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Landscape as atmosphere. An aspect of japanese sensibility

Ken-ichi Sasaki
p. 85-94

Testo integrale

0 From Sansui to Keshiki

  • 1 Some English-speaking people call any outdoor scenery “landscape”. But, such new words as “townscap (...)

1My subject here is the nature of landscape. The word “landscape” is to be understood in what follows in the aesthetic sense: I wish to clarify what we experience in landscape as a typical scene of natural beauty1. For most people, the nature of this experience may be so transparent that its analysis is superfluous. I don’t, however, find the matter so straightforward. The fact that “a landscape” can also signify a landscape painting would seem to indicate that landscape is generally understood as principally a visual phenomenon. In this sense, landscape is what a landscape painting would take as its subject. Most people would agree with this understanding. I wonder, however, if this is really the way we experience landscape.

2My skepticism in this matter is strengthened by the fact that landscape and landscape painting traditionally go by different names in Japanese. Today we have the word fûkei-ga as an equivalent to “landscape painting” (in fact drawing: we don’t differentiate the two): fûkei corresponding to “landscape” and -ga to painting/drawing. But this is a word invented in the second half of the 19th Century, probably under the influence of the newly arrived Western culture, i.e. for the purpose of distinguishing Western landscape paintings from traditional Japanese ones, which are based on the quite different Chinese style of landscape. While Western landscape is realistic and takes as its subject any interesting scenery, the traditional Japanese landscape was a stylistic category and its subject matter was limited to certain objects. In accordance with this typical scenery, traditional Japanese landscape painting was called sansui-ga, literally “painting of mountains and water”.

3It would be difficult to identify sansui-ga with Western landscape painting, even where the latter does represent mountains and water; the respective styles are too different. While Western landscape paints in all the details and leaves no blank space on the canvas (the horror vacui peculiar to the Western eye), sansui-ga was in fact a style of drawing in which the lines served to make the blank spaces signify (cf. the illustration). This difference in style might suggest a difference in the aesthetic experience of natural scenery between the West and Japan: while the Western eye wishes to scan the whole image, the Japanese or East-Asiatic eye wishes to look through the image. This might further suggest a basic difference between the West and Japan in the way landscape is actually experienced. But we need not rush to such a conclusion.

  • 2 In the Japan of olden times, official documents, including letters, were written in Chinese (whic (...)
  • 3 By “our dictionary” I mean the Nihon Kokugo Dai-jiten, 20 vols., Shôgakkann Publisher, 1973-76, u (...)

4To designate landscape, we don’t use the word sansui (mountains and water), but fûkei or keshiki. Sansui is a word borrowed from Chinese, and apart from its use in Chinese literature2, was used rarely and with a restricted sense: it meant either a landscape drawing, the landscape such a drawing would represent, or the kind of Sino-Japanese garden that imitated sansui-ga. As to landscape as sansui, our dictionary adds the qualification that this is landscape with “the emphasis laid on its visual aspect3”. I think this qualification already suggests that when we talk about fûkei or keshiki, our attention is not necessarily directed to the visual aspect of the scenery. What then is our consciousness, vis-à-vis landscape, concerned with? Since we are looking for aspects other than the visual we cannot expect to answer such a question through an examination of sansui-ga: in a drawing, experience is, necessarily, already visualized. Therefore, I will consult poetry - specifically waka, the most traditional short form of Japanese poetry - in order to discover what we actually experience in the landscape.

  • 4 Both of these words seem to derive from Chinese, because they are equally formed with two Chinese (...)

5As I have said, contemporary Japanese has two words meaning landscape: fûkei and keshiki. We use them so interchangeably that even on reflection we cannot easily tell their semantic difference. Reading the examples of use given in the GDJ, one notices that while fûkei is rather formal and was used mainly in the Chinese literature, keshiki is more everyday and colloquial; this difference corresponds to our semantic feeling about these two words4. Indeed, poets never used fûkei in the casual form of poetry that is waka. So, we are going to be concentrating on waka that chant of keshiki.

