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the great wave; a splendid book

updated thu 17 apr 08


Hank Murrow on sun 6 apr 08

On Apr 6, 2008, at 6:58 PM, James and Sherron Bowen wrote:

> Abanindranath Tagore was the brother of Rabindranath Tagore my
> favorite poet
> along with Coleridge.

Dear James;

Jim Laub and I were attending John Dix' show in Osaka in July of
2006, when we were introduced to Rathindranath Tagore, the son of the
famous author. He is a writer living in Japan, who seems to find it
necessary to write and carry on a career distant from his father's
long shadow. He proved to be an utterly charming and erudite man and
joined our party toward the end of the day with 8 or so of the folks
still in the gallery. We all dined at a nearby Thai restaurant from 6
until 10, with marvelous stories served up at the table along with
the fine food and drink. It was our last day in Japan, and a most
memorable one.

I have not located any of his writings yet, but my search has been
casual. glad that your visit with Ian was productive and
fun.......... I miss him.

Cheers, Hank

Taylor Hendrix on sun 6 apr 08

Hey Mama,

Looks like over 770 libraries throughout the world own the book as
well. I just might have to ILL this one.

Boring bibliographical record to follow my signature.

Taylor, in Rockport TX

Title: The great wave :
gilded age misfits, Japanese eccentrics, and the opening of old Japan /

Author(s): Benfey, Christopher E. G., 1954-
Publication: New York :; Random House,
Year: 2003
Description: xviii, 332 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
Language: English
Standard No: ISBN: 0375503277 (alk. paper); 9780375503276 (alk.
paper); LCCN: 2002-31750

Abstract: When the United States entered the Gilded Age after the
Civil War the nation lost its philosophical moorings and looked
eastward to "Old Japan," with its seemingly untouched indigenous
culture, for balance and perspective. Japan, meanwhile, was trying to
reinvent itself as a more cosmopolitan, modern state, ultimately
transforming itself, in the course of twenty-five years, from a feudal
backwater to an international power. This great wave of historical and
cultural reciprocity between the two young nations, which intensified
during the late 1800s, brought with it some larger-than-life
personalities, as the lure of unknown foreign cultures prompted
pilgrimages back and forth across the Pacific. In The great wave,
Benfey tells the story of the tightly knit group of nineteenth-century
travelers--connoisseurs, collectors, and scientists--who dedicated
themselves to exploring and preserving Old Japan. These travelers
include Herman Melville, Henry Adams, John La Farge, Lafcadio Hearn,
Mabel Loomis Todd, Edward Sylvester Morse, Percival Lowell, and
President Theodore Roosevelt. As well, we learn of famous Easterners
come West, including Kakuzo Okakura and Shuzo Kuki.

Materials specified: Contributor biographical information

Materials specified: Sample text

Materials specified: Publisher description

Descriptor: Japonisme.
Geographic: Japan -- Civilization -- 1868-1912.
Japan -- Civilization -- 1600-1868.
United States -- Civilization -- 1865-1918.
United States -- Civilization -- 1783-1865.
United States -- Civilization -- Japanese influences.
Note(s): Includes bibliographical references and index.
Class Descriptors: LC: DS822.3; Dewey: 303.48/27305/09034
Responsibility: Christopher Benfey.
Vendor Info: Baker & Taylor Baker and Taylor YBP Library Services
(BKTY BTCP YANK) 25.95 Status: active
Material Type: Internet resource (url)
Document Type: Book; Internet Resource
Date of Entry: 20020815
Update: 20080326
Accession No: OCLC: 50511058
Database: WorldCat

On 4/6/08, Lili Krakowski wrote:
> I was looking for info on Okakura, and came across this book, "The Great
> Wave", by Christopher Benfey. ISBN 0-375-50327-7
> Subtitle is "Gilded Age Misfits, Japanese Eccentrics,and the Opening of
> Japan.

Lee on sun 6 apr 08

On Sun, Apr 6, 2008 at 12:01 PM, Lili Krakowski w=
> I was looking for info on Okakura,

He was curator of Asian art at the Boston. He, like Leach (who was
born in Hong Kong and lived over half his life until the age of 33 in
Asia.) They were both comopolitan, global minded people, having
spend considerable time in both Hemispheres.

Personally, I like reading the subjiect of interest's writings over
books about their books and thoughts. My favorite reading is

Here are Okakura's two main books online:

The Book Of Tea

What Yanagi did to protect local culture in the face of global
industrial materialism, Okakura did for the Asian fine arts. The
book below speaks about these ideas. While Yanagi was a protege of
the Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki, Okakura was close to Sister Nivedita
of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda and Abanindranath Tagore. Okakura was
close friends with Fellanosa. His Leach?

Ideas of the East

> mysterious, wondrous place. And "adapted" Japan to their own needs.

Reliable steam ship travel was the "internet" of the day. Many
Japanese artist showed at the world expositions before 1900, which
fostered mutual interest and cultural exchange. Many Japanese
traveled to the "magical" West. Tomimoto Kenkichi was in Europe,
when Leach came to Japan to teach western print making. Many Japanese
artists lived in Paris, where they studied painting and sculpture.
Here is a little blurb about Tomimoto from Yellin's site:

> Besides being considered the greatest decorator and innovator of modern p=
orcelain, he has written
>prolifically on art, most notably about William Morris and wielded
considerable influence as a university
>professor; he founded the ceramics department at the Kyoto Municipal
College of Fine Arts and many of
>his students went on to become well-known contemporary ceramic artists.

Tomimoto and Yagi (who was influenced by Noguchi) influenced
many potters and sculptors in Kyoto, including the No #1 respected
Shoji Kamoda. Kamoda said he moved to Mashiko to escape the
pressures of Kyoto. Yagi really wanted Kamoda to join his group.
But Kamoda did not take sides in the sculpture/functional debate. He
made both kinds of work until his untimely death. The two $25,000.00
awards from the Mashiko International Ceramics Competition are the
Shoji Hamada and the Shoji Kamoda awards.

These men could compare cultures from their personal
experiences, rather than having to read predigested accounts written
about "the other" hemisphere. It is what enabled them to be cultural

> I could write an essay. I won't. The book is available on the used boo=
> market, at affordable prices.

It is available at my library. I have Louis Cort's book on Noguchi
and his circle coming (the American who greatly influence Japanese
sculptural ceramics) and also her book on Seto and Mino ceramics
(except the last time I looked at my account, it may be lost.)
Lee, a Mashiko potter in Minneapolis

"Ta tIr na n-=F3g ar chul an tI=97tIr dlainn trina ch=E9ile"=97that is, "T=
land of eternal youth is behind the house, a beautiful land fluent
within itself." -- John O'Donohue

James and Sherron Bowen on sun 6 apr 08

Abanindranath Tagore was the brother of Rabindranath Tagore my favorite poet
along with Coleridge.

"STRAY birds of summer come to my window to sing and fly away.
And yellow leaves of autumn, which have no songs, flutter and fall there
with a sigh."

----- Original Message -----
From: "Lee"
Sent: Sunday, April 06, 2008 4:48 PM
Subject: Re: The Great Wave; a splendid book

On Sun, Apr 6, 2008 at 12:01 PM, Lili Krakowski
I was looking for info on Okakura,
Jacobson who may be reached at

Lee on tue 15 apr 08

On Tue, Apr 15, 2008 at 9:11 AM, fran johnson wrote:

> years ago I read a review of the book that said the
> English translation was badly translated and catered
> to English expectations rather than what Okakura
> intended.
> Can you address this statement? I sometimes wonder
> what I am missing if it is accurate.

Okakura was curator of Asian Art at the Boston Museum. It is why
he was so insightful about the West and how he could speak to us. She
shared this quality with both Leach and Hamada. (I believe Japanese
ceramics is suffering now, because it is too insular.)

This is refreshing compared to writers like Garth Clark, who
sees the whole world from his Ivory Castle in NYC.

Okakura was fluent in English and actually wrote the Book of Tea in
English. It was not translated into Enlish. When I visited his
museum, I was able to view his hand written manuscripts for both of
these books, as well as his correspondences with Fellanosa and Tagore
and his other international friends.

Now that our culture is the big superpower in the world, we
need these kinds of broader world views like Okakura, Yanagi and Leach
supported when they faced the same things in Colonial Japan and
England during Victorian/Meiji times.

Lee, a Mashiko potter in Minneapolis

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that
can be counted counts." --(Sign hanging in Einstein's office at

Lee on tue 15 apr 08

Okakura was the fineart precursor to Yanagi and his
protection of indigenous craft. Both scholars were concerned about
the burgeoning global industrial materialism that was sweeping their
times and worked to protect local Asian culture. Okakura thought it
was "Western" materialism, but of course it quickly took root in Japan
and then after the war in China too.

There is an excellent article by Mari Nakami from a 1999
conference titled: Yanagi Muneyoshi's Concept of Nationalism. It is
a 17 page paper. Basically, Yanagi was proposing a non-aggressive
nationalism whose sole purpose was to preserve local tradtitional
craft culture, as Okakura did for the fine arts.

Can probably find a copy through a University library. I was
lucky to print it out. It is no longer available online.
Lee, a Mashiko potter in Minneapolis

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that
can be counted counts." --(Sign hanging in Einstein's office at

Lee, a Mashiko potter in Minneapolis

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that
can be counted counts." --(Sign hanging in Einstein's office at