The Japanese Way of Becoming an Artist and its ‘Religious’ Connotations. A Case Study of Teshigawara Saburō
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In Japan it is often the case that the process of mastering a profession, especially in the field of traditional arts and crafts, proceeds through a close relationship with one’s master (sensei), who embodies an abstract ideal of a certain art, as well as concrete methods and rules indispensable to perform that art as a profession and to attain success in one’s career. A ‘proper’ relationship with one’s master and a given artistic milieu, hard work, effort and sacrifice certainly pay off. Nevertheless, some Japanese artists, regardless of the linguistic and cultural gaps, take the risk of deciding to pursue their professional career outside Japan. Based on an informal, semi-structured individual interview with the artist Teshigawara Saburō, this paper will examine a professional career of the dancer, who claims to have walked his artistic way (dō) alone, (in)dependently of the so-called community of Japanese artists. Analysing a traditional path to artistic success, which partly derives from the ethical and philosophical teachings of Confucius, I will discuss an alternative to the above-mentioned tradition. Namely, I shall argue that it is possible to become an established Japanese artist outside of the system, working as an outsider, an immigrant or an ‘other’.
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