Thursday, March 29, 2007

Japanese Aesthetics

As I was writing about the "Japan Boom" in Japan today, I came across the idea of Japanese aesthetics in the old days. Things people see as "beautiful" differ from culture to culture, and I'm not sure for other cultures but at least for Japan what people consider "beautiful", or the value of certain things, have changed or forgotten over time.

There is this concept in Japan, wabi-sabi, and is an expression of simple refinement. The expression contains a rather lone, simple, quiet and decaying meaning, but for some reason the ancient people considered this aesthetic and sought refinement in things that were lone, quiet and decaying. In a similar sense, there is an adjective hinabita which means rural and rustic. This too is associated with a sad, quiet and lone image, but is a word used most times to compliment the place.

During the years when it was fairly peaceful (before and after the Sengoku civil war era), Japanese people had much affection to nature, time and space. A slow life was a luxurious life, and the most luxurious and refined practices back then were to read poems and appreciate the nature. The tradition of blossom viewing, moon viewing and autumn leaves viewing are thought to come from those days. People, especially those in high rank in the courts, spent time looking at the smallest lives on earth like grass and bugs, and let their imaginations run. Sometimes they put those imaginations and emotions into words, and a thousand years later those poems become legacies of the history.

Traveling was another leisure, though more costly and dangerous in a way. Even in the peaceful days, roads were neither smooth nor lighted at night. There were wild animals and thieves. But there were people who spent years traveling without a particular goal or a purpose, and recorded what they saw or felt on the way. I was writing about Matsuo Basho, a poet and a writer during the early Edo whose haiku poems are very famous, and he too wrote about the most silliest things with little value - that is to say, in our sense. But the words he use and the nature of haiku or tanka of compressing sentences worth of expressions and emotions into 17 or 29 syllables attach ancient aestheticism to whatever he has written about.

Slow and qualitatively rich life is grabbing attention of Japanese people these days. It's probably the counter-reaction to the time-pressed, busy and stressful lifestyles that's been here for half a century. It may be the time we look back on our culture in the older days when people were more relaxed and laid back. And that's probably why Japan is the trend right now in Japan.

Today's update on Japan Mode:
Trends in Japan <> - it's basically about the details of what I wrote here.

1 comment:

R.K.SINGH said...

Hi, maybe, you find my haiku/senryu and tanka too worth reading:
http://rksingh.blogspot.com
R.K.Singh