Potash Hill

Alumni Get Crafty in Japan

The gatehouse to the Honen, a small temple just off the “Philosopher’s Path” in northeastern Kyoto, one of the many cultural sites to be enjoyed by alumni joining Seth Harter in Japan. Photo by Seth Harter  A small group of alumni was preparing to embark on a two-week trip to Japan in May, led by Asian studies and history professor Seth Harter, before their plans were foiled by the coronavirus outbreak in Asia. Now they are setting their sights on running the trip, titled The Enigmatic Beauty of Japanese Craft, in 2021. 

“Ever since the first round of Freeman Foundation– funded trips to Asia, I have been hearing from alumni wishing they could take part in such college-sponsored adventures,” says Seth. “Other colleges have been doing this for decades, but we will do it in a uniquely Marlboro way: relatively low budget, very small scale, personal encounters with brilliant, dedicated people,” says Seth. 

While traveling through the heart of central Japan, participants will explore the question: how can contemporary crafts navigate between the realms of industry and fine art? They will encounter 1,300- year-old wooden temples, austere Zen rock gardens, traditional ceramics, and flamboyant textiles, exploring from the cosmopolitan hubs of Kyoto and Tokyo to the grass-thatched huts of mountain villages. The itinerary is inspired by Seth’s 2017 trip to Japan with Salvatore Annunziato ’18 (see Potash Hill Fall 2018), and his more recent sabbatical there in spring 2018. 

“This trip will be an opportunity to build community, at a time when the community is feeling a bit besieged,” says Seth. “We have all been asking ourselves what parts of Marlboro will be able to endure the merger process. I think this is one thing that could flourish beyond next year, and I hope it can be reproduced by other people with other themes in other parts of the world.”