The 2014 Environmental Spirituality in Japan Program runs for two weeks during the January semester. Tentative dates for 2014 are January 1-21 (including air travel), preceded by a week of preparatory readings and on-line discussion before flying to Wakayama City. The program centers on the religious and environmental significance, both contemporary and historical, of the 1000 year old Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route in the Kii Mountains of Wakayama Prefecture. A World Heritage Site, the trail is cared for by the Japanese and Prefecture governments, as well as by the many villages and small towns through which the pilgrims walk. Shingon Buddhism, the religious view developed by Kukai, advocates that the world—both in its sentient and insentient forms—is the expression of divine Buddha mind. The Shingon tradition, a Japanese form of esoteric Buddhism, continues to exist in close alliance with Shinto traditions predating Buddhism’s introduction into Japan.
CLASS: Students receive four credits for ENVR 495 Environmental Field Studies or HONR 311: Interdisciplinary Seminar. Coursework includes preparatory readings and on-line discussions before travel, a day-long orientation workshop upon arrival in Japan, visits to appropriate museums and historical sites in Wakayama City, five days of hiking on the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route and visits to sites with religious, environmental and historical significance in the Kii mountains and on the Pacific coast of the Kii Peninsula. Students write daily in a personal pilgrimage journal reflecting upon questions raised by readings, conversations, walking and visitations. This journal is due in its final form a week after the students’ return from the trip. Dr. Kumi Kato, a professor of Environmental Studies at Wakayama University serves as the instructor for this course, which also is mentored by Dr. James Hatley of Salisbury University.
EXCURSIONS: During their time in Wakayama City, students will visit Wakayama Castle, the Wakayama Museum of Modern Art and the Wakayama Prefecture Museum. For five days students will walk the Kumano Kodo trail with Dr. Hatley, along with Dr. Kato and several of her Japanese students who are competent in English, in order to learn first hand (or first foot!) the significance of pilgrimage for the Buddhist and Shinto traditions. Hundreds of temples and shrines are located along the pilgrimage route, which crosses a rural landscape of waterfalls, cedar forests, mountain ridges, vegetable farms, orange groves, tea fields, and clear rivers winding through narrow valleys. The pilgrimage route ends at three sacred shrines: Hongu, Hayatama and Nachi. The class will also visit Koyasan, a legendary peak on which the monk Kukai founded one of the first Buddhist monasteries in Japan in the 800s. Students will be overnight guests at a Buddhist temple there and participate in the morning meditation ritual. The class will also spend several days at a mountain village planning and executing environmental art works. This project will be accomplished in collaboration with Australian students from the New South Wales College of Fine Arts. Near the end of the course, students will spend one day at Wakayama University sharing their experiences on the pilgrimage trail with Japanese students. A visit to Taiji, a traditional whaling center and home of the Taijii Whale Museum, is also being contemplated.
HOUSING: On the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route, students will stay overnight in a series of small inns open to walkers of the pilgrimage trail. These inns offer traditional meals and baths, in one case fed by a hot spring. At Koyasan, students will stay overnight in a Buddhist temple. During their time off the trail, students will be lodged in a hotel in Wakayama City. Each student has also been invited by the Prefecture of Wakayama into a Japanese home for an overnight stay.
COST: Estimated costs for the 2014 Environmental Spirituality Program are $4500. A final cost will be determined in fall 2013. The price will include all tuition, round-trip airfare, housing, in-country travel, admission tickets and meals for planned excursions and days spent hiking. Not included: meals while in Wakayama City, or at Wakayama University.
Admission is competitive and enrollment is limited. Students will be admitted on a rolling basis until the program is full. Admission is determined by GPA, essay, and recommendation and applications will only be considered when all components are received.
The application deadline is October 1, 2013.
Students should also submit the following directly to the program director: