9 Ideals and Principles of Japanese Art and Culture


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There are 9 basic principles that underlie Japanese art and culture. They are called aesthetics - concepts that answer the question: what is art? There are 9 Japanese aesthetics that we will examine in this article.

These aesthetics and principles are the basis for japanese art, fashion, pop culture, music and Japanese films. It is also present in society, personality and even in Japanese cuisine.

Wabi-sabi - Imperfection

Imperfection makes life interesting, notice that no character is perfect, everyone has flaws. For example, Sakura cherry blossoms are only more beautiful because they appear only once a year.

Wabi-sabi [侘寂] represents this imperfection in Japanese culture. An aesthetic approach centered on accepting transience, imperfection and incomplete.

9 ideais e princípios da arte e cultura japonesa

The aesthetic characteristics of wabi-sabi include some that we will see in this article as:

  • Fukinsei: asymmetry, irregularity;
  • Kanso: simplicity;
  • Datsuzoku: unlimited by no convention, free;
    Seijaku: quiet, pleasant;
  • Koko: minimalism;
  • Shizen: without pretense, natural;
  • Yugen: subtly deep, not obvious beauty;

Miyabi - elegance

The word miyabi [雅] is usually translated as "elegance", "refinement", "courtesy" and sometimes refers to "heartbreaker" or "hurt". It is considered one of Japan's oldest traditional ideals.

The ideal of miyabi culminates in the extermination of everything considered vulgar or absurd in order to achieve the purest beauty. O miyabi expresses sensitivity to beauty and is linked with mono-no-aware [物の哀れ], the awareness of the transience of things.

9 ideais e princípios da arte e cultura japonesa

The famous golden Kinkakuji temple is an example of Miyabi aesthetics. In the past, the concept of Miyabi referred to boldness and feelings of spiritual elevation. It was seen in the scents of flowers, woods and cherry trees.

Shibui - subtlety

Shibui [渋い] means simple, subtle or discreet. This means that things are more beautiful when they speak for themselves "when they are not on your face" without adornment or extravagance.

Like wabi-sabi and miyabi, shibui can be applied to a wide variety of subjects in addition to art or fashion. Shibui objects appear to be simple, but include subtle details, such as textures, that balance simplicity with complexity.

9 ideais e princípios da arte e cultura japonesa

Shibui draws a fine line between contrasting aesthetic concepts, such as elegant and rough or spontaneous and restrained. This balance of simplicity and complexity ensures that you don't get tired of an object, but constantly find new meanings and enriched beauty that make your aesthetic value grow.

Iki - originality

Iki is exclusivity and originality. In many ways, Japanese culture does not celebrate uniqueness. As the Japanese proverb says: The nail that sticks up is hammered down. Therefore, Iki's best translation would be "refined singularity".

It is believed that the iki was formed by the Edo merchant class in the Tokugawa period. Iki is an expression of simplicity, sophistication, spontaneity and originality.

9 ideais e princípios da arte e cultura japonesa

This term is used to describe aesthetically attractive qualities, it can even be an excellent compliment when applied to a person. Iki also carries a connotation of life, can manifest sensuality and encompasses several characteristics.

Jo-ha-kyu - Slow, Accelerate AND STOP

Jo-ha-kyu [序破急] is a rhythm that can be translated as “Start slowly, accelerate and stop suddenly”. This aesthetic is used by traditional Japanese arts, such as the tea ceremony. It is also used extensively by Japanese martial arts.

Modern use includes films, music and advertising. It can also be seen in the dramatic structure in traditional theater and the traditional collaborative forms of verses associated with renga and renku (haikai).

9 ideais e princípios da arte e cultura japonesa

The concept originated in the songs of the old imperial court called gagaku. Johakyu essentially means that all actions or efforts must start slowly, accelerate and end quickly.

Yugen - mysterious

Yugen [幽玄] claims that life is boring when all the facts are known. Something must be hidden and full of mystery. There are thousands of movies, series and anime that use yugen. Whenever we watch it has some mystery and it holds and the emotion.

Yugen means a deep inner feeling and has been found in Chinese philosophical texts, where it means "dark" or "mysterious". It can refer to a subtly deep and not obvious beauty.

9 ideais e princípios da arte e cultura japonesa

Some Japanese paintings are of misty landscapes, these paintings lead the viewer to make a connection with the space that seems to be beyond our world. This is the aesthetic and mysterious sense of the yugen.

Geido - discipline and ethics

Geido [芸道] refers to various disciplines that involve ethics and respect. It can be seen in the theater, in the floral arrangement, in the Japanese calligraphy, in the tea ceremony, in the Japanese ceramics and mainly in the martial arts.

Have you noticed that Japanese martial arts and traditional arts are all about discipline? Ethics and discipline makes things more attractive. So many people are attracted to Japanese culture.

9 ideais e princípios da arte e cultura japonesa

The word frost [芸道] literally means path of the arts and can refer directly to performing arts, performing arts presentations and martial performances.

Ensou - empty

Ensou [円相] is a Zen concept. Often, it is represented by a circle. It can mean infinity or nothing. It is a little difficult to explain. You need to spend a lot of time meditating to understand.

A great example of ensou can be seen in Japanese gardens that carry a Zen concept. In these gardens, minute circles are made in the sand or stones that often represent infinity, movement and fluidity.

9 ideais e princípios da arte e cultura japonesa

The ensou symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and mu (from emptiness). It is characterized by a minimalism born from Japanese aesthetics which, unlike wabi-know that represents imperfection, the closed circle represents perfection.

Kawaii - cute

Kawaii [可愛い] is cute and cute. Some argue that this is the new Japanese aesthetic. Others say that kawaii has always been part of Japanese culture. Either way, it has become the most popular Japanese aesthetic in recent years.

This word is known internationally thanks to Japanese pop culture and anime. It serves to designate objects, accessories, clothes, animals and people who are beautiful and attractive, styles like lolita.

9 ideais e princípios da arte e cultura japonesa

The first vestiges of this culture appeared in the Edo period (1603-1868), where woodcuts known as dijinga they represented pretty girls. At the end of the Edo period, some artists were already making illustrations that gave rise to the ideal.

We have already written an entire article dedicated only to the word kawaii. We recommend reading this article clicking here. What did you think of the ideals and principles of Japanese art and culture? Did you know these ideals? We appreciate comments and sharing.