"All works of art, it may be said, are more beautiful when they suggest something beyond themselves than when they end up being merely what they are." Soetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty.
The following elements of Japanese design were taken from this book, written by Boye Lafayette De Mente. Japanese design is a way of life. There is no separation between life and art. They are the same thing.
ISHI: The Use of Sabi Stones. The Japanese imbue stones with spirituality and use them in many aesthetic ways. Their stones form a link between humans, the earth, nature--and they have a calming effect on the spirit.
TAKE: The Beauty and function of bamboo. Bamboo is the foundation or frame of so many Japanese objects-- some estimates are above ten thousand. Bamboo is a symbol of virtue, fidelity and constancy.
KI: Humility in Wood. In the Japanese concept of aesthetics, wood that is less than perfect is regarded as "humble" or more natural, and therefore more appropriate for humans, who need to be reminded by nature that imperfections are good.
SABI: Savoring the "rust" of age. The basic meaning of sabi is rust, or to decline or to become solitary. Revering nature involves an appreciation of weathering, aging and the passage of time.
This naturalness and simplicity exudes a sense of tranquility.
FUKINSEI: Symmetry vs. Asymmetry. Fukinsei means "without balance". Artists learned a long time ago that asymmetry could be used to give designs a fresh, surprising, charming look.
KATACHI: Making Things Shapely. Katachi relates to the perfect union of form and function.
WABI: Desolate beauty--an Indefinable Wistfulness. Wabi refers to rustic beauty, both natural and man-made. A deeper essence or meaning is more important than the material it is made from.
The evening bell, solemn and bronze
In the grandfather temple
down the hill.
Slow beat of the mountain's heart, perhaps
or determined pulse of the pine tree
growing out of a crotch of the
slippery monkey tree.
All one, perhaps---
bell, mountain, tree...