«We Orientals tend to seek our satisfactions in whatever surroundings we happen to find ourselves, to content ourselves with things as they are; and so darkness causes us no discontent, we resign ourselves to it as inevitable. If light is scarce then light is scarce; we will immerse ourselves in the darkness and there discover its own particular beauty.» (Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, In praise of shadows, 1933)
In praise of shadows was recommended to me shortly before I left for Japan. It was my second visit there and I felt – naively – safe. I looked for the book in central bookshops and second-hand books stalls, but it was all in vain. I had to leave without it. Fifteen days from the east of Japan to the west, as if to ‘leaf through’ the country, from the right to the left, like kanji writings on a notebook. To the north first, then to the south: Kyoto, Uwajima, and finally Fukuoka. There I was rewarded with meadows of perfect-pale pink cherry trees along with crowds of children, young and adults in raptures before a miracle they are blessed with once a year. It is not just a matter of care, grace, respect, delicacy and beauty in every contact and detail, whether aesthetic or purely practical, but a whole that includes all these words and exalts them. An ancestral merit whose light the West can only love.
Words Laura Taccari
Photos Luca De Santis