Portland Japanese Garden visitors mourn Shinzo Abe

People gathered at the Portland Japanese Garden on Wednesday night to remember former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated last week while delivering a speech in Nara, Japan.

“I’ve had a relationship with the Abes since 2016 and to see this happen on TV to people I call friends is shocking and horrifying,” Portland Garden CEO Steve Bloom said.

When he heard the news of Abe’s death, Bloom’s first reaction was shock.

Abe and his wife, Akie, were longtime supporters of the Japanese garden, Bloom said, and in 2017 they donated sake for a special gala at the garden instead of attending.

“Akie-san, and by extension the prime minister, then opened doors for us, gave presentations, provided donations and supported some of the exhibits we did,” he said.

While Shinzo Abe has never seen the gardens for himself, Bloom hopes to one day bring Akie Abe.

“They always hoped they could make it to the garden one day, and hopefully Akie-san will still come,” he said.

An OPB file photo of the Japanese Garden in Portland, which remained open late Wednesday so visitors could mourn slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Laurie Isola/OPB

In response to the news, Bloom kept the grounds open late Wednesday so people could gather to remember the longtime Japanese leader.

“We wanted to open the garden tonight for our community who are in shock and mourning for a country that has gone through something terrible,” he said that evening.

A large gathering of visitors, ranging from families with children to the elderly, walked the tree-lined paths on Wednesday evening. But Bloom was quick to say that the number of attendees was not large.

“That’s not what matters to us. The conversations I’ve had with people who come tell us that they’re very grateful that we’re doing this and that they have the time and space to reflect and be here. So I think that’s the most important thing.

Garden officials continue to encourage those who did not attend the event to visit, spend time in nature and process the news of Abe’s murder in calm, personal reflection.

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