How to Wrap Five Eggs

How to handle even the humblest of objects with care.

Japanese culture has a preference for concealment over grandeur. Take the landscape paintings of the Muromachi period, in which a few shaded lines were often used to signify mountains. How quickly the mind fills in the vast surrounding emptiness, how complete the sense becomes of unseen valleys, of frozen pools with sleeping fish! These were painters who knew how to modulate the power of the hidden, to manipulate its unique command over the imagination. But the concept was also integral to Japanese poetry, architecture and philosophy.

It is a mistake, though, to think these values were limited to high culture. The aesthetic consideration of how something should be revealed suffused all aspects of classical Japanese society, whether in courtship, the layout of a garden or the entrance to...


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