6I take as the corpus of waka the so-called Nijuichi dai-shû, that is, the twenty- one anthologies edited by imperial order. The most ancient anthology, the Manyò- shû, which collects up to 759 pieces, is not an imperial one. Our twenty-one anthologies came after that collection and were successively edited from about 905 to 1439. The word keshiki did not appear in the first three anthologies. In prose, the earliest example of its use dates from about the mid 10th Century, but in waka, from about the beginning of the 11th Century. In the eighteen anthologies constituting our corpus, we find 137 examples of its use.

  • 5 The GDJ notes that keshiki expressed in Chinese characters became divided into two different words (...)

7Before entering into an analysis of some of the relevant waka, we should consider the etymological or literal meaning of keshiki. The word is composed of two Chinese characters — ke and shiki — meaning ki, or spirit, and iro, or color, respectively. Ki is the vital element filling nature as well as the spiritual and vital power circulating in the body and mind. Iro or color signifies here the palpable phenomena of such power5. The early examples recorded in GDJ concern the keshiki of winds and clouds, and of the sky (as indicative of the weather). These keshiki are neither landscape nor simple vision, but the air or state of the sky, both looked at and felt. With these basic remarks in mind, we shall now read some waka about keshiki.

1 Harugeshiki (Spring scenery) misunderstood

8It seems that English does not contain a composite word to indicate spring landscape or scenery. In Japanese there is harugeshiki (keshiki of haru=spring); moreover, there are parallel expressions for each season. I have the impression that we understand such expressions now in terms of visual scenery containing objects typical of the season: cherry blossom for spring, snow for winter, and so on. Hence, we are inclined to interpret keshiki in terms of visual imagery. But is this really what our ancient poets chanted of when they spoke of spring scenery, and is this really how we experience the season? We must turn to the waka. I quote a piece by Nôin-hôshi (988-?):

Kokoro aran hito-ni misebaya Tsu-no kuni-no
(I wish to show a man of good taste, of Tsu district;)
Naniha watari-no haru-no keshiki-wo
(keshiki of spring around Naniha.) (Anthology Goshui, No.43)

  • 6 I mention only a selection: Suemichi (Anthology Senzai, No. 106) praising this keshiki of Naniha; J (...)

9This piece has a kotoba-gaki (short introductory note), which tells how the poet was in Naniha around the New Year, and sent the waka to someone. Waka ad a social function, and were exchanged as greetings. This was just such a case. It might have been this custom that led to the development of a special technique of imitation called honka-dori, which consists in borrowing two or three words or phrases from a well-known piece in order to create a new one, preferably with a change of tenor. This waka by Nóin was repeatedly imitated in this manner, which means that it was regarded as an excellent piece6. Before Nôin, Naniha (now Osaka) seems to have been established as a conventional site to be chanted in waka (called uta-makura). In this context, Naniha was looked on as a suitable seashore setting for love affairs. It was our poet who gave the area the connotation of spring scenery.

10But is this really a matter of “scenery” as we think of it in connection with painting? As we are accustomed to thinking of the above-mentioned notion of haru-geshiki as a matter of panoramic vision, the waka immediately conjures up the visual aspect of spring beside the sea. Besides, poetry cannot but stimulate the imagination because of the blanks (in the Ingardenian sense) that it contains. Consequently, the vagueness of the short description does not prevent the reader from forming a visual image. In fact, however, the poet does not give any concrete object: -tvatari vaguely designates a place, with a connotation of spatial extent. Indeed, the more examples of waka about keshiki we read, the more our conviction that it is a matter of the visual must waver.

