Day 2: Miyamoto-san

Today we went to Arashiyama to visit the workplace of miyamoto-san. Miyamoto san is a sculpture artist who contracts out to both temples and special orders for specific projects. He both sculpts and renews older works. We began by going into his wood working place where e explained what he does and how he does it. The details of his work rely on special tools (chisels, hammer, and spoons/scoops) of a large variety of sizes to make a variety of changes to the sculptures. The statue that he showed us to demonstrate the use of all of these tools was a large buddha statue sitting a top a fudo looking tiger. The sculpture shocked me as it had 2 big surprises. The first was that the buddha was actually removable from the tiger/lion below it, illustrating what we later learned about the fact that he builds his sculptures in multiple parts.  The second thing that surprised me was that the sculptures base was hollowed out. when he showed this too us, he made a point that even the hollowed out part is very clean. He went on to state just important keeping al the art and the workspace clean is.

However, the true surprises came in the form of the stories he told us once we moved upstairs. The upstairs was incredibly cold, even for him, and I wondered but had forgotten to ask if the cold was necessary for preservation of the wood. The first story I remember was that of some of the sculptures that he has renewed over the years. I’ve seen renewed sculptures before but I have never thought about the fact that there may be items hidden inside of these sculptures. Especially items like hair or bone!

The second story that he told us was about his master. David asked a question about whether or not the wood needs to be purified before it can be worked on to which Miyamoto replied that it does in a way. He informed us that in buddhist culture, each one of a temples sculptures has a spirit residing inside it and before the sculptor can work on the piece, the spirit must be taken out. He then told us a story about how his master was not a spiritual man until he had a special encounter with a buddhist temple statue. The master and the masters brother worked on one joint sculpture for a buddhist temple, but miyamoto’s master was not particularly spiritual. The buddhist monks sensed this and asked the master to hold the sculpture, despite the abnormality of anyone touching the buddhist sculpture once back in the temple, for the ceremony in which the spirit is put/put back into the sculpture. When the spirit was back in the sculpture, the master felt that the sculpture had become much heavier altogether.

This was the most interesting part of the day for me be cause it is about the recognition of spirituality in a man. As a christian man at a school where religion can often seem almost stupid in the eyes of many of my peers,it was refreshing to hear the story of a man finding religion or spirituality after having been skeptical.

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