Japan

Ondrej:

First I came to Japan in summer 2008 as a student of art and science. It was for six weeks long workshop of a dancer and farmer Min Tanaka.

I knew about him for long time before despite I was not very conscious about it. Before going to university I saw a TV documentary where a group of young people was seeding rice in a beautiful terrace fields of Japanese mountains and where a strange old man in a funny coat was moving weirdly among trees and bamboos in a forest. That documentary caught my attention and I recorded one sentence from there into my diary: “Min Tanaka, artist whose audience is nature.” Then I forgot about it and the life went on.

After some years, suddenly, I had a dream which left such a strong impression in my mind that I also wrote a note about it in my diary. In that dream an old and strict Asian man was teaching me dance.

Later when I entered the art academy, often, whenever there was and opportunity to improvise during dance classes, my teacher, watching me moving, kept saying a word “Butoh. I didn’t know anything about that “style” so I started to search something about it and soon I took a workshop of a Japanese Butoh dancer in Prague.

From Butoh then there was not a long way to Min Tanaka anymore. I applied for participation in his workshop, got some money from various institutions supporting young artists and went to Japan.

The workshop partly consisted of farm work in fields located by the foothills of Japanese Alps and partly of exploration of ones own identity and origins of life and dance through body and mind training. All the workshop was intense and unique time in my life and the knowledge and experiences I gained have shaped and, actually, keep shaping my mind and body deeply till today. I pray to never loose a respect and gratitude for such an opportunity that was given to me and whichhas started an important self-transformation process of mine.

After the workshop of 2008 I wandered in the mountains of Joshino-Kumano where I followed the tracks of Buddhist ascetic sect Shugendo. I was strongly attracted by that sect as they seemed to me as a meaningful combination of Buddhism and Japanese Shinto religion. To their sacred trails no woman is allowed and their practices consist of things like meditating in cold water of mountain’s waterfalls and rivers, long fasting, long runs on the top of the mountains, and praying while hanging on a rope from high cliff. I partly tasted all of that and I have to say that when I got down from the mountains and found first civilized toilet I hardly recognized myself in the mirror…

Then I travelled, walking and hitch-hiking, through middle Honshu, visiting Japanese religious centerslike Kyoto, Nara, Ise and others. I was further studying about Japanese culture and experiencing the strong energy remaining in some of its shrines and temples.

Then I went back to the farm of Min Tanaka, kept helping local farmers with their work and visiting daily one old priest in a nearby Buddhist temple from whom I studied some basics of Zen meditation.

Second time I came to Japan in summer 2009 for Min Tanakas workshop again. This time it was much more personal and I learned how to bring certain practices and knowledge closer and deeper into my everyday life. Those days I was leaving Min Tanaka’s farm with the satisfaction that I have passed certain exams of life crucial for my future steps and studies.

After the workshop I travelled to the subtropical Island of Yakushima in south Japan where the oldest Japanese trees are growing. It is said that some of these trees are older than three or four thousands years or even more…

Yakushima is a place with one of the highest biodiversity in Japan and it seems to be one of the remnants of living paradises on the planet. The power of the old trees is spreading through all the island. The air is thick but fresh, the see is soft and clear and the mountains marvelous. It is an island where one can see a herd of deers grazing calmly under banyan trees just couple of meters from people while some monkeys browse their hairs and play with their feet…

I stayed in Yakushimas forests and shores for couple of weeks enjoying all of these things while tracking, swimming, meditating and eating tropical fruits that I have never seen in my life before. Then I travelled a bit more in Kyushu and Honshu islands.

Third time, in 2010, I went to Japan to visit my girlfriend Fukiko and we travelled together across the country. We climbed the South Alps and hitch-hiked to Amami and Kakeroma islands in the south of Japan. It is said, according to a legend, that behind these islands the underwater palace of a sea god is placed. I wanted to experience one of these “Olymps” of Japan so we went through half of Japan to meet it. And it was worth of such a long trip. We experienced waters and see clear as crystal and we camped undisturbed in the calmest and most beautiful lagoons forgotten by civilization…

Fourth time I came to Japan from Serbia in 2013 together with Fukiko (that time already my wife) with the aim to search for a good place for birth of our first child. And apart from that we wanted to farm and put in practice some knowledge we got from previous travel concerning the self-sufficient way of living. We settled in Nagano in a little village by the foothills of Japanese Middle Alps and we lived in a wooden cottage by an old shrine forest. There we stayed for almost a year, working on borrowed fields and practicing our art. And there it was where Fukiko gave a birth to our daughter Anna inside an outdoor bath without a help of professionals.

 

 

 

spring at temple, pregnancy at the top pf Japanese Alps Yakusugi mt. Fuji Kyoto Sakura