2 Keshiki as empty space

11There seem to have been poets who were particularly fond of the expression of keshiki. Among them may be cited Suemich Fujiwara (mid 12th Century), a major poet in the Anthology Senzai (1188). We find two pieces of his about keshiki:

Nowaki-suru nobe-no keshiki-wo miwataseba
(Glancing over the
keshiki of a field where a typhoon is passing)
Kokoro-naki hito araji to zo omohu
(I think there is no person who lacks sensibility.) (No.257)
Sae-wataru yoha-no keshiki-ni miyamabe-no
(Through this extensively cleared
keshiki of night, in the deep mountains)
Yuki-no fukasa-wo sora-ni shiru-kana (I sense the depth of snow.) (No.447)

12In the first piece, the poet finds the keshiki of a field crossed by a typhoon aesthetic. The original word I translate as “typhoon”, nowaki, means literally “dividing a field”: it represents the image of grass blown down in different directions. What impresses us is the use of the word “mi-watasu (to glance over). Related words appear in Noins piece (“Naniha watari-no”) and in the following one (“Sae wataru”). They all signify a spatial extension that is tactile rather than visual. Let us read the second piece quoted above more attentively.

13The poet, finding himself in the capital, grasps the night scene (keshiki) of the clear sky, from which he surmises (“sora-ni shiru”: literally “know in empty”) that the snow must be deep in the depth of the mountains. Without mentioning them, but simply by saying “sae-wataru” (“extensively cleared up”), the poet successfully evokes the sky and the moonlight. For saeru signifies clearness, sharpness and coldness, and that is the total feeling given by blue moonlight diffused through the winter sky. The extension of space is also the effect of wataru combined with keshiki. The point of his expression consists in presenting just how it is (modality) without telling what it is (substance). I think this is the mode of being peculiar to keshiki. Looking up at the sky of a winter night, our poet finds it extensive, clear and cold; but, at the same time, he feels the coldness and loneliness of the world. That is the experience of keshiki: one that grasps immediately (in both senses of this adverb) the quality of a space. To confirm this observation, I quote a different piece by Jakuren-hòshi (?-1202), who was an editor of the great Anthology Shin-kokin:

Hitome mishi, nobe-no keshiki-ha uragarete
(Though people once visited here, the
keshiki of this field has withered, and)
tsuyu-no yosuga-ni yadoru tsuki-kana
(the moon has a dewdrop as a sole stay to dwell upon.)
(Anthology Shin-kokin,
No. 488.)

14This is not about the landscape of a withered field; it is, as our poet says, the keshiki of the field (landscape) that has withered. Taking into account our analysis of the meaning of keshiki, we can see that this is not hypallage, but a standard use of the word. Our poet means that the state of the world is withered. In keshiki, we encounter and feel the atmosphere of the world in its original meaning.

15Now we realize why landscape is called keshiki, meaning the iro of ki, i.e. the sensible phenomenon of spirit. This name expresses what we experience in landscape: the intentionality (in the phenomenological sense of the word) is not the real phenomenon, but rather, through and beyond it, the spirit dominating the whole landscape, which, being the total effect of a complexity, is something that can only be felt. We should remember that ki (spirit) is an elemental entity that fills the universe and immerses the body and sensibility. If we keep in mind this etymological meaning in our understanding of landscape, we come to see that the quintessence of landscape should be sought in a certain form of correspondence (in Baudelaires sense) between man and the universe.

3 Cosmological correspondence

  • 7 Cf. my article on “Allegory” in: Ken-ichi Sasaki (ed.), Dictionary of Rhetoric (in Japanese), Tok (...)

16Classical waka, such as we are considering here, contained a genre called shakkyôka (didactic religious poems). In this genre, some pieces are candidly didactic, and the others are allegorical. Allegory consists in the dedication of the whole expression to the signifying of two discreet systems of meaning or content7. An allegorical shakkyôka, depicting a keshiki, signifies a certain lesson or legend of Buddhism. The following is an example, in which we shall direct our attention to its description of keshiki.

Uramikeru keshiki-ya sora-ni mietsu-ran
keshiki of [someone’s] resentment might have been reflected on the sky;)
Obasute-yama-wo terasu tsukikage
(Moonlight on Mount Obasute.)
(Anthology Senzai, No. 1242.)

17Mount Obasute is a real mountain in Shinshû (now Nagano Prefecture). But its name commemorates a cruel legend. Obasute literally means the abandonment of old people: those who have arrived at a certain age (60 or 70). This place was chanted in waka as early as the 9th Century (Anthology Kokin, no.878), and became an uta-makura (site for poetry), celebrated for its moonlit scenery, and its association with the legend. Hence this piece: our poet explains that the moon casts a beautiful light here because the resentment of the abandoned old people is projected into the sky. It is indeed difficult to understand this without taking into account the allegorical meaning: the moonlight is glossed as symbolizing the benevolence of Buddha. What interests us in this description is the correspondence between human feeling, sky and moon. Keshiki (phenomenon of ki or spirit) is attributed, in the first place, to the human feeling of resentment, which is then projected onto the sky where it meets the moonlight. I perceive in such an association the essence of the spirit that is ki, which circulates throughout the universe and immerses human beings, uniting their mind and body.

18People might think that the shakkyôka is an exceptional case. I wish therefore to bring forward some other, more “ordinary”, pieces that chant a similar cosmic sense. The first one is by Princess Shokushi (1152?-1201):

Nagamureba, kono-ma utsurou yuuzukuyo,
(As I watch it, the evening moon is passing between trees, and)
yaya keshiki-datsu aki-no sora-kana
(the autumn sky now slightly reveals its
keshiki.) (Anthology Fuga, No. 454)

19The poetess perceives in the sky a slight sign of the arrival of autumn. To designate this slight sign, she probably invented the composite verb “keshiki-datsu’, which means that the keshiki is becoming palpable. Here, keshiki refers to the characteristic quality of autumn, but it is not felt as fundamentally different from its modern meaning of landscape, because, that quality is something perceived or felt in the spatial extension that is the sky. We have another waka chanting the keshiki of the sky, by Kunimoto Tsumori (1022-1102):

Itsuno mani sora-no keshiki-no kawaru-ran
(Without my having noticed it, the keshiki of the sky must have changed;)
hageshiki kesa-no kogarashi-no kaze
(this morning the wintry wind is strong.)
(Anthology Shinkokin, No.569)

20While Princess Shokushi perceived the keshiki of autumn in the sky, Kunimoto guesses at the state of the keshiki of the sky from the strength of the wintry wind. This example seems exceptional, because most examples present keshiki as corresponding to our perception; so much so, in fact, that keshiki appears to be constituted by our perceptive act. This piece, on the contrary, affirms the objective reality of keshiki. I believe that this is something we must not ignore about our experience of landscape as keshiki.

4 Atmosphere?

21We have been analyzing the experience of landscape as it is expressed in waka by following the trail of the word keshiki. In contemporary Japanese, keshiki is the most commonly used word for landscape, yet its etymological meaning is rather different: the color (phenomenon) of spirit. This etymology suggests a concept of landscape very different from that based on visual scenery. What we have found in waka chanting keshiki is, first of all, its atmospheric character. The most common collocations with the word are “spring”, “autumn”, or “sky”. The season or the sky, to which keshiki are attributed, lack the concrete determination that would be a condition for keshiki to mean the kind of landscape that can be represented visually. We find ourselves in a space. This is a simple and basic fact, but people are not necessarily sensitive to this space. Ancient Japanese people (probably most East-Asiatic people as well) were open to the surrounding space. That the wind has traditionally been counted as an elemental aesthetic object testifies to this fact. The notion, which probably originated in China, suggests that this is a matter of non-visual culture. What did they appreciate in the wind? I quote a waka by Ki-no Tomonori (9-10th Century), one of the editors of the Anthology Kokin:

  • 8 The uguhisu (bush warbler) was a representative object suggesting spring. It is not made explicit (...)

Hana-no ka-wo, kaze-no tayori-ni taguhete-zo,
(Charging the messenger wind with the perfume of blossoms,)
uguhisu sasohu shirube-niha yarn
([I?/Let us?/?] send it to allure bush warblers.)
8 (Anthology Kokin, No.13)

  • 9 IwanamiKogo Jiten (Dictionary of Ancient Japanese), Iwanami Publishing Co., 1974, art. “kaze”.

