Monthly Archives: January 2013

Sunbeams by Sarah Marakos

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Coming Home

After winter break I walked to the LGBT Center and entering Bolles House I  saw the words WELCOME HOME! on the wall, making feel like I was back where I belonged.


The cold leaves body and heart.

Stairs leading me there.

This course began with the introduction of evanescence and form as being key components to Japanese culture.  Evanescence is the idea that nothing stays the same and is contingent or dependent on something else (Lecture 1/15).  An example of this is life, which is brief, fleeting, and unpredictable.  Form creates structure and through that brings meaning to an ever-changing world.  While it is difficult to grasp two conflicting ideas working together, an example is given through Mozart.  “Without the tyranny of the four-bar phrase, would we have the brilliance of Mozart?”(Inouye 15).  Evanescence and form come together in many great Japanese that are able to combine the tension between the two concepts.  Our instructor is having us students write poems to help with the understanding of these two ideas.  These are not ordinary poems, but ruled by the idea that “…there is less enjoyable truth in definitions than in moments of definition.”(Inouye 4).  Furthermore, the class is taught about how animism’s affinity for nature and Buddhism’s path to enlightenment relate to Japan’s relation with evanescence and form.  Lastly, we learned about key symbols like the cicada shell (representing this world) and the hakanasa (cherry blossoms), which represents evanescence.

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I was walking to Olin from downhill one day, traversing through the grass field of President’s Lawn; seeing the bare tree branches and the dried leaves that fell last fall still scattering around reminds me of my mother.

Bare branches above

Leaves beside foot-

A mother’s love



Our semester’s discussion on evanescence and form kicks off last week with the notion of the impermanence of the very self and how we are to accept it. As Professor Inouye puts in his book, “nothing teaches us the truth of change as effectively as our bodies” (Inouye 36.) Interestingly, when asked about attitudes toward this personal level evanescence, what comes to my mind is, although slightly impertinent, a Chinese proverb quoted from Romance of the Three Kingdoms: “it is up to men to project schemes, yet it is up to the heavens to grant them success” (“謀事在人成事在天.”) Although it focuses more on scheming rather than living itself, my spontaneous reaction to “life’s impermanence” seems to be rooted in this proverb: that similar to scheming, living could be dealt with by working out the best of what is held in control, and consigning the rest, including my very life and the condition of my body, to the heavens to determine. In a sense, this resonates nicely with the Japanese notion of form, examples of which include the ring in a sumō game, that is meant to answer the same question of evanescence (Lecture 1/16.) Further, as a side note, the Chinese character for “to scheme” (“謀”) also finds its way into representing the Japanese word hakaru, or “to plan,” which in turn gives birth to hakanasa, or evanescence (Inouye 26.) This is, of course, representing two different approaches to evanescence by the Chinese and the Japanese, and I will leave further discussion on hakanasa to my next post, where it should belong. For this week, the focus is utsusemi, or “empty cicada,” which presents evanescence before “continental” influences such as Buddhism came to Japan (Inouye 19.) What I find to be most surprising is the quote from Orikuchi Shinobu suggesting that utsusemi in fact comes from utsushiki mi, or “mortal body,” not only because it is my first time learning this, but also because it reaffirms how the body plays a deciding role in men’s understanding of impermanence (Inouye 23.)

- Zesheng Xiong (George)

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Still Transformation

After contemplating professor’s advice to bathe today because I might die tomorrow, I decided to bathe in the second floor, pretty dingy, bathroom early Saturday night .


A Space Transformed-

Candle Flame, Still Water

Lovers’ Arms.


I feel that paradox surrounds what we have been talking and reading about in class thus far. Everything changes and everything is impermanent, yet this change has a “form” to it: Orderly Chaos. Second is that nothing is permanent , and yet the “eternality of the present” moment is central to Japanese understanding (Kitagawa p.58). These tenets even give rise to paradoxical feelings. I feel sad that everything I love and care about, myself included, will someday disappear. It makes me feel that nothing matters. At the same time I feel full of gratefulness and alertness as I realize fragility of life. It makes me live fully in this present moment, where my love is, as I know it will soon be gone. This “sadness is beautiful” because it puts us into perspective, it takes us more fully and truthfully into the reality of life (Lecture 1/23).

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Of Evanescence and Form

I was walking down Professors Row near the Presidential Lawn in the morning when I noticed a plastic bag blowing in the wind and then get caught in a tree.


A plastic bag–

Changing shape in the wind

Now snagged in one direction

The two topics that we are going to learn this semester are “evanescence and form” (Inoyue, 1). I thought these were easy to understand at first, but they become more difficult to understand as I think more about them. Everything is always changing, but has some order when it does. Where do you draw the line for “kata” or shape in evanescence (Inoyue 7)? If everything changes, and nothing stays the same, how do you define what is different and what is not? I think the best way to go about understanding this is to not overanalyze and to take things as they are. I think a good example of this is how real objects, like trees, can have divine attributes, or kami (Kitagawa, 44). This type of thinking is very different for me. I think the basic idea is that there doesn’t have to be a meaning behind everything, but things just “are.” I feel like things will be clearer later. For some reason, trying to think this way calms me down. Maybe that has to do with understanding what we are learning too.

- Krishna Soni

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My Sites

I also still don’t see anything under “My Sites” but Modern Japanese Literautre.

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Still no action

I still don’t see any posts from my students here.

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Does this work?

Trying to get my class on to this blog as authors.

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Basics of this Blog

Hi everyone!

This blog will feature numerous posts by students in Professor Inouye’s Evanescence and Form: An Introduction to Japanese Culture. We hope you enjoy what you read here.

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