Chrissie's Reviews > The Old Capital

The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata
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really liked it
bookshelves: japan, text-checked, relationships, fiction, alt

I will tell you why I really liked this book, nothing more. It captures traditional Japanese culture wonderfully. Central to Japanese life and culture is the importance of beauty. I am referring to the value of weaving a beautiful cloth, the value of looking carefully at a tree or a leaf or a stone and capturing the essence of the beauty that object emanates. For me Japanese art removes all the unnecessary; it rips away what is superficial and leaves you with the bare essential. What is beauty? You understand that when you look at Japanese art in all its different forms - cloth, gardens, ceremonies, pottery and good writing such as this.

I don't understand everything in this book. That is because I do not understand all aspects of Japanese culture. The more you understand their culture and all that makes their culture what it is - traditions, feasts, national shrines, customs and beliefs - the more you will appreciate the book. You do have to be curious about the Japanese way of thinking. You have to see the beauty of ripping away the excess to look underneath.

This is a lousy review. I don't know how to describe the beauty of this book, except that it is so Japanese, and that I love.

Try this book. It is for me the best I have read by the author. You will have to see if it talks to you. Yeah, even the dialogs, the blunt talk is so perfectly Japanese. Do you know a Japanese? Again, the more you can recognize, the more you can love in the lines. This author has captured it all. Maybe you will see nothing, and hate it, but you will not know unless you try.

At the same time, I do not understand how this culture so well finds what is beautiful in life and then behaves as they do in war! It boggles my mind.
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Reading Progress

December 3, 2010 – Shelved
December 3, 2010 – Shelved as: japan
December 3, 2010 – Shelved as: text-checked
August 28, 2013 – Started Reading
August 30, 2013 – Shelved as: relationships
August 30, 2013 – Shelved as: fiction
August 30, 2013 – Finished Reading
August 31, 2013 – Shelved as: alt

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I look forward to your review.


Chrissie I am spending too much time on GR...... I have so many emails to answer and I hope people will forgive me if it takes a while to answer everything.

Already it feels VERY Japanese. Total appreciation of flowers and gardens. This is not to be seen in Western culture, at least not to the same extent!


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

There is definitely a different appreciation for the aesthetics of everyday objects in Japan: flowers, gardens, food.

Everyone missed you! :)


Chrissie Jeanette, gosh, they missed me?! I am blushing......

The appreciation of art and gardens and even the beauty of everyday objects is a perfect example of different cultural tendencies. Of course Americans and Europeans and other cultures admire beauty but the way it permeates Japanese culture is amazing. The grillwork at thebase of trees in Tokyo is stunning. Just one example.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Our exchange students brought some beautiful little gifts with them, simple things like a toothpick holder. And, food presentation can be done so beautifully.

My daughter received a note card from her Japanese teacher. It was a beautiful cut-out design of a cherry tree. Lovely.

But, I have to admit that the Europeans have the Americans beat. I always come home from Germany wanting to redecorate my house. I love walking down the streets and looking at the lace curtains in the windows. And so many window boxes full of flowers. We'll see what I bring home with me from this trip.


message 6: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 16, 2011 07:52AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chrissie What is fun is seeing the diffeent things in different countries. Also don't forget that the Japanese have made an arto of wrapping up presents, and origami i beautiful... I could go on and on.

Lace isn't bad either. Berlgium is also famous for its lace. I like the little lace bags for lavender.

Oh, have tons of fun in Germany!!!! They have fabulous Xmas ornaments. They have whole villages just dedicated to this. I cannot remember the name, something like Rothenburg vaon Tauber. I have from this town a beautiful eggshell that has a delicate rabbit drawn on it. I bring it out at Easter.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm looking forward to exploring Salzburg, as we have never been before. I know you watch what you eat, but I will have a hard time with the Austrian pastries. My husband is already talking about them. :)

And, we will visit a wooden toy shop in Hildesheim. I want to bring back a special baby gift for someone. The woodworking in Germany is also wonderful, as are the glass ornaments.


Chrissie Oh, you will have tons of fun! Please send me a PM afterwards and tell me about the trip.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

I most certainly will -- to both!


Chrissie I am enjoying it so far, but I do want to retrurn to the Old Capital.


message 11: by Travelin (new)

Travelin Brutally efficient thinkers often take the wrong short cuts in war and culture. I've wondered if the essential, strongly delineated form you describe so well is an isolated island's sense of order. The trees in a Japanese garden look like they themselves are being crucified by all the bindings.


Chrissie I don't know, but I am thinking about what you are saying.


message 13: by Cherie (new)

Cherie I so love your reviews, Chrissie! I think I love reading them more than you love reading books. I love your joy and enthusiasm. I love your honesty and am in awe of your passion to tell all.


Chrissie Cherie, you don't know how often I wonder if I should just stop writing reviews...... Thanks. Your telling me such keeps me writing. It is really true! I need your feed back.


message 15: by Carol (new)

Carol Chrissie, if you never commented on anything more I had to say I'd still follow you...I love your comments and your reading interests...


Chrissie Are you talking really about me? You are just sweet. Thank you is in order.


message 17: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret I think that all cultures are inconsistent because people are often inconsistent. Their actions don't jibe with their stated beliefs, and sometimes they don't realize it.


Chrissie It is important to recognize that Japanese brutality has been repeated over and over again. It is not merely a fluke.


message 19: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret Yes, I understand that it's not a fluke, but the Japanese don't understand themselves as being any more brutal than other nations. Is the United States a brutal nation because of its atrocities? How about the Chinese atrocities toward their own people and those of Tibet? There are numerous examples from history of Spanish, Portuguese and British atrocities. None of these people consider themselves especially brutal. There's a disconnect about that for every nation.


Chrissie I don't agree with your reasoning. I think the Japanese stand apart.


message 21: by Shomeret (last edited Sep 01, 2013 01:56AM) (new)

Shomeret What about the Turks? They massacred the Armenians. They also tortured dissidents against the Ottoman Empire from a number of different nationalities. I've been reading about it recently. Yet my grandmother lived in Turkey for a while, and praised the Turks as a highly civilized people. Every Turk I've met personally has been a wonderful person.

I find that if I read enough every country has done many terrible things. The Tibetans are now regarded as so peaceful, but I've read about terrible things that the rulers of Tibet did before they were Buddhists.


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