22Wind was a sign of change. In ancient times, before contact with Chinese culture, Japanese people believed that wind was the principle of life, so that a girl might become pregnant through exposure to the wind. Hence, there existed the vulgar notion that the wind announced the visit of a lover9. We can gloss it as vivid form of ki. In their experience of the keshiki of season or sky, people perceive a cosmological change, such as the arrival of spring or autumn. We should immediately add that this perception was a matter of feeling (implying its etymological meaning of sense of touch) rather than vision. It is based upon many ingredients scattered in space yet integrated into a single characteristic quality: the color of the sky, a delicate change on the branches of trees, the brighmess of the sunlight, the temperature and strength of the wind, the kind of bird that appears in each season, etc. Through all of these indications, people felt the season. Landscape as keshiki was such. It was, and probably is, a culture of becoming, not of being: to five was to float on the waves of becoming at their mercy, and for that reason, the experience of the changing landscape was culturally important.

  • 10 Gernot Böhme, “Aesthetic Knowledge of Nature”, in Issues in Contemporary Culture and Aesthetics, (...)
  • 11 G. Bohme, Aesthetics of Atmosphere, a Japanese translation (Ed. By S. Kajiya et al.), 2005, p.14. (...)

23Keshiki is a spatial semantics of becoming, and because of this, nature can be considered as atmospheric. But in what sense is it atmospheric? Atmosphere has recendy begun to become a philosophical notion, to the extent that our Rivista has dedicated an issue to the subject. Gernot Böhme in particular has devoted himself to a phenomenological analysis of atmosphere. In 1997, discussing the aesthetics of nature, he referred to this concept: “Atmosphere, as that which emanates from things and human beings, that which fills space with emotional nuances, is at the same time that which the subject participates in by finding itself in such and such a disposition, by becoming aware of its own presence”10. We recognize in this description what we experience as atmosphere. But, what, precisely, is this something that “emanates from things and human beings” to “fill space with emotional nuances” so that we can “participate in” it? Bohme finds the answer in the notion of “between”, and says, very concisely, that “atmosphere is something between subject and object: it is not relational but relation itself”11.

  • 12 Ibidem. “Preface for the Japanese translation”.

24Bohme reveals that one of the motives for his philosophy of atmosphere is a desire to overcome the traditional ontology of substance12". The above quoted determination is part of this intention: atmosphere does not belong to any object, but to “between”. This is a human conception, because to talk about relation is to take the standpoint of a human being: even if it is a matter of a purely objective relation, such as that between the Moon and cherry blossom, or even the Moon and the Earth, it is man who relates them. The above definition seems to lean towards the subject-side: “something between subject and object” seems to indicate the passions or emotions aroused by an object, rather than the atmosphere involved. (According to Descartes, the newness of an object first surprises us, then gives rise to joy or sadness, depending on its good or bad relation to us). Böhme’s “between” proposition explains well the human side of atmosphere that is emotion, but this is only one moment of atmosphere. If this were all, atmosphere would be nothing more than a subjective mood.

  • 13 Ivi, pp. 6-8.
  • 14 Ivi, p. 142.

25The strongest part of Böhme’s analysis is to be found in his notion of the “experience of penetration (Ingressionserfahrung)” and the “experience of discrepancy (Diskrepanzerfahrung)13. When, feeling sad, I encounter a circle of joy among my friends, I experience that atmosphere as something alien, or even opposed, to me (a discrepancy): I experience it as something objective. Because it is objective, I can penetrate this circle and become myself joyous. Being objective here means being completely beyond my voluntary control, and because of this objectivity, the emotion belonging to the atmosphere is different from my own emotion. One of Bohme’s favorite examples of atmosphere is twilight, to which he dedicates a chapter where he develops an analysis based upon poems by Goethe and Heine. He affirms that “twilight is atmosphere itself”14. Twilight was one of the main topics in waka, especially in the Anthology Shinkokin. I wish to refer to one of the famous pieces about twilight in autumn, by Jakuren:

Sabishisa-ha sono-iro-to-shi-mo nakarikeri,
(I perceive there is no such thing as the phenomenal form proper to desolation)
maki-tatsu sawa-no aki-no yuhugure
(in the Autumn twilight on the mountain side where cryptomerias stand.
(Anthology Shinkokin,

26The subject is the iro of desolation (sabishisa). Iro is the same morpheme (using the same Chinese character) as the shiki of keshiki, meaning physical phenomenon. The poet has found that the desolation peculiar to the autumn twilight cannot be reduced to this or that object in the landscape. It should be needless to add that he does not mean that the desolation is only subjective; on the contrary, it is the universe itself that is desolate.

