Kyoto/ Bibliography/ Living in depicting sense of the place

As to expand on the idea of sense of a place, I refer to a first person narrative primary source in depicting living in Japan. Houses and people of JapanBruno Taut, The Sanseido Press Tokyo, 1937. There were two sections in the book which recount descriptions, though subjective, of the true perception of Kyoto.

Chapter III: Summer, p.53-55.

‘…there the true conception of Japanese culture had been created, there nearly all great painters, musicians and poets had lived, and there still flourishes Japanese craftsmanship. Kyoto would be the key to Japan’s aesthetic…I had encountered among the farmers a deep simplicity and naturalness more powerful than any dull reflection of the Kyoto culture.’

The supreme cultural ambience of the place is perhaps an image of the city of Kyoto. The experience of walking through the streets of Kyoto unfolds the influence of other Japanese cities, particularly Yokohama and Tokyo, to Kyoto, and the importation of western modern civilization. It is however noteworthy in Taut’s description on the experience of the city that the charm of the authentic Japanese culture still resides in Kyoto. ‘This lived in its spacious residential districts, in gates and fences and many nooks and corners, in gardens and displays of goods- all this was truly Japanese.’ Therefore, to a visitor, Kyoto may appears to be confounded with an infiltration of modern goods on one hand and preservation of some of the left over temples and shrines on the other, the city yet gently reveals itself to be largely a retreat from urbanization that peace of garden and quiet grandeur of some classical buildings were preserved.

Another part of the narrative shed light on the characteristics of Kyoto residence in illustrating ideas of the people being expressed through their houses.

Chapter V: Farmers and fishermen, p.111-116

‘…But in other parts, especially in the districts surrounding the ancient centres of culture like Kyoto and Nara, you may find in peaceful union the high thatched roof and the flattened tile roof, and in the mountains and on the coasts it is possible to see these contrasted styles, the thatched roof and the stone burdened shingle-roof, standing side by side without one disturbing the other…there is ever the same spirit which unites all the many variations and produces an aesthetic whole.’

The combination of different materials and styles is presented as an avocation of artistic freedom and at the same time an indispensable generator of form in refined classical architecture. Kyoto’s architecture and culture in the same sense were indeed subjected to manifold influences from other cultures and civilizations, yet their awareness to cultural preservation, as a genuine documentation of the time, and control over disordered urbanization inherited the essence of the place as the cultural centre of Japan.


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