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The Vocabulary of Japanese Aesthetics. PART 1: aware [ mono no aware ] okashi ~ miyabi What are the example given for each? What do these examples tell us about the word’s meaning?. Japanese Aesthetics: I. aware: 1st an exclamation of surprise & delight The “ah-ness” of things

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the vocabulary of japanese aesthetics
The Vocabulary of Japanese Aesthetics

PART 1: aware [mono no aware] okashi ~ miyabi

  • What are the example given for each?
  • What do these examples tell us about the word’s meaning?
japanese aesthetics i
Japanese Aesthetics: I

aware: 1st an exclamation of surprise & delight

  • The “ah-ness” of things
  • The meaning developed over time.
    • Gradually tinged with sadness
    • Becomes a term of merit, associated with deep emotions.
    • Modern meaning: “wretched”

mono no aware: “the sadness of things”

  • More like sensitivity to things

okashi:delight; brings a smile to the face.

  • Both aware and okashi reflect a refined, aristocratic society.
japanese aesthetics i1
Japanese Aesthetics: I

miyabi: courtliness/refinement

  • Quiet pleasures enjoyed by the aristocrat
  • Needed special education to be appreciated.
  • Aristocratic hierarchy of values is reflected discussion of love and lovemaking.
  • Limited the expressive range of Japanese Poetry[cf. Plato – a kind of censorship?]
    • Avoids the crude or unseemly, but dilutes real feeling
    • Negation of simpler virtues, such as makoto/ sincerity.
  • Justified the court’s way of living & their contempt for the peasants.
    • Yet transmitted to all of Japanese society & still survives today” Japan is an “aesthetic” society.
japanese aesthetics ii
Japanese Aesthetics: II

PART II:focus on impermanence – intensifies & darkens previous aesthetics. Consequence of war.

“Use old means for new ends.”

Yugen:profound, remote, mysterious

  • Those things that cannot be expressed easily in words
    • A kind of symbolism: more suggestive than direct, therefore more spiritual.
japanese aesthetics ii yugen continued
Japanese Aesthetics IIYugencontinued…
  • Like aware, but in aware the realization was the end of the emotion – not extending to the dark regions
    • Art is a gateway to something else – an eternal region/eternal silence – found in the gesture of a Noh actor.
    • Yugen can be comprehended by the mind, but not expressed in words. Intuitively sensed.
      • To suggest the stillness there must be form or pattern
    • What are the examples? pp. 51-52
japanese aesthetics ii yugen continued1
Japanese Aesthetics IIYugencontinued…
  • Yugen is the quality of the highest realm of art, an absolute domain to which all forms point.
    • How does yugen work? p. 52
  • Noh drama: theater of suggestion; importance of ghosts
    • In times of “no action” – “unconsciously revealed spiritual strength of the actor. See pp. 52-53
    • Beauty in Noh is guided by miyabi.
    • Search for incorruptible [not absolute] values in a time of change & destruction.
japanese aesthetics ii1
Japanese Aesthetics II

Sabi: to grown old/rusty

  • Taking pleasure in what was old, faded, lonely
  • Love of imperfection is found in the tea ceremony
    • The hut is bare and devoid of color
    • Tea utensils are made of coarse pottery
  • Not symbols of remote things [not likeyugen]
    • No lamenting as in aware – love the fallen flower [haiku eg.]
    • Art is a refuge, a haven of tranquility
    • Easier to understand than yugen
    • The love of the old and unobtrusive is a defense against mechanization.

“wabi-sabi” [see link on our homepage]