Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Japanese Aesthetic

 Reading a bit about urban planning lately, and this one comes up a lot:

Around the year 2000, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment decided to establish protection for 100 sites around their country because they smell good. Yup – here in the US, we’re having trouble protecting our own damn water supply, and Japan is thinking about their national smellscape. I’ve read about this more than once now, but an internet search makes it seem like it’s not real.

And I keep coming across the same passage:

…sea mist of Kushiro to the Nanbu rice cracker of Morioka, not to mention the distinct smell of glue that hangs in the air around the doll craftsmen’s homes in Koriyama, all now have protected status...
-seems to have been written by Victoria Henshaw in her book Urban Smellscapes, 2013.

But here’s another one:

…vegetation (‘a hundred thousand peach blossoms at a glance’), food (‘rice cracker of Morioka’), and urban odours (‘streets of used bookstores’)

And since we’re talking about Japan, we can’t forget that really important thing about how smell is regarded differently across cultures. In Japan, and other Eastern countries, fragrance is not something that you wear on your body, but something that is in the environment around you. Maybe, or probably, this has something to do with the fact that the Japanese, and other Asian cultures, have no body odor. If you don’t believe me, you might want to ride the subway in Tokyo during rush hour.

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