Thursday, July 30, 2009

Japanese aesthetics

Picture source: Atlantis Home (top), TFS (bottom)

I've been reading about Japanese aesthetics out of interest. The values and concepts are deeply fascinating, and I can certainly see their influence on Japanese culture, art and fashion. Here are some prominent ones to begin with:
Yugen- 'barely glimpsed rich and mysterious beauty'
Furyu- 'refined manners, as reflected in things regarded as tasteful and elegant'
Sabi- 'a slightly bleak quality suggesting age, deterioration, and the passage of time'
Wabi- 'a cultivated aesthetic that finds beauty in simplicity and impoverished rusticity'
Mono no aware- 'a slightly sweet and sad quality as appreciated by an observer sensitive to the ephemeral nature of existence'; 'the pity of things'
--- 'Miyabi' on TFS
These concepts might seem foreign initially, but I think they resonate with all of us regardless of the culture or society we come from. I'll be going into detail on select ones in coming posts.
I studied Japanese for six years as a third language, hence all things Japanese occupy a special place in my heart. Studying another language from scratch was a very different experience from learning my mother tongue, which I did unconsciously from young. I think it allowed me to examine the nuances in meaning and structure of the language and to draw connections to Japanese culture and history. This was partly because of my matured perspective and developed analytical skills, and also because it was just so new to me. It's easier to digest something when it's fresh. Besides, my thirst for knowledge spurred me to seek any information that could help me in my understanding.
My sis and I desperately want to visit Japan after our college graduation, to immerse ourselves in the culture that so fascinates us and hone our (by then) rusty language skills. The last time when we were in Tokyo, we made a silent pact to return. Have you ever experienced what it's like in a foreign country, when a scene overwhelms you and you feel the strong pull of the place? I felt that in Japan on several occasions. Someday I must fulfill our pact.

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