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Community Support Helps Restore Natural Garden Machiai

The Natural Garden’s machiai after its restoration.

From December through the beginning of the new year, a beloved structure tucked away in the Natural Garden – the machiai (sheltered waiting arbor) – has gone through a long-awaited restoration project. The Natural Garden’s machiai was originally handcrafted in the 1980s with a high quality of workmanship and integrity of tradition. Authentically designed to sit without one front post so as to preserve an unobstructed view for those seated inside, the unsupported corner had begun to sag, pulling the roof, beams, and walls with it.

Progress on the machiai of the Natural Garden as of January 2023.

As part of the restoration, joints were restructured and balanced to help keep the unsupported corner of the roof up. Additionally, the roof was reinforced. Because of the traditional design of the machiai, an approach that does not use nails, the structure can be replaced piece-by-piece rather than face demolition.

Former Garden Director Masa Mizuno (1977-1980), Current Garden Curator Hugo Torii, and Woodworking Expert Dale Brotherton stand in front of the machiai.

Careful restoration was conducted under the supervision of Dale Brotherton, an expert in Japanese woodworking with more than 40 years of experience, and owner and operator of Takumi Company, a traditional Japanese design and architecture firm based in Seattle. Brotherton’s masterful craftsmanship has been a welcomed presence at Portland Japanese Garden dating back to the 90s, with projects including wooden sliding doors and interior shoji for the Pavilion Gallery, the Moon Gate that one passes through to enter the Natural Garden, and the wooden interiors for buildings in the Cultural Village.

Japanese woodworking expert Dale Brotherton working on the restoration of the machiai.

This project was made possible through the generous support of 250 donors, a matching grant from the Oregon Heritage Commission, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and Dorothy Piacentini. “I believe the machiai is one of the most peaceful spots in the Garden,” shared Portland Japanese Garden’s Garden Curator, Hugo Torii. “Because of their investment, they have ensured it will remain a place of tranquility for our community for generations to come.”