Greece and Japan

January 18 2015

I can’t exactly explain what I mean by Japanese culture being classical, but you feel it very strongly indeed when you go into the temples. They feel like Greek temples, retranslated into wood.

Perhaps it was a matter of ritual being pristine, not yet turned to metaphor or acting or symbol.

Greek temple architecture in stone had evolved out of wooden structures.

Noh, with its masks, choruses, music and strongly ritualistic elements is often compared with Greek drama.

When I lived in Tokyo in 1990-91, a lonely water-seller (he must have been the last in the city) used to walk through the Kamiyacho area where my office was. His strange cry seemed to come from a remote world and to have nothing at all to do with the modern life around him.

Japanese premodern culture is a survival, not a bogus revival.

Judging by the sound and atmosphere of his Sinfonía de Antígona (1933), which uses Greek modes, the Mexican composer Carlos Chávez felt a connection between classical Greece and the pre-Spanish civilisations of Mexico. YouTube.

Japanese and Greek music both used the pentatonic scale.

Letter to Gilbert Murray, probably from Nagoya, November 10 1929

One Response to “Greece and Japan”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Modern Japan, on the other hand, delights in the bogus.

    Yukio Mishima visited Greece in 1952 and based The Sound of Waves, about a Japanese fishing village, on the legend of Daphnis and Chloe.


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