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In Praise of Shadows

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  5,263 Ratings  ·  431 Reviews
An essay on aesthetics by the Japanese novelist, this book explores architecture, jade, food, and even toilets, combining an acute sense of the use of space in buildings. The book also includes descriptions of laquerware under candlelight and women in the darkness of the house of pleasure.
Paperback, 48 pages
Published December 1st 1977 by Leete's Island Books (first published 1933)
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Jul 22, 2015 Dolors rated it really liked it
Recommended to Dolors by: Cristina
Shelves: read-in-2015, asian
A delightful essay on the ethos of Japanese aesthetics, its “frigid elegance” and its ancestral raison d’etre. Thanks to Tanizaki’s unadorned yet carefully layered prose I start to grasp the importance of natural materials like worn-out wood or paper lanterns, or the preference for dim lighted rooms and tarnished tableware that lack the aggressive glitter of metal or the aseptic whiteness of tiles of modern houses. It’s in the musky darkness that shrouds the bare room, devoid of artificial ornam ...more
Sep 20, 2015 Florencia rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese, non-fiction

The preference of a pensive luster to a shallow brilliance.


My quiet, soothingly minimalistic room seems of no consequence when juxtaposed with the unearthly beauty that Jun'ichirō Tanizaki described in this splendid essay on aesthetics.

A shōji. Lightning. Electric fans. The right heating system. Architecture. Food.
Every detail to avoid the disruption of harmony in a Japanese room.
An almost imperceptible line between an extremely refine taste and the subtlety of irony.

We delight in the mere sig
Jul 21, 2014 Praj rated it really liked it
Shelves: にほん
“We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.”

** Kage-e illustrations - Japanese shadow art from the Edo period (woodblock print)

Have you ever stomped on your shadow, trying to hold its torso with your feet? The subtle chase between you and the devious shadow; toughening with every stomp on the dried grey asphalt while queries of whether you have lost your marbles looming in the humid air. Deer pranc

The quality that we call beauty ... must always grow from the realities of life.

In Praise of Shadows,
written by the well known Japanese novelist Tanizaki Jun'ichirō (1886-1965) in 1933, is a particularly charming and discursive rumination on the differences between Japanese (indeed, East Asian) and occidental aesthetics (among other matters). It is also an illustration of the differences between the Japanese tradition of zuihitsu ("to follow the brush"), of which In Praise of Shadows is a most
In Praise of Shadows is an essay on beauty. It is less of a meditation but more of an unfocused sequence of thoughts. Tanizaki talks about wooden furniture, subdued lighting, lacquer-work, Noh plays, and the pleasure of taking good shits.

Tanizaki prefers obscure and hidden things to those directly revealed. He likes rural things, shadowy things, dirty things. He's not exactly a crusty reactionary here, but someone who wants to return something lost, obscure and concealed.

Tanizaki, a product of
Mar 27, 2009 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Micha and Desi
Shelves: read-2009, asian
In the west people tend to emphasize light in their environment... big windows, skylights. Shiny, gleaming surfaces are important and appear clean and fresh. Tanizaki wrote this short book to explain the importance of shadow and darkness in oriental culture... shadows that have been chased away with the welcomed technology of the west.

This is an essay on the aesthetics of shadows, on some of the differences between the west and the east. Tanizaki's text flows from one topic to another almost dre
Jul 29, 2013 Zanna rated it it was amazing
The quality that we call beauty must always grow from the realities of life, and our ancestors, forced to live in dark rooms, presently came to discover beauty in shadows, ultimately to guide shadows towards beauty's ends

(If you don't have time to read the whole of my review, go ahead and skip the next two paragraphs)

There is a practice essay prompt in the US College Board's guide to the SAT book that goes something like "Do changes that make our lives easier always make them better?". This is o
مروان البلوشي

لعل هاروكي موراكامي، وياسوناري كاواباتا، ويوكيو ميشيما هم أشهر أدباء اليابان في العالم العربي. ولكن الفرصة لم تسنح للقارئ العربي للتعرف على جانيتشيرو تانيزاكي وهو روائي ياباني لا يقل في مكانته أو مستواه عن الآخرين. بل إن الكثيرين من عشاق وخبراء الأدب الياباني يختارون روايته "الأخوات ماكيوكا" كأفضل رواية يابانية في القرن العشرين.

أما الكتاب الذي بين ايدينا والمعنون بـ"مديح الظل" فهو عبارة عن مقال مطول (48 صفحة) كتبه تانيزاكي عن موضوع أثار اهتمامه لفترة طويلة وهو: الفارق بين مفهوم الجمال عند اليابا
Sep 18, 2016 Pantelis rated it it was amazing
To be read in tandem with Thomas Bernhard' s Korrektur. One illuminates and darkens the other...
Apr 03, 2017 George rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Ο Τανιζάκι είναι ένα από τα μεγαλύτερα ονόματα της Ιαπωνικής λογοτεχνίας και το μικρό αυτό βιβλιαράκι είναι μάλλον το πιο πολυδιαβασμένο έργο του. Η Ιαπωνική κουλτούρα είναι μια από αυτές που σέβομαι και εκτιμώ και είναι πάντα απόλαυση να διαβάζω απόψεις και αντιλήψεις γύρω από αυτήν, πόσο μάλλον όταν εκφράζονται από έναν μεγάλο Ιάπωνα συγγραφέα.

Εδώ ο συγγραφέας παραθέτει ουσιαστικά την αντίληψή του για την ομορφιά της γιαπωνέζικης και κατ'επέκταση της ανατολίτικης αισθητικής στις τέχνες αλλά κα
Jun 04, 2013 Janet rated it it was amazing
I always like a book that changes the way I see the world. As a Westerner who likes LIGHT more LIGHT, this praise of shadows, the dusky atmosphere of the past and architecture which protects and conceals, where mystery is held, reborn, is a peripheral vision of existence I'd never imagined. It's been a year or so since I read it--but I still recall his image of enamelwork which is garish and awful in broad daylight, but has incredible beauty and charm in low light--which is not a defect, as we w ...more
Ahmed Almawali
Dec 11, 2015 Ahmed Almawali rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
من حسناتِ الكتبِ وما أكثرَ حسناتُها أنها تسحبُ بعضَها بعضًا وكلُّ واحدةٍ تدلُّ على الأخرى وتقودُ إليها، عرفتُ هذا الكتابَ بل وتعرفتُ على الروائي الياباني الفذ تانيزاكي من كتابِ الديب "عصيرُ الكتبِ" وتعمدتُ أن أتجاوزَ مقالتَه ومراجعتَه حولَ مديحِ ظل تانيزاكي كي لا يفسدَ عليَّ متعةَ اكتشافِ الكتابِ. للظل قدسيتُه ومكانتُه، بل وللذوقِ الياباني تفردُه، العمرانُ بكل تفصيلاتِه الدقيقةِ إضاءاته وخفوتها، كذلك لونُ البشرة وسحنتُها، المسرح ... يبحث عن الأصالةِ اليابانيةِ في مختلفِ مفرداتِ الفردِ حتى لا يخت ...more
howl of minerva
Jan 10, 2017 howl of minerva rated it it was ok
Shelves: art-architecture
Sort of a Japanese Grandpa Simpson. Kids these days, no respect. Art these days, total crap. Food these days, inedible. It's all go go go. It's all electric lights and gramophones. What happened to sitting in the dark, poking yourself in the eye with a stick? Kids are too good for that now. Things were so much better before refrigeration and antibiotics. People used to have time for things, people used to care, people used to have pride. Bla bla bla. Said every generation ever. Bonus star for br ...more
Dec 31, 2008 Tony rated it did not like it
If Tanizaki had written this book from a Westerner's perspective, the essay would be regarded as retrograde and pessimistically nostalgic. To be sure, only a highly-evolved culture is capable of a reciprocal relationship between production and appreciation. A wholesale dismissal of progress, however, is no way to get there. Tanizaki's rejectionist attitude is a perfect one to adopt if you're interested in sabotaging your potentially sensitive, agreeable, harmonic future.
Susan Budd
Aug 27, 2015 Susan Budd rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Susan by: Akemi G
In this little book, Junichiro Tanizaki helped me understand why I ~ a thorough Westerner, NYC born & bred ~ am so drawn to the Japanese aesthetic. He begins his essay with an example I can totally relate to. Many Japanese people take pains to hide electrical wires because they don’t want to spoil the beauty of the traditional decor. I so get this. I wish I could hide all my electrical wires too. There are so many of them, not to mention all the LED lights from appliances that once were luxu ...more
Mar 26, 2014 Zadignose rated it it was ok
Shelves: 20th-century
A backward, reactionary, nationalistic prose piece disguised as an essay on aesthetics, which engages in strange speculation and musing that is not at all well supported. But it gets better towards the end when its cantankerousness and hyperbole get amusing, and it does ultimately manage to express a mournful nostalgia for a dying aesthetic, even if that aesthetic is more of a personal aesthetic than the author admits, rather than being an expression of national character.


The aesthetic can b
Jul 15, 2016 Anatoly rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
After reading about the concept of Wabi-Sabi in Leonard Koren`s book Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers it was only natural to continue with this essay. Again this was very enriching, but this one was a lot more poetic and captivating. The descriptions are vivid and are beautifully written, which is not simple when writing about Japanese aesthetics (though the essence of this concept is actually the beauty that is in the simple and fleeting things). ...more
Mar 30, 2016 Carla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quanto a mim, gostaria de tentar fazer reviver, pelo menos no domínio da literatura, esse universo de sombra que estamos prestes a dissipar. Gostaria de alargar o beiral desse edifício que tem o nome de «literatura», escurecer-lhe as paredes, mergulhar na sombra o que está demasiado visível e despojar-lhe o interior de qualquer ornamento supérfluo.
Mamdouh Abdullah

بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية، حين تغيرت طبيعة نظام الأعمال في اليابان وحدث تغير حقيقي في مجالات عديدة من مجالات الحياة، حدث نوع من الفقد لا يمكن تعويضه. على الرغم من أن الأشياء التي فقدت بسبب التطور الحضاري، حل محلها أشياء أفضل منها وأكثر كفاءة في العمل والحركة والنقل إلا أن الآثار البسيطة، أو التفاصيل البسيطة التي كانت تحمل غنى روحي وثقافي، بل وجمالي لا يمكن أن تعوض. في مقالة مديح الظل للروائي الياباني جونيتشيرو تانازاكي يتساءل الكاتب حول الانتاج الحضاري لكل دولة من الدول، أو الشرق والغرب. إذا ان
Alexander Ayala
Hablar de detalles nunca es sencillo. No cualquier escritor puede activar sus sentidos para con ellos escribir y atrapar a los lectores en un tema tan minucioso como la arquitectura japonesa y la piel humana.

El Elogio de las sombras comienza en la construcción de una casa según la cultura oriental y continúa describiendo todo lo que la conforma para luego hablar de los colores, alimentos, las sombras y lo hermoso que se vuelven al comprenderlas y sentirlas.

Es impactante e increíble lo sumamente
A startling little book that taught me a lot about Japanese aesthetics. A real eye-opener. It's all so sensible and natural and yet it is so far removed from our Western preoccupation with clarity and light! I also enjoyed the resonances with Peter Zumthor's Atmospheres which I read on the same day. I've put it on the rereading shelf.


Xenia Germeni
Oct 12, 2015 Xenia Germeni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ένα κομψοτεχνημα απαράμιλλης αξίας! Δεν είναι μονο για bookworm & booklovers ειναι για αρχιτεκτονες, μηχανικους, διακοσμητες, σχεδιαστες μοδας, σεφ, ανθοπωλες, κηπουρους, καθαριστριες, ηθοποιους, φωτογραφους, εστιατορες, ιστορικους, κοινωνικους ανθρωπολογους, μεταφραστες, εκδοτες, σκηνοθετες..ΥΓ ΨΑΞΕ ΝΑ ΤΟ ΑΠΟΚΤΗΣΕΙΣ!
Phát Lạc
Aug 28, 2014 Phát Lạc rated it it was amazing
đôi khi tôi tự thấy thật là may mắn khi phương Tây đã đi đầu trong công nghệ. Chẳng hạn khi họ thiết kế hàng ghế economy class trên máy bay theo chuẩn người Âu 100 năm trước, người lùn châu Á chúng ta hưởng lợi biết bao nhiêu. Tôi ko dám tưởng tượng cái chỗ ngồi máy bay sẽ như thế nào nếu như người Việt thống trị kỹ nghệ hàng không.

