Snowed-in at the Loj

I went to New Hampshire with a couple of my friends this weekend and enjoyed the snow illuminated by the lights of our cozy cabin.

Snow dances

through pools of light–

The fire crackles

Drifting away from the here-and-now and the lyrical moments of life, the rapidly modernizing Japan turns towards a more transcendental view, where our sense of self keeps us firmly anchored to the realism of the modern world. To observe this first hand we turn towards the art and architecture of the time. As western perspectivalism is introduced, the Japanese struggle to ameliorate their styles with these new influences, leading to art like Okumura Masanobu’s which tried to emulate perspective with mixed success (Lecture 2/21). Originally Japanese art depicted scenes where every person is the same size, where it was not from a particular view, but rather all completely separate views. You see the painting bit by bit. This is not true with the transcendent nature of perspective, which consolidates the infinite view of the world to a single perspective. Here we see this conflict between the here-and-now and the “big picture.” In class we also compared the gardens at Katsura Detached Palace and the garden of Versailles. In Versailles “the space we see seems to conform to us, to our point of view” (Inouye 96). The gardens of Katsura instead offers you the picture piece by piece, just like the painting prior to the introduction of perspective. From my westernized perspective, I don’t quite understand the necessity of showing only a little of something at a time. In “The Woman Who Loved Love” a lord describes his perfect woman through many small traits.  “A face slightly rounded, the complexion of a cherry blossom…the nape of the neck should be slender” (Saikaku 166). Would I rather see the elbow, the eye, the ear of a beautiful woman or her entirety? If something is beautiful, I would prefer to see it at its most beautiful and complete than bit-by-bit. I find myself unsatisfied by, as Professor Inouye put it, “the smallness of the Japanese picture” (Lecture 2/21).

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2 Responses to Snowed-in at the Loj

  1. Izel Maras says:

    One must still consider the fact that even though we can be standing on a point -like the such spot in the garden of Versailles- it is impossible for us to fully analyze and understand of the scenery that we perceive. Human brain can only understand and learn one detail at a time and maybe the Japanese tendency to ‘show a little of something’ acts to make people -really- look into one detail rather than merely seeing the whole thing and not even noticing a detail

  2. Is there not something to say for getting the full extent of an image piece-by-piece over time, rather than getting hit with it all at once? One problem I see with the Versailles photo is describing it to someone else. Where do you start? Wouldn’t something always be left out? I completely understand where you’re coming from, but I think both kinds of gardens have their place.

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