Exploring 1200 years of Cultural History of Kyoto through Modern Craftsmanship

Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan, has 1200 years of history. It is called Japan’s cultural treasure house and thrives on its ancient heritage in architecture, gardens, religion, performing and culinary arts and craftsmanship. Yet Kyoto’s appearances can be deceiving. At a glance, its traditional architectures, sacred shrines and temples are absent as they are tucked away behind tall buildings and busy commercial storefronts. In Kyoto, you will find a monumental temple designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site under the shadow of ultramodern high-rising buildings. There is an enigmatic quality to the city with this juxtaposition of old and new. This unresolved tension between tradition and modernization can be Kyoto’s fascination.

The purpose of this travel course is to explore the cultural history of Kyoto and how traditional craftsmanship is perpetuated and transformed in a modern era as the city of Kyoto developed. Students will visit Kyoto artisans at their studio and through a discourse with thriving artists, they will arrive at their own conclusion about what it means to sustain tradition while pursuing modernization and innovation.