Waza to Kokoro Seminar

Due to operational limitations caused by COVID-19, The International Japanese Garden Training Center has canceled all programming until spring of 2021. Check back often to learn of spring dates for seminars. 

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.
Dates: Spring of 2021, date TBA
Capacity: 16
Tuition: $1,995
Approved continuing education credit: 40 hours for LA CES by the American Society of Landscape Architects, 25 hours for the Association of Professional Landscape Designers

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.

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 helps 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 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.

Questions about admission, curriculum structure, or anything else? Email Garden Curator, Sadafumi Uchiyama for details.


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 integrated with theoretical instruction, with content including:

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

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

The 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 our staff at for credit hours for specific events. 

Photos by Kristin Faurest

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 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 beginner, 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 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 are this year’s seminar schedules and application deadlines?

Spring of 2021, dates to be announced.

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How much is tuition?

Tuition for this year’s Level 1 seminar is $1,950. This includes Garden admission, 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 via our online platform. Application materials required are a 350-word professional biography and images of professional work. We value having a diverse student body and welcome applications from around the world. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the course, applicants are assessed based upon several criteria, including:

– 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


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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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

Documentary Film about the Center