When traveling in the West and asked about their religion,
Japanese often reply that they have no religion. They simply
lack any conceptualization on this subject. This fact exposes
the salient fact that in Japan daily life itself is religion.
From Daisetsu Suzuki
Toyo shiso no tokushusei
(“Characteristics of Oriental Thought”)
lecture given in August, 1959
In generalizing about differences between East and West, Daisetsu
Suzuki pointed out that in the West observation attempts to be
objective and is built on logicality and intellectual process,
while in the East the focus is on the thing itself, on the observer
becoming the thing itself without barriers.For example, in the
Japanese tea ceremony, the entire experience is a focus and a
unity. Proceeding down a passage then ducking into the tea room
through the low and narrow doorway ( nijiri-guchi) acts to sever
relations with the everyday world. In the confines of the little
tea room, directing attention to the flower arrangement and hanging
scroll painting or calligraphy are preliminaries to drinking
a bowl of tea. This entire process creates an experience beyond
time and space; through the prosaic act of drinking tea, a transcendent
Way is opened.
Japan historically has given precedence to the aest
hetic experience of becoming one with something
---of penetrating its “thusness”--not just appreciating or observing
from outside. Religion, philosophy, and art spring from daily
life, transcend the mundane, then return to the everyday world
“to the Living Room”is and exhibition that is not just to be
observed, that is not just for simple enjoyment. The process
of daily life are experienced, and participants can become one
with the works as well as enjoy this act of letting go. The process
begins with the visit to the “living rooms”of six artists.
The passing of Emperor Hirohito is seen as a dissolution of a
Japanese symbol. The sarin gas attack on theTokyo subway by the
Om Shinrikyobecomes a threat to the sense ofsecurity in Japan;
the Hanshin (Kobe) earthquake has become a symbol of distrust
in the permanence of material society; and the puncturing of
the bubble economy has resulted in a distrust in the economy
itself. In the context of such circumstances and events, the
artists show us small actions of daily life and their possibilities,
while we tend to think your society remains static and dull.
Changes in the individual’s sense of value or attitude may lead
to gradual changes in society itself.
The world will be organized more rationally into modern categories.
Such a process involves the repression of our uniqueness, our
original life emotion. This estrangement is sure to intensify
deeply as a kind of internal solitude. The nucleus of original
life. Though thought to be abandoned and forgotten, still exists
in the depths of our psyche. We are linked to it by bonds of
pure magic. On occasions when it opens, such as with artistic
expression for example, we unexpectedly feel an inexpressible
kinship with it. This is what sustains us.
From Taro Okamoto
Wasurerareta Nihon “forgotton Japan”, 1961