The ‘borrowed sceneries’ of neighbouring materials in Japan

The ‘borrowed sceneries’ of neighbouring materials in Japan

22 JUNE 2022 – In Japan, traditional gardens (nihon teien) are an art form that goes beyond cultivating landscapes—it has a set of guiding elements and principles that hold philosophical significance.

Some are constructed as shakkei (‘borrowed scenery’) gardens, where faraway objects and panorama are linked with the garden features and could be enjoyed from specific points in the path. But with the advent of modern civilisation, many gardens are experiencing a shift in their relationship to the surrounding built-up context.

One example is the garden at Entsu-ji Temple in Kyoto, built in 1678, which features a view of Mount Hiei. Since the mountain is at a distance, many people today are finding it difficult to appreciate its value.

To contemplate such aspects of culture and aesthetics, architect and Japanese garden researcher Makoto Yamaguchi has travelled for almost two years around the country with photographer Kentaro Kumon. While visiting famous gardens, the duo looked for what made borrowed sceneries so fascinating. As they captured the features on camera, they discovered that today’s gardens had ‘neighbouring textures’, where different materials—natural and manmade—existed side by side.

To Yamaguchi, this simultaneous tension and closeness is characteristic of Japan: “There is a great divide between the modern and the traditional, and yet the mixing of these aspects can be seen everywhere. Experiencing this chaos is a major attraction of a visit to Japan [when compared to neighbouring countries].”

Kumon’s photographs are combined with a series of discussions by Yamaguchi and other art critics to introduce the principle to a wider audience. The ongoing project, titled Shakkei ― Neighbouring Materials can be viewed at their website, along with an in-person exhibition until 30 July 2022 at MYD Gallery in Tokyo.

Read more Garden stories below:

A vibrant rest garden between city buildings

The floating spaces of Villa Tsukuba

Managing interlinkages and advancing SDGs in landscape architecture

Sengkang Riverside Park Large Childcare Centre