Last Glimpse of Beautiful Japan
Between tradition and hyper-modernity
Ever since the exhibition Crafting Beauty in Modern Japan in the British Museum in 2007 there was a fascination about Japanese craftsmanship. A country creating something so beautiful as glazed ceramics or lacquer ware. The country appears to be radically modern but also steeply rooted in tradition.
Alex Kerr takes a more critical view in his book Lost Japan. According to Kerr, Japan’s traditional culture is in a state of crisis. Having lived in this country since the 1970s, he witnessed the disappearance of the country’s heritage at a worryingly scale. Since the first publication of the book in 1993, a number of fellow have gone and Alex Kerr Lost Japanthe foreword of the 2015 editions he laments that since a number of traditional artists have disappeared, “stuck with the job of ringing that old bell” p. 12
Kerr’s book talks about the beauty of Japan’s rich traditions, their cultural meanings and expression. His book takes the reader through architecture, Kabuki, calligraphy and religion . But each old art, according to Kerr, is slowly being lost. According to Kerr, traditions are lost because they are of no relevance to the modern society. When people abandon their rural homes to move into the city, leaving everything behind that does not have any relevance. Whilst foreign collectors purchase traditional arts, they have lost their appreciation within the country.
Alex Kerr can see this general lack of sensitivity to beauty affecting traditions but also the environment. Nowhere in the world are historical artefacts prominently sponsored by corporate actors. Kerr describes a decline in interest. Japanese culture within Japan was of no interest Kerr decries the destruction of the countryside disappearance of the natural beauty, rivers being dammed and mountains being covered with electric pylons, and cities being flooded with billboards, turning Japan into an “ugly country”
Whilst his book is a lament of the “Last glimpse of beautiful Japan”, it also gives hope. A sign of hope might be the exhibition at the British Museum.
Kerr artists revive interest