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Meaningful Life Autumn 2023: Field Trip to Sado

Updated: Mar 8

"Meaningful Life: Art, Digital, and Field-based Learning," or “Nanairo no Jinsei” in Japanese, is a new course in the Faculty of Liberal Arts supported by Sophia University's Education Innovation Program and designed by Prof. Takeshi Ito and Prof. John Williams. The first course was launched in the Autumn Semester of 2023 and included two field trips to Sado Island and Kameoka City.

The small fishing and farming village of Kitaushima (北鵜島, literally meaning “North Cormorant Island”) is nestled at the northern tip of Sado Island, off the coast of Niigata prefecture. Surrounded by the ocean and mountains, Kitaushima is home to a few dozen villagers and a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. It is also a site for embodied learning, experiencing new ways of being, and discovering a repository of local wisdom and cultural knowledge.

Our class spent three days in this village, from October 20-23 of last year. Each day, we spent time exploring the village and engaging with the villagers through activities such as making hoshi gaki (dried persimmons) together. We also learned about local traditions, including the Kuruma-taue (車田植) spiral rice planting ritual that has been handed down for nearly 1,000 years. Designated as an “Important Intangible Folk-Cultural Property,” the Kuruma-taue ceremony is held every year in June to pray to the god of the fields for a bountiful harvest in the fall.

In many of our conversations with the villagers, we heard about their hopes and concerns for the future of Sado as the population ages and a growing number of young people leave the island to live in urban areas. What will happen to villages like Kitaushima in the face of modernization and changing social, ecological, and economic dynamics? What would revitalization and sustainability mean for Kitaushima? As a class, we reflected on these questions, while being mindful of the need to move beyond mere market-based solutions or anthropocentric viewpoints and to also consider ecological perspectives.

During the trip, we had the privilege of being joined by artist Atsuko Nakamura, who taught us a form of Japanese dance called “Butoh” that allowed us to connect more deeply with ourselves and the environment. We each created our own “body drawings” based on what we observed, discovered, experienced, and felt during our time in Kitaushima. On the last day, we presented our Butoh performances on the stage of the seaside promenade while wearing face masks that we created using discarded materials we collected from the beach.

Student Artwork

An important theme of this course and field trip to Sado involved nurturing creativity and making “art from place” as a way of building more meaningful connections with ourselves, our communities, and the environment in which we are embedded. For our final class project, each student created artwork born out of their personal experiences and encounters in Kitaushima. The following booklet showcases students’ artwork and shares more about the class field trips to Sado and Kameoka.

View the PDF version here:

Nanairo Autumn 2023 Booklet
Download PDF • 104.01MB

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