Waza to Kokoro Seminar

Waza to Kokoro (Hands and Heart) is the International Japanese Garden Training Center’s flagship program. It is a certificate program consisting of three intensive training seminars, combining hands-on technical learning with cultural instruction and theoretical knowledge.

2018 Seminar Application Deadlines

Intermediate Level (July 19-30, 2018) – Application deadline has passed, but inquiries are still accepted.
Beginner Level* (September 20-27) – Due March 31, 2018

Waza to Kokoro is designed to help Japanese gardens serving communities across North America to find authentic, locally-appropriate solutions in design, construction, maintenance, and preservation. Admission is also open to landscape design and construction professionals and students of landscape-related disciplines.

This seminar, offered in 2018 at the beginner and intermediate levels, focuses on stonework taught in the traditional hands-on method offered in the context of the culture of the way of tea – an immersive learning experience of not just the techniques but the cultural heart of the Japanese garden.

*Please note: the Beginner Level Seminar takes place shortly before the 2018 International Japanese Garden Conference hosted by the Portland Japanese Garden.


Waza to Kokoro Seminar / Photo by Jonathan Ley

The seminar’s core focus is on stonework in the Japanese tea garden, taught by visiting Japanese instructors and Portland Japanese Garden staff. Admission: 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.

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 stone elements of a tea garden
  • Pruning master class
  • Instruction in tea ceremony
  • Food culture discussions

More Information and How To Apply

The application is now open for the 2018 seminars. Applications and inquiries should be sent to [email protected]

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 the 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 12-day 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 a total of 80 hours of theoretical and applied instruction. An online pre-seminar guided self-study module serves to prepare learners from different fields and address knowledge gaps, with readings in topics such as stone, aesthetics, drawing, garden history, tea culture, and other topics, as well as instructional videos. The three levels follow a similar 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 the 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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How and when can I apply?

Two seminars are presented per calendar year, with two of the three levels (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) presented in any given year.  Each year, approximately 16 participants are selected for each level. The beginner-level seminar does not currently have specific pre-requisite requirements. From 2019, successful completion of the beginner-level seminar is a pre-requisite for continuing on to the intermediate and advanced levels. Applications are welcome from pro are assessed individually based upon several factors, including:

  • Number of years in the profession
  • Portfolio of drawings and photographs of realized works
  • Knowledge of and experience with Japanese gardens
  • Proficiency in hands-on stonework

International students with English proficiency are welcome to apply. Application materials required include a one-page form, short biography, current CV, and images of professional work. Scholarships and early payment discounts are offered in a limited amount to qualified applicants, with professionals at Japanese gardens receiving highest priority. The seminars typically take place in late summer and fall. Applications are accepted generally from October until March, but applicants should check here for details.

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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

Waza to Kokoro Seminar / Photo by Jonathan Ley

Seminar Instructors

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.


Documentary Film about the Center