Day 5 – Professor Catherine Ludvik, Daitoku-ji, and Gakyu-san

Today will most likely be my favorite out of all of our programmed events in this course because of its focus on Zen and art.  The first activity of the day was a lecture by Professor Ludvik.  She told us the basic history of Zen and the founding of each sect, then instructed us about the layout of Zen temples, tea ceremony, and Zen paintings.  My favorite part of her lecture was when she discussed restoration of fusuma-e in temples versus incorporation of work from contemporary artists.  I was very moved by the work of Yuki Murabayashi, a young artist who is relatively unknown but who was commissioned by Taizo-in to make large paintings on their fusuma to replace older paintings that have been removed for preservation.  She had to undergo intensive Zen training for six months before she was even allowed to touch a paint brush, and she is still living on the temple grounds and has been working on this piece since 2011.  This is yet another example of the tradition of Kyoto blending with modern influences.

After the lecture, we visited Daitoku-ji, which is a famous temple associated heavily with the tea master Sen no Rikyu.  Though the temple was so famous, there were very few people present on the complex.  For most of our stay I was able to walk alone, with no one else in sight and in complete silence.  It was refreshing and helped me appreciate the feeling of being in the place.  I also visited the garden at Daisen-in, which was beautiful, but smaller than I expected it to be based on pictures I had seen of it before.  I liked that you were able to go inside the hall at the garden too and view some of the statues and artwork.  Then we ate a fun and delicious vegetarian lunch at the temple.

When we returned to Terminal Kyoto, we had the privilege of meeting Gakyu-san and hearing him talk about his work.  This was undoubtedly my favorite part of the day. I loved that he had studied fashion design and serendipitously became a sculptor after painting the robe of a Buddhist statue.  He trained intensively for 9 years without any prior experience sculpting.  But he said he had fun, even though he worked nonstop for 15 hours a day during that time.  He was able to tell us a bit about his process and showed us many of his works.

I also liked Gakyu-san’s response to CJ’s question about the difference between craftsmen and artists.  Gakyu-san said that traditionally artists focus on expression while craftsmen focus on technique, but that now it is important for people to incorporate both to create things that are beautiful.

Someday I would like to be like Gakyu-san, having a job that I love and doing something that speaks to my truth.

After the end of our meeting with Gakyu-san, most of us went to a conveyer belt sushi restaurant.  Even though it’s our fifth full day I still hadn’t had proper Japanese sushi yet.  I was not disappointed.  The restaurant had a fun atmosphere and I was able to get a good variety of fish.  Tonight I’m just resting and preparing for the final presentations.  Tomorrow we meet Amae Dairiku and learn more about Tea Ceremony.

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