Darkness in Japanese Food and Architecture

In Praise of Shadows

...with Japanese food, a brightly lighted room and shining tableware cut the appetite in half. The dark miso soup that we eat every morning is one dish from the dimly lit houses of the past...I was once invited to a tea ceremony where miso was served, and when I saw the muddy, claylike color, quiet in a black lacquer bowl beneath the faint light of a candle, this soup that I usually take without a second thought seemed somehow to acquire a real depth, and to become infinitely more appetizing as well." - Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

In his 1933 book, Tanizaki speaks of the emphasis on shadows and darkness throughout Japanese culture - not only in the experience of architecture, but of food. Whenever we get caught up in whitening, brightening, and perfecting our kitchens, his writing on the murkiness and mystery of traditional Japanese cuisine reminds us to appreciate shadows, age, and patina. Some practical ways to heed some of his writings when eating at home: candlelight, dimmable lighting, a hand-me down wooden dining table, and dishware other than the standard white (it's what we have, but sometimes it's fun to mix it up with a little bit of darkness).

For more on the book, which is only fifty-some pages long and definitely worth a read if you're interested in traditional Japanese aesthetics, it's available for purchase at Amazon.

Related: Using Black Paint In The Kitchen

(Image: Flickr member The Delicious Life, licensed for use through Creative Commons)

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Regina is an architect who lives with her husband and son in Lawrence, KS. As a LEED Accredited Professional and longtime contributor to Apartment Therapy and The Kitchn, her focus is on healthy, sustainable living through design.

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