Tuesday, April 16, 2019



Donald Richie (1924-2013), The Inland Sea (1971; rpt. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2002), p. 123:
I stay at a small inn at Kasaoka. It is new, traditional in style, made of good wood, clean and neat. Its only concession to modernity is the bath, which is rather self-consciously rustic, all shells and pebbles with water-spouting turtles and a tall and dangerous-looking pottery crane. The water is saturated with the pine extract that turns it a bright chartreuse, which country people for some reason or other associate with gracious living.

Back in my room, smelling faintly of pine scent and waiting for my supper, I look idly from the window. Then I notice the lintel. It is beautifully made, admirably carpentered. I follow the edge of the window down to the sill and see that the underside, a place no one will ordinarily ever observe, is equally well worked.

I look around my perfectly ordinary room. It is a small masterpiece of joinery, obviously the work of a master carpenter. But, then, in Japan all traditional carpenters are masters of their art. They make perfect joints as the Zen archer makes perfect bull's-eyes—without thinking about it, as though it were impossible not to make a perfect joint. This skill, this philosophy of craft, is passing away rapidly, particularly in the cities with their mass-produced, jerry-built buildings; but, where it still exists, the perfection of Japanese craftsmanship is impressive; it is the product of the pride people take in what they do.

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