Waza to Kokoro Seminar

Flagship Training Program for Professionals

About the Seminar

Waza to Kokoro is the International Japanese Garden Training Center’s flagship program. This program helps Japanese gardens outside of Japan find authentic, locally-appropriate solutions in design, construction, maintenance, and preservation. It is designed for professionals working in Japanese gardens, but is also open to landscape design and construction professionals as well as students of landscape-related disciplines. We are a Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System accredited provider.

Waza to Kokoro Seminars of all levels will not be offered in 2024. We are currently in the process of carefully and intentionally reviewing this program with the goal of it returning in 2025. To stay updated, please sign up for the Training Center’s quarterly newsletter.

This is a three-part seminar, focusing on the traditional, hands-on learning process of stonework in the tea garden, supplemented with theoretical instruction, and practice in topics including garden design, pruning, bamboo fence construction, aesthetics, history, and traditional tool use. These technical skills gain context through the culture of tea to nurture a sense of aesthetics, balance, and composition.

  • Philosophy of Waza to Kokoro: The unity of techniques and spirit essential to understanding the art of the Japanese garden.
  • History: The styles and techniques of the Japanese garden through the centuries and its relation to society, culture, religion and architecture.
  • Culture and connection to nature: Practicing tea ceremony while learning to integrate the aesthetics, philosophy, and way of tea into one’s own approach to the garden arts. Watch this video on the study of tea to learn more.
  • Japanese aesthetics: The Japanese idea of beauty and how it is represented across art forms.
  • Drawing and design: Learning to observe patterns, forms, and elements in the garden and nature and making accurate visual representations of original ideas.
  • Garden components and composition: Principles of placement, size, style and proportion for built and natural elements.
  • Garden materials: Understanding the origins and proper utilization in the garden of stone, plants, bamboo and wood.
  • Plant management: Building a practical understanding of everyday practices in soil sciences, pruning, pest control and other areas.
  • Hands-on stone workshop: Learning, through careful observation and hands-on participation, the process of site preparation, materials selection and preparation, design, and construction of the stone elements of a tea garden.
  • Practical application: Synthesizing lessons learned into a sketchbook with drawings and notes.

Seminar: Intermediate Level (July 7-14, 2023)

The Seminar will be held at Portland Japanese Garden, where participants will get a chance to explore and learn from its authentic techniques, design, and composition.

True to its philosophy of combining the western teaching and eastern teaching, everything will be taught in English while providing a very profound experience through the art of tea. This year, our Chief Curator and Director of International Japanese Garden Training Center, Sadafumi (Sada) Uchiyama, will conduct all lectures, and we will also have an instructor from Japan.

This seminar costs $2,150. We offer financial assistance up to $1,000 for those who qualify.

The Training Center is certified by the American Society of Landscape Architects as an approved LA CES  (Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System) provider. Our courses are also eligible for continuing education credit by the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and the Oregon Landscape Contractors Association.

Please contact us at [email protected] for questions or more information.

See what past participants have said about the seminar here.

More Information About the Seminar

What is the seminar?

Waza to Kokoro: Hands and Heart is a three-level professional training seminar program in the art and technique of the Japanese garden, and the flagship program of Portland Japanese Garden’s International Japanese Garden Training Center.

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What can be learned in the seminar, and how is it unique?

The seminar combines hands-on skills training and theoretical learning in Japanese garden design, construction and maintenance. Its core subject is stonework taught in the traditional hands-on method, presented in the context of the culture of the way of tea, for an immersive learning experience, with several additional subjects including bamboo fence construction and pruning. Waza to Kokoro is designed for garden practitioners seeking authentic and locally-adapted design, maintenance, and construction solutions for Japanese gardens outside of Japan — as well as for landscape design and construction professionals who wish to create Japanese-style gardens for their clientele. It:

  • teaches traditional skills in a combination of western and eastern learning methods
  • imparts the essence of the garden through connecting it to related art forms and philosophies
  • encourages individually-tailored study as well as group learning
  • demonstrates practical applications of theoretical principles
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Application details

What are this year’s seminar schedules and application deadlines? 

Applications open March 1st at 9AM PST. Acceptance notices will be sent June 1st.


How can taking the seminar benefit me professionally?

Waza to Kokoro’s learning activities reflect the traditional training of a Japanese garden craftsman, approaching designing, building and stewarding a garden as a single craft. Completion of each level of Waza to Kokoro is recognized by professional organizations such as the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Oregon Landscape Contractors Association as eligible for professional development credits. The instructor-student radio of the program enables a high level of individual attention that allows for extensive professional development.  Learners in the course at each level are further eligible to submit a proposal to complete a work/study project at the Garden, and the program can also serve as a foundation for further study in Japan.

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How is Waza to Kokoro structured?

Each level of the seminar represents approximately 80 hours of theoretical and applied instruction, including an online pre-seminar guided independent study module. The independent study module helps prepare learners coming from different professional areas. Readings and instructional videos include topics on stone selection and composition, aesthetics, drawing, garden history, Japanese religions, and the Way of Tea. The three levels build upon each other and follow a similar, interrelated modular structure.

The course is structured into three intensive seminars: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 (formerly introductory, intermediate and advanced). Learners must start with Level 1.

Please take a moment to review our Terms and Conditions

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Where is the seminar taught, and who teaches it?

The facilities of Portland Japanese Garden, including the garden spaces themselves and the Kengo Kuma-designed learning spaces and library, combine for an educational experience of technical excellence and sublime beauty. Off-site facilities include a stone yard and one of the largest nurseries in the Pacific Northwest.

The seminar’s faculty pool comes from an international community of practitioners, designers and academics. These include leading Japanese garden artisans descended from families who have gardened for centuries, as well as designers and academics from top universities, noted authors, and practitioners of related art forms. See here for the current list.

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How are students assessed?

Testing of knowledge and competences takes place at each level of the seminar. As learners progress through the three levels, they are expected to demonstrate increased precision, aesthetic sensitivity, independence, and speed in technical skills. The seminar’s emphasis on history, culture and aesthetics means learners are expected to demonstrate an increasingly complex level of knowledge and a nuanced, sophisticated understanding of the garden and its related arts.  Successful participants can proceed to the next seminar level.

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How much is tuition?

Tuition for this year’s Level II Seminar is $2,150.00. Tuition includes Garden admission, access to training venues, some meals, all learning materials, use of tools, and transportation to offsite locations, but does not include accommodation or travel costs.

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How can I apply?

Applications are accepted through our online platform above.

– Portfolio of drawings and photographs of realized works
– Knowledge of and experience with Japanese gardens
– Proficiency in drawing, traditional tool use, hands-on stonework, and other skills

If you have any difficulty with the platform, or have any other questions about the seminar, please contact our staff at [email protected].


This was one of the best courses I have ever taken! It was multifaceted and professionally applicable. It was also surprising and paradigm shifting. Initially I was wondering how tea and gardening went together. Looking back I see it as a beautiful way of uniting the course both philosophically and practically. It also had a transformative effect on me in terms of how I viewed gardening.

–Clyde Ohta, landscape contractor and 2019 seminar student