The 8 days I spent in Kyoto were just so much fun. I spent my time learning both the history of Japan’s feudal capital and the art that was created from that period onward. I’ve met people who are devoted to up-keeping certain crafts that are in fact disappearing in today’s day and age. For instance, Yamamoto-san’s grandfather rediscovered a traditional art that had been almost nonexistent. He is now keeping makkyo mirror making alive and trying his best to make sure that its creation doesn’t fade with his generation. If that’s not respectable then I really don’t know what is. On the other hand, silk dyeing will stop for the Okamoto family whose brothers are most likely the last within their families to do it. Thinking about that, it’s incredibly sad for anyone to lose their family business, but it makes me think more on how devastating it is for the world to lose their talents.
I’m a huge history nerd. My time is spent going over bygone eras and learning about the finer points of historical events that affect our present. I love watching historical dramas about medieval England and France, or the empire of Kublai Khan. Going on this trip made me feel closer to my love of Japanese history and culture because I’m seeing with my own eyes, and hearing with my own ears how the past is continuing into a present that pushes these arts into more obscure corners of Japanese society. Just for the sake of an example,
- If I didn’t visit Miyamoto-san and learn how he both created and restored Buddhist statues, I would be stuck seeing such works behind glass at a museum with a tiny epitaph for this art form.
- Visiting Yamamoto-san, as I said, was an honor. I didn’t know anything about makkyo mirrors and getting to see one up close was like…well even describing it is hard. I was looking at something incomparable to anything else in the world and knowing that was a singular and amazing experience.
- Watching Tatsushige-san perform Noh for a minute or two just to explain some of what a shite must be able to do, that was outstanding. His movements were so beautiful and fluid and slow but powerful. Imagine being a master at a theatrical art that has multiple layers of meaning, yet understanding that those who watch you have barely touched the surface.
- Visiting Tatsumura Amane-san’s family studio was blinding. I was afraid to turn around, careful that my backpack might even cast a shadow on a piece of artwork woven with actual gold. One of the artworks is in the household of the Crown Prince and if that doesn’t speak volumes for its prestige and beauty…
- Ozasa-san and Okamoto-san達 allowed me to see the painstaking architectural parts of weaving. Imagine being so good at what you do-your eye for detail is that precise- that you are able to (more than likely) work on things for the Imperial family.
- Amae-san was I must say, unorthodox in his ways of approaching tea ceremony but devoting your entire way of life, even for a short time, to understanding every element of tea of beginning to end is astounding.
I say that this experience is for those who appreciate the beauty of life outside of their own plane of existence. Everyday things are of course beautiful in their own way, but learning about something almost otherworldly and impermanent is even more striking to behold in my opinion. It’s the same beauty that goes with the saying that has been said time and time again on the is trip: 一期一会。