Archiv für den Monat November 2003

Tokyo Monogatari and Japanese Aesthetics

Seeing Tokyo Story (beautiful DVD from Criterion; Desser’s commentary is excellent) again – after so many years… I only will touch one detail, a sort of verbal „punctum“: Setsuko Hara’s drawled „Ie“ (No).
And then just go and see the film;)

Tokyo Story


Fascinated, I started rereading David Bordwell’s Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema and I found this (p. 27, 28):

Indeed, to speak of ‚Japanese aesthetics‘ itself is to suggest that the tradition is more homogeneous than it is. Japanese art has always subscribed to a variety of doctrines – mimetic, object-centered, expressionist, craft-centered, didactic, cathartic, and connoisseur-centered. Theories of dispassionate virtuosity vie with theories emphasizing sheer emotional expression. The Zen idea of sabi – solitary serenity attained by immersion in nature – differs significantly from iki, an urbane flair and sensuousness. Shibui, the beauty of reduction and astringency, contrasts with hade, the beauty of brilliancy and exuberance. Moreover, such traditional concepts were constantly being revised and reinterpreted.


There is no single or monolithic Japanese aesthetic tradition. It is a highly variable construct to which artists and polemicists of different periods appeal even as they redefine it for contemporary purposes.

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See also (for the curious):