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Letter from the CEO: Beginning my Japan Residency

Stephen D. Bloom, the Chief Executive Officer of the Portland Japanese Garden.


This October, it is with gratitude and excitement that I am embarking on a Japan residency for six months to advance the work of the Garden. This work abroad will focus on expanding the Garden’s network throughout Japan as well as with Japanese garden and cultural centers internationally.

Longtime members may remember when I did a similar residency in 2006. It led to transformational changes in the Garden’s programming as well as in the Japanese Garden field overall. The work at that time was instrumental in creating our International Advisory Board, establishing the North American Japanese Garden Association, and rekindling our relationship with Tokyo University of Agriculture, where original Garden designer Professor Tono once taught. It was also crucial in establishing the International Japanese Garden Training Center here in Portland, opening doors to living artists like Ray Morimura and Kunio Kaneko, and forging extraordinary alliances with preeminent cultural partners like the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine in Kamakura.

Now, with new spaces, more cultural events, and a garden that is more beautiful than ever, it is time to open new doors for the organization.

This residency will be centered in Japan where I will travel in pursuit of partnerships with scholars, lecturers, performers, craft specialists, and of course garden experts. As our Training Center continues to grow, it’s time to deepen our network of people who can teach and refer students. In this way, we can continue toward preserving the art form of Japanese gardens throughout the world.

Thrilled to embark on a seven month journey to 15 countries across 5 continents, all to expand the Gardens’ network internationally.

Looking beyond Japan, an important part of my work will be to share the Portland Japanese Garden’s story with my counterparts who lead the great gardens of the world. From the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore to the Classical Gardens of Suzhou, China, cultivating an exchange with these world-class gardens will bring awareness to the remarkable work being done here in Portland. More importantly, this exchange will provide invaluable insights as we respond to the increasing demand for green spaces, the changing climate, and pursuing excellence in authenticity.

Finally, I’m incredibly excited to seek collaboration opportunities with Japanese cultural centers around the world. I’ll be visiting Los Angeles, London, and Sao Paolo where the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently opened JAPAN HOUSE, a center dedicated to fostering awareness and appreciation for Japan.

The very capable and talented Deputy Director Cynthia Haruyama along with our senior executive team will oversee day-to-day operations of the Garden during this extended residency abroad. I look forward to sharing my journey with you along the way which you can follow on Instagram, @stevebloomCEO.

I can hardly wait to discover what awaits our future!