Junichiro Tanizaki

In Praise of Shadows

“The quality that we call beauty, however, must always grow from the realities of life.”

Beauty, to Japanese novelist Jun’chicho Tanizaki, is something intrinsically bound to use and purpose of the thing that is beautiful. Its substance, utility, how we engage with it in our daily lives. In this manner, In Praise of Shadows shines a light on things hidden, in shadow, things murky, with subtle luster, or unexpected.

Tanizaki wrote many books but perhaps the most famous is his short, concise essay on Japanese aesthetics, In Praise of Shadows. published in 1933.

It is a beautiful, ambling essay about the nuances of Japanese aesthetics. How in these nuances, simple domestic things like walls, doors, ceilings, and materials appeal and recommend themselves to us differently. “I marvel at our comprehension of the secrets of shadows.”

Pair with Kakuzo Okakura’s delightful read on the aesthetics and deep humanity of the Japanese tea ceremony or Pablo Neruda’s exceedingly important elevation the commonplace to the celestial in Odes to Common Things.