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NEW: Professional Intensive Courses

The International Japanese Garden Training Center now offers a new educational opportunity: Professional Intensive Courses. Aimed at meeting professional learning needs, these 2-3 day courses are taught by Garden staff and focus on a single topic.

Apply through September 12 for the first Professional Intensive Course: “With An Eye Towards Nature: A Japanese Garden Design Intensive.”

Dates: October 23-25, 2019   Location: Portland Japanese Garden and offsite at the Menucha Retreat Center in the Columbia River Gorge

Who can apply: Design professionals, primarily landscape architects, landscape designers, and architects, but members of other design disciplines are welcome to apply

Capacity: 12 participants Tuition: $995     Instructors: Sadafumi Uchiyama, Hugo Torii, Desirae Wood, and Kristin Faurest

Pre-seminar study module: A required pre-seminar study module will be made available via e-mail, with readings and a short preparatory assignment to be completed and submitted.

Course summary: Designing with nature is a powerful but recent current in the western garden making tradition. In Japan, garden makers have for well over a millennium been guided by the philosophy that nature is the first design teacher. That tradition has much to teach us about making places capable of answering ecological needs and providing visitors with a sense of space, stillness and balance even in a hectic, crowded urban setting.

This three-day course provides 25 hours of theoretical and hands-on training in the Japanese approach to designing with nature and its modern use and application. Traditional techniques of arranging stone, plants, and water according to nature’s design principles are placed in historical perspective and given contemporary ecological and social context as tools for creating meaningful spaces that connect people to their environment. On-site thematic garden tours and lectures offer theoretical instruction in observing and analyzing composition and representations of nature in the garden. An offsite excursion offers an opportunity to engage with and study the local landscape. Drawing by hand is foundational to critical thinking, absorbing skills at the intuitive level, and developing a cultivated eye, and is the course’s core hands-on activity.  Participants are expected to keep documentation of their observations and drawing work in a sketchbook.

Learning objectives:

After the course, participants should be able to recognize, explain and be able to apply to their work:

  • Natural landscape patterns and processes in stone, water, and vegetation, and how they can be abstracted or otherwise referenced in a designed landscape
  • The traditional Japanese process of designing from the details up
  • The Japanese aesthetics of suggestion, simplicity, irregularity and perishability
  • Design techniques in Japanese garden arts including asymmetry, balance, borrowed scenery, enclosure, hide and reveal, blank space, and layering
  • Contrasting ways and scales that nature has historically been represented in Japanese gardens such as literal, symbolic, or evocative


A detailed schedule will be provided to applicants after notification of successful admission.

Day 1: Guided by the Garden – Observing and practicing the Japanese way of designing with nature. Guided thematic walks in the Garden will be supported by lectures and drawing assignments.

Day 2: Reading the landscape – An offsite excursion will focus on drawing and journaling to use the natural landscape as a source of design inspiration.

Day 3: Studio work – A design assignment to be completed in the studio will be followed by critiques, final discussion, and a visit to the Vollum Library for instructors’ recommendations for further learning.

Course tuition includes:

  • Preparatory reading materials and Moodle login
  • All onsite activities and instruction
  • Garden admission all three days
  • Learning materials
  • Writing and drawing materials
  • Transportation to offsite location
  • Hot and cold drinks during breaks

Other important information:

  • Tuition includes some but not all meals. More detailed information will be provided prior to the course.
  • Participants should bring a reusable water bottle and dress comfortably and appropriately for the weather.
  • The course does not include other forms of hands-on work besides drawing.
  • A letter certifying successful course completion will be provided upon request for obtaining CEU or PD credits.