Friday 28 June 2013

Bodies Of Water

Water is such a central feature to the Japanese garden, that the pond often holds centre stage of the creation, a garden will literally revolve about the pond. Ponds have been central to the concept of a garden since the introduction of the idea of garden building was introduced from China in the fifth century. Ponds were created for their innate decorative effect and were also used as settings for courtly ritual and entertainment. On the larger ponds of the Heian gardens, boats with prows carved as dragons carried groups of courtiers on voyages, accompanying boats carried a compliment of musicians.

"It was possible to go by waterfall the way to the Spring garden, first rowing along the Southern Lake, then passing through a narrow channel straight towards a toy mountain which seemed to bar all further progress. But in reality there was a way round, and eventually the party found itself at the Fishing Pavilion...."

                                                  Lady Murasaki, ‘The Tale of Genji’.

There was always a concern that the pond should fit to the lie of the land, the pond shape was determined by the shape of the ground. It is true that the pond of the 'Upper garden' at Shugaku-in Villa, is created by a dam wall, even so the placement and configuration of the pond gives a completely naturalistic impression. It is said that Emperor Nomizuno-o worked on a clay model for the pond, during the design of the garden. The pond is called the 'Bathing Dragon Pond' ( "Yokuryu-chi" ) , a name that is not entirely fanciful.

The ideal direction for bringing fresh supplies of water to the pond is from the north-east, and the outflow set to the south-west, according to the principles of feng shui, or geomancy. The pond was seen as being able to accumulate the vital essence ch'i, as  ch'i will run away along straight lines, the shoreline should be of a convoluted form. The Dragon represents the vital energy ch'i itself, the very quality that the garden is intended to amass, and thus empower those who are close to the garden.

The shores were, and still are, created with boulders or pebble beaches. The beach at the garden of the Sento Palace, Kyoto is laid in flat, black stones the size of the palm of a large hand, it runs for nearly one hundred metres long. Each and every stone arrived to the garden individually wrapped in silk. The  Sakuteiki mentions two styles of shoreline, 'suki hoko kishi '' and ' kuwagata kishi ', the 'Spade shore', where the shore line is convex in profile, and the 'Hoe-shape', where the shoreline is concave, respectively.

The ponds themselves are often relatively shallow, leading to the term, kage ike or 'mirror pond', which relies for much of its charm on the patterns of reflection in the water surface. The curvature of the underside of bridges is matched in still water by its reflection, thereby presenting an image of the interaction of yin and yang principles. Whilst the Sakuteiki mentions ponds dug in the shape of turtles and cranes, one is far more likely to recognise these symbols as islands in the pond. The ponds were obviously well constructed, as a number have survived into the present day, even if their attendant gardens have not. The ponds were normally clay lined, the shore line of the pond would be installed at an early point in the construction. One can easily imagine the scene of frenzied activity during the digging out by hand of these ponds.

One shape of pond that has generated much interest over the years is the shinji chi , or 'heart-shaped pond' , so called as the outline of the pond was loosely based on the calligraphic character shin or kokoro, meaning 'heart' or 'spirit'. In Japanese it is a character charged with meaning, and especially so for the Zen Buddhists. The shin or heart that is referred to by the Zen priests is the pure heart, the origin of everything and nothing. Like the dragon, it is the originator of all rhythmic life, like water it is formless and yet takes on form.

What is said of water-ponds may equally applied to karesansui  ponds too. The same rigours of composition will apply, though the extent of the 'pond'  would invariably be far less. In the event of a karesansui pond featuring in the design, it would not be necessary to define the full extent of the pond. Presenting a section of the pond only, as part of the composition is sufficient to allow the viewer to complete the picture within his own imagination. Today, some of the older gardens featuring karesansui ponds have had the 'water' taken over by moss, the garden of Manshu-in still retains something of the feel of a 'dry-pond'.

With the evening breeze,
The water laps against
The heron's legs.


