iegakure (“hide-and-reveal”) refers to a number of techniques used to configure garden scenes in sequence as visitors walk through a garden. The term was first used in regard to the techniques employed in the small, rustic walkways, known as roji, that lead to teahouses. Effects are created that provide a sense of depth and pique the viewer’s expectations of the next scene by, for instance, interrupting lines of sight, concealing the depth of the site, and obscuring the overall view.
In principle, no element of the roji is shown in its entirety. Like something intimated in what is left unsaid, the roji’s very spirit derives from its suggestiveness, and it is this that gives the garden its profundity. None of the furnishings in the outer roji —from the front gate to the yoritsuki (changing room), and the koshikake machiai (waiting bench), the setchin (lavatory) or the other elements—are plainly visible, or shown in their entirety. Miegakure plantings half-conceal the forms of buildings, and the partially-hidden, partially-revealed composition is achieved by making the path wind at key places.1
This passage from Kitao Harumichi’s book Roji describes a variety of miegakure techniques which were used in
making roji for tearooms and the effects of which come into play simply by the act of walking. However, this is not the entire extent of this technique’s application. Miegakure is also a feature of kaiyushiki teien stroll garden design, where it was used to create a continuous series of sequential views. In fact, the concept is still in use today, in both the design of new urban landscapes and the analysis of existing urban environments.
Kinetic, multifaceted compositional techniques created in accord with human motion first emerged with this kind of “walking,” or “pathed,” garden, which is not to say that the highly sophisticated “hide-and-reveal” mode of expression sprang into being in the late sixteenth century. It had its precursors in the view-obscuring techniques employed in the static, unidirectionally-oriented shinden – zukuri gardens described in Sakuteiki.
The Zen temple north garden was designed principally for static observation from a seated position, and the added factor of the viewer’s walking along the veranda overlooking this garden set up an interactive relationship requiring continuity between separate scenes. The view – obscuring techniques used there contained the seeds of the development of multifaceted, multidirectional garden composition. Nevertheless, they did not go beyond the
domain of parallel motion in spaces that were in essence qualitatively homogeneous.
Walking through a garden has the effect of focusing the viewer’s attention. This is especially true of the roji and other types of “walking” gardens, which requires the same kind of heightened attentiveness (kokoro-kubari) as does the tearoom itself. In the late sixteenth century, as with the roji, we find a swift incorporation of this idea of manipulating attention, by controlling movement in garden interpretations.