Japanese art

Tomb of Emperor Nintoku located in Sakai, Japan. The keyhole-like tomb is 486m long, 305m wide at the bottom and 245m in diameter.

Throughout the 7th and 8th centuries, however, the major focus in contacts between Japan and the Asian continent was the development of Buddhism. Not all scholars agree on the significant dates and the appropriate names to apply to various time periods between 552, the official date of the introduction of Buddhism into Japan, and 784, when the Japanese capital was transferred from Nara. The most common designations are the Suiko period, 552–645; the Hakuhō period, 645–710, and the Tenpyō period, 710–784.

The temples erected for this new sect were built in the mountains, far away from the Court and the laity in the capital. The irregular topography of these sites forced Japanese architects to rethink the problems of temple construction, and in so doing to choose more indigenous elements of design. Cypress-bark roofs replaced those of ceramic tile, wood planks were used instead of earthen floors, and a separate worship area for the laity was added in front of the main sanctuary.

The Tokugawa shogunate gained undisputed control of the government in 1603 with a commitment to bring peace and economic and political stability to the country; in large measure it was successful. The shogunate survived until 1867, when it was forced to capitulate because of its failure to deal with pressure from Western nations to open the country to foreign trade. One of the dominant themes in the Edo period was the repressive policies of the shogunate and the attempts of artists to escape these strictures. The foremost of these was the closing of the country to foreigners and the accoutrements of their cultures, and the imposition of strict codes of behaviour affecting every aspect of life, the clothes one wore, the person one married, and the activities one could or should not pursue.

Woodblock printing: Woodblock prints were originally used to translate Buddhist scriptures in the eighth century in Japan. Woodblock printing consist of the engraving of images or pictures on a piece of wood, which is then pressed against a piece of paper. In the eighth century woodblock was considered a convenient method of the reproduction of printed text until further innovations allowed for color to be translated on paper or better known as Nishik-e prints. Wood block printing was the common method of printing from the eleventh until the nineteenth century. Nishiki-e prints produced goods such as calendars that were commonly sold to wealthy members of society during the Edo period. In the Edo period these prints were depicted events and scenes of prominent actors. Ukiyo then was associated to woodblock printing in the early Edo period. These Ukiyo paintings depicted daily lives of prominent members of society. Ukiyo first started out as hand sculpted scrolls depicted life as a normal commoner.

At the same time, many Japanese artists continue to use traditional Japanese artistic techniques and materials inherited from premodern times, such as traditional forms of Japanese paper and ceramics and painting with black and color ink on paper or silk. Some of these artworks depict traditional subject matters in traditional styles, while others explore new and different motifs and styles, or create hybrids of traditional and contemporary art forms, while using traditional media or materials. Still others eschew native media and styles, embracing Western oil paints or any number of other forms.

Japan's aesthetic conceptions, deriving from diverse cultural traditions, have been formative in the production of unique art forms. Over the centuries, a wide range of artistic motifs developed and were refined, becoming imbued with symbolic significance. Like a pearl, they acquired many layers of meaning and a high luster. Japanese aesthetics provide a key to understanding artistic works perceivably different from those coming from Western traditions.

Traditional Japanese Aesthetics are forms of beauty in Japanese culture that derive from the earliest centuries. At least over two-hundred years ago. Some of these early aesthetics make up the Japanese Aesthetic as a whole: Syncretic Buddhist Art, Wabi-Sabi, Miyabi, Shibui, and Jo-ha-Kyu.

This aesthetic in Japanese culture is known for many things such as beauty in all things, even those that are imperfect. Modesty and unconventional things are what are seen as the wabi-sabi aesthetic. Wabi and sabi both make up the aesthetic of beauty in incompleteness together. When separated, both serve as differing terms. Wabi stands for fresh, simple work, denoting all complication and having a very rustic feel to all it relates too. Being made from nature and made from man itself in a tandem. If made by accident, it brings about a certain uniqueness to the work. Sabi is beauty and how it originates from age. The cycle of life plays a great role in sabi, adding to the aesthetic that sense of beauty in works that receive mending damage from aging over time. When bringing wabi and sabi together, it creates the aesthetic that every simple piece developed does not require a complicated design. Nor does it require absolute completeness for beauty to be found in it, and with age comes more delicate beauty.

Wabi-sabi has always been related to tea ceremonies in Japanese culture. It is said that these ceremonies are profound wabi-sabi events. Wabi-sabi is also related to activities such as architecture, fashion, and philosophy. All of these portions of wabi-sabi all share belief in the same theme: all imperfections such as incomplete work holds undeniable beauty. However, not everyone, of course, favors the idea behind wabi-sabi. While this is true, there are many who wish to keep the belief alive despite what others believe. Overall, wabi-sabi seems to be a very mindful approach to everyday life. A calm way to see things, and a way to live without coming off as judgmental. When understanding wabi-sabi, there are terms that strongly relate to the aesthetic as well.

Each of these terms are used to break down the complete understanding of wabi-sabi. It more so relates to the philosophy aspect of the entire aesthetic and how to view one's surroundings. These can allude to several things including the ideas in humans, the themes behind certain aspects of life, or nature itself. Each term leads back to the point that wabi-sabi is an aesthetic that is about appreciating the small things that are imperfect and or incomplete.

In the ongoing history of Japan, miyabi can stand for many things. However, it seems to be centered around the concept of elegance, beauty, refinement, and courtliness. For this, it is one of the older aesthetics among most of the Japanese aesthetics in the culture. That would explain why it is not as popular as the rest which may be newer compared to miyabi. It is a term that is also used to express aristocratic culture. Miyabi eliminates all forms of rudeness and crudity from the culture. This brings about the proper picture and form of aristocratic culture. Miyabi brings about these changes. Miyabi ensures that refinement of love, literature, feeling, and art is celebrated within the Japanese culture. Refinement is welcomed.

Shibui is coming to understand an object or an art piece for what it is. Locating simple and subtle beauty in certain things is a goal when it comes to designing or reviewing certain designs. In many ways, shibui is very similar to wabi-sabi but is not wabi-sabi. Shibui appreciates items and objects for simply being. There is no complication or irrational thinking when it comes down to shibui. Akin to certain aesthetics in the Japanese culture, there are a couple of terms in relation to Shibui: shibumi is the taste of shibui; Shibusa is the state of shibui.

Both these terms relate to subtle, unobtrusive beauty. There are several items and objects that can be considered a part of the shibui aesthetic, not just art or fashion. It can also be people, animals, songs, movies, several different types of media can be seen as shibui. For example, a pair of shoes, a camera, a moped bike, and several different pieces of art or objects used for everyday activity can be seen as shibui. Direct and simple is the way of shibui. Nothing over the top or too flashy.

This is an aesthetic that originated from the Noh Theatre and even appeared in the 14th century. It is used in different art forms in Japan even still today. It is a movement that has been applied in several different arts with jo, ha, and kyu standing for individual things to make up its definition: jo, 'beginning'; ha, 'break', 'crack'; kyu: 'rapid', 'over'

Essentially, what this aesthetic means is that when it comes down to pieces that deal with movement, things should start slowly with proper build-up. Almost akin to how a story is told. Then once it reaches its climax, it speeds up. When it reaches its end, then that is when things begin to rapidly speed up until all of a sudden it has reached an ending.