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In Praise of Shadows

'In Praise of Shadows' by Junichiro Tanizaki extols the simple elegance of Japanese design. Nick Luscombe follows Tanizaki's journey to find the heart of eastern culture in Kyoto.

Published in 1933, In Praise of Shadows, remains a cornerstone of design thinking; a classic description of the collision between the shadows of traditional Japanese interiors and the dazzling light of the modern age. DJ Nick Luscombe retraces the journey of author Junichiro Tanizaki from the neon lights of Tokyo in the West to the very heart of traditional Japan in Eastern Kyoto.

In the upside down world of Tanizaki everything might have been different if science had been invented in the East. He explains that the radio and the gramophone are Western inventions, intended to convey the pomp and splendour of Western instruments and compositions. The Japanese love of silence or 'Ma' could never perhaps be best conveyed by loudspeaker. Today Naomi Kashiwagi explores this idea through the conceptual art piece 'Gramophonica', replaying old sounds and even traditional materials like Japanese tissue paper on a wind up gramophone with her own DIY stylus to capture otherworldly inherent sounds, sounds that might have been.

To understand how the concept of 'Ma' influences all of Japanese culture Nick talks to design guru Kenya Hara of Muji and Japan House and architect Kengo Kuma who recently designed the V&A in Dundee and the new Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. Finally in Kyoto Nick explores what we might all gain from the ancient traditions of Eastern thinking with Noh Theatre expert Diego Pellecchia and curator of space Robert Yellin.

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