Songs Caught In The Net

above the ripening grass seeds
hinted pinks, flushed purples and silvered tones -
cycle coming to full song.

Over the brick wall
white-throated calla lilies 
calling Beauty in silence -
the air turbulent with passing traffic.

Hedgerow galleons
now full term pregnant in leaf -
the Oak, the Ash
the Lime and the Sycamore -
bursting in ripeness.
light processing, space holding
our guardian spirits.

Beneath the earth
as a part of bedrock itself,
then came consciousness
with the voice of my daughter
calling out my name,
tearing at the rubble to release me
so coming to in dream light.

Back at the edge of things
the unfamiliar
where comforts are the one's we create,
back at the edge of things
seeking to uncover new paths
of landscape within landscape

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Sen no Rikyu

Sen no Rikyū (1521-1591)


Born to a family of wholesale fish merchants  in Sakai, nearby present-day Osaka. Rikyū changed his name from Tanaka to Sen after his grandfather Sen-ami, the painter and Tea man. He began his study of Tea at the age of seven and became the pupil of Kitamuki Dõchin and went on to study under Takeno JõõRikyū was soon recognised by the Tea masters of the day as being someone of special ability and perception. He hosted his first official ceremony at the age of sixteen, a mark of his precocious ability. 

At the age of 58 in 1579 Rikyū was appointed Tea Master to the Shogun Nobunaga, following the death of Nobunaga he entered the service of his successor Hideyoshi Toyotomi as Tea Master in 1582, and was charged with the task of revising the form and rules of the Tea ceremony. For Rikyū, Tea was founded on the four principals, Wa ( Harmony), Kei  (Reverence ), Sei  (Purity), and Jaku  (Calm). His conception of the form of the ceremony, the style of pottery he favoured, the architecture of the Tea house and its garden setting all have been accepted as the classical form ever since. Rikyū's taste defined the tea aesthetic in his day,and its reverberations continue into the modern age The three principal tea schools in Kyoto today are descended from Rikyū through his sons who set up the schools after his death (Ūrasenke, Omotesenke, Mushakõjisenke)

“Ceremonial tea;
Just to boil water,
Make the Tea
And drink it -
That is all.”

Meimei-an, Matsue
Rikyū's inspirational insight was to fuse in one place, at one moment in time the threads of social, aesthetic and spiritual aspiration inherent in both Japanese and Chinese cultural trditions. He drew on the poetry of Li Po and the mystic of the ‘Grass Cottage, absorbed the concern with cleanliness from Shinto, and looked again at the utensils and his surroundings, with eyes unshackled by a Zen inspired directness and lucidity. For Rikyū', beauty was Nature presented in absolute order, the  cleanliness of the roji  which prepares the guest for introspection, the pattern of movements of the hands preparing the tea, the studied calm of host and guests, a coming together of the past, present and future.  Above all the genius of Rikyū' was to formulate a ceremony that was accessible to everyone, steeped in Zen, the tea ceremony is essentially a democratic practice.

Meimei-an, Matsue
Rikyū's life despite his extraordinary cultural achievements was to end in Shakespearian tragedy. The precise reason for his falling out with Hideyoshi is not wholly known, certainly in his role as Tea Master to the Shogun, Rikyū attained a very powerful position politically and his influence may have troubled Hideyoshi. There are rumours of a plot to poison Hideyoshi’s tea, also it has been noted that several of Rikyū's disciples had converted to Christianity, a highly fraught occupation at the time. The security of the Tea room was sometimes taken as a cover for the performing Mass, at a time when Christianity was a proscribed religion in Japan, one practised one’s faith at risk of the death penalty. There is no evidence that Rikyū himself had converted to Christian belief. On the twenty-eighth day of the second month of the year of Emperor Tenso (1592) word was sent to the tea Master that the Shogun considered his value to be at an end and that Rikyū was to take ‘the honourable way out’. 

There was the final Tea ceremony surrounded by his closest associates, after which the utensils were distributed among the guests, final poems were written. Rikkyu died by his own hand in the Tea room, he was seventy-one years old.

‘What I have often dreamed
Far beyond my troubled life
In this weary world,
Now perhaps I may attain
In the true reality.’

Sunday 23 June 2013

Run, Run, The River Runs

I had spent an hour or so wandering in the summer woodland with no particular agenda in mind, weaving between the trees, absorbed in the rich tapestry of birdsong, and the wash of wind in the canopy overhead. The air was warm, and I kept remembering the promise to ourselves that we would take the time to be together and make love. Pushing aside some low branches revealed a bright stream that somehow in all the internal chatter, I had not recognised. Light dazzled here and there where the surface broke into riffs and ripples, several boulders dotted the stream course their dark wet flanks streaked with mosses.

Heading upstream I followed as closely as I could the bank, and when I came to a bend in the stream where shingle had been thrown up by winter surges to create a small beach, I slipped the camera bag from my shoulder, took off my shoes and sat resting my feet in the gently lapping water. A moment later I had laid back into the grasses and was soon at the tipping point between wakefulness and sleep. Rocking gently between the two.

The warmth of the sun, the sound of the river running, the wind rustling leaves all the sounds blended into one harmonious flow. The richness of it all seeped deeper into my body, searching out the spaces between sinew and bone, inflating any available space, insinuating itself into the blood itself, and so to heart and brain. Soon I was saturated with landscape, memory of its contours still lingering in my limbs, colours firing tracers of light behind closed eyelids, the scent of wetness and heat filling my nostrils. The deeper I slipped into this landscape of sensuous memory and bodily sensation the more aroused I became with my senses filled to the point of tautness; the river’s voices, insects buzzing in the air, and the deep slow buckling and heaving of the earth itself. As the planet on whose very skin I roam orbited about the sun, I sank deeper and deeper into the scent of the earth, realised more wholly its embrace that bound me to it, and that all things remain forever in motion.

Shugaku Rikyu

Founded in 1655 by the ex - Emperor Gomizuno-o, Shugaku-in is located in the Higashiyama hills, north east of  Kyoto city. Today Shugaku-in is a series of three villas, linked by a pine-lined path; after the refined and sophisticated grandeur of Katsura, Shugaku-in presents a far more naturalistic approach to the manner of its landscaping. It is a large site and the main villas are separated by  terraced rice fields which lend a  strong rural   tone to the whole site.  None of the original buildings have survived the passage of time, and the present buildings all date to subsequent restorations, mainly carried out in the 19th century.

If the glory of Shugaku-in is in its setting, then there is no better  exploitation of the dramatic potential of the site than is found in the siting of the Upper Villa, the aptly named Rinun-tei, “The Pavilion Among the Clouds” ( reconstructed 1824 ). The approach to the pavilion is via a narrow, steep staircase, framed on both sides by tall hedges. As the visitor reaches the top of the flight of steps and the pavilion, a panoramic  view is set out before. Below  the  Rinun-tei is a large pond, created by the damming of a mountain stream, the pond contains two islands linked by an imposing bridge ( Chitose bashi , lit: “The Bridge of a Thousand Years”), added in 1824. The larger of the two islands ( Bansho-u), has a small pavilion, Kyusui-tei, one of the original buildings from the founding of the estate. The west bank of the pond is supported by an embankment covered by extensive hedges. 

 The visitor looking down from Rinun-tei has the sense of being in a very high place, the surface of the pond reflects the sky and clouds, and the shakkei to the north is of ranges of hills and mountains unfolding. The whole scene being held in place by the overarching sky. The magnificence of the natural landscape has been captured and enhanced by the sensitivity of the designer’s eye.

Water Flowing

Islands of moss,
In a sea of leaves -
All returning to the earth.

This way and that
The river flows
Running by its internal logic,
Rain in the mountains
Gathering in the seas.

Across the western sky,
Wedges of swans
Arriving from the north,
The surface of the pond catches all.

Silvered marbling
On the estuary’s flanks at low tide,
Alive in low angled light.
Dragon spirit running in from sea.

The sky’s full belly
Rubs along the earth
Leaving a slick wet trace
Coating the sodden leaves.

Pages flutter open
Empty of content.
The pen is silent now
Only the wind turns.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Furuta Oribe

Tea master, philosopher and garden designer, who also had a stone lantern, Oribe-gata, designed to decorate his tomb and so became named after him. He was a highly influential Tea master, perhaps second only to Sen no Rikyu in his impact on the form and manner of Cha no yu. He was the author of  ‘One Hundred Precepts of the Way of Tea”.

Oribe was born Furata Shigeyoshi, his father, a Tea devotee, was in service to Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Oribe studied the Tea ceremony under Rikyu in his formative years, and entered the service of Hideyoshi after his father’s death. He must have of impressed his employer as he was given the title ‘Oribe-no-sho’ and succeeded Rikyu as Supreme Tea Master.  He was to also serve as Tea Master to Tokugawa Ieyasu , from whom he received a substantial stipend. Oribe while on the one hand following the simple and refined style of Tea as developed by Rikyu, set out to make his own mark. He was known for his fastidious taste.

Oribe had his distinct preferences in the manner of the Tea garden (Roji). He liked coniferous trees, in particular in the roji, instead of Rikyu’s bamboo and pines. In the matter of planting trees, Oribe preferred the saki-agari style, (Distance-raising style), where the tallest elements are placed in the background of the composition and the lowest in the foreground. He dictated that the stepping stones should sit one and a half inches above ground, as opposed to Rikyu’s prescribed two inches. Whilst Rikyu preferred a roji planted in a wholly naturalistic manner, Oribe preferred a more ordered scene, with the thatched roof of the Tea house seen in the distance. Oribe, and then Enshu after him developed the Koshikake arbour, a small building in the inner garden where guests would retire to smoke tobacco during an interval in the Tea ceremony. Guests would also use the koshikake to change their clothes, hence its other name, Ishõdõ, Attiring Room. 

Though a Tea Master he may have of been, Oribe was not without his critics, it may have of been due to the manner of his personality for he was highly regarded in all questions of the Tea Ceremony. One can image the difficulty for one to follow so directly in the steps of such a Tea master as Sen no Rikyu. A critic was moved to retort, ”Oribe may have of learnt the Way of Tea ( Chado ), but he had little knowledge of the Way of the Warrior ( Bushido ), and none at all of that of Common Sense.” The manner of his death is revealing of the manner of the man.

On a visit to the field headquarters, in the winter of 1615, during the siege of Osaka castle, Oribe received a slight wound whilst inspecting a barricade of bamboo poles, with a view to their potential use for making a teaspoon. Boasting of his ‘wound’ obtained at the front to Ieyasu the following day, Oribe found himself being ignored by the war lord who had heard a report of the incident. As Oribe left Ieyasu observed, “that Oribe is the sort of person who will die from a fish bone in the throat.” The remark made in public must have of wounded his pride deeply. The following summer (1616) Oribe along with his son made secret contact with the enemy, and with a number of others plotted to burn down the capital and abduct the Emperor. The plot was uncovered and Oribe and the other plotters were ‘granted death’ as a reward for their treason. In the manner of his unplanned ending, Oribe was to follow in the footsteps of his mentor Sen no Rikyu.

The Light Of Day

September 1583

The young boy was running, running as fast as he could across the open space, a glittering tapestry of high summer grasses. “Look Mama, look at how fast I can run,” his voice high pitched, sharpened by excitement, and the very thrill of it all. “Look, Mama, look….” and as he ran, he left a hand trailing behind him among the stems which parted in his wake, the light sparkling and playing among the slender stems and pale slivers of leaves. When he paused for breath he looked back toward where his mother stood watching him, shafts of the late afternoon sun angled between them, as motes of dust raised by his scampering feet spiralled into the light, sending sparkling flashes into the air like dancing fireflies. The illusion delighted him. “I can do it again, look, Mama, I can do it again. The earth is on fire.”  Running, always running, under an immaculate blue sky, with the wind never seeming to touch him, perhaps even running faster than the wind itself.

Shigoto Okugi’s mother watched him as he ran in wide circles around her. A smile creased her face, instinctively softening her visage. It was a smile for the being who was her son, not a kind of a smile that was intended to be shared with the rest of the world. Only she knew the difference, and she kept the knowledge of that to herself. They were standing in the open, in a sea of silvery-green swaying grasses that stretched out from where they were, until it was halted by a swathe of the trees, crowding together as if unsure whether to proceed further. Over in the other direction, towards where the sun was slanting in from, the grasses just seemed to come to an end, The earth that bore them coming to an abrupt finish, and the land just fell into the embrace into the sky at that point. In fact that was an illusion, a trick of geomorphology, as the ground simply fell gently away beyond the point which the eye could follow.

She loved to stand there, near this place where she believed the earth seemed to bow before the sky, it pleased her to take her young child there, and watch him run in circles around her. At this place where they could be alone she would allow herself to smile, her eyes dissolved into a tenderness that she ordinarily kept hidden behind a mask of who she assumed she was expected to be. These precious moments had about as much substance as the fragile beauty of cherry blossoms, and as such they were ragged fragments of time torn from the ironclad grasp of reality. He was running now, in ragged steps so relatively recently learned it seemed, with his stiff arms outstretched, a flightless, fearless bird, running in circles through the parched grasses of late summer. She barely appeared to move; yet her eyes followed the boy with every step. Here at this place she could feel something that she felt nowhere else, not simply for herself though, but through her child, her son she could reach a point of contentment that otherwise seemed so hard to reach. Through him she could catch a glimpse of some other place, which lay out there, beyond the point where the grasses dissolved into the sky.

If she had walked on a little further towards that dividing line between the heavens and a soil soaked in the past, she would have seen the ground sloping away down to the sea. Falling away in a series of undulations, broken only here and there by clumps of trees, their crowns leaning inland shaped by the wind; down by the shore a crumpled tangle of crude fishermen’s dwellings caught in extended lengths of drying nets strung between poles. But she never walked that far any more. They had once, and as mother and child stood side by side without a word between them looking out over the immensity of the sea, the smile slipped silently from her face, and she felt only sadness and longing. She never went that far again. For the sky she could smile, but not for the sea. The sky had a sense of lightness about it, the sea carried too much weight.

“Come, Oku-chan,” she called out to him, using the suffix of familiarity to his name. “Come now, we should be making our way back, it’ll be dark soon enough. Hurry now.” She turned away from the source of the light, and with her shoulders pulled back, she set back the way that they had come without a backward glance. Momentarily the young boy hesitated, as if the ground was holding him fixed in place, before casually abandoning whatever fantasy he was enacting where it was, and he ran after her. Then just as he caught up with her, and with his hand reaching blindly for hers, he turned and saw to his disappointment that there were no ‘fireflies’ left now. They had all fallen back to earth, fallen stars, burnt out and exhausted of purpose or significance perhaps. All there was the grass stretching towards the sky, and the vivid, treacle-like luminosity of a sky that seemed to promise everything to those who could reach for it.

“When I am big and grown up, I will run as far as the sky, and I will be this huge dragon and run as fast as the wind, and I will be bigger than everything that there is, “ he said with a quiet self-satisfied determination.

Shigoto’s mother turned to him. “You are a funny child, did you know that? Where do you get such ideas from?”

“I will, you know,” he stated, now with an even greater determination, buoyed by the teasing, it was all the proof he needed. But her hand had tightened its grip on his.

“Come on, we need to get back home. Oba-chan, your grandmother, will be waiting for us, and who knows, maybe your father will come by.” Her voice was flat now, all expression and emotion neatly stowed away, even to her son. Together they walked along the suggestion of a path through beaten down grasses until the trees opened up and embraced them, finally swallowing them whole. Behind them they left the wide-open spaces falling away into the unseen lap of the ocean, and the last fragile embers of the sunlight falling across waving grasses. A deepening sky riding above and beyond it all, as the light leached out of the sky as it was drawn back into the folds of the heavens.

Through the last days of summer, and with the first creases of change that came with the autumn winds, right up until the weather had veered right around and brought sufficient chill to bring the landscape to a pause, mother and son came to this place. Not everyday, as not every day brought the time available to make the walk from the small house they called home; past the last of the houses, stores, workshops, stables and sundry other buildings, before cutting through a distant corner the Palace gardens past the large pond before finally entering the dense woodland which enclosed and protected the gardens. It was a walk that took them perhaps twenty-five minutes to reach the point where the woodland began to thin, before finally forming a ragged edge, a boundary, and a point of transition. Beyond that were the grassy fields that stretched on toward sky and sea. In late summer or early autumn men in numbers would gather there, and crudely cut the grasses with swinging blades, or horses would be turned out to roam and silently graze their way across the open space. During the cold months when winter storms rolled impatiently in from the sea, and the grass swath now close-cropped and silver-withered, their strolls would end at the boundary between the shelter of the trees and the raw, open space; if they even got that far, they rarely lingered for long. Spring brought freshly minted greens and a temporary carpet of tiny dazzling white flower heads, and then as if released from some invisible shackle they would venture once more beyond the edge.

To Shigoto Okugi, mere young boy that he was, the subtlety and lyrical beauty in all this was by and large lost. To him it was all so much simpler, they either did or they did not reach the field. If they did he could be like a hound released from the leash, a harrier unbound from its stays; if not, then there would always some other consolation to be found. He lived after all in the rich world of his imagining. Unlike his mother he had not lived long enough, nor experienced enough to have formulated a distinct sense of past, present and future. For him each and every day stretched on endlessly in an unsegmented continuous present, in the main living unfettered. Life was as unmeasured by notions or realities of what had been, and what was yet to come. Life was all together much simpler than that. His home was where his hearth lay, a thin wisp of palest grey smoke spiralling into the air. His mother, always his mother, the rock he swam out from, out into the world in carefully calibrated and crafted strokes, always for now destined to return.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Beneath The Skin

Koto-in, Kyoto
If one is looking for the roots of the aesthetic experience of the Japanese garden tradition, then it pays to take a close look at Chinese landscape painting. Strangely very few writers on Japanese gardens have elucidated much information on this fascinating aspect. Yet it is the case that the closer one looks then the more apparent the connections are. Perhaps it is a case of spending more time looking and describing the outward forms, and missing to look beneath the skin. If we are to absorb fresh ideas from looking at the Japanese garden tradition in such a way as to how to absorb and adapt their manners and ways to garden making beyond Japan, then it pays to study in as great a depth as possible. The forms of the gardens themselves are essentially simple, in particular if we take karesansui ('dry landscape) gardens, the elements are simplicity themselves. Arrangements of stone, gravel, space and planting.
Sesshu. 'Autumn/Winter Landscape'
Sesshū Tōyō (雪舟 等楊) (1420-1506) is regarded as a master of the style of painting known as  haboku sansuiga, or ‘broken ink painting. In this style the application of ink on paper verges on the abstract, rather than effecting a more detailed and precise approach to the depiction of landscape. It is typically Zen like in its paring down of the motif to a few vigourous brushstrokes, much use being made of white space (yohaku), and allowing the imagination of the viewer room to fill in the details of the landscape. The gardens like Ryoan -ji and other  karesansui gardens owe much to this style of painting and its associated aesthetic concerns.

