Reaping the Seeds Sown in Silence

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Reaping the Seeds Sown In Silence Through his essay “In Praise of Shadows” initially published in 1933, renowned Japanese novelist Junichiro Tanizaki captures a moment in time when comforting familiarity of the shadow-enshrined Japanese culture clashes with radical, relatively garish values introduced by an universal modernization engendered by Western technology. This piece of writing serves as an elegy to the softer, subdued forms of oriental sensibilities in the expanding light of a fast-paced, mechanized lifestyle fraught with control and economic efficiency. Besides addressing traditional ideals of aesthetics reverently in its worn skin of age, his remarks on the practicalities from a raised living standard provokes much rumination on material design as embodiment of the status quo of different epochs. By portraying the daily function of eating as a sensual practice and examining the effect of shadow on its individual components, Tanizaki connects the simple routine to varied attitudes regarding ordinary pleasures and a sense of appreciation. Under different gradations of light, a soup bowl is not only illustrated as a visual frame in enhancing the overall experience, but also as a vessel of cultural significance. During a recent trip to an old favorite restaurant of his, Tanizaki was shocked by its replacement of candles with “electric lamps in the style of old lanterns” to a revelation of the hidden beauty in Japanese lacquerware with “dim half-light” (12). For its smoky luster is eliminated under the artificial lighting and presented as dull black without the “depth and richness like that of a still, dark pond”, an image symbolic of the density and mystic essence of times past (13). After a brief mention of ceramics and white lacquer as “vulgar and inelegant” attempts of substitution, he reinstates darkness as “an indispensable element of the beauty”

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