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Long a top destination for locals and tourists alike, Portland’s Japanese Gardens are a treat for the soul. After a 20-month, $33.5 million expansion, this amazing destination is now even more splendorous and accessible. The expansion includes an authentic, Japanese dining experience thanks in large part to a very generous donation from sponsor Japanese food brand Ajinomoto. Indeed, the Umami Cafe, which serves both tea and traditional Japanese food, takes this great garden experience to a whole new level. Hitting on all senses, for anyone that hasn’t been “up to the gardens” in recent times you’re in for a treat.

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The Umami Cafe is seen here, perched on the edge of a beautifully manicured hill overlooking the Japanese Gardens. I can’t think of a better place to enjoy some traditional fare! Image Courtesy: Bruce Forster

 

Umami Cafe Design

Heading the $33.5 million dollar expansion of the Japanese Gardens was storied architect Kengo Kuma. Kuma became a household name, especially in Japan, for his work in designing the $1.5 billion National Stadium for the 2020 Olympic Games. Check out this aerial map from The Oregonian that shows just how much has been added in this expansion (which finished on-time and on-budget by the way):

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The expansion at Portland’s Japanese Gardens is shown here in this excellent map courtesy of Dan Aguayo of the Oregonian.

 

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This beautiful map shows (yet again) the expansion that has taken place at this wonderful destination. Image Courtesy: JapaneseGarden.org

 

Here now is a quote from Mr. Kuma regarding the building of the Umami Cafe, which features wonderful cuisine from Ajinomoto:

The design for the café is inspired by its specific place at the crest of the hill. As with the pilgrimages to such renowned mountainside temples as Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, this structure hovers above and greets those on the approaching path. For those arriving, it is a shelter to catch one’s breath and anticipate the gardens ahead. For those finishing their journey, it is an opportunity to reflect with all senses.
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Just one page from the delicious menu at the Umami Cafe at the Japanese Gardens. With a large donation from traditional Japanese food brand Ajinomoto, this is one dining experience you don’t want to miss. Image Courtesy: JapaneseGardens.org

 

A Bit on Ajinomoto

Ajinomoto is as authentic as it gets. Getting its start from the creation of Umami seasoning in 1909, a taste known as “the fifth taste” that goes back thousands of years, this seasoning was first discovered by Dr. Kikunae Ikeda of the Imperial University of Tokyo in 1908. Through his experiments, Dr. Ikeda discovered that the distinct umami flavor is created by glutamate, a certain amino acid found naturally in a variety of foods and of which has a certain, attractive “fifth taste.” This discovery allowed Dr. Ikeda to launch the world’s first umami seasoning, AJI-NO-MOTO®, with his business partner Mr. Saburosuke Suzuki in 1909. The rest is history as Ajinomoto, the Japanese food brand, has grown into one of Japan’s biggest and most successful food companies. Many thanks to Ajinomoto for its generous donation to Portland’s Japanese Gardens to make possible the Umami Cafe. What a great addition!

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An aerial view of a traditional Japanese village at the Japanese Gardens. What a great addition! Image Courtesy: JapaneseGardens.org

 

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Just one of many, many beautiful scenes to take in amongst the newly-remodeled Japanese Gardens. Many acres of newly-designed and planted gardens await even the most frequent, prior visitor. Image Courtesy: Bruce Forster

 

Important Details

Here are the particulars on Portland’s Japanese Gardens. Enjoy and don’t forget to bring your appetite!
Website: JapaneseGardens.org
Hours: See hours and admission prices here
Location: Get the details on location and parking here
Garden Map: See the garden map here

AUTHOR: Dan Meyers