Crossing Uneven Ground

The D. T. Suzuki Museum

Hidden Treasure in Japan –

D. T. Suzuki Museum building and reflecting pool.

Understated design, simple lines and balance contribute to the architectural appeal of the D. T. Suzuki Museum.

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.

Joanne and I explored the buildings and gardens, often by just sitting in the inviting spaces, watching as light and shadows drifted across the reflecting pool.

Joanne contemplating as light and shadows drift across the water mirror garden.


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.”

Museum sign

The graphic artist who created the logo for the museum said the design represented the mind of Suzuki.


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.”


Reflecting Pool

Every couple of minutes ripples are generated in the water mirror garden and they slowly expand across the water at the D. T. Suzuki Museum.


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.

Yoshio Taniguchi

Chance encounter. Joanne met and spoke with Yoshio Taniguchi, the museum’s architect.


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”.

Reflecting pool

The water mirror garden.


The interior corridor leads to a portrait of D. T. Suzuki.

meditation room

Contemplative space.

exterior of meditation room

Contemplative space and water mirror garden.

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.

12 thoughts on “The D. T. Suzuki Museum

  1. Katie

    Tom, this is lovely, and very much in keeping with the spirit of Zen philosophy. My thanks to you and Joanne for taking us along on your travels!

  2. Joy

    Dear Joanne and Tom,

    Your email gave me goosebumps! Your serendipitous meeting with the architect! I want to follow Taniguchi now to track down his other museums. Amazing that you already knew the work of a Suzuki disciple. I’ll find Alan Watts Wisdom of Insecurity. And your sensitive black and white photos. Just perfect. So glad you were rewarded after the struggle to reach the museum. It does take some walking to find it, doesn’t it?!

    1. Tom Post author

      Hi Joy, Thanks so much for reading and commenting! You bet that Joanne was completely thrilled to chat with Yoshio Taniguchi. Also, thank you for telling us about the D. T. Suzuki Museum. Now we want to go back to Japan and check out some of his other designs. We did get just a bit lost walking to the museum from the 21st Century Museum of Modern Art. We sat down at a Lawson’s and shared an egg salad sandwich (BTW totally delicious) while we reconnoitered. It was actually closer than we thought and well worth the journey. Thanks again! Tom

  3. Sydney Greenblatt

    Dear Joanne and Tom,
    Many thanks for sharing your wonderful photos with us. Your precise eye for finding beauty as you look through the lens are a great reward! This museum is lovely and what a treat to have the chance meeting with Yoshio Taniguchi, I recently sent you and Joanne a note and wanted to reiterate how much joy your wonderful photography brought to both me and Ward.


    1. Tom Post author

      Thanks for the kind comments Sydney. Traveling, creating blogs and pictures is a total joy for us and we appreciate your response to our work. Ward always understood the creative process and encouraged my photographic journey. I think of him often.
      Tom recently posted…The D. T. Suzuki MuseumMy Profile

  4. Toshio Asai

    I should have taken you to sagawa Museum. It has similar water effect. We’d like to go Zen museum next time we visit Kanazawa.

    1. Tom Post author

      Joanne and I have you to thank for showing us so many of the treasures of Kyoto. We will always be grateful. The D. T. Suzuki Museum is really cool though and I think you guys will enjoy your time there.
      Tom recently posted…The D. T. Suzuki MuseumMy Profile

  5. Kris

    Tom, this is just wonderful! Looking at the photos and reading about your experience gave me the sense of being there. What more could one want? This is such well-done blog.
    I also learned a few things, which is always a good outcome.
    Thank you.
    PS: Have not forgotten that I owe you a commentary.

    1. Tom Post author

      Thanks Kris, I really appreciate your interest in my blog. I don’t recall if you guys have been to Japan but I think you and Ed would like it. It is has its own distinct flavor unlike any other country in Asia. Whenever you would like to do a guest blog I’d love to put it on the site. Cheers!

  6. Barbara Magister

    Outstanding, as always, Tom. Thank you for your thoughtful commentary and equally thoughtful photos.

  7. Bonnie Drucker

    We were at the DT Suzuki Museum last April. I found it to be the most extraordinary place to visit, to sit, to meditate. I recommend a visit to Kanazawa for this place.

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