Waza to Kokoro Seminar

Waza to Kokoro, the Center’s flagship program, is a series of three hands-on professional training seminars designed to serve professionals in garden design, construction, and maintenance. Traditional Japanese methods emphasizing observation and hands-on practice combine with lectures, design workshops, and other activities for an immersive learning experience in Japanese garden arts.

Waza to Kokoro Seminar / Photo by Jonathan Ley

The seminar focuses on the traditional, hands-on learning process of stonework in the tea garden, supplementing it with theoretical instruction and hands-on practice in topics including garden design, pruning, bamboo fence construction, aesthetics, history, and traditional tool use – all framed eloquently in the culture of tea. Technical skills gain context through connected cultural practices to nurture a sense of aesthetics, balance, and composition.

Waza to Kokoro was designed to help Japanese gardens outside of Japan meet the need to find authentic, locally-appropriate solutions in design, construction, maintenance, and preservation. Admission is also open to professionals and students in all landscape-related sectors. The Center’s faculty are drawn from a mixed pool of hands-on practitioners, designers and academics. These include leading Japanese garden artisans descended from families who have gardened for centuries, as well as academics from top U.S. universities and practitioners of garden-related arts.

Admissions and Content

Photo by Jonathan Ley

The seminar is designed for professionals working in Japanese gardens, but admission is also open to landscape design and construction professionals as well as students of landscape-related disciplines. The seminar’s core focus is on stonework in the Japanese tea garden, taught by visiting Japanese instructors and Portland Japanese Garden staff.

A traditionally-grounded, hands-on learning process is supplemented with preparatory theoretical instruction, with content including:

  • History and aesthetics
  • Design
  • Garden clinic
  • Demonstration and practice with traditional Japanese tools and bamboo fence construction
  • Preparatory lectures for hands-on workshop
  • Hands-on workshop for designing, selecting materials for and building the nobedan and tsukubai stone elements of a tea garden
  • Master class in Japanese pruning techniques
  • Instruction in tea ceremony
  • Food culture discussions

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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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 the seminar structured?

The course is structured into three intensive seminars. Learners start with the beginner-level and may then choose whether to continue to take all three courses. Each level of the seminar represents approximately 80 hours of theoretical and applied instruction. An online pre-seminar guided independent study module serves to prepare learners coming from different professional areas and address knowledge gaps. 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, including:

  • Japanese garden history: Cultivating a sense of the periods, styles, and techniques of Japanese gardens for a nuanced understanding of the evolution of the art form
  • Japanese aesthetics: Understanding and recognizing the visual and philosophical ideals of beauty, composition and balance that inform not just the garden but also other forms such as architecture or spiritual practices
  • Drawing and design: Learning to observe patterns, forms, and elements in the garden and nature and making accurate visual representations of original ideas
  • Garden clinic: Approaching challenges in the garden in a sustainable, authentic way
  • Tool skills clinic: Honing skills in using and maintaining traditional garden tools
  • 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
  • Pruning: Understanding, theoretically and practically, the aesthetic and botanical considerations of pruning techniques for maple, pine, and other species
  • Bamboo fence construction: Learning construction techniques for various bamboo fence styles and how to incorporate them into the garden
  • The Way of Tea: Practicing tea ceremony while learning to integrate the aesthetics, philosophy, and way of tea into one’s own approach to the garden arts
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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 new Kengo Kuma-designed learning spaces and library, combine for an educational experience of technical excellence and sublime beauty. Off-site facilities include a stoneyard and one of the largest nurseries in the Pacific Northwest. Waza to Kokoro is taught by a rotating roster of visiting Japanese instructors, Portland Japanese Garden staff, and invited lecturers from universities and other institutions and organizations in Japan and elsewhere. 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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What is this year’s seminar schedule, deadlines, and tuition?

Beginner level: June 3-9, 2019
Intermediate level: September. 16-27, 2019


Deadlines for application:

Beginner-level seminar: February 15, 2019
Intermediate-level seminar: April 15, 2019

Successful applicants will be notified one week after the deadline.


Deadlines for payment:

Early bird (20% discount): March 1, 2019, final deadline: March 15, 2019

Early bird (20% discount): May 1, 2019, final deadline: May 15, 2019



Beginner-level: $1,950. A limited number of scholarships of $1,000 for employees of public gardens and $500 for other landscape professionals are available.

Intermediate-level: $2,950. A limited number of scholarships of $1,500 for employees of public gardens and $500 for other landscape professionals are available.

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How can I apply, and what is the tuition fee?

Two seminars are presented annually, with two of the three levels (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) presented in any given year and approximately 16 participants selected for each level.  From 2019, successful completion of the beginner-level seminar is a pre-requisite for continuing to the intermediate and advanced levels. Applications are assessed based upon:

  • Level of professional experience
  • Portfolio of drawings and photographs of realized works
  • Knowledge of and experience with Japanese gardens
  • Proficiency in hands-on stonework and other manual skills

International students are welcome to apply. Application materials required are a 350-word professional biography and images of professional work. The seminars typically take place in late summer and fall and applications are accepted generally from October until March. Calls for applications will always be posted on this page. Full tuition for the seminar is $2,950 for the intermediate-level and $2,000 for the beginner-level. Scholarships and early payment discounts are offered in a limited amount to qualified applicants, with professionals at Japanese gardens receiving highest priority. Any questions about the seminar can be directed to [email protected].

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I’ve paid my tuition, but now I have to cancel. Can I get a refund?

Seminar participants who must cancel receive a 50% refund up to two months before the start of the event. Cancellations made after that time will not receive a refund.

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My personal goals were exceeded as the seminar immersed us in the Japanese culture and explained the reasons behind many techniques and ideas used in Japanese gardens.
– Ayse Pogue, Senior Horticulturalist, Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden, Chicago Botanical Garden, 2016 participant

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