Japanese Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

Mara Miller

in The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780195328998
Published online September 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Japanese Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art


Unlike most Western aesthetics, which recognize (aesthetic) pleasure, independent of other values (truth and falsity, good and evil), as the primary value of aesthetic experience, the various Japanese aesthetics recognize a range of objectives and effects that is more complex. First, there is a wider range of types of aesthetic pleasure. Those best known and most influential in the West include aware/mononoaware (an awareness of the poignance of things, connected to a Buddhist sense of transience and to passing beauty); yūgen (deep or mysterious and powerful beauty, especially in Noh theater); wabi (powerlessness, loneliness, shabbiness, wretchedness); sabi (the beauty accompanying loneliness, solitude, quiet); and shibui (an ascetic quality or astringency, literally the sensation afforded by a pomegranate, which also imparts a rich but sober color to wood stains, etc.). Second, Japanese aesthetic experiences and activities are employed in the service of a wider range of objectives. These include (aesthetic) pleasure and the revelation of truth; self-cultivation that is not only artistic but also physical, social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual; the construction of personal, group, and national identity; and the formulation of relationships. This article begins with an overview of the uniqueness of Japanese aesthetics. It then examines several of the unique objectives of Japanese aesthetics in further detail.

Keywords: Japanese philosophy; Japanese aesthetics; aesthetic pleasure; aware; truth

Article.  7830 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »