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A Year in Review: 2020 at Portland Japanese Garden

In this year of unprecedented challenges, we are deeply grateful for the support and resilience of our community, staff, and the Garden. Throughout the year, Portland Japanese Garden has reminded us of how nature has the power to heal, uplift, and connect us. Here, we reflect on 2020 and how we grew stronger as a community.

Spirits Rising

We started the year by commemorating 2020 as the “Year of Peace” in acknowledgement of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. To stimulate conversation and facilitate thoughtful discussion around the topic of “peace,” we opened with an art exhibition, Spirits Rising: ひろしま / hiroshima by Ishiuchi Miyako.

“Love the Japanese garden and would love to see it growing and thriving forever.”

Closing and Caring for Community

As COVID-19 cases surged, Oregon and Portland took drastic measures to limit the spread of the virus. For the first time in Portland Japanese Garden’s history, we closed our gates in accordance with city and state lockdown measures.


One Minute of Serenity

While the Garden was closed, we yearned for nature. As a way to bring Portland Japanese Garden to our community, we started “One Minute of Serenity” videos to help evoke the feelings of serenity, peace, and tranquility.

Community Strength

Our community came together and uplifted us during our closure with strong support. We were able to continue to be a local treasure: a place that allows one to explore the art of craft, a connection to nature, and experience of peace.


“The Gardens were gorgeous. We enjoyed learning from the volunteers and staff. Kudos to the gardeners, staff and volunteers for giving us balm for our souls.”


We re-opened just in time for the irises to bloom (of course, with new safety measures and restrictions)!

Standing Together

We reaffirmed our organization’s values of inclusivity, anti-racism, and cultural understanding.

Garden Excellence Recognized 

Portland Japanese Garden celebrated the profound impact and achievements of our staff, partners, and community through several awards.

The Garden received a top honor by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) with the Award of Excellence for the transformational Cultural Crossing Project. American Public Garden Association (APGA) recognized the Garden with an award given to the public garden that exemplifies the highest standards of excellence, the Garden Excellence Award. APGA also awarded our Garden Curator, Sadafumi Uchiyama, the Award of Merit as a member who has performed with distinction in the field of public horticulture and has excelled as a public garden professional.

Locally, Portland Japanese Garden was honored to win first place in the “Best Garden” category of Willamette Week’s 2020 Best of Portland Readers Poll. With over 240,000 votes cast, we were honored to be recognized by our local community as a place of peace and respite right here in Portland.

Bridging Communities, Virtually

We took our first steps into the virtual program territory with our annual tradition of O-Bon through a moment of silence and reflection hosted on Instagram Live. We continued to expand our footprint into Zoom webinars and Facebook livestreaming, and we look forward to bringing more virtual content in 2021.


Despite the odds, we safely and successfully hosted our first in-person event of the year, with a scaled-down Moonviewing event. And it was just what our souls needed to see each other, revel in the harvest moon, and feel a sense of normalcy.

“I’ve always loved that the Garden is a place that envelops me when I need to disconnect from the chaos that is happening all around me. That’s been particularly important over the last few months as the City has been under siege with opinions.”

Fall Color Watch 2020

It was a particularly magnificent show of fall colors this year, and we like to think that perhaps this was a gift from nature to help find brightness during an unprecedented year. The spectacular display of colors brought locals, photographers, and news stations to capture its beauty.

Healing Nature

We explored the power and impact of Japanese gardens through an exhibition “Healing Nature: Gardens and Art of Manzanar.” The exhibition was brought to life through a virtual walkthrough and given deeper meaning through a series of expert panel discussions.


Everyone Needs a Japanese Garden

In a year that stripped us down to our roots, we found that everyone needs a garden – and in our case, a Japanese garden – to connect us to nature, to ourselves, and to each other.


This year has shown us the importance of connection and community and we thank you for your steadfast support through every step of 2020.