© 2012 niall. All rights reserved.


And so it has come to be that the beauty of a Japanese room depends on a variation of shadows, heavy shadows against light shadows – it has nothing else
Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows

We lingered wordless while a tall
Shade enclouded the shadow’s cast.
Allen Tate, Shadow and Shade

The present is the ever moving shadow that divides yesterday from tomorrow.
Frank Lloyd Wright (architect), Night is but a Shadow Cast by the Sun

The shadow of the Venetian blind on the painted wall,
Shadows of the snake-plant and cacti, the plaster animals,
Focus the tragic melancholy of the bright stare
Into nowhere, a hole like the black holes in space.
John Ashbery, Forties Flick

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
T S Eliot, The Hollow Men

Recently I saw an interesting profile of an American architect. He lives and works in Kyoto. His name is Geoffrey P Moussas. One of his interests is renovating machiya. Machiya are traditional Japanese town houses. The results are very beautiful. Check out the Design 1st site.

He became interested in Japanese architecture after reading In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki. He said that in his architecture studies he had been learning how to use light. But after reading the book he realized that there was another approach. In Japan people used shadow.

I thought it was very interesting. Looking at the same thing from a completely different direction. I like taking photos. Photography is also using light. Painting with light even. For example a lighting technique used for portraits is called Rembrandt lighting. But I had never thought of photography as also painting with shadow.

In a nice coincidence one of the projects on Geoffrey Moussas’s home page is Tozando. The martial arts supplier. It looks fantastic.

And for the last few hundred years one of the main schools of the Japanese sword is called Shinkage Ryu. The new shadow school.


background articles


Allen Tate, Shadow and Shade



John Ashbery, Forties Flick and other poems with Spanish translations



T S Eliot, The Hollow Men with detailed notes





















photo: Tozando by Design 1st

published contemporaneously on the aikido site aikiweb 

my columns on aikiweb


© niall matthews 2012


  1. niall

    Thanks Carina. Yes those machiya were renovated beautifully.

    There was a space between the room and the outside called the engawa. It is almost like the divides T S Eliot and Frank Lloyd Wright – who was a famous architect – describe in those quotes.

    By the way The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki is very interesting. I put a link to the wikipedia article below the blog post.


  2. Thank you Niall for another great article, thanks also for the site of poems of John Ashbery translated in spanish. The Tozando house looks great, a nice job. You know that I also like to take photos and I always look and test the light, how it looks, for example I could get a rainbow in a fountain, my favorite topic is nature, water, sun, moon, plants and free animals, but now I will observe the shadow too.

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