This short essay lays out a Japanese aesthetic vision about the power of light to create darkness and shadow.
Junichrio Tanizaki is writing in Japan of the 1930s, and as I have said in reviews previously of his work, this places him in an interesting and fraught position to argue for Japanese sovereignty and liberation of Western control, while also placing him well within the space of Japanese imperialism over the East Asian continent (especially China and Korea). So in arguing against the influence and dominance of Western cultural imperialism through what comes across as a humble tone, there’s some background context that challenges his ideas.
He speaks ultimately of the influence of Western aesthetics on Japanese art and design. For example, he discusses how the adoption of American and British technological advances such as the car or the radio, he laments the kinds of design features that would have developed alongside a Japanese creation of these technologies. This means that given enough time there would have been a Japanese version being created (again, this strikes me as the most directly anti-Enlightenment) that would have developed aesthetically with Japanese design principles instead of borrowing both the technology and design wholesale. His main example for this is a lacquered bowl placed alongside a merely utilitarian Western white bowl, suggesting that while both allow the diner to eat soup, the Japanese bowl also allows them to bring joy and beauty to the process. When I read more of his novels later on, I will think about this essay and see how its thesis works in conjunction with his writing.