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Behind the Shoji Summer Marketplace

Behind the Shoji in 2023. Photo by Nina Johnson.

For more than a decade, Behind the Shoji has been one of Portland Japanese Garden’s most anticipated summer traditions. An annual show and sale of Japanese and Japanese-inspired wares, visitors can peruse and purchase from a variety of curated items that, even with a trip to Japan, might be difficult to come across. What makes this elevated and distinctive shopping experience stand out is the amount of time that goes into establishing relationships with craftspeople and vendors in communities across Japan and the careful research into making sure visitors to the Garden are indeed perusing goods that are authentically Japanese in their makeup and design.

Behind the Shoji is a shopping experience, but the motivation behind offering it ties directly into Portland Japanese Garden’s goals of introducing authentic aspects of Japan to unfamiliar audiences. “I think it speaks to how we’re more than a garden,” Portland Japanese Garden Director of Buying & Merchandising Ashley McQuade shares. “We’re also a cultural organization, and this marketplace offers a tangible connection to Japanese culture.”

How the Unique Wares of Behind the Shoji are Curated

Behind the Shoji in 2023. Photo by Nina Johnson.

I make annual visits to Japan,” notes McQuade. “I always attend the Tokyo International Gift Show, which is a large trade show that gathers thousands of gift and home décor vendors. It has been gratifying and humbling to learn that Portland Japanese Garden is becoming a well-known and admired organization in by Japan’s community of craftspeople at this show, to the point that our arrival is anticipated every year. I think it’s due to the many years we have put into building relationships with people there—it helps encourage some artists who might be reluctant to partner with an American institution to work with us. Knowing that we are fostering friendships makes us want to work even harder to maintain this mutual trust and admiration.”

What Does “Japanese-Inspired” Mean?

Guests explore Behind the Shoji in 2022 during a special preview. Photo by Nina Johnson.

While some of the items at Behind the Shoji can claim Japanese provenance, others are referred to as “Japanese-inspired.” This is because while they be made in the United States or elsewhere, they are items that reflect Japanese aesthetics and culture. McQuade uses her decade-plus of work for the Garden plus her earlier professional history as an architect that incorporated knowledge of Japanese design principles to make sure the items for sale don’t run askew of the Garden’s standards of authenticity.


WHERE IS THIS EVENT HAPPENING?

Pavilion

The Pavilion Gallery is used for exhibitions and special events. Architectural features include shoji (translucent paper panels) and verandas that connote the integration of house and garden. The overlook offers a spectacular view of Mt. Hood to the east.