Saturday, November 13, 2004


I will never understand why, when it comes to western design, many ordinary Japanese people seem to lose all their aesthetic judgement. They'll get the Japanese design just right, but the western touches will be so wrong you wonder if they suddenly went blind.

The reason I was thinking of this today was that I was hanging out washing, and looking out over the back where there is now a large, ugly apartment building behind us. If I lean out a little from the balcony I can almost butt my head on it. When I first came here there was an old Japanese house on that section, but it was half destroyed in the earthquake, and demolished shortly afterwards.

That house behind ours was the first real Japanese home I visited in Japan. The people there kindly invited me to lunch when I first arrived. They were an ordinary middle-aged middle-class couple, with married children who had moved away. The old house had a lovely tatami-style traditional interior and a huge and gorgeous Butsudan - family altar - in the main room. To one side of the Butsudan there was a scroll depicting a misty mountain scene, which complemented perfectly the muted wall colours and the tatami. It would have been wonderful, except that on the other side of the Butsudan they'd carefully tacked up a life-sized poster of Sylvester Stallone.

Several beers later I discovered that the tiny toilet room was festooned with frilly flowers - a frilly flowered toilet seat cover, a frilly flowered toilet paper holder cover, a frilly flowered mat, etc etc. The final touch was a large soft padded plastic Mickey Mouse poster on the toilet room wall. The overall effect was ghastly, funny, and totally baffling. I think I went into culture shock right then and there, sitting on the toilet with frills tickling my bum, staring at Mickey Mouse.

Still, I miss that old house, and the old neighbours. They had a traditional garden as well, with a lovely old bent and gnarled tree that we could see from our balcony. Now the people are all strangers, and from the balcony we can see a blank wall.


tinyhands said...

Perhaps you've been away too long, but have you ever seen when Westerns decorate with really tacky Asian stuff? Not pretty.

Badaunt said...

Well, yes, I have seen that. Good point. But is it so widespread? The worst example of this I've seen here was in the home of some very VERY rich people, huge western-style house up on a hill, and inside the most appalling kitsch I've ever seen. Expensive kitsch, too. Real crystal in that fussy and complicated chandalier - which was in a lovely space, huge and open, very minimal until they decided to pretty it up. The cute kitten painting was an original, not a print. The flowery frilly tissue box cover was hand embroidered. That sort of thing.

tinyhands said...

No, I'm sure tacky Asian Westerners aren't nearly as widespread as tacky Western Asians (I think I typed that right...)