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In striking contrast to their ancestors, contemporary Japanese seem to adore light, their great cities are electromagnetic centers of brilliance, their living rooms flood-lit like sports stadiums.

The rallying call of those who survived the “dark valley,” as the 1930s and war years were dubbed, was “akarui seikatsu,” a “bright life.” Postwar shadows, side lighting and intermediate tones were banished, memories of the war subjected to collective amnesia and the eviscerating rays of new forms of illumination. The appreciation of muted light, as Tanizaki infers in his long 1933 essay, “In Praise of Shadows,” had already begun to lapse into a cult of quaintness.

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