On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
IT SEEMS to me there are contrasting sides to Japanese aesthetics. The same fellow who appreciates the simplicity of rocks in carefully raked sand also derives pleasure from art forms that most westerners find aesthetically overwhelming.
Japanese cars seem to reflect this, even in these days of their designers coming from all around the world. While you’re reading this, think about Japanese cars that fit into one category or the other.
Examples of this aesthetic dichotomy are Katsura Rikyu and Nikko Tōshō-gū, the latter, a historical site about 90 miles north of Tokyo (www.wp.me/p2ETap-GZ). Nikko Tōshō-gū’s temples and shrines honor the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan from 1600 until 1868. The place gave rise to the phrase “Never say ‘kekko’ [Japanese for ‘I am satisfied’] until you’ve seen Nikko.”
Though Katsura Rikyu, in central Japan outside of Kyoto, was built at the same time, its aesthetics couldn’t be more contrasting. This Detached Palace is the architectural equivalent of a Japanese rock garden.
The lines of Katsura Rikyu are simple and elegant. Its proportions are based on the traditional tatami mat, with approximate 2:1 relationships. Note the contrast with the western appeal for the Golden Ratio of 8:5 (see www.wp.me/p2ETap-Rf).
The aesthetics of Katsura have been studied by many of the world’s designers and architects. No less than Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus school of architecture, is coauthor of a book that’s said to have influenced a whole generation of designers.
Observes Walter Gropius in the book, Katsura: Tradition and Creation in Japanese Archietecture, “Though its owner was an imperial prince, there is no pomp, no superfluous luxury; with great simplicity and restraint of means, a truly noble edifice has been created in which a sense of freedom and peace reside as an inherent quality.”
Another beautiful book on the subject is part of the Spanish Coleccion “Fotoscop” series. The book Daitokuji Katsura takes a historical approach linking the Japanese architecture of Daitokuji, a Buddist temple founded in 1326, with Katsura, built 300 years later.
In Daitokuji Katsura, author Borràs notes that Prince Hachijō Toshihito, Katsura’s first resident, enjoyed reading classical Japanese literature, particular the works of Murasaki Shikibu. Lady Murasaki is regarded as Japan’s first—indeed, in many ways, the world’s first—author of a novel. In The Tale of the Genji, written 1000-1012, there’s the line “Far away, in the country village of Katsura, the reflection of the moon upon the water is clear and tranquil.”
I have a neat 1/100-scale paper model kit of Katsura. Thus far, I’ve been intimidated by its 31 pages of instruction—in Japanese—and 30 sheets of artfully printed construction paper.
Maybe I’ll be encouraged to bring out my metal straightedge and Xacto knife. In the meantime, I’ll work up a selection of Japanese car designs, some Katsura and others Nikko. You’re encouraged to do the same. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013