In Praise of Shadows

  1. ​Things that shine and glitter​
  2. ​A naked bulb​
  3. ​The Japanese toilet​
  4. ​Empty dreams​
  5. ​Most important of all are the pauses​
  1. ​125 Best Architecture Books​
  2. ​Daylight should not tyrannize architecture​
  3. ​Deep shadows and darkness are essential​
  4. ​Lights and lamps​
  5. ​The gentle light of shoji screens​
  1. A naked bulb

    The sight of a naked bulb beneath an ordinary milk glass shade seems simpler and more natural than any gratuitous attempt to hide it.

  2. The Japanese toilet

    The parlor may have its charms, but the Japanese toilet truly is a place of spiritual repose.

  3. Empty dreams

    But I know as well as anyone that these are empty dreams, and that having come this far, we cannot turn back.

  4. Most important of all are the pauses

    Japanese music is above all a music of reticence, of atmosphere. When recorded, or amplified by a loudspeaker, the greater part of its charm is lost. In conversation, too, we prefer the soft voice, the understatement. Most important of all are the pauses. Yet the phonograph and radio render these moments of silence utterly lifeless. And so we distort the arts themselves to curry favor for them with the machines.

  5. The glow of grime

    Of course this 'sheen of antiquity' of which we hear so much is in fact the glow of grime. In both Chinese and Japanese the words denoting this glow describe a polish that comes of being touched over and over again, a sheen produced by the oils that naturally permeate an object over long years of handling—which is to say grime. If indeed 'elegance is frigid', it can as well be described as filthy.

  6. Lacquerware

    There are good reasons why lacquer soup bowls are still used, qualities which ceramic bowls simply do not possess. Remove the lid from a ceramic bowl, and there lies the soup, every nuance of its substance and color revealed. With lacquerware there is a beauty in that moment between removing the lid and lifting the bowl to the mouth when one gazes at the still, silent liquid in the dark depths of the bowl, its color hardly different from that of the bowl itself.

  7. To throw a shadow on the earth

    In making for ourselves a place to live, we first spread a parasol to throw a shadow on the earth, and in the pale light of the shadow we put together a house.

  8. The world of shadows

    The 'mysterious Orient' of which Westerners speak probably refers to the uncanny silence of these dark places. And even we as children would feel an inexpressible chill as we peered into the depth of an alcove to which the sunlight never penetrated.

    This was the genius of our ancestors, that by cutting off the light from this empty space they imparted to the world of shadows that formed there a quality of mystery and depth superior to that of any wall painting or ornament.

  9. Wasting light

    Foo Fighters - Wasting Light album cover

    Yamamoto Sanehiko, president of the Kaizo publishing house, told me of something that happened when he escorted Dr. Einstein on a trip to Kyoto. As the train neared Ishiyama, Einstein looked out the window and remarked, "Now that is terribly wasteful." When asked what he meant, Einstein pointed to an electric lamp burning in broad daylight.

    And the truth of the matter is that Japan wastes more electric light than any Western country except America.

    1. ​Poured​

    We don't often think about light itself as a resource that can be wasted. When we turn off the lights as we leave the house, we don't think of it as conserving light, but rather conserving energy. Could we learn to be more at home in darkness? Maybe Dave Grohl knows.

  10. The eaves deep and the walls dark

    I would call back at least for literature this world of shadows we are losing. In the mansion called literature I would have the eaves deep and the walls dark, I would push back into the shadows the things that come forward too clearly, I would strip away the the useless decoration. I do not ask that this be done everywhere, but perhaps we may be allowed at least one mansion where we can turn off the electric lights and see what it is like without them.

  11. Follow the brush

    One of the oldest and most deeply ingrained of Japanese attitudes to literary style holds that obvious structure is contrivance, that too orderly an exposition falsifies the ruminations of the heart, that the truest representation of the searching mind is just to 'follow the brush.'

    1. ​The Age of the Essay​
    2. ​Game feel​

    From Thomas J. Harper's afterword.

  12. I could never live in a house like that

    Mrs. Tanizaki tells a story of when her late husband decided, as he frequently did, to build a new house. The architect arrived and announced with pride, "I've read your In Praise of Shadows, Mr. Tanizaki, and know exactly what you want."

    To which Tanizaki replied, "But no, I could never live in a house like that."

    There is perhaps as much resignation as humor in his answer.