Today I felt fully adjusted to the pace of this trip. I think my jet lag is completely gone, which is slightly sad because we’re going to leave so soon.
We left with an early start, meeting for breakfast at 7:45am. We met Tatsumura-san at his his studio early on and took a look at his work. All of them were so elegant looking and beautiful. Standing from 3 feet away or more, you might not even be able to tell that it’s a woven textile, since it’s as beautiful and elegant as a painting. I was really impressed by the amount of work that went into each one. I assumed that a tremendous amount of care and effort went into each piece, but I didn’t realize how long and incredible the process really was.
Looking at the giant loom, I was overwhelmed by all of the different parts and pieces. Even after an explanation, I don’t fully understand how it works. It’s amazing how something like weaving, which seems so primitive, can actually be so scientific. I was very interested in how Tatsumura explained that the loom works like a computer in the way it reads through the punch cards, and that a lot of math background is required for each piece. I’ve noticed that there is a theme of artisans having to adapt to the current technology, whether it’s creating a website or a store online. However, what I like most is that the art stays the same, regardless of the time. There is an immense appreciation for the old craft, as indicated by the fact that they recreated the loom from the 600s. This feeling felt especially strong at the Tatsumura company, as these traditions are being carried down a family line and probably held a more personal connection.
Working on the loom was fun but I felt very tired very quickly. I also could see how doing it for a long time could be tedious. It was one thing to view the machines and the process, and another thing to actually perform the actions. The latter really made me appreciate the pieces of art on another level. I really admired Tatsumura for his seriousness and the fact that he pursued his family trade. It must be a lot of pressure to be born into a family where they expect you to perform a certain job, but he seemed to do his job well.
We also got to touch textiles made for and touched by the Pope, along with some other famous works. It’s really unbelievable to see and touch such famous and invaluable works of art, a lot of it barely felt real. It’s a similar feeling to when you see your favorite celebrity in concert after only seeing them on the internet, and you begin to feel very surreal.
Afterwards we visited the pattern maker and the dye specialist. Being in Kyoto and touring the artisans really gives me a feeling of going back in time. It reminds of me a video game I played as a kid where you were a farmer, and you had to go to a bunch of different stores to get things from your farm, because everyone used to just specialize in specific goods. It’s so amazing and beautiful that this was preserved in Kyoto, but there are still convenience stores there too.
I wonder how long Kyoto will be able to maintain this charm. I’m sure the temples and shrines will be preserved for a much longer time, but I worry about the artisans especially, in a growing age of globalism and modernity. All common goods can be sold in convenience stores and super stores, but what happens if they start to grow and outnumber the artisans? In a growing world of convenience, I wonder if people’s preferences will switch to fast and quick satisfaction rather than older art.
I think one issue is price. College students our age aren’t really willing to pay for long term goods. I’m at an age where I’ve just started to invest in good clothing pieces rather than buy as many decent ones as I can for cheap. Price doesn’t just mean money, it also involves time. College students and working adults are, for the most part, busy and trying not to spend unnecessary money. So the people who are going to Noh plays and buying handwoven Obi pieces are usually either older or elite. This sort of gives these arts an air of pretentiousness that may turn even more people away.
This makes me further appreciate Dairik Amae, as unconventional as he was, because he was very approachable and accessible in his practices. He shares tea ceremony with people in a language they can understand, and a price they can afford. I think that he and Miyamoto have the right idea. You can’t expect things to change in your favor unless you take action. I appreciate how both of these artisans mold their craft to fit a new audience, and in that way, draw people in to an environment they would’ve otherwise felt unwelcome.