In Praise of Shadows

In Praise of Shadows
Junichiro Tanizaki
Vintage Press

Continuing with my look at Tanizaki, here’s a much shorter read than the massive Makioka epic.

In Praise of Shadows is Tanizaki’s look at beauty and esthetics in Japan. The work is incredibly informative, especially for anyone without a large background on the subject. To surmise his argument and explain the title at the same time: Tanizaki believes that it is the space between the flowers arranged in the alcove that makes Japanese beauty unique. In other words, a Japanese artist will work, not only with the flowers they arrange, but with the shadow they create. In the shadow is the true beauty.

A reasonably quick and short read, but packed full of lovely anecdotes about how Japan as a people and culture shine brighter in the shadows. This book works very well with Alex Kerr’s newest examination of architecture in Kyoto, Another Kyoto, where Kerr brings up the idea of Shinj-gyo-so, or the leveling of Asian art into three categories, Shin being sparkling, Gyo being more simple, and So the most simplified and less shiny. Tanizaki and Kerr certainly agree that Japan uses the So style and to the benefit of art and architecture here.

(My Review or Kerr’s book: 

I read it after coming across it so many times sited in other works and am glad to now have it in the cannon of work I have perused. It is a must read for anyone who wants to delve deeply into Japanese literature or art in any form. 

I would recommend this work for anyone who appreciates Japanese architecture, art, drama, or literature.

Check out my other examinations of Junichiro Tanizaki’s work:

The Key

In Black and White