The experiences I had in Kyoto have lead me to introduce the trip as a journey into the aesthetics of Japan in my conversations with people when I try to explain what it was about. I think my awareness of the complexities and beauty of Japanese aesthetics grew profoundly and because of this I have renewed appreciation for a more traditional side of Japan than is easily or regularly seen (especially from somewhere like the United States).
Every day of this trip , I feel as though something came up which tested my knowledge and ability to understand or accept new concepts/ideas/philosophies; I’d like to say I’ve become a more enlightened individual for it but the truth is that these wonderful experiences and conversations have left me with more questions than any answers I may have gotten while in Kyoto–this is the nature of essentially every craft/art we researched, experienced or learned about: The more we found out about them the more profoundly we could start to think about and question them. Be it about the future of Noh performances, or the varying philosophies behind tea ceremony, I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say we all left Kyoto with more than a couple pressing questions that may not have an answer for several years to come.
As someone who’s been to Kyoto, I was especially baffled by how deep-seeded traditional Japanese culture was in the city. Having only really experienced the more modern offerings of Kyoto, seeing artisans in various crafts really broadened my perspective of Japanese culture and society (at least as far as Kyoto is concerned).
Personally I found that I was (surprisingly) very nervous to give a presentation on Noh–I didn’t think I had the qualifications (or the knowledge) to speak on any of the subjects we glimpsed at during the trip (never mind a topic as saturated with history and cultural layers as Noh theater), but I started to calm down as I gave the presentation because I could tell that members of the audience (including those who professionally represented the world of Noh theater) were legitimately interested in what David, my partner, and myself had to say about our experiences. In fact the receptive nature of everyone involved in this trip was truly humbling for me to see. Everyone involved, from the artisans themselves to those working with them and the lecturers, were all so enthusiastic about sharing their crafts, their words, their wisdom and essentially their worlds–no matter how sacred–with us. This truly left a deep impression and made me grateful and feel really privileged to have been a part of the group that they dedicated so much of their precious times and resources to.
I think this deep and close-up look into traditional Japanese craft and culture sparked a desire to learn more about this country anew, a desire that had recently started to wane as I felt too much separation between myself and the language/culture/country I was trying to learn about.