Japonisme is a book that I picked up for its cover. It has Japan written all over it with its minimalistic cover design, with a red dot signifying the rising run like the Japanese flag. As soon as I started reading this beautifully designed book, I realized that it is written by a blogger and that made me even more curious about the book.
Japonisme is a beautiful book to hold. Hardbound with a textured cover and no dust jacket, it reminds me of those sections of libraries that have 100+-year-old books. Their pages may have gone pale but the binding is intact in a near-perfect manner. This book will also age gracefully.
Japonisme is a french term for the craze of Japanese art & design.
The author Erin Niimi Longhurst a half Japanese with a Japanese family on her mother’s side takes the reader along with her on a virtual tour of Japan and its culture. She introduces the reader to the small little nuances of Japanese culture like how they keep their homes minimalistic, how they decorate their houses, how they separate the outside and the inside space. As an Indian, I found a lot of similarities between Indian and Japanese culture and these may be common to most Asian cultures. For example, we all take off shoes when we enter our shrines or even visiting someone’s home.
While we all know about the elaborate tea ceremonies of Japan, I did not know about the variety of tea that the Japanese have and how each has a different significance. The slow, calm and peaceful way of life comes across in all things Japanese described in the Japonisme.
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The book does bring out the best of Japanese culture in a concise manner without being preachy and without getting into the philosophy of it. Being a half Japanese, the author understands both the outsider and the insider perspective of the Japanese culture. In Japonisme, she steps in and out to take you along and explain things to you as an insider. She even tells you what is possible to do outside Japan and what is not.
Buy Japonisme: Ikigai, Forest Bathing, Wabi-sabi and more by Erin Niimi Longhurst at Amazon
If only we could follow simple everyday rituals like decluttering our homes and our thoughts or remembering to laugh every day. Practices like taking a Forest bathing that involves bathing in a community pool, without wearing anything may be difficult to practice but most suggestions are do-able. Books like these, just like self-help books remind you of things you probably know but do not have the discipline to practice.
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Japonisme introduces you to many Japanese words. We know some of them like Kaizen, Wabi-Sabi, and Ikigai. If you read and practice what the book suggests, you may remember a few more. The words are not that important, what is important is practicing them in a disciplined way.
The small, almost presentation style chapters are interspersed with photographs. The images maintain the same subtle code and keep you grounded in Japan. Sometimes the images become the watermark style background of the page. Sometimes they occupy the empty space on the page. At other times they act as a chapter or section dividers. Overall, the images sustain the mood of the book and keep it light and breezy. I wish the author and publishers had disclosed the source of images or if images belong to the author.
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The only place where I felt a bit lost was when the author jumps into recipes. I am not too much of a fan of recipes in the books as finding them in the age of Google is not too difficult. Probably as a vegetarian also, I was not interested in many of them. However, I did enjoy reading about different types of Sushi and Bento boxes. The book is written in a very blog style – precise and to the point. Traditional readers would find the depth missing. There are too many topics touched and presented on the surface.
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Read this book slowly. Maybe just open a random page and do what it suggests. Slowly you might form the habits that the author of Japonisme want you to have. To begin with, go repair a broken item and keep using it. Or, just keep aside 10 minutes every day to spend with yourself.