Category Archive 'Japan'
08 Feb 2016

Junichirō Tanizaki – In Praise of Shadows

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shadows

A Japanese room might be likened to an inkwash painting, the paper-paneled shoji being the expanse where the ink is thinnest, and the alcove where it is the darkest. Whenever I see the alcove of a tastefully built Japanese room, I marvel at our comprehension of the secrets of shadows, our sensitive use of shadow and light. For the beauty of the alcove is not the work of some clever device. An empty space is marked off with plain wood and plain walls, so that the light drawn into its forms dim shadows within emptiness. There is nothing more. And yet, when we gaze into the darkness that gathers behind the crossbeam, around the flower vase, beneath the shelves, though we know perfectly well it is mere shadow, we are overcome with the feeling that in this small corner of the atmosphere there reigns complete and utter silence; that here in the darkness immutable tranquility holds sway. The “mysterious Orient” of which Westerners speak probably refers to the uncanny silence of these dark places. And even we as children would feel an inexpressible chill as we peered into the depths of an alcove to which the sunlight had never penetrated. Where lies the key to this mystery? Ultimately it is the magic of shadows. Were the shadows to be banished from its corners, the alcove would in that instant revert to mere void.

This was the genius of our ancestors, that by cutting off the light from this empty space they imparted to the world of shadows that formed there a quality of mystery and depth superior to that of any wall painting or ornament. The technique seems simple, but was by no means so simply achieved. We can imagine with little difficulty what extraordinary pains were taken with each invisible detail—the placement of the window in the shelving recess, the depth of the crossbeam, the height of the threshold. But for me the most exquisite touch is the pale white glow of the shoji in the sturdy bay; I need only pause before it and I forget the passage of time.

The sturdy bay, as the name suggests, was originally a projecting window built to provide a place for reading. Over the years it came to be regarded as no more than a source of light for the alcove; but most often it serves not so much to illuminate the alcove as to soften the sidelong rays from without, to filter them through paper panels. There is a cold and desolate tinge to the light by the time it reaches these panels. The little sunlight from the garden that manages to make its way beneath the eaves and through the corridors has by then lost its power to illuminate, seems drained of the complexion of life. It can do no more than accentuate the whiteness of the paper. I sometimes linger before these panels and study the surface of the paper, bright, but giving no impression of brilliance.

In temple architecture the main room stands at a considerable distance from the garden; so dilute is the light there that no matter what the season, on fair days or cloudy, morning, midday, or evening, the pale, white glow scarcely varies. And the shadows at the interstices of the ribs seem strangely immobile, as if dust collected in the corners had become a part of the paper itself. I blink in uncertainty at this dreamlike luminescence, feeling as though some misty film were blunting my vision. The light from the pale white paper, powerless to dispel the heavy darkness of the alcove, is instead repelled by the darkness, creating a world of confusion where dark and light are indistinguishable. Have not you yourselves sensed a difference in the light that suffuses such a room, a rare tranquility not found in ordinary light? Have you never felt a sort of fear in the face of the ageless, a fear that in that room you might lose all consciousness of the passage of time, that untold years might pass and upon emerging you should find you had grown old and gray?

Via Belacqui.

28 Oct 2015

We Don’t Know Anyone Like That

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tsundoku

23 May 2015

Nietzsche Manga

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Even bishōjo have a thing for Fred.

NietzscheManga

Hat tip to Belacqui.

04 Apr 2015

16-Course Lunch at the World’s Best Restaurant

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noma-japan-2-bontanebi
Course 2: bontanebi (still twitching shrimp) served with bits of wood ants featuring a lemon-scented pheromone.

Jeralyn Gerba undoubtedly pulled rank as a prominent travel blogger to get to the front of a 60,000+-long line of eager diners trying to catch a meal during the world-famous Copenhagen-based Noma restaurant’s six week long “pop-up” visit to Tokyo.

