July 5, 2016
by Karl Friday
The 14th-15th century Noh playwright Zeami Motokiyo famously wrote:
To watch the sun sink behind a flower clad hill.
To wander on in a huge forest without thought of return.
To stand upon the shore and gaze after a boat that disappears behind distant islands.
To contemplate the flight of wild geese seen and lost among the clouds.
And, subtle shadows of bamboo on bamboo.
While I’ve always appreciated the imagery in this passage—Zeami’s attempt to explain the aesthetic concept of yūgen, which is, by definition, beyond mere words—I gained a new appreciation for it during our rickshaw ride from Hokyoin to Togetsukyo bridge, and our subsequent stroll through the grounds of Tenryuji. I had visited Kyoto many times before, but somehow had never been to Tenryuji, which features perhaps the most stunning garden and some of the most impressive natural scenery in this ancient capital city. It was also the first time I had ever ridden in a rickshaw, which proved to be a lot of fun, in spite of the guilt (not to mention the ribbings from friends, after I posted the photos on Facebook) that went along with being pulled up and down all those hills by our diminutive female runner. It was a fantastic day, topped off by great soft ice cream and pickles on a stick among the shops out front of the temple, and then being whisked off to Osaka to board the Caledonian Sky for the next phase of this very memorable jaunt about western Japan. My thanks to the AIA staff, the boat crew, the tour guides, and the wonderful guests who made this trip a truly joyful experience! – Karl Friday, Professor of Premodern Japanese History, Saitama University, Japan
The AIA is sponsoring the Japan by Sea cruise again in April 2017. For further information, please contact the AIA Tours office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 748-6262.