The Colors of Japan
The Colors of Japan is a visually stunning look into the unique use of color in Japanese culture from prehistoric times to the present day. That the Japanese should possess their own sense of color is not surprising, for like almost every other aspect of human life, color perception varies from culture to culture.
The first and most fundamental reason for this variation can be attributed to geography. People living in arid lands will obviously perceive green in a different way from people surrounded by lush forests, as is the case in Japan. Geography will also dictate the materials that can be used to create the pigments and dyes to color objects.
Once geography has set the stage, other factors come into play, such as the direction in which a particular culture evolves. For instance, certain colors may be restricted to certain classes, as happened in the classical period of Japanese history.
A third factor is external cultural influence, in which the color perceptions of one culture are adopted by another as part of the ebb and flow of history. In the case of Japan, the first sources of such influence were Korea and China.
The Colors of Japan presents a crystalline overview of these three factors by means of discerning writing and stunning photographs. The text covers the four basic colors, the relationship of Japanese color perception to natural phenomena, the development of hierarchies of colors, the aesthetic of mixed colors, and the particular culture of color developed by townspeople in the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries.
The photographs range over a variety of objects, from the refined to the plebeian. There are lacquerware, various kimonos, combs, surcoats, picture scrolls, ceramics, sword mountings, shrine gates, paintings, woodblock prints, tea houses, a castle, paper stencils, fans, sculpture, umbrellas, screens, and human figures. Each is not only an illustration of a particular color as used in Japanese culture, but also a beautiful object in its own right. Nature, an all-important player in the nurturing of color perception, is not forgotten. The book includes lovely photographs of autumn foliage, a horseradish field, a pebbly stream in a temple garden, a tea house pathway, rows of tea bushes, and, last but not least, a tiny green frog.
As an approach to a different way of viewing color, as an introduction to the arts and crafts of Japan, or as a satisfying reading experience, The Colors of Japan is a book that anyone who possesses a aesthetic outlook on life will not want to miss.
The book includes full-color photos of the following:
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