27To conclude, Böhme’s notion of atmosphere can be applied to our experience of keshiki, in so far as it concerns an experience of a space colored with meaning, which envelops us. But, this “meaning” is not necessarily emotional; a keshiki of sky is not always colored with emotion. It can be simply a sign of the change of season. In the case of emotional keshiki such as the above quoted autumn twilight piece, the emotion (desolation) is not a subjective affect, produced by the “betweenness” of subject and object; rather it is an effect (iro or shiki) of the ki with which the space is filled.

Conclusion: The experience of nature as bodily contact

28In my opinion, the experience of keshiki we have been analyzing represents the experience of nature, especially beautiful nature. More precisely, I believe that to really experience nature is to experience beauty. Moreover, this is not, as most people seem to believe, a visual experience. In the landscape, we make bodily contact (in the sense of a mutual touching, i.e. we touch and are touched) with the actual state of the universe, which communicates to us a certain effect of ki (meaning). The elemental style of experience proper to the beauty of nature consists in this bodily contact, which demands that we be exposed to the space, in order to touch nature or the universe with our whole body.

  • 15 Cf. my “Beautifying Beauty”, in the International Yearbook of Aesthetics, voi. 5, edited by K. Sasa (...)

29With regard to this way of experiencing natural beauty, we have a clear example in the Japanese custom of enjoying cherry blossom. As the individual blooms of the cherry tree are tiny, we don’t perceive them individually, but rather feel their agglomeration. Nowadays, many streets in Japan are planted with cherry trees on both sides. In springtime this produces a tunnel of cherry blossom. Strolling through this tunnel, we are bathed with the beauty of nature, in bodily contact with the plenitude of the world15.

30That this style of natural experience can be traced back at least to the later period of ancient Japanese history, is shown by the existence of a beautiful word from that period: amagiru, meaning “to mist the sky” or “the sky being misted”. This word is used in connection with the beauty of cherry blossom by Nagaie Fujiwara (1004-64), who celebrated such a landscape as follows:

Hana-no iro-ni amagiru kasumi tachimayohi
(Mist tinted with flower color hangs in the air)
sora-sae nihohu yamazakura kana
(Blossoms of wild cherry beautify even the sky)
(Anthology Shinkokin, No. 103)

31In this waka, I find another key word in nihohu, which meant, in the classics, “to be beautiful in a brilliant way”. From this meaning was derived the current meaning “to be fragrant”, or “to smell”. This semantic derivation was probably effectuated by way of the sememe “sensible quality spreading in space”. This testifies to the ancient sensibility: nihohu was the aesthetic state, even if it was being radiated from an object, spreading and filling a space, felt bodily rather than simply looked at. In other words, the beauty was perceived as keshiki.

32Keshiki is atmosphere, in its original and physical sense: the air surrounding us. Peoples minds were constantly open to ever-changing nature because it was the mirror reflecting the basic condition of their existence. They experienced the joy of the plenitude of being in connection with cherry blossom in bloom, and the full moon; and the sadness of decay in the desolate field and twilight. This experience of insight through feeling was the experience of keshiki as the cosmological phenomenon of ki. Is this a story of the past? Indeed, we have long lost the original sense of the word keshiki, and now take it to refer to the visual landscape. But I find in our behavior with regard to the experience of natural beauty, or even of cityscape, the same bodily feeling of being open to the quality of space. Is it a style of experience limited to Japanese or East-Asiatic people? Let me ask you, my dear Western readers, if you don’t really share this.

