The mountains, hills, lakes, streams, waterfalls and seashores of Japan have inspired its traditional gardens. Scale and proportion are very important Most Japanese gardens are created on comparatively small areas, and every effort is made to establish the illusion of space and distance. To help this, false perspectives may be realized by planting gradually smaller trees as the distance from the house or other viewing point increases. Larger rock groups may occupy the foreground; smaller ones are farther from the viewer. The nearer island in a lake may be larger than one slightly more distant and its vegetation taller. Paths and bridges are scaled to minimum usable dimensions, and such features as lanterns and pagodas are never out of proportion to their surroundings.

Similarly, the garden is made to appear vaster by the clever use of trees and shrubs that give an appearance of maturity and age, even though they are of moderate size. Such trees and shrubs are those that grow naturally this way or can be induced to do so by pruning. By locating brighter-coloured plants towards the foreground and those of less insistence farther away, the feeling of distance is enhanced. This is true, too, when large bold-leaved plants are restricted to near-to-the-viewer locations and the background planting is of finer-textured foliage. Spaciousness is further suggested by employing to best advantage horizontal lines such as those of lake shores, low roofs and surfaces of still water and of stretches of carefully tended sand or gravel.