The Beauty of Everyday Things is a collection of essays by Soetsu Yanagi. With 16 essays written on different years and topics, you will be more familiar with the culture of Japan and look forward to learn a little more.
Mingei, we all need it
Soetsu Yanagi was a philosopher, art historian, poet and aesthete lived in Japan between 1889 and 1961. He is also the founding father of the mingei movement in Japan in the late 1920s and 1930s. Mingei literary means “crafts of the people”. Yanagi finds beauty in the ordinary objects of everyday use. An object or art will be considered mingei if it meets these criteria:
- made by anonymous craftspeople
- produced by hand in quantity
- inexpensive, built to last
- used by the masses
- functional in daily life
- produced with natural resources.
Yanagi, in his articles, generally focuses on mingei, but also writes about the concept of art (and therefore of many art branches and artists in Japan) and the values of Japan. If you are planning to travel to Japan or if you are interested in this country, you should read this book. Even if you have no interest in Japan, you can read it to learn about the mingei movement. I think we should all learn about mingei because, at our age, where consumption has reached extreme dimensions, we all need to calm down and appreciate the unseen beauty in “crafts of the people”.
About the book: The Beauty of Everyday Things
“Radical and inspiring … Yanagi’s vision puts the connection between heart and hand before the transient and commercial”
– Edmund de Waal
The daily lives of ordinary people are replete with objects, common things used in commonplace settings. These objects are our constant companions in life. As such, writes Soetsu Yanagi, they should be made with care and built to last, treated with respect and even affection. They should be natural and simple, sturdy and safe – the aesthetic result of wholeheartedly fulfilling utilitarian needs. They should, in short, be things of beauty.
In an age of feeble and ugly machine-made things, these essays call for us to deepen and transform our relationship with the objects that surround us. Inspired by the work of the simple, humble craftsmen Yanagi encountered during his lifelong travels through Japan and Korea, they are an earnest defence of modest, honest, handcrafted things – from traditional teacups to jars to cloth and paper. Objects like these exemplify the enduring appeal of simplicity and function: the beauty of everyday things.
About the author: Soetsu Yanagi
Yanagi Sōetsu, also known as Yanagi Muneyoshi, was a Japanese philosopher and founder of the mingei movement in Japan in the late 1920s and 1930s.