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A Letter to Our Community

The Natural Garden. Photo by Jack Jakobsen.

Dear Portland Japanese Garden community members,

A garden, any garden, is a place of growth. That applies to the diminutive moss and the towering Douglas firs as much as it does to each and every one of us. As leaders of this remarkable organization, we stand committed to growing and learning a better way to serve Japan and its culture, the Japanese American community, and each person who walks through our gate.

Recently, our internal community has raised issues publicly that have caused us to step back and consider how we share the important lessons our Garden is intended to teach.

In that sharing of these lessons, we have told the story of our first Garden Director, Kinya Hira, who during his time at the Garden, endured bigotry, protest, and a premeditated stabbing. His story demonstrates how a community tainted with racism can transform — in our case, through a garden. It is one of the most relevant stories we share when telling our Garden’s journey. Part of this retelling has included quoting the hateful words Hira san heard. Through listening and dialog, we have come to understand that our internal community is right – the story is powerful enough without repeating the racial epithet.

The Garden is first and foremost about peace and reconciliation. That is why, as an organization, we pledge never to use that slur in telling our story by anyone who has not experienced its use firsthand. We deeply apologize to anyone this may have hurt or offended and we ask for your forgiveness.

It is a deep honor and pleasure to lead Portland Japanese Garden. We are exceptionally proud of this organization, the dedicated and talented staff, and our community. We have many exciting ventures to look forward to in the future, but none more important than restoring the respect and harmony of those who make the Garden a special place every day. Thank you for walking with us on this path.

With gratitude,

Steve Bloom, CEO of Portland Japanese Garden
Drake Snodgrass, President of Portland Japanese Garden’s Board of Trustees