In a short trip last week, we made time for a walk in the Portland Japanese Garden, justly renowned as one of the best in the world. On each visit I see something that I had not noticed before, and last week it was the placement of all the typical Japanese garden plant species in the context of the native big trees of Oregon that really struck me. How brilliantly this was designed by Professor Takuma Tono! In his words, The use of a small piece of ground is characteristic of the Japanese garden. Although the garden itself is not so large, if the scenery behind is fortunate enough of a beautiful forest or a mountain, we utilize this outside scenery as a part of the particular garden structure, presenting an expansive appearance including those background features.
This is the concept of borrowed view, or shakkei. In addition, with the use of such huge trees, the Garden employs the element of ikedori, captured alive, in preseving the Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars that frame this view of the bridge. It enhances the experience of shifts of perspective and scale that happen so frequently in a Japanese garden. That sense of shifting views is meant to allow us to have the same interior experience, not so much of awe, but of quiet reflection. The deep shade created by these enormous trees keeps the Garden cool, restful, and meditative. In the last few weeks I have seen many species of giant trees in the wild--it was deeply satisfying to see them in a large city, providing the backbone and soul of such a masterpiece. Read more about the Garden in Bruce Taylor Hamilton's excellent book Human Nature: The Japanese Garden of Portland, Oregon.