With an Eye Towards Nature: A Japanese Garden Design Intensive

A Japanese Garden Design Intensive Blog  Portland Japanese Garden

PORTLAND, OR, August 8, 2019 – This October, the International Japanese Garden Training Center offers a new educational opportunity for professionals: 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.

The first Professional Intensive Course, taking place October 23 – 25, is: “With an Eye Towards Nature: A Japanese Garden Design Intensive.”

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. The offsite portion will focus on scenic views in the Columbia Gorge and include an overnight at the stunning Menucha Retreat center in Corbett.

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. A required preparatory module will provide readings and assignments in advance of the course.

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 Japanese Garden Design Intensive

More Information About the Intensive


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


  • Preparatory reading materials
  • All onsite activities and instruction
  • Garden admission all three days
  • Learning materials
  • Writing and drawing materials
  • Transportation, guided field trips in the Columbia Gorge and overnight accomodation at Menucha Retreat Center
  • Some meals
  • Hot and cold drinks during breaks


Applications due: September 12, 2019
Capacity: 12 participants
Tuition: $995


Dates: October 23-25, 2019
Location: Portland Japanese Garden and offsite


Instructors: Sadafumi Uchiyama, Hugo Torii, Desirae Wood, and Kristin Faurest


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.

Pre-seminar study module: A required pre-seminar study module will be made available via e-mail by Sept. 15, with readings and a short preparatory assignment to be completed and submitted by Oct. 10.

About Portland Japanese Garden

When His Excellency Nobuo Matsunaga, the former Ambassador of Japan to the United States, visited Portland Japanese Garden, he proclaimed it to be “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan.”

The Garden sits nestled in the hills of Portland, Oregon’s iconic Washington Park, overlooking the city and providing a tranquil, urban oasis for locals and travelers alike. Designed in 1963, it encompasses 12 acres with eight separate garden styles, and includes an authentic Japanese Tea House, meandering streams, intimate walkways, and a spectacular view of Mt. Hood. This is a place to discard worldly thoughts and concerns and see oneself as a small but integral part of the universe.

Born out of a hope that the experience of peace can contribute to a long lasting peace. Born out of a belief in the power of cultural exchange. Born out of a belief in the excellence of craft, evidence in the Garden itself and the activities that come from it. Born out of a realization that all of these things are made more real and possible if we honor our connection to nature.

Images and text courtesy Portland Japanese Garden.

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