The Value of Traditional Art

Do you value the significance of ancient wisdom?

In this video, Yujiro Seki highlights the growing dependence on social media in today's digital age, overshadowing the significance of traditions and customs that have shaped our existence.

Respecting the wisdom of our ancestors

Nick: I learned so much from your movie. And something I sense from you, and I'd like to quote you from one of your YouTube videos, because I think there's this important message you have about craftsmanship in general, and about Japanese culture in general. And so you say:

We are living in an age that completely dismisses the value of traditional art, the art of ancient wisdom. We are in a culture that disrespects the wisdom of our ancestors. We embrace anything new but disregard the old as superstitions of the past.’

And that really spoke to me when you said that on one of your YouTube videos. So Japan does seem to be losing its traditions and cultural customs to technology and globalization. I sense this really frustrates you?

Yujiro: Well, again, technology makes things easier for us, I recognize that. And because of the technology and medicine, people in some way, have a better life. But at the same time, we are overconfident about this whole thing that we disregard anything that's not scientifically proven.

If you cannot see it, hear it, smell it; if you cannot prove the existence of it, you automatically think this is a bogus.

Nick: Mumbo jumbo.

Yujiro: Yes, mumbo jumbo. Some people might say, those statues are superstitions from the past. And maybe they are, maybe they're not. But what they don't understand is those statues are guidance for us to live in a way that we can have a more grounded life.

So what happens is like, if you disregard all the spirituality, all the things that we cherish — our ancestors cherish, what happens is, how can we grant ourselves the material thing themselves? Yeah, they will make you feel better: there's a food, and there's a house, and you drive a fancy looking car. Yeah, it's cool and everything.

But beyond that, what's there? What's gonna happen when you die? Have you asked that question before? I'm not talking about you, but people in general. Like, we pretend as if we're going to live forever. And once we get ill and face the fact that we are going to die, we are not ready. That's one of the aspects of it, we can go into more detail. Like, some people might say, this guy is so crazy. So I will just…

Nick: I don't think so. I think my audience enjoys these conversations, and I guess busshi and butsuzo connect us to the spiritual world. And much of Japanese culture also connects to, I guess, Shintoism connects very much to the natural world. And we are living in an artificial world now.

But you do say that this art puts people directly face to face with certain questions like, why are we born? Why do we suffer? Why do we die? And so on. So do you think people ask themselves these questions? Or have we become, it sounds like we’ve become lost to technology and entertainment, and we don't think deeply about our existence anymore?

Yujiro: Well, of course, some people do. And some people don't. I think some people are so entertained by the fact that we have a lot of things that we can enjoy. So this whole social media world that I'm a part of, which, frankly, I don't like it.

But this is one of the best ways to get your point, get your message out to the world. So it's a double-edged sword, right? If this was not for carving the divine, the film, I would have probably never done social media, I probably would have had like Facebook or something, and just post few pictures, and that's it.

But what I see is like, when you are young and beautiful, that's being cherished. Wow. You know, people admire handsome guy and a beautiful, sexy woman. But those people, they won’t stay like that forever. 30 years, 40 years, 50 years, 60 years, they get older, and they look back in the past, well, in the past, a lot of people pay attention to me and they love me so much.

But now, nobody pays attention to me. That's a suffering. So many different things that we don't pay attention to, or we try to avoid talking about it. Actually, the important issue, you know, one of my best friends had a cancer, and he suffered from it for three years, and finally passed away last year.

And he must have gone through such a difficult time. He was always facing the fact that he might die in any moment, and he was writing his will. I don't know if he ever finished his will or not. But he's always constantly faced with the fact that he will die.

So that's the suffering. We could lose our legs any moment, getting into a car accident. We could go blind, and not gonna be able to see anymore. So people have a tendency to focus on what's beautiful, what's exciting in life, through the window of social media, and other medium, and we have a culture of admiring celebrities, while dismisses people who do the job that they don't respect.

But we all are human beings, and we all suffer, and we always try to find happiness in life. And in a simple way, those statues can be a guidance for our life. So that's one of the reasons those statues are very important.

And those statues are there in Japan for 1400 years, because they try to answer these eternal questions, I think, why we are born, why we suffer when we die, how can we overcome the suffering of life? And for somebody to tell me that's useless and a garbage. Well, let's see, when you truly suffer, what kind of option you have.