Rusted steel frames, faded curtains fluttering out of broken windows, tableware scattered on the floor. Ruined factories, hotels, restaurants, etc. in deserted towns are just shown, sometimes even without any narration or subtitles. Such YouTube videos are popular in Japan, and actually, I often enjoy them. “Horror is a genre in which disgust is central as an emotion,” Malcom Turvey, a British professor of film studies, said. “A lot of monsters are designed to be explicitly or implicitly disgusting.” In that sense, our interest in ruins is completely different. Japanese people see the beauty in things decaying away, which, I believe, is the origin of Japanese aesthetics.
Sakura, cherry blossom is one of the Japanese national flowers (another one is chrysanthemum, for your information). We are a kind of addicted to it. As most of you may know, cherry-blossom viewing would be the most important seasonal tradition in Japan (in spring), so important that the elderly often say “How many more times can I see cherry blossoms before I die?” Indeed, cherry blossoms are really beautiful, but it’s not flowers in full bloom but the scene where flower petals are falling that touches our heartstrings. Sometimes, we are more attracted by a single piece of cherry blossom petal floated in a puddle, rather than ones blooming on trees.
Why are Japanese aesthetics like this? I personally think it’s closely related to the natural environment of our country. As I wrote in last article, Japan is the island country prone to a lot of natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, etc. In such a harsh environment, with a feeling of powerlessness before nature, we have no other choice but to accept reality: we’re a part of nature, and death is a part of life. This is the reason why we find beauty in transient and imperfect things. Our furniture is made of wood. Each wood piece has its unique characteristics, and is liable to change by aging. In the sense of Japanese aesthetics, it’s so beautiful.
He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.