Alumni Trip to Japan: The Enigmatic Beauty of Japanese Craft
Are you interested in rekindling the intense camaraderie of learning with a small group of your peers? Do you wonder if a college education is sometimes wasted on the young? Are you tired of thumbing through one issue of Potash Hill after another and reading accounts of fabulous student-faculty trips to Cuba, Egypt, or Nepal? Well, now it’s your turn! Join the first ever Marlboro College Alumni Trip to Japan! It’s running next spring, under the leadership of Marlboro’s Asian studies professor, Seth Harter. In addition, retired professors Carol Hendrickson and Mark Francillon are already enrolled.
Overview: Japanese crafts are world-renowned for the quality of their workmanship, but also for the aesthetic principles which set them apart: austerity, restraint, irregularity, and perishability. On this tour we will explore examples, both antique and contemporary, of these principles. We’ll also look beyond them to the problems and paradoxes which make contemporary craft practice in Japan so fascinating. How can the aesthetic value of perishability be reconciled with a culture of the most careful curatorship? How do the notions of austerity and irregularity make their peace with the hyper-modernity of 21st-century Japan? How can contemporary crafts navigate between the realms of industry and fine art?
While traveling through the heart of central Japan, we will encounter 1,300-year-old wooden temples, austere Zen rock gardens, and flamboyant textiles. Our journey will take us from the cosmopolitan hubs of Kyoto and Tokyo to the grass-thatched huts of mountain villages. We will savor ceramics from the earliest days of the tea ceremony to the masterpieces of the folk art movement, and try our hand at making our own pots. We will visit a tea plantation and take part in a traditional tea ceremony. We will learn about the principles of Japanese cuisine while eating seasonal specialties, and learning to prepare ramen. In the shadow of Mt. Fuji, we’ll learn about the perfection of Japanese hand planes when they meet native elm. And when the toll of travel starts to mount, we’ll wash it away in the most Japanese of cultural institutions: natural hot spring baths!
Tour Leader: Seth Harter, professor of History and Asian studies, has taught at Marlboro since 2000. Before that he led tours of Mainland China. For many years, he directed Marlboro’s Freeman Foundation-sponsored faculty-student trips to Asia, including a trip devoted to the aesthetics of Japan. His article “A Thing of Beauty…” (Potash Hilll, Fall 2018) was based on field research in contemporary craft practices in Japan. He returned to live in Kyoto in the spring of 2018. When he is not teaching, he builds furniture using Japanese hand tools.
Price: Registration before Nov. 15th $5,625 per person double occupancy/ $6,375 single
Registration after Nov. 15th $5,925 per person double occupancy/ $6,675 single
The tour price includes:
- International roundtrip airfare from New York JFK to Tokyo Narita
- One-way airfare from Tokyo to Osaka
- All domestic transport
- All hotels
- All meals except for two lunches and two dinners on your own
- All museum entries and cultural activities
- Accompanying scholar and local guide
- A $200 donation to Marlboro College’s annual fund
The tour price does not include alcohol, laundry, phone service, travel insurance or souvenirs.
Deposit of $1,000 required to reserve a space.
Full payment due on Jan 1st, 2020.
Refund policy: Full refund until Nov. 15th.
75% refund between Nov. 15th and Jan. 15th.
50% refund between Jan 1st and March 1st.
No refund after March 1st.
Size: In recognition of the scale of Japanese inns, vehicles, restaurants, and workshops, (and in keeping with the best traditions of Marlboro seminars!) the size the group is limited to twelve participants. The trip will not run with fewer than eight participants.
Material comforts: The trip will involve moderate physical activity, including a lot of walking. Participants will sometimes sleep in western-style beds, sometimes on futons in tatami rooms, and will often sit on the floor. Diet will be mostly Japanese, with an emphasis on fish, noodles, rice, and fresh vegetables. We will travel mostly by van, occasionally by train. Weather in Central Japan in late May tends to be very pleasant, though hot days are certainly possible in the cities, as are cool evenings in the mountains of Gifu and Yamanashi prefectures. Smoking in public is frowned upon in Japan.
Itinerary: May23rd – June 5th
Day One: Arrive Tokyo, fly to Osaka, ground transfer to Nara
Day Two: Nara
Todaiji (temple), Shosoin (treasure house) deer park, Kasuga Taisha (shrine)
Wood carver’s studio
Dinner at Izikaya
Day 3: Nara
Horyuji (temple) and Uji tea plantation
Transfer to Kyoto
Free time in late afternoon
Day 4: Kyoto
Daitokuji (temple gardens), Raku ceramics museum and Kanjiro Kawai’s studio-house
Tea ceremony at Urasenke headquarters
Day 5: Kyoto
Ryoanji (temple rock garden), Suikoushya woodworking workshop
Day 6: Kyoto and Shigaraki
Robert Yellin ceramics gallery visit and Shigaraki pottery excursion
Transfer to Gifu
Day 7: Gifu
Gifu Academy of Forest Science and Culture
Lunch with Masashi Kutsuwa
Transfer to Takayama
Day 8: Takayama and Ogimachi
Grass houses, paper making workshop, Hida Furukawa carpentry museum
Optional Satoyama bicycle tour or free time
Day 9: Takayama and Kawaguchiko
Kusakabe Folk Crafts Museum, Hachiman-Gu Shrine and festival float exhibition Transfer to Lake Saiko/Kawaguchiko
Dinner at Izikaya
Day 10: Kawaguchiko
Mt. Fuji School of Fine Woodworking: shop, gallery, forest
Dinner with Tak Yoshino
Day 11: Kawaguchiko and Tokyo
Asama Shrine visit and Mt. Fuji walk
Transfer to Tokyo
Day 12: Tokyo
Kappabashi dori (kitchen supply street), shopping
Optional visit to Tokyo National Museum
Dinner with Marlboro Alum
Day 13: Flight home from Tokyo
Next Steps: If you have questions or would like to enroll, please contact Seth Harter, firstname.lastname@example.org, (802) 490-4285