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The Return of Autumn’s Brilliance: Portland Japanese Gets Ready for Golds and Crimsons of Fall

The Antique Gate surrounded by welcoming fall colors. Photo by William Sutton.

In Japan, the transition of seasons is revered for their impermanence. The fleeting nature of Japanese maples reaching peak color only heightens the anticipation of fall. In a part of the world better known for its year-round greenery, once a year, the Pacific Northwest comes to life with exquisite tone and texture. Throughout this season, Portland Japanese Garden is active as the lush, full, and matured trees from the summer transform into their autumn splendor, revealing brilliant shades of red and gold. When fall hits Portland Japanese Garden, it is absolutely stunning. To help you prepare for this highly anticipated time of year, we have a few suggestions on how to spend your time here.

“The Tree”

“The Tree” in fall. Photo by Rebecca Saltonstall.

On the northern end of the Strolling Pond Garden is a humble maple tree that has captured the attention of so many photographers that it is believed to be one of the most photographed trees in the world. Beautiful in every season, but particularly vibrant in autumn, “The Tree” has inspired people to drive great lengths to visit. In 2018, Oregon Public Broadcasting interviewed a guest to Portland Japanese Garden named Walter Santos. Santos traveled overnight from his home of San Diego to capture it on camera. “[I drove] 16 hours straight,” he shared. “I saw on the website the colors were going, and I’m a photographer so whenever that happens, I’m there.”

We highly recommend that members arrive during their exclusive morning hours from 8-10am to get in before the crowds arrive! And don’t forget to consider becoming a photographer member, which also offers special opportunities throughout the year to capture the landscape after the Garden closes to the public.

Warm Up with Tea from the Umami Café

A view of the Umami Cafe in fall. Photo by Nina Johnson.
A view of the Umami Cafe in fall. Photo by Nina Johnson.

With a design reminiscent of Kyoto’s Kiyomizu-dera temple, the Umami Café floats over the hillside and provides views of the area’s natural beauty in autumn. Tea is provided by the acclaimed Tokyo-based Jugetsudo tea company, while light snacks come from our partnership with Japanese food company, Ajinomoto as well as several local Japanese confectioneries, such as Yume Confections and Behind the Museum Café. Between its tea and miso soup, the Umami Café is the perfect place to take away the chill after walking the Garden’s landscape.

Get Some Early Holiday Shopping Done

The Gift Shop in the Cultural Village. Photo by Jonathan Ley.

Located in the Cultural Village, the Garden Gift Shop offers a unique mix of hand-selected items from Japan, including several items available nowhere else in the United States. Browse our meaningful and unique merchandise and take a piece of Portland Japanese Garden home. It’s the perfect place to begin shopping for your loved ones as the holiday season quickly approaches.

Plan Your Visit

From 2017: The Flat Garden in autumn. Photo by Bruce Forster.

While factors like temperature, light, and water all affect the onset and duration of the Garden’s autumn aesthetics, one can expect to start to see the transformation throughout the month of October. To help members and guests plan their visit, the Garden has set up its fall color tracker, which can be found by clicking here.