Large-Scale Beauty (Photoblog)

by Samantha Harr | 5 Minute Read

Japan is famous for the unique design aesthetics produced by its world-renowned artists and craftsmen. It was recently mentioned in a Trig meeting that the The Monocle Travel Guide, Tokyo describes Japanese design sensibilities in this way:

It has been said that the Japanese are sensitive to small-scale beauty but insensitive to large-scale ugliness; the streets of their capital epitomise this.
— The Monocle Travel Guide, Tokyo

The Sum of Details
Here at Trig we find it difficult to believe that this is an accurate description of a city so full of life and character, so we set out to take a look at what the contemporary art scene in Tokyo is like to try and catch a glimpse into what is meant by small-scale beauty. Have a look at a sampling of select works currently being hosted in galleries around town:

Featured artists in order of appearance: Kohei NAWA,Nobuko Tsuchiya, Mami Kosemura, Yamaguchi Ai, Tatsu Nishino, and Misaki Kawai

Ideal Truth
The attention to detail in these pieces is astounding. They all seem to capture a fragile, fleeting kind of beauty. If this is what Japanese artists are creating in the small scale, how can it be true that the large-scale creations like architecture and other forms of urban development can be seen as ugliness? Even the guide itself seems to contradict its own assertion in the following quotes:

Meticulous attention is given to road design and getting the right dips and rises: the correct gradients for water run-off.
— The Monocle Travel Guide, Tokyo
International airline pilots swear that the views of Tokyo city lights at night are the best in the world… Each and every streetlight shines bright and strong.
— The Monocle Travel Guide, Tokyo

A Keen Understanding
To kick off our exploration of large-scale works around Tokyo, let's take a look at the definition of ugly as provided by the Merriam Webster Dictionary online, and then use google maps to zoom in on street scenes from different neighborhoods around the city:

Definition of ugly

Tokyo's city streets look precisely like what they are: city streets. There's noise and chaos in some parts, quiet serenity in other parts. It strikes us as disingenuous to say that the large works of Tokyo are ugly because it's too narrow a perspective. Circling back to the quote above about meticulous attention being given to road design, is it not extraordinarily beautiful to put so much care into civic utility? What designer doesn't take joy in a perfect curve? The sacred simplicity of every line and angle coming together just right? Putting function first and ornamentation second is a value we can all take to heart in the pursuit of crafting a better future.

Tokyo Street Crossing

Come Alive
Now that we've been thoroughly realistic for a moment, let's finish up by taking a look at Tokyo as seen by photographers who set out to capture the city at its best. In these images the casual observer is able to catch a glimpse of the heart and soul of a city that hums with electric dynamism: