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Portland Japanese Garden Exhibition Honors Centuries of Traditional Technique and Craftsmanship

Photo by Yuya Hoshino

“More important is that we not lose sight of the original ideals that guided our ancestors – that deep connection to the natural world through the materials we use and an awareness that our lives are but a moment in a continuum of the craftsman’s tradition.”

Shuji Nakagawa, featured Portland Japanese Garden artist

PORTLAND, Ore. – Imagine if you can, making something from nothing, using only natural materials for hundreds of years, then handing down those techniques and materials for generations to come. The Japanese word Shokunin means “artisan.” It embodies a long-standing spirit in which masterful pieces of work are created through attention to detail and respect for traditional techniques.

Woodworker Shuji Nakagawa. / Photo by Yuya Hoshino

This summer, the Portland Japanese Garden will feature Shokunin: Five Kyoto Artisans Look to the Future, which gives five artists from Kyoto a chance to define what it means to be a relevant craftsman in the 21st century. Each of the five artisans featured in the exhibition work in different mediums and come from different backgrounds, but find themselves united by the spirit of shokunin and a hope to inspire others about the importance of traditional craftsmanship.

“In Portland, we have an incredible community of artists and craftspeople. And while our maker scene is relatively new when compared to Kyoto’s, the artistic endeavor and challenge remains the same” says Diane Durston, the Arlene Schnitzer Curator of Culture, Art & Education for the Garden. “Being relevant in the modern era while staying committed to the highest quality – that’s something any person dedicated to their craft can appreciate.”

In celebration of the Garden’s Year of Kyoto, May 12th – July 8th, 2018, the Portland Japanese Garden invites visitors to experience the work of the artisans from Kyoto, a city renowned for centuries-old art and traditional craftsmanship. The five artists will showcase pieces that span four different mediums: wooden vessels, bamboo basketry, lacquerware and pottery.

All five Kyoto artisans will be present during opening weekend:

Artisans’ Tea Ceremony (Saturday, May 12, 1:00-2:30PM, Yanai Classroom):

A tea ceremony will feature utensils created by the artisans for the exhibition. An introduction will be given by pottery craftsman, Hosai Matsubayashi XVI.

Artisans’ Demonstration (Saturday, May 12, 3:00-4PM, Learning Center, Cultural Corner):

Kyoto artisans Shuji Nakagawa (woodwork), and Chiemi Ogura (bamboo weaving), demonstrate their work and talk with visitors about their lives and experiences.

About The Portland Japanese Garden

Since officially opening to the public in 1967, the Portland Japanese Garden has been immersing visitors in beautiful scenery while they experience the art and culture of  Japan. Celebrated as one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan, Portland Japanese Garden features eight separate garden styles on its 12-acre site. For more information, visit:

Hours (March 13 – Sept. 30): Mondays (Noon-7pm), Tues-Sun (10am-7pm).

Pricing (May 1-September 4): Adults: $16.95, Seniors (65+): $14.50, College Students (with ID): $13.50, Youth (6 – 17): $11.50, Children 5 and under: free.

The Shokunin exhibition is included with Garden Admission.