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Craftsmanship, Tradition, Continuity, and Innovation

Looking ahead to the Art in the Garden exhibitions for this Year of Kyoto, we showcase the works of fine artisans, ikebana masters, and festival traditions that have made the city famous as the center of tradition, continuity, and innovation in Japan.

Here is an overview of some of the experiences we have in store for you:


(February 3 – April 1) Our first exhibition of 2018, Hanakago (flower basket), features more exquisite bamboo masterpieces from Portland resident Peter Shinbach’s incredible bamboo art collection, highlighted by the ikebana art of Mrs. Etsuho Kakihana, master teacher of ikebana of the Saga Goryu School at Daikakuji, one of Kyoto’s oldest and most revered Buddhist Temples. Kakihana sensei travels from Portland with two prominent ikebana teachers to celebrate Kyoto with floral displays for the exhibition opening. A selection of baskets, including one by a Living National Treasure artist from Kyoto, will be paired with Saga Goryu ikebana arrangements.

Hanakago: The Art of Bamboo and Flowers / Photo by Jonathan Ley

Staged in the Pavilion and Tanabe Galleries, this is the first bamboo art exhibition of its kind to feature flowers in the baskets designed originally to hold them. Kakihana sensei will present two formal demonstrations of Saga Goryu ikebana arranging at 11am and 2pm on February 3. Reservations required; seating is limited. Learn more here.


(May 12 – July 8) Home to the Emperors of Japan for more than ten centuries, Kyoto was also home to Japan’s greatest shokunin, or fine artisans. This exhibition brings the work of five of Kyoto’s finest artisans to Portland to show their work in lacquer, ceramics, wood, and bamboo. The theme is shitsurai, the seasonal arrangement of objects that creates a harmonious environment which includes the Garden itself. The Pavilion and the Tanabe Gallery will feature these artisans’ works in arrangements of finely crafted objects, with the Garden as a visual backdrop, just outside the glass doors.

Tables provided by The Joinery of Portland offset groupings of work, adding a Northwest touch of craftsmanship to this extraordinary exhibition. All five Kyoto artists will be present for the opening weekend.


(September 15 – November 4) The Gion Festival was named for Kyoto’s famed Gion entertainment district, the birthplace of Kabuki and the world of geisha. This 900-year-old festival in Kyoto is said to be the longest running urban festival in the world, and is perhaps Japan’s most famous. It consists of a procession of elaborately decorated floats representing all the provinces of Japan.

Gion Matsuri consists of a procession of elaborately decorated floats. / Photo by kqslm/

This exhibition will be illustrated by a virtual wall of video monitors in the configuration of Japanese folding screens, which will present the festival procession as the people of Kyoto pull these multi-ton, highly decorated wooden floats through the streets of the city. Photographs by one of Kyoto’s top photographers will grace the Pavilion and Tanabe Galleries, and the Garden’s celebration will include a troupe of Gion Bayashi festival musicians from Kyoto performing the unique festival sounds that accompany the procession of floats.


(December 1, 2018 – January 14, 2019) In December, the Portland Japanese Garden will be the only venue in the United States to feature famous manga woodblock prints by the world famous Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, (1760-1849), juxtaposed with work by top modern manga artists. Manga Hokusai Manga will introduce some of the similarities and differences between modern Japanese manga (illustrated magazines), which now enjoy worldwide popularity, and Hokusai Manga, a collection of superb illustrations by the ukiyo-e artist Hokusai. With the generous support of the Japan Foundation, the Manga Hokusai Manga exhibition will run the entire month of December.