An evening at the Japanese Garden

Seeing the Main Pavillion's inviting glow is a treat in itself.

Seeing the Main Pavillion’s inviting glow is a treat in itself.

Day or night, I rarely – if ever – turn down an invitation to experience the Japanese Garden. So when Drake (the owner of the company I work for, and also a board member of the Japanese Garden) asked if anyone had an interest in attending the opening reception for a new exhibit on Mashiko ceramics – naturally, I jumped on the opportunity. So did several of my work mates, who brought along their partners/friends. The ceramics were, of course, fantastic, and we had fun admiring the koi, and wandering the garden as dusk fell. I consider myself fortunate to be working with people I actually enjoy spending time with.

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As you might expect, seeing the garden in the blue light of night is different from seeing it in the daytime. I noticed several things I had never seen before. This is one thing I enjoy greatly about both our city’s Japanese Garden and Lan Su (the Chinese equivalent) – there is always something new to discover – some new detail that suddenly captures your attention.

Like this roof detail... I have never before noted that there is a row of tiles along the bottom that have a built-in, upturned arch that would catch anything that rolled down the incline. I don't imagine it is to prevent snow from sliding off the roof - if that was the purpose, I imagine these stops would occur in several places on the roof - not just at the bottom.

Like this roof detail… I have never before noted that there is a row of tiles along the bottom that have a built-in, upturned arch that would catch anything that rolled down the incline. I don’t imagine it is to prevent snow from sliding off the roof – if that was the purpose, I imagine these stops would occur in several places on the roof – not just at the bottom.

The exhibit featured the work of several Mashiko artisans - among them two Living Legends.

The exhibit featured the work of several Mashiko artisans – among them two Living National Treasures.

Each artist were quoted. This one made me  both nod my head, and laugh. Although I can see why he urges you to forget everything you learned in college, I do think I learned a few useful things. But there is nothing like the school of life, though.

Each artist were quoted. This one made me both nod my head, and laugh. Although I can see why he urges you to forget everything you learned in college, I do think I learned a few useful things. But there is nothing like the school of life, though.

One of my favorite things about the Japanese vessels is the attention wrought on the base. Rather than just a means to stability, it is sculpted to become an integral part of the whole. The textures imparted on the clay, are another source of delight, for me.

One of my favorite things about the Japanese vessels is the attention wrought on its bases. Regardless of material, rather than just a means to stability, it is sculpted to become an integral part of the whole. The textures imparted on the clay, are another source of delight, for me.

Mashiko ceramics

Love the elegant texture on this vase. For some reason – even if I can discern somewhat of a formal echo with the rim of the vase, I’m not as thrilled with the base on this particular one though, although it does fill its function. Can’t put my finger on why…

Ceramics

On this one too, the base is mirroring some of the forms of the vase itself. And I love the texture!

On any bowl or cup the base is a distinct part of the composition. It always elevates the elegance of the individual piece.

On any bowl or cup the base is a distinct part of the composition. It always elevates the elegance of the individual piece.

These pots were more whimsical - almost Disneyesque in their animated forms.

These pots were more whimsical – almost Disneyesque in their animated forms.

Got a kick out of this devil.

Got a kick out of this spiteful-looking devil.

Outside, in the garden, there was an artist, showing how the rope textures featured on a lot of the pottery is created. We admired him for a while...

Outside, in the garden, there was an artist, showing how the rope textures featured on a lot of the pottery is created. We admired him for a while…

... and then turned around and took in the evening view over Portland and Mt. Hood instead. The mountain was shrouded in clouds.

… and then turned around and took in the evening view over Portland and Mt. Hood instead. The mountain was shrouded in clouds.

I usually spend more time looking at the gardens when I'm here. This time, I looked closer at the Main Pavillion. Check out the sheen on these sliding panels. Beautiful...

I usually spend more time looking at the gardens when I’m here. This time, I looked closer at the Main Pavillion. Check out the rich sheen on these sliding panels. Beautiful…

Sliding wood panels Portland Japanese garden

The setting looks marvelous in the twilight.

The setting looks marvelous in the twilight. This side of the pavilion…

... looks out over this.

… looks out over this.

