Exemplification of Japanese aesthetics by other writers

Aesthetics is the field of philosophy that deals with the nature and expression of beauty. In Japan art is a way of life. A detailed appreciation of aesthetics in Japan requires complex insight of the philosophical foundations and principles behind art and art making. Donald Lawrence Keene – born on 6th June 1922 in New York city is a scholar , writer, translator and interpreter of Japanese culture and literature. According to Donald Keene, (78) Japanese Aesthetics concentrates on four key qualities namely: suggestion, irregularity, simplicity and perish ability. Aesthetic can be of two forms as suggested by Marra Michele (69) in her book about modern aesthetics.

Aesthetic can be inherent to the object which means it is the beauty of the objects and it is up to our taste. Aesthetic can be inherent to the subject meaning it is our imagination.In summary, the quality of suggestion deals with the idea that art heightens to action the inner component in the formation of an object. Apart from mere observation of an object, appreciation of art requires that one understands the heart and soul of an object or that which makes it what it actually is (Datsuzoku). The quality of simplicity of design adds weight on the least possible number of art elements, natural colors use, engendering of quiet space and close and warm relationship (Seijaku, and concealment of human intervention to produce spontaneity).

The third of the elements of Japanese aesthetic is irregularity. It gives significant detail on the natural beauty and meaning of non symmetrical surface. It makes no use of illusions but emphasizes on natural curves and objects’ roughness art’s elements (Fukinsei). Finally, the element of perishability. This element deals with the utilization of life and natural objects to demonstrate specific qualities of the times and seasons. Japanese art makes use of natural objects as elements in the art and their natural state as art making or design.

According to the vocabulary of Japanese aesthetics I, several aesthetics have been observed, one of them is aware or mono no aware (Boye, 2006). Mono no aware is sympathy towards items or sensitivity to ephemera. In Japanese mono no aware expresses the consciousness of impermanence or humanity of things and a mild grief at their transitory. Aware has several meanings like it is used as a shout of disclosure and delight. The modern meaning is desolate. The word mono means things while aware are an expression of surprise. This translates to the Ahh-ness of things, live, love.

The awareness of humanity of all things intensifies high regard of their beauty and evokes mild grief at their passing. The term okashi means more probably to sensitivity. Okashi or delight brings a smile to the face. Finally, both aware and okashi reflect a refined, noble society.Another element is the miyabi which is a situation of gallantry/sophistication. This involved the appreciation of special needs education. This also reflects the noble chain of command of values, debate on love and love making. Miyabi restricted the communicative range of Japanese poetry.

Plato – a kind of a censorship in Japanese poetry in that it avoids the rudimentary or unseemly but weakens real feeling as well as unfavorable simpler virtues like sincerity. This justified the court’s way of livelihood and their disapproval for the peasants.There is also another focus on impermanence in Japanese aesthetic which is characterized by escalating and preceding aesthetics. The penalty of war resulted to the use of old means to meet new ends. Yugen means remote, profound or mysterious. In Japanese aesthetics it is used where no exact words can be used to express and event or occasion that exists.

This therefore serves as a kind of representation that is more reminiscent than straight, and more spatial. Yugen aims at expanding to the dark regions unlike the aware that aims at terminating a sentiment. Yugen can only be understood by the mind and not articulated in words (Theodore, Keen, George & Paul, 2002). It is sensed without needing to ask. Yugen art is a doorway to something else i.e. an outdoor region or outdoor silence found in gesticulation of a Noh actor.Yugen is the eminence of the uppermost kingdom of art, and absolute sphere of influence which all forms point. The Noh drama in itself is a theatre suggestion or the importance of ghosts

. In case there is no action, there is an unconsciously revealed that is guided by miyabi. Finally Sabi refers to too grown old or rusty. Sabi takes pleasure in what was old, faded and lonely. The love of defect is observed in the tea ceremony. The tea ceremony is characterized a bare hut and devoid color while the utensils are all earthenware materials. Sabi has no signs of inaccessible things involved as used in yugen; no lamenting is present like the lamentation in Yugen (Andrew, 2003). Since few terms are used to define the preferences or ideals of Japanese creative artists throughout the ages they are indeed identified as a special vocabulary for Japanese aesthetics.


Andrew Juniper, (2003). Wabi sabi: the Japanese art of impermanence. Turtle Publishing. United States of America.

Boye D. M. (2006). Elements of Japanese design: key terms for understanding & using Japanese design concepts. Turtle Publishing. Japan.

Theodore W. M., Keen D., George T. and Paul V., (2002). Sources of Japanese Tradition: From earliest times through the 1600.



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