Unit 3 Overview
🌺 This unit focuses on the aspects of Japanese-speaking communities influenced by beauty and art. It mainly focuses on the theme of beauty and aesthetics but is also closely connected to other areas of study, such as identity and community.
🤔 Here are some guiding questions to help get you thinking for this unit:
- How do Japanese-speaking communities value beauty and art?
- In what ways do standards regarding beauty and aesthetics affect daily life?
- What is the role of art in Japanese-speaking communities?
Defining Beauty and Perspectives of Beauty in Japanese Culture
For thousands of years, Japanese people have found beauty in nature. They appreciate visible signs of aging life and the rich history associated with them.
💮 Wabi-Sabi (わびさび)
"Wabi" refers to simplicity and "sabi" refers to a decaying state, and together they convey the primary principle of imperfection. Wabi-sabi is a mindful approach to life that appreciates everything in its natural state.
To see beauty from this viewpoint, you must look for subtle and quiet features. Compared to Western communities in which boldness and extravagance are valued, Japanese communities see the beauty in more simple and natural elements of the world.
For example, Ginkakuji (銀閣寺) is a beautiful dark wooden temple in Kyoto where wabi-sabi can be observed. It is often compared to Kinkakuji (金閣寺), another nearby temple in Kyoto that is considerably more eye-catching due to its golden color.
Rather than basing its beauty off of color and material, Japanese people see the exquisiteness of Ginkakuji in its moss-covered rocks and dark patches in the wood. These details show that the temple has aged harmoniously with the earth. It is simple and has imperfections, making it a golden standard of natural beauty.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia
🌸 Hanami (花見）
Hanami (花見), or flower viewing, is a traditional Japanese custom where people enjoy the natural beauty of sakura (桜), cherry blossom flowers. The practice of hanami has occurred for centuries and is a fun and peaceful activity often accompanied by friends and food.
Image Courtesy of Peakpx
Sakura flowers blossom every spring, and people enjoy their simple elegance. The flowers symbolize mortality and stem from a traditionally Buddhist value of accepting one's natural cycle of life.
Along with enjoying nature's beauty, hanami also provides an opportunity to spend time with friends and family to eat. A popular food item to bring to these picnics is dango (だんご), which are sweet balls made from rice flour.
Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
花よりだんご is a phrase meant to tease someone who enjoys the food more than the flowers. Of course, it is important to appreciate both! 😜
People can enjoy sakura in other parts of the world as well. In the US, a popular place to see over 3,000 sakura trees blossoming in the spring is the Tidal Basin in Washington DC. These trees were gifted in 1912 from the mayor of Japan to honor the growing relationship between the two countries. Now, over 1.5 million people come from all over the world to enjoy the seasonal blossoms, and there is also a National Cherry Blossom Festival to celebrate the event.
Image Courtesy of Flickr
🔑 Key Words and Ideas
- Beauty in nature, signs of aging life
- Wabi-Sabi (わびさび): mindful approach to life that appreciates everything in natural state
- Japanese: value subtle and simple features
- Imperfections and simplicity are beautiful
- Ginkakuji (銀閣寺): dark wooden temple in Kyoto, exhibits わびさび
- Kinkakuji (金閣寺): gold temple in Kyoto, flashier than 銀閣寺
💥 Strive for a Five Vocabulary
- Utsukushī (美しい): beautiful
- Kantan (簡単): easy, simple
- Kuraberu (比べる): to compare