Western people often ask, “Isn’t all Asian home decor about the same?” The shortest answer is simply, “Absolutely not!” The traditional school of thought in Japanese home decoration has been influenced by its own unique culture. As you may already know, Japan sees the focus of home decor to rest upon spatial matters. This is why shoji screens are often used in the Japanese household. The correct use of space is the implied purpose in this tradition. It is helpful to know a few facts about Japan’s collective art, its long history, its unique society, and its distinctive culture to better appreciate their viewpoint on Asian home decor.
Generally speaking, Japanese art covers a wide range of styles which would include media as well. Ancient pottery, sculpture in wood and bronze, and ink painting on silk and paper are all important parts of the traditions dating back thousands of years. These art forms, needless to say, also have a very long history. They were evident from the beginnings of human habitation in Japan which is roughly dated in the 10th millennium B.C. They have remained constant to the present.
Historically, Japan has been subject to sudden invasions of new and foreign ideas. These invasions were followed by long periods of time when there was little contact with the outside world. These facts in Japan’s art world reflect similar political and social realities. So, over the course of time, Japanese people developed the skillful ability to assimilate certain foreign elements from outside cultures. However, they were careful to ensure that these foreign elements were a distinct complement to their own aesthetic preferences. Japan has always been very insistent about keeping foreign influence in their art and society to a minimum.
The earliest complex art in Japan was produced in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. There was a definite connection to Buddhism in this trend as well. In the 9th century the Japanese began to turn away from China and to develop more indigenous kinds of art expression. In this period secular arts became more and more important to Japan. However, until the latter 15th century both religious and secular art forms continued to flourish. It was after the Onin War (1467-1477) that Japan entered a period of political disruption which consequently deeply influenced their social and economic systems. This disruption’s effect lasted for more than a century.
Since Japan began to limit foreign influence early in its history, China’s art trends were allowed to have only a limited effect on its art and culture. The Chinese influence is still evident because of China’s age and even longer history. However, Japan successfully created its own identity and has maintained it in a disciplined way over time. Painting is considered to be the preferred artistic expression. In Japan, painting is practiced by both amateurs and professionals. Ceramics of the Japanese variety are considered to be among the finest in the whole world. This is equally true of the earliest artifacts known in their culture. Japan seems to have always taken great pride in the way their art was crafted… and how. So in the related field of architecture Japan prefers natural materials along with an interaction of interior and exterior space. The way this interaction is designed displays the distinctly “Japanese” origin.