Japan Living: The Ineffable Harmonious Relationship

Japan has a long history of practicing Zen and integrating it into daily life. Originated from Buddhism, Zen became a life philosophy that combines the soul, body, and mind. The essential parts of a traditional Japanese lifestyle are base upon simplicity and tranquility.

One of the most crucial concepts for Japanese architecture and interior design is to have an organic flow of the interior and exterior. Architects like Tadao Ando (安藤 忠雄), who received the Pritzker Prize in 1995, is very sensitive to natural light’s treatment in a space. Natural light moving through negative space symbolizes positive energy and a sense of freedom and clarity. That is also why sliding doors are often used as it gives the option for privacy yet keeps the flow of a space uncultured. Similar to Tadao Ando, Toyo Ito (伊東 豊雄), who is the winner of the UIA (The International Union of Architects) Gold Medal this year, is most known for his use of innovative materials. Both architects focus on building their designs by utilizing the geometry of nature and establishing strong connections between the natural environments and their buildings.

The concept of Zen also ties into “Wabi-Sabi (わび 寂さび)”, which means the art of imperfection. It encapsulates the feeling of rustic, desolate, transience and acceptance of imperfection. With both Zen and Wabi-Sabi engraved into the Japanese culture, materials such as wood, glass, metal are often used and presented raw. Negative space is also calculated upon to procreate unity. Although both concepts based upon being organic, yet it resonates with modernism.

Wabi-Sabi and Zen are so deeply rooted in all aspects of Japanese living it is hard to trace back to the origin of how it all began. However, one of the best ways to understand a culture is to look into its music. Raw emotions and tranquility are found in the film scores of Studio Ghibli’s (スタジオジブ) animations. For more than three decades, Hayao Miyazaki’s (宮崎 駿) studio has been the most significant animation studio in Japan.

Wabi-Sabi and Zen are so deeply rooted in all aspects of Japanese living it is hard to trace back to the origin of how it all began. However, one of the best ways to understand a culture is to look into its music. Raw emotions and tranquility are found in the film scores of Studio Ghibli’s (スタジオジブ) animations. For more than three decades, Hayao Miyazaki’s (宮崎 駿) studio has been the most significant animation studio in Japan. My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ), released in 1988, became internationally well-known for its intimate portrait of emotions on a little girl’s mischievous adventure with a spirit animal. As well as Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し), released in 2001, received various awards across the globe including the 75th Academy Awards. Joe Hisaishi (久石 譲), who was given a lifetime achievement award for his contributions to Asian cinema and the composer for all of Studio Ghibli’s animations, evolved from making minimalist, organic, experimental scores into incorporating orchestral works. Hisaishi’s pure emotions and Miyazaki’s breathtaking landscapes create an ineffable harmonious relationship that bonds the ideologies of Zen and Wabi-Sabi. Here is a collection of Joe Hisaishi’s film scores:

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Yang translates the emotions in electronic music into installation and video art. She believes that Art and Music are the only two languages that have no boundaries. She started digging into electronic music when she first heard Matthew Herbert’s “I Hadn’t Known (I Only Heard)” and was completely mesmerized by its power - she has not stopped since then...

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