Art is an elusive umbrella concept that covers such a wide range of output that it becomes difficult to provide a standardized definition. That may be why an old punchline simply states, “Yes, but is it art?

Everyone from art collectors to アート批評家 (āto hihyōka, art critics) will have a different opinion on how a single piece can be interpreted, making it somewhat daunting for a beginner to dabble in アート批評 (āto hihyō, art criticism). Fortunately, the アート批評家 Edmund Burke Feldman came up with a four-step process to make things easier and guide the casual viewer in formulating an opinion. It involves: 記述 (kijutsu, description), 分析 (bunseki, analysis), 解釈 (kaishaku, interpretation) and 判定 (hantei, judgement). So, let’s put those steps into practice in Japanese.

Suppose you walk into a 美術館 (bijutsukan, art museum) and see Katsushika Hokusai’s famed “神奈川沖浪裏” (“Kanagawa-oki Nami-ura,” “Under the Wave off Kanagawa”) and you want to offer your thoughts on it.