were taking in the local attractions on their day off.
We were not the only people who had decided to try to beat the crowds by arriving early. The line snaked around stanchions and the queue was about a hundred people deep. The summer time admission was 16.95 for adults, but Jan got a senior break at 14.50.
After buying our tickets, we had to walk up multiple sets of stairs, though a forest setting to reach the main level of the garden.
Our first stop was the tea room. The tea room is extremely popular and does not take reservations. They do take a list on the same day, first come/first served. We put our name down and we were told to return in two hours.
The Portland Japanese Garden is a magical place, filled with shady nooks, waterfalls, and art. It's beautiful. We took a leisurely walk, ducking into air-conditioned buildings to see Japanese art, including an exhibit on costumes used in Kabuki.
The garden was serene with hillside paths and surprises around every corner.
The rock garden.
The garden is not big and two hours was ample time to enjoy it. Although, I can easily imagine getting an annual pass, returning to sit and read in the garden. We saw many people with sketch pads.
We ended our day at the tea house. I had a recent phone conversation with Jan, regarding my upcoming trip to visit her in England. We spoke about all of the things that I wanted to see and made big plans. She said, "I know you're going to want to take pictures of everything, especially the food." Yep. If it's memorable, I'm going to document it.
First, here is the menu for the tea house. We were told that all of the tea is imported from Japan and that it is very special, not something that we would easily find elsewhere, outside of Japan. The tea room had an exclusive deal with a distributor.
Everything looked good and we were hungry. We settled on the "Sencha with Castella" set for two and added two Chikara Cakes.
The Chikara cake is similar to a fruit cake, thick and dense, with nuts and dried fruit. It was yummy and filling, something you'd want to pack for a hike. The Sencha tea was refreshing and it came with a Japanese sponge cake that tasted sweet, like it might have been sweetened with honey. It reminded me of a similar cake that my mom used to buy from a local Cuban bakery in Glendale.
The Tea Room is a must-do. However, you must arrive early and get your name on the list immediately. It's not a large cafe and the experience is leisurely, so the spots fill up fast.
Finally, here is a picture of downtown Portland taken from the garden. I love the mash-up of city and nature.