This is Tokyo, circa 1832. The print is “Nihonbashi no hakuu” by the Ukiyo-e master Andō Hiroshige. Many years ago, my wife found a copy in a consignment store in Atlanta. I don’t remember what she paid for it, but she assures me that framing it cost many times the purchase price. Since we’ve been here in South Carolina, we’ve had it reframed to show off the stamps and writing around the borders.
I’ve spent many hours contemplating this scene. The simplicity, the attention to details, the overall composition, the colors and shading — they bring out a spectrum of emotions that I find very satisfying. The Japanese have terms for this effect. You may be familiar with wabi sabi or shibui, but there are a number of others that in English we sometimes group together as a “Zen aesthetic.” It’s something that I truly wish I knew more about.
Some of these same emotions accompanied the Japanese edition of Certain to Win when I unwrapped it a few days ago. This is a business book, but the attention to detail, the quality of the binding, the columns of kanji characters on the pages, even the feel and smell of the paper mark it as a minor work of art (OK, I may be a little prejudiced).
I offer this as an example of cheng / chi: I got what I expected, which isn’t surprising because I’ve been involved with the translation project since it started in June. But the final product still exuded a “Wow!” factor that I wasn’t expecting. Japanese has a phase for this, too: miryoku teki hinsihtsu, quality that delights the customer so much that they have to have it. Just a thought, but you might buy a copy if only for the artistic merit of the piece, even if you don’t speak Japanese.
In addition to OODA Loop, I’ve just received a couple of other books concerning Japanese culture and strategy that I’ll feature here in the next few days. Boyd would have liked them both.
As for the print, you can download a high resolution copy from the Library of Congress’s collection of 2,500 such prints. And, yes, you can also download The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.
Hi Chet, what are the books on Japanese culture and strategy you mentioned in the post?
I’m a little behind in my reviews, but they are Ikigai and Other Japanese Words to Live By, by Mari Fujimoto, and a new translation of Musashi by Alexander Bennett, who is both an accomplished martial artist and an academic who teaches at a Japanese university.