Japan: Sacred Space, the Forbidden Forest, and Nature's Place in Contemporary Japan
Type of Program: Intensive Course Abroad
When Offered: May 2009
Japan, like many cultures, is caught between deeply ingrained traditions based on an intimate relationship with nature, and the seduction of fast-paced modern life. This three-week intensive course will study Shinto shrines, examining Shintoism’s belief in the living spirits of trees, mountains, water, the sun, and all things. These sacred spaces were built to honor the natural realms where the spirits live, and to invoke those spirits’ presence.
The persistence of perfection in craft, the everyday appreciation of art, and the conscious understanding of basic design principles are in evidence everywhere in Japan, from the thousand-year-old shrines and temples in Nara, to the most recent architecture of Maki Fumihiko and Ando Tadao; from the scrolls and screen paintings of 7th century Kyoto, to the current proliferation of manga and anime; and from the art of kimono to the packaging of simple purchases from the store.
We will arrive in Tokyo, and experience the intensity of this city of 30 million by exploring its distinct districts (Asakusa, Shinjuku, Aoyama and Ueno). Contrasting this with visits to the collections in the National, Calligraphy, and Edo Museums, we’ll explore the 12th century beginnings of manga, and the obvious importance of nature in the storytelling of scroll and screen paintings. Seeking out traditional crafts, we’ll visit a 4th generation atelier which still designs and prints fabric for kimono. We’ll have the opportunity to meet students from our sister university, Aoyama Gakuin. Moving our base to Kyoto, we will have ample opportunity to explore this former capitol that houses twenty percent of Japan’s National Treasures and contains 17 of the United Nation’s World Heritage sites. We will visit the Manga and Raku Museums, attend a Noh performance, and visit multiple shrines and temples. From Kyoto we’ll head south to Hiroshima to visit the Peace Park and museum, stopping in Koyasan for an overnight monastery stay and an evening walk through the Okunoin, an ancient ancestral burial ground. If time allows, day trips are possible to Nara, Kamakura, and Shigaraki; to papermaking ateliers; and to meet with potters and woodcarvers. Offered May 2009.