Hidden Treasure in Japan –
Joanne and I are often asked about our best travel experiences in Japan. The D. T. Suzuki Museum in Kanazawa is right up there on our list. It is a small, out-of-the-way place that you don’t hear much about and is a little difficult to find but when you do, you’ve found a gem or maybe more of a poem. A poem that you can walk into, explore and touch. It is a place to search for Zen, if you’re of a mind. It is definitely a place to appreciate an architectural work of art.
D. T. Suzuki is the Japanese philosopher who is credited for bringing Zen to the West. He brought it to me via the writings of one of his disciples, Zen philosopher Alan Watts. Among the works of Watts is the Wisdom of Insecurity. (I was attracted by the title.) I found in Watts and Suzuki ideas different from Western concepts promulgating right and wrong, black and white, win or lose. Especially attractive to me were Buddhist concepts relating to nature. Buddhism does not see humans as masters of nature, as in Western philosophy, but as humble parts of nature. I hope my photography reflects a little bit of D. T. Suzuki.
Words by D.T. Suzuki
“That is why I love philosophy: No one wins.”
Zen abides. Photographers talk about “capturing” an image but I’ve found that “letting go” is just as important. You have to let go of your ego. That release of “self” … that’s a bit of Zen. Buddhist philosophy often refers to creativity and how it comes from letting go of mundane attachments. The Zen idea of living in the now, letting go of concerns for past and future, contributes to the awareness that is necessary for me to create an image. I find that it is beneficial to drop my preconceived notions about a subject. Perhaps then I can approach and photograph it from a fresh creative point of view.
Words by D.T. Suzuki
“Unless we die to ourselves, we can never be alive again.”
Japan can be a hectic place for a traveler, but lots of times after you’ve been plowing through noise and crowds you turn a corner and a garden or shrine appears; a little calm oasis. That’s how I felt about the D. T. Suzuki Museum. It is a stress free zone. The architecture brilliantly contributes to the experience. Joanne and I found ourselves walking through the museum, often stopping to appreciate just how superbly designed it was. We actually orbited the reflecting pool several times, not wanting to leave. At one point I was meditating in one of the contemplative spaces when Joanne came in and excitedly said she just met the architect. He is Yoshio Tanigushi and his accomplishments include the design of many museums around Japan and the redesign of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). He is from Kanazawa and told Joanne that he likes to stop by and see how people are interacting with his design.
Joanne learned about the D. T. Suzuki Museum from a fellow Japan traveler from Australia. (Thanks Joy!) Some of our most rewarding travel experiences have resulted from trading stories with the people we meet on the road.
As we wandered through the museum there are pamphlets available that help you discover Suzuki’s philosophy. One of these really resonated with me. It is about experiencing life and I thought it was pretty relevant to travelers. I interpreted it as encouragement to keep exploring, keep traveling and “tasting” the world.
Words by D.T. Suzuki
“Taste” is an experience: by tasting something you know whether it is sweet or bitter or salty. You know by yourself whether something is cold or warm. Those who live only on the level of words and letters, for whom all things are conceptual, do not really taste”.
Hints for visiting Kanazawa.
You can catch a bullet train from Tokyo and be in Kanazawa in about three hours.
Go the the tourist information office at the train station and fill up on maps and information.
At the bus station (right outside the train station) you can buy an all day Kanazawa bus loop pass. For 200 yen ($2) you can ride this bus around town and hop on and off to visit the sights.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn ANA Kawazana Sky. I’d give it a qualified good review. The location is excellent, right across from the fish market, 10 minute walk to the train station and on the bus loop. The bathroom is small and you have to take a very big step up to get into it. We had a couple of technical issues including a broken toilet and fussy TV, but the staff was very helpful.