Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, , pp. Thomas Rimer and Jon Mark Mikkelsen. The philosopher Kuki Shuzo was among the first to interpret traditional Japan through the context of Western aesthetic theory. A kind of cultural anthropologist as well as a philosopher, Kuki went to Europe in , studied under Edmund Husserl and was acquainted with Martin Heidegger. It also gives his writings a freedom, even a daring, not usually associated with Japanese scholars.
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The three critical essays that accompany this new translation of The Structure of Iki look at various aspects of Kuki, his work, and the historical context that influenced his thinking. In the second essay, J. Thomas Rimer compels readers to reexamine The Structure of Iki as a work in the celebrated tradition of zuihitsu stream-of-consciousness writings and takes into account French literary influences on Kuki.
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Kuki Shūzō: A Man Burdened with Modernity and Tradition
He is credited for bringing into Japan Martin Heidegger's philosophy and for giving the translation jitsuzon for the German Sein being. In this book, Kuki discusses the nature of the quintessentially Edo aesthetic sensibility of iki, that a sense of urbane, plucky stylishness of living, which was forged in the late s in Edo a city now known as Tokyo. Kuki also provides an analysis and definition of the sensibility of iki using philosophical idioms he acquired in Europe during his eight years of study there beginning in In the conclusion of this book, Kuki proposes that iki represents the core of the Japanese people and encourages the reader to keep alive this old aesthetic sensitivity of iki. What is then iki? Iki embodies some elements that are similar to the sensibility of dandyism, which developed in the late eighteenth century and nineteenth century in Europe.
From Okakura, he gained much of his fascination for aesthetics and perhaps foreign languages, as indeed his fascination with the peculiar cultural codes of the pleasure quarters of Japan owes something to the fact that his mother had once been a geisha. The idealism and introspection implied by this decision were early evidence of issues which would have resonance in the characteristic mindset of the mature man. A graduate in philosophy of Tokyo Imperial University , Kuki spent eight years in Europe to polish his knowledge of languages and deepen his already significant studies of contemporary Western thought. Shortly after Kuki's return to Japan, he wrote and published his masterpiece, The Structure of "Iki"