Archive for June, 2008

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Between Wabi-Sabi and Sony

June 13, 2008

It struck me the other day that the Japanese, with a historical wabi-sabi emphasis on patina on one side and an economy racing into the techno-future on the other, would embrace anything that could connect these disparate cultures.

One possible bridge is Steampunk, with its focus on materiality and victorian pre- assembly-line technology. And sure enough, between Miyazaki’s TenkÅ« no Shiro Rapyuta (Castle in the Sky), Katsuhiro Otomo’s Steamboy, and devices like the watches of Haruo Suekichia, it’s clear that Steampunk has a hold in Japan.


But I’m sure it’s not the only unlikely sythesis of Sony and the tea ceremony. The modern influence on Meiji Japan was massive and the parallels between the spareness of zen aesthetics and the less-is-more of the Bauhaus were easy to find and implement on both sides of the pacific.

But love of Steampunk is beyond modern, neither clean nor spare. What other combinations of historical Japan and the postmodern are out there?