The daily lives of ordinary people are replete with objects, common things used in commonplace settings. These objects are our constant companions in life. As such, writes Soetsu Yanagi, they should be made with care and built to last, treated with respect and even affection. They should be natural and simple, sturdy and safe - the aesthetic result of wholeheartedly fulfilling utilitarian needs. They should, in short, be things of beauty.
In an age of feeble and ugly machine-made things, these essays call for us to deepen and transform our relationship with the objects that surround us. Inspired by the work of the simple, humble craftsmen Yanagi encountered during his lifelong travels through Japan and Korea, they are an earnest defence of modest, honest, handcrafted things - from traditional teacups to jars to cloth and paper. Objects like these exemplify the enduring appeal of simplicity and function: the beauty of everyday things.
It would not be entirely amiss to describe Yanagi's position in Japan as comparable to that of Ruskin and Morris in England ... He left as a legacy an aesthetic and religious creed of vital importance to men and women all over the world
What impresses me most in Yanagi is the strength of his vision, his direct eye for beauty. His was an immediate and intuitive faculty of an extraordinary kind
Japanese stories have blossomed into Penguin Classics, from The Penguin Book of the Japanese Short Story to newly-translated works from two of the country’s most celebrated authors, Yasunari Kawabata and Yukio Mishima.