Today Christie Herbert provides her perspective on the first two weeks of the program.
Our first week of classroom work in Tokyo focused on a quick and immersive introduction to Japanese culture, including the topics of Japanese language, history, etiquette, values, and religion. Students either took a test on these topics prior to leaving for Kyoto or did a project. We also looked at and read about some core aesthetic principles that we would use as a lens with which to study the intersection of art and culture for the remainder of our trip. We started with the core concept of mono-no-aware, or the appreciation for the fleeting nature of all things, which derives from both Buddhist beliefs and the Shinto reverence for nature(not to mention the geography of Japan making it a place of both extreme beauty and danger). From there we looked at a continuum of overlapping ways of understanding the distinct design and culture of Japan—from the austere and rustic (wabi-sabi) to the opulent and showy. We then studied how Japanese culture has shaped its art—including the lack of distinction between fine art and craft, the emphasis on miniaturization and technological innovation, artistic lineages, the combination of visual and literary art, and on and on. One of the most interesting things about studying about the art and design of Japan is that it is a mirror of Japanese culture in its indirect and referential quality, so that as soon as we study one term, and think we have a clear understanding of it, we find that there are three other terms that overlap with and possibly contradict our understanding! In Kyoto, students had a very rich experience of Japan—from numerous visits to places of historic and artistic importance to experiencing a tea ceremony to deepening their ability to navigate around on their own. This group continues to exemplify the best of Landmark in their compassionate and kind ways of helping one another navigate in some challenging circumstances. So today we are back in Tokyo and will spend the morning making sense of all of our experiences in Kyoto. I liken it to returning from a trip to the beach and sorting all of our shells, and treasures, and again looking at how the art and culture of Japan intersects. Students will have the choice of completing a project or taking a test tomorrow. Then they will finish with a five slide presentation on Friday on the essence of what they have learned on this trip, both academically and personally. It has been a joy to work with such an engaged group.
And here’s another selection of photos taken recently by Christie.