How to Evoke Happy Ordinary Places — Hints from 19th century Japan
How can one evoke a happy ordinary place?
Sad places, sublime places, places that promise adventure, mystery, or romance—all these are relatively easy to portray. But how can one communicate the promise of ordinary happiness? What sorts of pictured places inspire viewers to think: “There is nothing special there, but life there seems happy”?
Certain prints in 19th century Japan are quite effective in inspiring this thought. As we probe the secret of their effectiveness, we discover something startling—that the key elements in their evocation of happiness are mostly things that wouldn’t readily occur to us today. And so these prints prompt us, ultimately, to reflect anew not only on the imagination of everyday life in late Edo Japan but also on our own horizons of happiness.
Reischauer Institute Japan Forum Lecture Series