The Aesthetics of Japan
Japan is a country like nowhere else on earth, a country of extremes: traditional and modern, simple and complex, conservative and wild. The beauty of Japan is astonishing. How they can do it? How can I show a glimpse of Japan without going through the city-by-city travel stories? A good start would be by defining the principles of beauty or the aesthetics of Japan.
“The more people explore the world, the more they realize in every country there’s a different aesthetic. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.” – Helena Christensen
What are the aesthetics of Japan?
The Japanese aesthetic is a set of ancient ideals that include wabi (transient and stark beauty), sabi (the beauty of natural patina and aging), and yūgen (profound grace and subtlety). Wikipedia
Wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept defining the beauty of things as “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”, such as the cherry blossoms transience.
“If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi.” – Andrew Juniper
Miyabi is elegance, refinement – the opposite of vulgar.
Shibui represents the aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty.
“Beauty with inner implications” – Sōetsu Yanagi
Iki is the ideal of aesthetic in Japan: not too complicated, but sophisticated, spontaneous, original.
Iki may signify a personal trait, or artificial phenomena exhibiting human will or consciousness. Wikipedia
Jo-ha- kyū (modulation and movement) means that all actions should begin slowly, speed up, and then end swiftly. The tea ceremony, the martial art of Kendo and the traditional Japanese theatre are examples of Jo-ha- kyū.
Yūgen is “a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe … and the sad beauty of human suffering.” – Zeami Motokiyo
Geidō encompasses the traditional Japanese arts: Noh (theater), Shodo (calligraphy), Sadō (tea ceremony), Yakimono ( pottery).
Ensō means circle: enlightenment, strength, elegance.
Kawaii means cute! And cuteness is definitely part of the Japanese culture.
Kaiseki is the art of artistically arranging dishes.
“Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloudless? To long for the moon while looking on the rain, to lower the blinds and be unaware of the passing of the spring – these are even more deeply moving. Branches about to blossom or gardens strewn with flowers are worthier of our admiration.” – Yoshida Kenko
- Japanese Aesthetics – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy