Friday, June 26, 2009

Musings and My Obsession with Japan

I have been brooding over where to start with the blog posts of my study tour to China and Japan. My partner, Chris Miner, has been doing a great job writing about the trip from his point of view.

He has been diligently resizing photos, photographing and scanning mementos and taking text from his journals. He has been blogging about each day and you can see in his blog, the Raw Materials of Music Making, that he has been trying to capture the long and complicated days with pictures and words.

What have I been doing? Not a whole lot!

I definitely feel like I'm having a harder time adjusting back to my normal life. It just seems so boring compared to two weeks of exploring new places. My mind has been processing all that I experienced and how it is going to change my life. I am feeling restless in my normal routine and am ready to shake it up again. But how?

Our sensei planted a seed in my head while we were in Hangzhou, China. She said something along the line of "You should do the exchange program for a semester or year. Take the whole family." She then pointed out the China Academy of Art which nestled into green trees, just down the street from the beautiful West Lake. She said something about how both the schools that SDSU had an exchange program with for art majors in China and Japan were excellent and that I would learn a lot. It would definitely be an experience.

I fell in love Hangzhou, China and could see myself studying there: riding my bike around the West Lake, and learning how to sculpt in traditional ways that my university has forgotten how to teach. The language would be a barrier, but it is so inexpensive there, I could afford to live. The idea of study abroad in China buzzed in my head as we left Shanghai. And then I went to Japan.

Japan is much more Americanized and super modern compared to China. Since we didn't have Miranda (our tour guide), sensei was to be our guide. This led to a whole different experience of Japan than in China. Sensei did not gather the group by yelling out "S.D.S.U!" like Miranda did. She would just take off and we had to follow her. Most of the trip was spent making sure that sensei was close by, and counting people. She had a tendency to want to leave people instead of waiting for them. It would be comical if most of the group spoke Japanese. But since most of us knew no or little Japanese, we would be very lost without sensei.

Sensei at Meiji Shrine (Shinto)

Long story short, this lack of a tour guide telling us information and a comfy tour bus to ride in led to us having to integrate with the culture more. I had to pay attention while I rode the bus or train to make sure I got off in time. I listened and recognized names, especially in Tokyo - Shinjuku, Harajuku, Ueno, Yoyogi, Ginza and Shibuya. I not only knew where they were on a map, but also how to get to them by train and what was there when you got there. I yearned to be able to read the signs that were around me, and to say more than just "Arigato" to others.

Add to this my absolute fascination with the native religion of Japan - Shinto. The first night in Kyoto we came across a Shinto shrine at night and it was luminous and mysterious. I won't go to far into Shinto now because I am going to devote an entire post to it soon. It is more than love with Japan now. It is almost an obsession to find out more about this magical place.

Sensei's talks with me about studying in Japan became more real as I imagined myself studying the traditional arts and their relationship to the native religion of Shinto. There are many more details that I would need to work out and to consider before a decision is made.

So the next blog posts about my trip will be focused specifically on the parts of Japan and China that moved me. Just the images that are blazed into my brain and the art ideas that have sprung from that. I may add some pictures of experiences that were just fun and unique, such as "Geisha Hunting." Hopefully you will understand why I am now obsessed with Japan.

Until then, Happy Art-Making! ~ Jaime Lyerly

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this inspiring post, jaime. I look forward to reading about your take on Shintoism


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