Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, , pp. Thomas Rimer and Jon Mark Mikkelsen. The philosopher Kuki Shuzo was among the first to interpret traditional Japan through the context of Western aesthetic theory. A kind of cultural anthropologist as well as a philosopher, Kuki went to Europe in , studied under Edmund Husserl and was acquainted with Martin Heidegger. It also gives his writings a freedom, even a daring, not usually associated with Japanese scholars. The fact that there is no standard translation into other languages is the first of many problems.
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He is credited for bringing into Japan Martin Heidegger's philosophy and for giving the translation jitsuzon for the German Sein being. In this book, Kuki discusses the nature of the quintessentially Edo aesthetic sensibility of iki, that a sense of urbane, plucky stylishness of living, which was forged in the late s in Edo a city now known as Tokyo.
Kuki also provides an analysis and definition of the sensibility of iki using philosophical idioms he acquired in Europe during his eight years of study there beginning in In the conclusion of this book, Kuki proposes that iki represents the core of the Japanese people and encourages the reader to keep alive this old aesthetic sensitivity of iki.
What is then iki? Iki embodies some elements that are similar to the sensibility of dandyism, which developed in the late eighteenth century and nineteenth century in Europe. Perhaps the most renowned example of such a dandy was the French poet, essayist and art critic Charles Baudelaire Dandies rejected bourgeois life style and pretended they had connections to aristocracy when in fact they had none. They were elegant, arrogant, and socially irresponsible.
Dandyism had tacit codes of dress and behavior, a symbol of decadence and the trademark of men who were socially indolent. Iki was different. In contrast to dandies who were politically and sexually inert, Iki signified sensibilities essential in a man or a woman who was in a pursuit of conquering the opposite sex.
Another reason is the author's intellectual kinship to Martin Heidegger, who has been criticized for colluding with the Nazis National Socialists , and this connection is strengthened all the more when we learn that Kuki and Heidegger once worked closely together. So, naturally, a question has arisen as to the role Kuki's philosophy played in the Japanese military expansion, a situation similar to Heidegger's philosophy, which served the Nazis well.
Perhaps more importantly for readers now, Kuki serves as an example of a modern man who was caught in the crease of modernity and tradition-he lived through a tumultuous period in Japanese history and found personal equilibrium within himself in his own attempt to balance Japan's tradition and modernity.
You will also learn about the connection between Kuki and Heidegger and Kuki's role in the discourse on aesthetics and Japanese militarism. Kuki's education and training was at a par with any young men with financial means and intellectual promise-he was educated at the First Higher School then at the Tokyo Imperial University, graduating from the latter with a degree in philosophy in Skip to main content.
Kuki Shūzō: A Man Burdened with Modernity and Tradition
He is credited for bringing into Japan Martin Heidegger's philosophy and for giving the translation jitsuzon for the German Sein being. In this book, Kuki discusses the nature of the quintessentially Edo aesthetic sensibility of iki, that a sense of urbane, plucky stylishness of living, which was forged in the late s in Edo a city now known as Tokyo. Kuki also provides an analysis and definition of the sensibility of iki using philosophical idioms he acquired in Europe during his eight years of study there beginning in In the conclusion of this book, Kuki proposes that iki represents the core of the Japanese people and encourages the reader to keep alive this old aesthetic sensitivity of iki. What is then iki?
From Okakura, he gained much of his fascination for aesthetics and perhaps foreign languages, as indeed his fascination with the peculiar cultural codes of the pleasure quarters of Japan owes something to the fact that his mother had once been a geisha. The idealism and introspection implied by this decision were early evidence of issues which would have resonance in the characteristic mindset of the mature man. A graduate in philosophy of Tokyo Imperial University , Kuki spent eight years in Europe to polish his knowledge of languages and deepen his already significant studies of contemporary Western thought. Shortly after Kuki's return to Japan, he wrote and published his masterpiece, The Structure of "Iki" In this work he undertakes to make a phenomenological analysis of iki , a variety of chic culture current among the fashionable set in Edo in the Tokugawa period , and asserted that it constituted one of the essential values of Japanese culture. Kuki took up a teaching post at Kyoto University , then a prominent center for conservative cultural values and thinking. His early lectures focused on Descartes and Bergson.
The cool aesthetics of Edo
The three critical essays that accompany this new translation of The Structure of Iki look at various aspects of Kuki, his work, and the historical context that influenced his thinking. In the second essay, J. Thomas Rimer compels readers to reexamine The Structure of Iki as a work in the celebrated tradition of zuihitsu stream-of-consciousness writings and takes into account French literary influences on Kuki. You can find out more about which cookies we are using or switch them off in settings.