[M]y epic midday meal was like a thousand-year culture and history lesson served in a few dozen bites. …

I was psyched to hear the Noma philosophy straight from the horse’s mouth. How does a restaurant become the best in the world? How does such an outlandishly expensive operation create enough buzz to maintain the spotlight? You’d expect some flash (hello, 16-course tasting menu) and a few gimmicks (serving “technically dead” crustaceans covered in ants), but you might underestimate, as I did, the degree to which each and every item on the plate (not to mention the plate itself) has meaning, intention, and purpose. There’s an answer for everything, including moving to Japan. These guys are not messing around.

Read the whole thing.

18 Jan 2015

Ultimate Office Prank

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Somebody actually paid a fortune to arrange the installation of video and other technologies providing the simulated appearance of full 1-to-1-scale giant robots, Zaku, called “mobile suits,” from the popular Gundam anime, at a high-rise Tokyo office building. Futher Gundam appearances have been promised.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

08 Aug 2014

Kintsugi Tool

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Kintsugi1
Kintsugi2

kintsugi-repair:

Guess what this is.

This is is a tool called taiki, which means tai fish tooth. Don’t say it’s creepy. It’s a traditional tool to polish gold. Tai fish has strong teeth, so it is one of the best tool to make sprinkled gold shinny.

My friend who also learns kintsugi is a chef, and he gave a dozen of teeth. it’s interesting to hand make kintsugi tools.

鯛牙をつくってみた!

これは文字通り鯛の牙を筆の柄にくっつけただけの道具で、昔から金を磨くのに使われているらしい。

金継ぎ友の友人が料理人で、鯛の牙をごっそりくれたのだ。ありがたや!

鯛牙はお店でも買えるけど、自分で作るとさらに愛着がわくねー

Via Collections & Recollections.

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Wikipedia:

Kintsugi (金継ぎ?) (Japanese: golden joinery) or Kintsukuroi (金繕い?) (Japanese: golden repair) is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy it speaks to breakage and repair becoming part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

31 Jul 2014

Men!

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Men

In Kendo, you shout “Men!” as you strike at the head.

Hat tip to Madame Scherzo.

25 Jul 2014

Yadome

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ArrowZen

Yadome no jutsu, the Japanese art of cutting or blocking a flying arrow.

15 Jul 2014

Yahoo Japan Offering Special Service Designed for Boomers

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Reaper1

Silicon Beat:

It’s old news that the Internet has become an essential part of daily life. But now Yahoo Japan is offering to help people prepare for their eventual death online.

A new service called “Yahoo! Ending” promises to delete personal data from online accounts, send out a digital farewell message to friends and even host a memorial web page where people can leave condolences – once the service has confirmed that a subscriber has died.

That’s according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, which said the service will also help people plan their funerals and even compose their wills. (We checked out the Yahoo Japan site, but the English-language version provided by Google Translate left us confused about some details.)

This isn’t actually a new idea: We’ve reported previously on smaller companies that offer this kind of service. But it’s the first time we’ve heard of a comprehensive death package offered by a large Internet company. Yahoo Japan is a joint venture between Sunnyvale-based Yahoo and the Japanese giant SoftBank.

A US version would be poised to make a fortune.

18 Feb 2014

If You Feed Them, They Will Come

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The Japanese have an island devoted to rabbits.

Daily Mail story

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24 Jan 2014

Sword-Related Japanese Sayings

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A great collection from Markus Sesko:

jigane ga deru (地鉄が出る) – Literally “the steel appears,” for example when a blade is polished so often that the shingane appears or the jigane shows more unrefined areas. As a saying, it means “to reveal one´s true character.”

Hat tip to John Antony Scott.

21 Nov 2013

Samurai

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Hand-coloured albumen print photograph entitled Samurai, taken by Felice Beato and Charles Wirgman, c. 1865. Published in Photographic Views of Japan in 1867.

The subject of the portrait has his sword already started from its sheath in a ready-to-draw position, and his eyes and the expression on his face reinforce the pose. The subject’s natural pose of incipient violence reminds one of the readiness of a goshawk standing tiptoe on the branch or the lion crouched in the grass ready to charge. He has the same predator’s eye.

Hat tip to Madame Scherzo.

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