Sukiya Living Magazine (JOJG)

Train in Japan

by Douglas M. Roth

(This essay appeared in JOJG Issue #49 that was published in January 2006.)

JOJG has developed a number of internships for gardeners wishing to train in Japan. The positions are available in various prefectures. Some slots are with gardening companies. One is with a gardening school. Another is at the prestigious Adachi Museum of Art.

The advantages of doing hands-on training in Japan are significant. It is the only way to learn certain skills. It allows you to deeply absorb spatial arrangements and craftsmanship not seen elsewhere. It also allows you to overcome the “tourist” handicap, permitting you to see past the many myths and fairy tales that haunt the subject as it is currently (mis)interpreted.

Westerners interested in such programs are rarely teenagers. They tend to be middle-aged adults with families, jobs, and bills to take care of. Because of this, we’ve structured the internships to be flexible in length and format. It is possible to do a stint of just two weeks. Of course, you would learn much more by doing it for a longer period. I urge candidates to start thinking about studying for a period of years, not weeks. But in lieu of the responsibilities mentioned above, that is not possible for many. The next best option is a series of return trips every few years. JOJG staff writer John Powell has trained at Adachi for 5-week stints each of the past 2 years. That pace appears to be working out fine.

The internship at Adachi is particularly compelling. Participants work alongside Adachi’s 7-man crew performing daily tasks as well as specialized ones. Adachi provides a furnished apartment and other support. Interns are required to pay for utilities and any personal expenses.

The chance to work in Japan’s top-ranked garden is an unparalleled opportunity. It is not unlike being invited to study movie making with Steven Spielberg or to study painting from da Vinci. Such comparisons are lofty, but I do not feel I that am exaggerating at all.

To apply, candidates must meet the following requirements: (1) They must be JOJG subscribers for at least one year, and (2) They must pass the lowest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam that is offered worldwide each December. Prior experience is helpful, but lack of it is not necessarily a disqualifying factor. Think about doing this for yourself. Dream big.

C. copyright  Douglas M. Roth, Sukiya Living Magazine, P.O. Box 1050, Rockport, ME  04856