So, in case it hasn't come through yet, we, me and Mrs. Sgt. Tanuki, really really like Portland. I guess it's a hip and happening place, which makes me feel a bit squeamish about saying I like it (I did a teaching demo at a college there and definitely felt like the students were way too hip for my blood), but it really does have most of what we love in a city. Beautiful setting, walkable urban density, great public transport, excellent restaurants, decent museum, and vibrant cultural consciousness that, in typical Pacific Northwest fashion, is more trained on East Asia than we'd expected, which is good for us.
And it has Powell's, but that's a topic for another day.
Dig. Not only does Portland have the Chinese garden, which would be enough for any American city to boast of; it also has the Portland Japanese Garden, which is just as nice.
Here I'm on solider ground. I've been to a number of famous Japanese gardens, including a lot of the Kyoto greatest hits. I won't say the Portland garden is a substitute for going to see the real thing, but I will say that it feels pretty authentic. A little more self-conscious in its desire to mix various styles together in one place, to provide an overview of the tradition, but that's not a bad thing, and it's handled quite well. Even the kare-sansui is pretty impressive.
And, just as important as authenticity, it's beautiful. It's a wonderful site for a garden, nestled in the west hills, with fir-covered slopes hemming it in, and it takes full advantage of the setting, with pleasant ravines and a waterfall worked into the design. And it opens up at one point on a magnificent view of Mt. Hood over the city skyline.