Simplicity, says Kenya Hara, creative director of Muji, is a “central aesthetic principle” in Japan and is what differentiates the visual appeal of the East from that of the West.
In an interview for The New York Times looking at the unique design of Japanese bentÅ, Hara provides a comparison of the East and West’s vision of simplicity and further thoughts on Japan’s unique aesthetic.
While Japanese are known for their particular aesthetic sense, I would say we also have an incapacity to see ugliness. How come?
We usually focus fully on what’s right in front of our eyes. We tend to ignore the horrible, especially if it is not an integral part of our personal perspective. We ignore that our cities are a chaotic mess, filled with ugly architecture and nasty signage. And so you have the situation where a Japanese worker will open a beautiful bento box in a stale conference room or on a horrendous, crowded sidewalk.
One of the principal goals of theÂ Toyota Production System (TPS)Â is to identify steps that add value (and those which do not) and then design out waste.
Muda is one of the three types of waste (the other two being muri and mura) and the one that has been given the most attention since the TPS has been widely studied. Of this type of waste,Â Taiichi Ohno further identified the seven wastes:
While reading this I also came acrossÂ Mottainai â€” a Japanese term meaning “a sense of regret concerning waste when the intrinsic value of an object or resource is not properly utilized”. I like that.
Research looking atÂ how different cultures (specifically, Americans and Japanese) perceive the concept of happiness has shown that it’s not a universal constant, at least in terms of how we define it.
[The researchers] systematically analyzed American and Japanese participants’ spontaneously produced descriptions of [happiness and unhappiness] and observed, as predicted, that whereas Americans associated positive hedonic experience of happiness with personal achievement, Japanese associated it with social harmony.
Furthermore, Japanese were more likely than Americans to mention both social disruption and transcendental reappraisal as features of happiness. As also predicted, unlike happiness, descriptions of unhappiness included various culture-specific coping actions: Whereas Americans focused on externalizing behavior (e.g., anger and aggression), Japanese highlighted transcendental reappraisal and self-improvement.
Surely this has some implications that I’m not thinking of?
via Mind Hacks
Hoping to have an extended visit to Japan in the near future? You may be as pleased as I was when I stumbled upon a site offering 10 Japanese Customs You Must Know Before a Trip to Japan.
A perfect compliment to Tim Ferriss’ Hacking Japan: Inside Tokyo for Less Than New York (part two).
I’ll be double-checking facts with my brother (who lives in Tokyo) and if there are any anomalies will be posting them here. Seems promising though.
Also: 10 Reasons Japan is Better Than America
The Telegraph has compiled a nice list of The 50 Best Works of Art (and how to see them)
Zen garden, Ryoan-ji Temple
(late 15th century) Kyoto, Japan
Getting there: bearable
This is the most celebrated example of what in Japanese is called a karesansui, or “dry landscape”. Since it consists of nothing but raked white sandy gravel and mossy stones, it could, in Western terms, be thought of as a sculptural installation. Its point, achieved with incomparable simplicity and elegance, is one of the fundamental objectives of art: to focus meditation on the mystery of existence.
Obviously there are going to be works you want to be on this list and those you believe don’t merit a place on it – still, it’s interesting.