Monday, September 30, 2019

Why am I studying Japanese?

I am studying Japanese for multiple reasons:

First, and foremost I like Japanese aesthetic sense. Some instances of this that I can think of right now are:

Literature: So far I have only read Japanese literature in English (Soseki, Murakami, Abe) and still it's full of subtle nuances and beautiful prose. I can only guess that I'm getting only a partial experience by reading these in English and that a deeper appreciation can be reached by reading them in their intended language: Japanese.

Wabi-sabi: It is unfair to call wabi-sabi minimalistic, yet its probably the most accurate to make a parallel with western art. The equilibrium of only the necessary (no more, no less than its needed) is a beautiful aesthetic ideal not only for decoration and design but also as a way to organize our own thoughts in our mind.

Animation: I think that animation as a creative medium is closest as to Wagner described as ``Gesamtkunstwerk'' or total work of art. In his view this was opera as visual arts, music and screenplay came together into a single piece of art. I think the possibilities of animation allow for deeper emotional messages to be conveyed by lifting the possibilities of movies or dramas by adding the dimension of painting (or drawings) into it. So, animation can have all the possibilities of drama by adding the drawings component. That is not to say that most animation nowadays exploit these possibilities as an artistic medium. I like Miyazaki and Kon movies.

Guess this is too long already!


  1. I agree that Wabi-sabi is not entirely about minimalism but more like an emotional status/ the awareness of the imperfections and constant changes of everything. I find this spirit usually when I was reading Japanese haiku, which I might not always be able to understand word by word but can still comprehend the transience of life in them.

  2. Yeah, koan also make me feel something very similar. That everything is actually a single thing, yet the mind always goes back to the habit of classifying and separating everything.

  3. Reading these stories in Japanese is quite a different experience, but translators do their absolute best to retain those special nuances. Haruki Murakami is special in that he speaks English already so he can work with his translators more closely.

    If you get a chance, pick up a copy of Anthology of Japanese Literature by Donald Keene. It's a gem!

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