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1 Some English-speaking people call any outdoor scenery “landscape”. But, such new words as “townscape” or “cityscape” show that we are inclined to limit “landscape” to natural scenery.

2 In the Japan of olden times, official documents, including letters, were written in Chinese (which was read directly in Japanese), and people from high society even wrote Chinese verse, just as Latin poetry was still practiced by Westerners in the modern era. Here I use “Chinese literature” in the same sense as “the Italian opera by Mozart”.

3 By “our dictionary” I mean the Nihon Kokugo Dai-jiten, 20 vols., Shôgakkann Publisher, 1973-76, upon which I rely for Japanese vocabulary. Its title being translatable as “Great Dictionary of Japanese”, I hereafter refer to it as GDJ.

4 Both of these words seem to derive from Chinese, because they are equally formed with two Chinese characters and mentioned in Chinese-Japanese dictionaries. There is however a brief qualification that must be given with regard to keshiki. As shall be explained below, the word is articulated as keshiki. As for the first character (ke-), the GDJ mentions that some are of the opinion that this is a purely Japanese morpheme rather than Chinese.

5 The GDJ notes that keshiki expressed in Chinese characters became divided into two different words during the Kamakura era (1192-1333), one (keshiki) meaning landscape, the other (kishoku) meaning the appearance of a natural object or a facial expression.

6 I mention only a selection: Suemichi (Anthology Senzai, No. 106) praising this keshiki of Naniha; Jakunen (Anthology Fuga, No. 1431) replying to Nôin; Jien (Anthology Shinkokin, No. 1469) using this piece to chant of the keshiki of Spring in his region; and Saigyô (Anthology Shinkokin, No. 625), presenting an exception, with his critical stance against the typical scenery that had become classical. Moreover, Nò in himself may have been imitating another piece. The editors of the Anthology Goshui in the New Collection of Classical Literature from Iwanami Publishing Co. refer to one by Yoshitoki Ohe, which begins with the same phrase: “kokoro aran hito-ni misebaya...” As they were good friends, this coincidence leads me to imagine that Nòin sent his piece to Yoshitoki, imitating one that the latter had sent him.

7 Cf. my article on “Allegory” in: Ken-ichi Sasaki (ed.), Dictionary of Rhetoric (in Japanese), Tokyo, Taishukan Publishing Co., 2006.

8 The uguhisu (bush warbler) was a representative object suggesting spring. It is not made explicit what hand. (flower or blossom) is meant here: urne (Japanese apricot) or cherry. About a century or so later bona was established as synecdoche for cherry blossom. But here, it must be ume, because it concerns its perfume, and urne was customarily combined with bush warbler.

9 IwanamiKogo Jiten (Dictionary of Ancient Japanese), Iwanami Publishing Co., 1974, art. “kaze”.

10 Gernot Böhme, “Aesthetic Knowledge of Nature”, in Issues in Contemporary Culture and Aesthetics, No.5, Maastricht, Jan van Eyck Akademie, 1997, p.37.

11 G. Bohme, Aesthetics of Atmosphere, a Japanese translation (Ed. By S. Kajiya et al.), 2005, p.14. Unfortunately I could not consult the original text, so that I fear my quotation is not exact. I hope it does not misrepresent the basic concept.

12 Ibidem. “Preface for the Japanese translation”.

13 Ivi, pp. 6-8.

14 Ivi, p. 142.

15 Cf. my “Beautifying Beauty”, in the International Yearbook of Aesthetics, voi. 5, edited by K. Sasaki, International Association for Aesthetics, 2001, 27-39. (

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Ken-ichi Sasaki, «Landscape as atmosphere. An aspect of japanese sensibility»Rivista di estetica, 33 | 2006, 85-94.

Notizia bibliografica digitale

Ken-ichi Sasaki, «Landscape as atmosphere. An aspect of japanese sensibility»Rivista di estetica [Online], 33 | 2006, online dal 30 novembre 2015, consultato il 17 juin 2024. URL:; DOI:

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