A garden, as a painting is usually composed of three distinct parts:

1. Foreground

2. Middleground

3. Background

Shisendo, Kyoto
Vertical lines suggest the relative position of forms and imply depth to the composition. Horizontal planes establish stability and breadth. Transitions and connections  in perspective relationships are established by diagonal lines.

Line and mass is set off and balanced by establishing areas of 'empty space', yohaku.

The garden composition uses the interactive quality of duality in Nature to create a richness of textures. This relates to interactive qualities expressed through the Yin-Yang system , male/female, light/dark, open/closed, etc. .Through the interplay of these qualities, energy will be generated within the composition . The generation of 'energy'  is one of the fundamental requisites of the garden composition.
Enko-in, Kyoto
The pairing of in-yang concepts implies their very interdependence and interaction; their combinations and permutations guarantee infinite change, as well as ultimate harmony in the Universe. Where change is not allowed to occur it is regarded as leading to a state of stagnation and decay. Harmony is not a state of stasis, where movement and change is denied or negated; is in the recognition that within the condition of duality there is a mutual dependancy in definition.

It is the small that makes the large look large, the bright that makes the dark look deeper and more mysterious; the incomplete that allows us to imagine the complete.
Gio-ji, Kyoto
Balance and dynamism are further enhanced through the use of asymmetrical composition. Within asymmetrical composition the movement of energy is encouraged and change will occur naturally.

The garden, like a painting, represents an idealised or conceptual vision of the landscape as a whole. It does not seek to copy Nature directly, rather it seeks out the 'heart', shin, of Nature. The artist/gardener filters his vision of Nature through his experience, thus the work he creates is imbued with a part of his own spirit. In this way there is no division between the gardener and Nature itself.

The four key aesthetic concepts in painting and gardening, based on the Oriental model are:
1. Suggestion.
2. Irregularity.
3. Simplicity.
4. Perishability.

The preference in Oriental art is for monochrome, because it is felt that the greatest degreee of suggestivness can be gained, the imagination of the viewer may be more fuly engaged this way. 

Scale may be regarded as being a flexible concept in the hands of the garden designer, or artist. The eye of the viewer will be subtly guided around the scenery, being lead from one focal point on to the next. This establishes a rythmn and sense of order to the composition, this is refered to as 'episodic progression'. In this way the composition will be gradually unfolded to the viewer, it is rare that the whole composition will be presented in its entirety. Obviously, the concept of, episodic progression, will introduce the concept of time into the composition, and likewise lead furthermore to the generation of energy. This works equally in the garden types that are intended to be seen from fixed viewing positions, as well as within the stroll type garden.
Okochi Sanso, Arashiyama
False perspective is also employed in composition. For example, the placement of tall elements in the foreground and similar smaller elements in the background, will increase the sense of depth. Bold detail in the foreground will appear to bring the forms closer to the eye, whist blurred detail and softer outlines will appear to recede into the distance.

A composition is complete when not one element further may be added, nor one element taken away, without destroying the sense of harmony and unity.

In a Japanese garden, space is usually implied, and yet not defined by enclosure. Enclosure is nearly always used, but in a way so as to create a separation of the garden space from the 'everyday world', in small spaces the size of elements are not necessarily scaled down to suit the size of the area. The implied space is both intended to hold the viewer's attention within the space, and also take the viewer beyond any physical boundries.

 Simplicity, rather than elaboration, is more likely to lay bare the soul of what is being presented. Elaborate decoration will draw attention to itself, thus the viewer's attention will remain on the surface. The intention is to present the viewer with enough visual clues in order that his imagination will come into play. The role of the viewer is crucial to this kind of garden.The garden may be said to remain incomplete until the viewer is present in the garden space. The garden then becomes complete by the interaction of the imagination of the viewer with the garden design as presented to that imagination.
Shimabara, Kyoto
Through these means the garden design is presented as a series of visual keys that are then brought to a more complete fruition within the imagination of the viewer.