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4.4 out of 5 stars47
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 11 July 2007
This book has a foreword from someone at UCLA's School of Architecture - so perhaps that is a clue to where it is aimed.
Tanizaki makes a good argument that Japanese art (eg, lacquerware, calligraphy, gold statues, no and kabuki, etc.) cannot be best appreciated in bright, white and shiny surroundings, which he characterizes as Western. He prefers a natural diffused light, softer colours and the 'wear and tear' of wasi-sabi.
At this point in his life Tanizaki (1933) had turned against Western influence, so this is really "In Praise of All Things Japanese!" He does stray from his subject and ramble on like a 'Grumpy Old Man,' which he admits. Partly nostalgia - for he is really railing against the Japanese who had already embraced the 'bright lights' of the West, I'd say he crosses the politically correct line several times and made me feel uncomfortable.
Nevertheless, Tanizaki offers us a valuable link to a rich past, and there is still much we can learn from there. Like how a setting can enhance or destroy our appreciation of an object, a person or theatre. Or, why we should not be afraid of the dark!
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VINE VOICEon 21 April 2004
Recommended for anyone studying architecture, design, sculpture or art,but I've been giving it out as a general gift for years. Not a novel, butan elegant short essay regarding space, shadow, and light. Veryenlightening (pardon the pun) and will make you think about the space youoccupy in a new way, and may even encourage you not to switch the light sooften....charming and brilliant.
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on 10 February 2009
Some reviewers were troubled by parts of the essay that are "weird" or politically incorrect. However, this work is a preservation of a disappearing era, and succeeds in pinpointing the roots of the beauty in the things it describes. Those things themselves, then, are not as relevant as the underlying lesson in appreciating and understanding spaces, moods, customs, and the day-to-day. Here is a subtly delivered train of thought, demonstrating the gentle delineation and enjoyment of nuances that are easily and commonly ignored.

Short, cheap, and easy to read, it can be recommended to almost any thoughtful person. It is well worth taking as a companion to Tanizaki's novels, too, as an elucidation of his style of thought. (In particular, 'Some Prefer Nettles' addresses related themes of culture, custom, enjoyment and appreciation.)
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on 30 July 2015
Sokay. Recommended by many of my friends who raved about it and spoke about it in hushed, profound tones. I wasn't quite as impressed. Can't really say why though. I guess I feel that it's just one way of looking at the world among many - it's just as relevant to write in praise of even, flooded light as it is to write in praise of shadows, and as a result I'm wary of anyone professing the beauty of shadowy, murky light over all else.

It's a good entry point to Japanese aesthetics, and worth a read, even if you don't like it its a very slim book and you won't have wasted much time in doing so.
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on 10 October 1998
I found this book originally 4 years ago for $1 in a discount bin at a tiny, cheesy bookstore in a mall. Just for kicks I bought it and was delighted by the chance of finding it. It is a little gem that describes one man's view of Japanese culture and design as compared with our sterile Western ways. As a (then) student of an Interior Design degree, I found it to be a worthwhile read.
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on 14 July 2012
It is so true that we see with our brains! This book speaks to my senses, to my spirit and to my brain. The language is soft, homey yet so elegant and it describes a world that is foreign to us, where we enjoy each shade of the shadows, how they calm our senses. I will keep this in mind for when I will design my own home. I have read it twice because it kind of washes my brain from this westernism I am surrounded with
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on 29 May 2016
I really enjoyed reading this essay on Japanese aesthetics. The general conclusion is that the darker more diffuse lighting of Japanese lanterns, candles etc sets off the items made for Japanese artefacts found in the traditional Japanese abode. Western bright, crisp lighting and chrome-plated design clashes with Japanese artefacts. Well, duh! Evolution, whether of organisms, design or taste progresses in a direction dictated by the parameters of the environment. If your rooms are dark then that's likely to influence your artifacts. The West followed an evolutionary path cut by science and technology and that's why our lighting improved incrementally, candles, lanterns, gaslight, lime-arc lighting, electrical filament lighting, fluorescent lighting and now LED lighting. Brighter and more efficient. The West ground glass into lenses and made plate glass to let light in to our dwellings- humans are creatures evolved to thrive and bath insight light and cower away from the darkness until the sun rises again. The Japanese cut themselves off from the world (sakoku) abandoned the development of glassware into lenses etc and hence technologies like tele- and microscopes and the advantages they bring and, instead, developed ceramics into beautiful vessels for drinking and eating from, lacquerware etc etc. They were still using naked flames to light their homes when the West was building steam ships! The point is, neither West or East is 'better' than the other, they are just better adapted to their environment as per Darwinism. The thought of the author gazing into his miso in quiet awe as the steam rises from the pearl-like rice makes me laugh really, charming in its own way but pretentious in others.

A very enjoyable read but with arguments so full of holes that a 12 year old could criticise them!
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on 6 July 2000
This is a wonderful account of the personal experience of the author with the interior architecture and the pleasure that the emplacement of objects and the light that they catch brings to him.
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on 15 May 2016
This book is utterly sublime. It seems such a simple small book about aesthetics in Japanese culture but it is more than that, It is the truth about objects and the preciousness of design and light and dirt. It is a book for those who are busy to bring attention back to the simple act of looking at things, to have the tears for things, the rapture for things! It is a book about the joy inherent in the imprint of dust and debris and fingerprints. It's about the entropy of objects made and found and delighted in. It is a book for the blind artist who has yet to see.....
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on 18 May 2010
Truly wonderful essay that depicts a nostalgic, yet attentive narrative of japanese cultural identity in modern society.
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