Volume 1, 2018
Aesthetics and Philosophies of Art
Art as a Way of Life and Life as a Way of Art
Two different kinds of art exist in Japan: ‘geijutsu’, the English equivalent to ‘arts’ or ‘fine arts’ and ‘geidō’, which does not have a literal equivalent in any Western languages. “Geidō” literally means the “way of arts”. During the 15th century the term ‘geidō’ first appeared. In the 17th century similar terms such as ‘sadō’ (way of tea), internationally known as “tea ceremony” and ‘kadō’ (way of the flower), also known as “flower arrangement” appeared. In the Edo period, adding ‘dō’ at the end of the name of any art form, including martial arts, was a common practice, although these terms such as ‘sadō’ or ‘kadō’ did not supersede the more common terms ‘cha-no-yu’ or ‘ikebana’. In the early 20th century many types of ‘geidō’ became household words. These ‘geidō’ were not taught at art schools or universities where Western arts were mainly taught. However, ‘shodō’ (calligraphy) became a regular course in teachers’ colleges. Many forms of ‘geidō’ flourished in cities. Many of these “ways of arts” were revived in a rapidly industrializing nation, where Western arts were replacing traditional arts. ‘Geidō’ was in a sense an antithesis to ‘geijutsu’, which literally means the “technique of arts” or the “art of arts”, or, in other words, “art for art’s sake”, then a major trend in Western art. Although “ways of arts” are sometimes criticized for their monopolizing attitude toward teaching by school heads, contemporary art can learn something from the philosophy of ‘geidō’ such as the appreciation of the process, denial of completion or indifference to results, since daily activities are without end or completion and will continue until the end of one’s life. In the course of devoting one’s life to these activities, one comes to realize that they are relevant to the shared values of human life.