Throughout, and interspersed within the pottery, were stunning examples of ikebana - the Japanese art of flower arranging.

Throughout, and interspersed within the pottery, were stunning examples of ikebana – the Japanese art of flower arranging.

Among other things, this one featured Stipa gigantea, Calla lilies and Asparagus foliage.

Among other things, this one featured Stipa gigantea, Calla lilies and the wispy texture of Asparagus foliage.

This one involved driftwood, ferns, and some kind of Ilex (I think).

This one involved driftwood, ferns, and some kind of Ilex (I think).

Walking through the Garden at dusk is quite magical. Throughout, you will see the warm light of lit up structures...

Walking through the Garden at dusk is quite magical.

Throughout, you will see the warm light of lit up structures in the distance...

Throughout, you will see the warm light of illuminated structures in the distance…

... and well-placed lighting to highlight selected trees and areas of the garden.

… and well-placed lighting to highlight selected trees and areas of the garden.

Walk in the park

Gnarly shrub

I like how their gardeners remove enough foliage on select shrubs so you can see the structure of the branches. It makes a nice contrast with the mounded, perfectly shaped Azaleas.

Large Japanese lantern

Beautiful sight lines everywhere you look!

We ventured down to the Koi pond.

We ventured down to the Koi pond.

Everyone's favorite was the one that looks like the flag of Japan.

There were lots of beautiful fish circling around in the pond, but everyone’s favorite was the one that looks like the flag of Japan.

Around the pond, the Iris ensete was in full bud.

Around the pond, the Iris ensete was in full bud.

The Japanese garden is at a higher elevation than most of Portland. Only one of the buds had made it this far.

The Japanese garden is at a higher elevation than most of Portland. As far as we could tell, only one of the buds had made it this far.

I noticed a Sho-shugi ban and bamboo edging by the pond, that I must have missed when I wrote about Japanese fences and screens. You can check that post out here, if you're interested.

I noticed a Shou-sugi-ban and bamboo edging by the pond, that I must have missed when I wrote about Japanese fences and screens. You can check that post out here, if you’re interested.

Too soon, it was time to head back down to the parking lot.

Too soon, it was time to head back down to the parking lot

I noticed the discreet light fixtures lining the path. Perfection!

I noticed the discreet light fixtures lining the path. Perfection!

Elegant simplicity.

Elegant simplicity.

On the way down, I saw this beautifully tree canopy, lit from above.

On the way down, I saw this beautiful tree canopy, lit from above.

Leafy shadow pattern

Further down the path, another well placed light created this marvelous pattern of shadows.

It is fun to ponder whether these wonderful, fleeting touches were indeed the implementation of an idea, or formed by fortunate accident.  Perhaps simply being in such a beautiful environment opens your mind up to see and absorb more of it? There is a lot to take in and think about here, for aspiring designers… Regardless, a visit to either one of our fair city’s Asian gardens, is a surefire way to ground yourself, help you shed whatever thoughts that might add to your daily stresses, and help inspiration flow. It is a restorative experience I wish everyone could enjoy. If you’re a local, or can make a day trip, I highly recommend the exhibit. In a world of dwindling crafts, where ancient skills are rapidly fading into oblivion, this causes you to pause and reflect. A wonderful evening indeed. Thanks, Drake – it was a treat!

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About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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4 Responses to An evening at the Japanese Garden

  1. mattb325 says:

    Stunning garden – Japanese gardens are the ultimate in stress relief, beauty and simplicity, what a way to spend an evening 🙂

    • annamadeit says:

      It is indeed a wonderful place any time you see it, but this was the first time I had experienced it at night. Can’t wait to do it again… 🙂

  2. hoov says:

    Thank you for sharing your magical evening. The pottery, flower arrangements, the light at dusk, the glow from the buildings, the shadows–all a delight. The flag-of-Japan koi is known as a Tancho, named after the sacred crane of Japan (Grus Japonensis), which is also called Tancho.

    But I think Mr. Hamada went to a different college than I did!

    • annamadeit says:

      Really? How cool that it is named after the crane – I had no idea! I know so little about fish, and even less about koi. And yes – I’m pretty sure my college experience was different too – I’m not ready to forget it all quite yet! 🙂

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