Tự nguyện nhiệt thành như Nhật hay bị ép buộc chẳng đặng đừng như phần còn lại, Đông phương đã đi theo Tây phương. Ngoài những lợi ích hiển nhiên, chúng ta cũng mất r
Reading it for the second time around after 2.5 years, I can securely say that I found it much more interesting and indulging than the first time I read it.
Nov 21, 2016 Bruce added it
The prolific Japanese author Junichiro Tanizaki published this extended essay on esthetics in 1933, and the issues he addresses range widely. He contrasts what he views as a Western fascination with light and clarity, newness and brightness, openness and change, with a Japanese focus on subtlety, nuance, mystery, darkness, ancientness, and stillness. Contrasting issues as different as toilet plumbing, domestic architecture, cosmetics, theater and drama, lacquer ware and gold ware, and interior i ...more
May 09, 2011 Capsguy rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan
A beautiful little essay that I certainly enjoyed more than I thought I would. I tend to shy away from non-fiction works as a result of their normally dryness in nature, although I found this to be intriguing and of sufficient length that I can feel that I took something from it without having to rummage through hundreds of pages.

Pretty much Tanizaki outlays the differences in culture between the East and West on darkness, with a focus on shadows. From the designs of temples and how the architec
Dec 23, 2015 أسيل rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

مركز تحميل الصور

الانسان كلما تأمل أمراً كان امتداد له ولماضيه
كلما احبه واقترب منه وانعكس جماله فيه
يتتبع اصالته وتنبع اصوله فيه
ولطالما تساءلنا عن سر انجذابنا وحنيننا للماضي
رغم ان ذاك الماضي لا يخلو من الصعاب والمشاكل
احفظ جملة احدهم يطيل التأمل والوقوف بأماكن السديم والضباب
كلما راودني هذا السؤال اذا قال
"هو الحنين ابدا لحينٍ لم نحنه و كون لم نكنه"
ذلك المتسرمد فينا سيمياء اسلاف و امتداد اخلاف .

منهم من احب الضوء وانبهر به وبالشموع والاضاءة
ومنهم من احب الظلال والظلام وانعكاسه فيه
وكل حسب ماضيه وبيئته ومجتمعه وتأملاته
Akemi G
Jul 14, 2015 Akemi G rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-nonfiction
The Japanese aesthetics of the bygone days -- the book was originally published in 1933. (Don't expect to see this by visiting Japan now.) Quite unique. Perhaps most interesting for the American/European readers is the way he appreciates women's beauty.

Tanizaki was not just any Japanese writer. He was well versed with the Japanese classics. His modern Japanese translation of The Tale of Genji was a standard for a long time, and I think it still is one of the best. NOT coincidentally, Edward Sei
Nov 16, 2016 Yanper rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Το εγκώμιον της σκιάς, γράφτηκε το 1933, όταν δηλαδή ο Τανιζάκι είχε πλέον ολοκληρώσει τη στροφή του προς την αισθητική και τις παραδοσιακές αξίες του ιαπωνικού πολιτισμού, και είναι ακριβώς ένα δοκίμιο πάνω σ' αυτήν την αισθητική και στην άβυσσο που τη χωρίζει απ' αυτήν της Δύσης"
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  • Essays in Idleness - The Tsurezuregusa of Kenko (Translations from the Asian Classics)
  • A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics
  • The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses
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  • And Then
  • One Hundred Leaves: A new annotated translation of the Hyakunin Isshu
  • The Great Mirror of Male Love
  • Vita Sexualis
  • The Waiting Years
  • Empire of Signs
  • As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams: Recollections of a Woman in Eleventh-Century Japan
  • Atmospheres: Architectural Environments. Surrounding Objects
  • Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers
  • The Counterfeiter and Other Stories
Jun'ichiro Tanizaki (谷崎 潤一郎) was a Japanese author, one of the major writers of modern Japanese literature, and perhaps the most popular Japanese novelist after Natsume Sōseki.

Some of his works present a rather shocking world of sexuality and destructive erotic obsessions; others, less sensational, subtly portray the dynamics of family life in the context of the rapid changes in 20th-century Japa
More about Jun'ichirō Tanizaki...

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“Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.” 32 likes
“Whenever I see the alcove of a tastefully built Japanese room, I marvel at our comprehension of the secrets of shadows, our sensitive use of shadow and light. For the beauty of the alcove is not the work of some clever device. An empty space is marked off with plain wood and plain walls, so that the light drawn into its forms dim shadows within emptiness. There is nothing more. And yet, when we gaze into the darkness that gathers behind the crossbeam, around the flower vase, beneath the shelves, though we know perfectly well it is mere shadow, we are overcome with the feeling that in this small corner of the atmosphere there reigns complete and utter silence; that here in the darkness immutable tranquility holds sway.” 28 likes
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