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A light burden: cultural discourse of light in Japan

A light burden: cultural discourse of light in Japan This paper explores the sensory experiences and cultural meanings of light in Japan in relation to Japanese changing lighting practices. It demonstrates that these sensory experiences and cultural meanings form an integral part of social life in Japan.Design/methodology/approachThis paper adopts a blended approach that combines historical research and ethnographic data in the research on the meanings of light. The findings are presented in three parts. Two of them describe the social history of light, and the third draws on ethnographic data collected in suburban Japan.FindingsThe findings suggest that light in Japan has maintained a close symbolic connection with certain positive values despite the changing lighting practices. For example, light is related to cleanliness in early historical records on candle-making. In post-war Japan, new light metaphors such as “bright family” were invented to accommodate new aspirations for modernity and progress. In the latest development, the moral dimension of light is emphasised. This is evident in the concerns on being seen as a “bright person”, a person with a cheerful personality. Light in this way is related to the sensory experience of feeling a “social weight”, the pressure for one to act according to social norms.Originality/valueThis paper contributes to our anthropological understandings of light. It also provides a local case study of Japan, supported by original ethnographic research conducted by the author. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Asian Education and Development Studies Emerald Publishing

A light burden: cultural discourse of light in Japan

Asian Education and Development Studies , Volume 10 (1): 10 – Dec 23, 2020

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
2046-3162
DOI
10.1108/aeds-04-2020-0055
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This paper explores the sensory experiences and cultural meanings of light in Japan in relation to Japanese changing lighting practices. It demonstrates that these sensory experiences and cultural meanings form an integral part of social life in Japan.Design/methodology/approachThis paper adopts a blended approach that combines historical research and ethnographic data in the research on the meanings of light. The findings are presented in three parts. Two of them describe the social history of light, and the third draws on ethnographic data collected in suburban Japan.FindingsThe findings suggest that light in Japan has maintained a close symbolic connection with certain positive values despite the changing lighting practices. For example, light is related to cleanliness in early historical records on candle-making. In post-war Japan, new light metaphors such as “bright family” were invented to accommodate new aspirations for modernity and progress. In the latest development, the moral dimension of light is emphasised. This is evident in the concerns on being seen as a “bright person”, a person with a cheerful personality. Light in this way is related to the sensory experience of feeling a “social weight”, the pressure for one to act according to social norms.Originality/valueThis paper contributes to our anthropological understandings of light. It also provides a local case study of Japan, supported by original ethnographic research conducted by the author.

Journal

Asian Education and Development StudiesEmerald Publishing

Published: Dec 23, 2020

Keywords: Japan; Light; Illumination; Sensory experience

References