Thursday, June 24, 2010

Essay: "In Praise of Shadows." Junichiro Tanizaki (2)

Review: Trying to construct a traditional Japanese home while hiding the modern appliances fueled by electricity and plumbing. The world of shadows is a natural world. We are losing the world of shadows. A tribute to the old ways of doing things in Japan. A tribute to traditional Japanese culture.

Quote: “It has been said of Japanese food that it is a cuisine to be looked at rather than eaten. I would go further and say that it is to be meditated upon, a kind of silent muse evoked by the combination of lacquer ware and the light of a candle flickering in the dark.”

Quote: “And so it has come to be that the beauty of a Japanese room depends on a variation of shadows, heavy shadows against light shadows—it has nothing else.”

Quote: “But the progressive Westerner is determined always to better his lot. From candle to oil lamp, oil lamp to gaslight, gaslight to electric light—his quest for a brighter light never ceases,, he spares no pains to eradicate even the minutest shadow.”

Quote: “So benumbed are we nowadays to electric lights that we have become utterly insensitive to the evils of excessive illumination…. Tea houses, restaurants, inns, and hotels are sure to be lit far too extravagantly.”

Quote: “Light is used not for reading or writing or for sewing but for dispelling the shadows in the farthest corners, and this runs against the basic idea of the Japanese room.”

Quote: “Of this I am convinced, that the conveniences of modern culture cater exclusively to youth, and that the times grow increasingly inconsiderate of old people.”

Quote: “…to snatch away from us even the darkness beneath trees that stand deep in the forest is the most heartless of crimes.”

Quote: “I am aware of and most grateful for the benefits of the age. No matter what complaints we may have, Japan has chosen to follow the West, and there is nothing for her to do but bravely move ahead and leave us old ones behind.”

Quote: “This world of shadows we are losing.”

Rating of this Essay: ***** of *****.

The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. Ed. Phillip Lopate. New York: Anchor Books. A Division of Random House, Inc. 1995.

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