Special Talk by Taisuke Karasawa – After the Screening of Tower of the Sun [Text Archive]

Co-organised event by Futakawa Cho Gakkou x Kinan Art Week

This is a text archive of the special talk show “After the screening of the Tower of the Sun-” held on October 14, 2022 (Friday) during the Mikan Mandala Exhibition.

Date and time Friday: 14 October
Venue: tanabe en+.
Capacity: 25

Guest speaker: Taisuke Karasawa
Associate professor at the Department of Arts & Roots in the Faculty of Fine Arts and the Graduate School of Transdisciplinry Arts at Akita University of Art. Specialising in philosophy and cultural anthropology, he continues to explore the fundamental ‘way of being’ of peoples, religions and cultures through the thought of Kumagusu Minakata.

Panellist: Masatomo Fukushima
Moved to Tanabe, Wakayama  in 2007. A contemporary artist who lives close to nature and expresses the mysteries of the universe and life through ‘sound’. For Kinan Art Week 2021, he was in charge of the music for Kohei Maeda’s ‘Breathing’, creating and providing music that skilfully incorporates the natural sound world of Kumano.


Tomomi Kuratani
While working as a primary school teacher, she had  a hula dance team, is actively involved in environmental conservation activities and the independent screening activity Futakawa Cho Gakkou, and is working to create an alternative school in Kinan. When she was a primary school student, she saw the brain of Kumagusu Minakata, and since then she has been a Kumagusu fan to the extent that she has thought, “I want to die as Kumagusu’s brain.” 

Yuiko Kawasaki
Moved to Tanabe , Wakayama , eight years ago from Chiba Prefecture.  She grew rice in terraced rice paddies and opened an omusubi (rice ball) shop. A few years ago, she took over a mikan farm and grows rice and mikan without fertilisers or pesticides. While living close to nature, she became aware of the importance of the movement of the sun and the calendar, and organised  her own ‘Calendar Storytelling Meetings’.

Moderator: Yuto Yabumoto (Chairperson of the Kinan Art Week Executive Committee)

Special Talk by Taisuke Karasawa -After the Screening of Tower of the Sun

Table of Contents

2. ‘Festival’ by Taro Okamoto and ‘Play’ by Kumagusu Minakata
3.  Flexibility and Mutual Dependence
4.  Dialogue with the Panellists
5.  Of the Relationship, and Beyond
6.   End


Now, I would like to start, so could you all please come forward? This is a special talk after the screening, a related event of the Mikan Mandala Exhibition, where we see the universe in mikan. I hope to hear about Kumagusu Minakata and slime mould while overlapping the Sanskrit word orangi (meaning inner fragrance) and mandala (meaning round), which is the origin of the word orange, .

First, Professor Karasawa, who studies Kumagusu Minakata, will talk about the Tower of the Sun, followed by talks from our guests from Futakawa Cho Gakkou and the exhibiting artist, Mr Fukushima. Thank you very much for your cooperation.

Reference: Kinan Art Week 2022 ‘Mikan Mandala’.

Sidenote: Masatomo Fukushima exhibited a work entitled ‘Sound Torus of Mikan and People’.
(The work is introduced in the following interview scene with Mr Fukushima).

Good evening. I look forward to working with you.

The film Tower of the Sun was released in autumn 2018. My interview part was filmed in spring 2018. That was about four years ago now. The social situation and the state of the world has changed a lot between then and now, with the  Coronavirus and the war. But that’s why I think the film can be seen in a new light again.

Reference: ‘Tower of the Sun’ official twitter.

2. ‘Festival’ by Taro Okamoto and ‘Play’ by Kumagusu Minakata

Just seeing this film is like reading three books, what can I say… you have a refreshing head fatigue . Some time has passed since the time when I was interviewed by the director, Kosai Sekine, and I’ve been thinking and thinking again, so I’d like to talk briefly about that.

(The following slide images were provided by Prof. Karasawa)

Taro Okamoto stated this when he created the Tower of the Sun.

The “Tower of the Sun” in the centre of the themed space is intended to be more like a statue of a god that calls out to the source and coagulates the mysteries of life, rather than a stylish or pretentious look. It is placed solidly at the heart of the festival. I want to express my fullness as myself, not as a reaction, but an action, and an open-heartedness, and respond to the entire breadth of the world . (Taro Okamoto, Geijutsu Shincho, 1968; Akiomi Hirano’ Taro Okamoto and the Tower of the Sun’, 2018, Shogakukan, p.15)

It’s a great thing, isn’t it? He wants to create something that calls out to the roots, and at the same time, he wants the tower itself to be full of presence. And he wants to create a ‘greatness’ so that the presence of the Tower of the Sun itself becomes an active action, rather than a passive reaction.

Taro Okamoto also often refers to the Tower of the Sun as ‘bellabo stuff’. It is, quite simply, something that surpasses our ‘normal’ imagination. The Tower of the Sun is a conglomeration of life energy that has finally exploded.

Then they launch it into a ‘祭り(festival)’. It is important to note that it is not a so-called ‘お祭り(festival)’. It is not just a glamorous gathering of people, but has a more religious, vital and extremely sacred meaning. It is precisely in such ‘festivals’ that human beings transcend the vulgar framework of everyday life and connect with the macrocosm, isn’t it?

I believe that Taro Okamoto wanted to encourage an experience in which we are confronted with the Tower of the Sun that removes, or forces us to remove, the frame of being human.

Kumagusu Minakata, who was born here in Wakayama, said that by looking at slime fungi through a microscope, one can sense the macrocosm. In other words, the perspective of sensing the whole (macrocosm) in the individual is very important as something shared by Taro and Kumagusu.

And this is the root of a ‘祭り’. It is not a ‘お祭り’. This also goes for the matter of ‘遊び’ and ‘お遊び’. Taro Okamoto often uses the word ‘遊び’, and in fact Kumagusu also often talks about ‘遊び’ and ‘遊ぶ’. For Kumagusu, ‘遊び’ meant collecting plants and finding slime fungi. He never refers to it as ‘お遊び’. For Kumagusu, it was an earnest act that put his own life on the line. That is why, beyond that, there is an intense, life-shaking god experience. Heidegger would call it ‘Ereignis’.

Note: Ereignis… a concept explored by the philosopher Martin Heidegger. Heidegger spent his entire life studying ‘being’. What he refers to as Ereignis is the experience of being that the existent slips out of the giving. He also called it the correspondence relation between being and present existence.

3.  Flexibility and Mutual Dependence

I would like to add a few words about the term “flexibility” (融通無礙) in the film.

融通無礙 basically means that different things can permeate each other without hindrance. However, we must note that they are not joined together in a compliant or compromising way.

To begin with, Taro Okamoto was a man who rebelled against mere synchronisation and homogenisation. He placed great importance on the dazzling exchange of energy that occurs when different things occupy the same space. His oppositionism is probably about the same thing.

The slime fungus, the creature Kumagusu continued to study, also seems to encompass, in a sense, the oppositionism of animals and plants, life and death. In other words, slime mould is a creature that constantly emits fertile energy through the interaction of different things. And in order to find this exchange(communion) of energy, we need to have a spirit of bold confrontation.

I think the most important thing is not just to try to beat the opponent, but to try to feel the energy that arises in the moment. The sociologist Kazuko Tsurumi also commented on Kumagusu, saying that he had a spirit that was not afraid of confrontation. In a true confrontation, here and there, dark and light, human and non-human, seemingly different things intersect at a dizzying pace. When we are able to put ourselves there, we are astonished and have an experience like being struck by lightning.

Reference:flexibility(融通無礙)… to be free from stagnation or obstruction. In other words, to be free and spontaneous in one’s thinking and behaviour, unrestrained by anything.

Reference: column ‘Photographer Taro Okamoto, the eye of oppositionism’ by Kotaro Iizawa (photography critic).

‘oppositionism’ as advocated by Taro Okamoto…Taro Okamoto advocated from around 1947 that the two opposing elements should coexist as they are.

Reference: Kazuko Tsurumi.

Her books include Kumagusu Minakata: Earth-oriented Comparative Studies, a sociologist who studied a Kumagusu Minakata and Kunio Yanagida and established her own field of comparative sociology, incorporating folklore into her work.

Heterogeneous coexistence, which is based on the dynamic entanglement and overlapping of different things. Capturing the way in which different things intertwine and generate each other, rather than a community composed solely of the same species. This kind of thinking is very important in anthropology and also in art. This is the concept of ‘co-differentiation’ as described by Toshiaki Ishikura.

It is the relationship itself between different species that should be taken into account. It should not be stable or independent, but dynamic and constantly changing. This is called “mutual dependence’ (相依相待) . We are more than each other, but it is not a compliant or compromising dependence. It means constantly holding on to the feeling that you need the other person in order to be there, and that you need the other person in order to be there. I think the dynamism that is created at that time is very beautiful. Overwhelmingly beautiful. 

Reference: from the official Kouseiji Temple blog.

mutual dependence(相依相待):  Buddhist terminology. The principle of mutual dependence and mutual existence as mutual cause and effect.

One last thing I would like to say about time. In one of the columns written by Mr Yabumoto, he mentioned that the original name for mikan was “tachibana”. And another name for the tachibana is “tokijiku-no-kaku-no-konomi” (非時香菓).

It is not yet that time.  What we can see from these words is that, in essence, mikan and tachibana have transcended the idea of time. They can be considered to be so transcendent that they cannot be captured by the normal human scale sense of time. People in the past were sensitive to this fact when they saw this fruit. I feel that this perspective may have something to do with the Tower of the Sun or Taro Okamoto’s or Kumagusu Minakata’s view of time. They both think about time in ways that do not fit into the human scale. The global scale or the planetary scale? Both Taro and Kumagusu are thinking back to proto-life, which is immeasurable in the human view of time. This stance of going beyond the human frame. This is interesting. This is a long story, but that’s all I have to say.

4.  Dialogue with the Panellists

Thank you very much, Dr Karasawa. I would now like to ask the fascinating panellists to throw some questions. First of all, please start with Mr Fukushima. I would be happy if you could throw a discussion to Dr Karasawa.

I came to know Kumagusu Minakata after moving to Nakahechi 15 years ago, and the more I learn about him, the more I feel that he is a representative of Kumano. I would like to ask you why you started to study Kumagusu in the first place.

Yes, thank you. My inspiration was the Minakata Mandala. I read a book by Kazuko Tsurumi, Kumagusu Minakata: A Comparative Study of Earth Thoughts, and was struck by the Minakata Mandala. However, the more I looked into it, the more and more things came up that I didn’t understand, and there are still many things I don’t understand. The Minakata Mandala is the core of Kumagusu’s thought. The thoughts of Kumagusu’s genius brain are expressed in it. The intricate lines and curves of the Minakata Mandala itself remind me of Kumagusu’s brain or neurons.

 Exhibit: courtesy of the Kinan Art Week Organising Committee.

Mr Fukushima also exhibited a work called “Sound Torus of Mikan and People” . Like Kumagusu, I felt that you were exploring the relationship between humans and plants. What do you think about that?

Right. In today’s modern society, people are dominant and at the centre of society… The comments from visitors to the exhibition made me realise that there is a bit of a superior perspective when it comes to how I deal with plants. On the contrary, I realised that.

Since I moved here, I have been doing all my farm work by hand, without much machinery. That way, the sense of a parallel relationship between humans and plants has become very natural to me.

Essentially, humans and plants should have a parallel or symmetric  relationship, as Mr Fukushima says. However, many of us who live in so-called cities often think that there is a big, thick wall between the two. No, we have forgotten that in itself. However, I felt that Mr Fukushima expressed the inherent symmetry and permeability of the two in a very unique way in this work.

Thank you very much. After listening to Dr Karasawa, I thought that if the Tower of the Sun is an offering of the sun, then mikans are also an offering of the sun, but I would be grateful if Ms Kawasaki, who is studying the calendar, could comment on this.

When I talk about humans and plants, I often talk about the sun and the calendar. Our lives are influenced by the sun, and plants are the ones that balance the sun’s influence on our lives. When it is hot, we get crops that can cool us down, and when it is cold, we get crops that can warm us up. So I feel that plants change their forms in various ways, and what our bodies cannot change, they compensate for by ‘eating’.

There is an interesting thing about mikan. Mikans are produced between the autumn and spring equinoxes, with a lot of mikans being produced after the autumnal equinox, and a big variety of mikans being produced after the coldest time of the year, the winter solstice. I guess you could say that mikans are a symbol of the sun… I feel that the cold of the winter solstice gives us the power of the sun. Also, when the days lengthen from spring to summer, the flowers bloom, and I think they are blessing the sun. I feel that I am feeling joy while growing mikans.

I see! Thank you very much. Next, how about Ms Kuratani, who is also a big fan of Kumagusu?

I first became interested in Kumagusu’s brain when I saw it and was simply amazed!  It struck me like a bolt of lightning, which was the beginning of my interest. When I saw it, I thought it was a mandala. I was in primary school at the time, so I didn’t even know what a mandala was… Kumagusu’s brain is of standard level weight, but I was incredibly intrigued by the depth of the grooves, and since then I have been wanting to die as Kumagusu’s brain. (Laughter)

Whenever I visit Nachi, my mother’s hometown, I have the feeling that Kumagusu is there and alive… When I learn that in Dr Karasawa’s books and films, Kumagusu sees even life and death as ambiguous, I feel that he might really be alive.

I am also interested in how Professor Karasawa conducts his Kumagusu research. I feel that there are aspects about Kumagusu that are difficult for ordinary people to understand, and I would like to ask you if you have any perspectives or viewpoints from which you conduct your research.

In my research on Kumagusu, I am careful to consciously tune myself to Kumagusu. As long as I am a “researcher”, it is important for me to detach myself from the subjectivity of the subject as much as possible, and to perceive it objectively and analytically. Of course this is very important, but on the other hand, it is not enough to ‘understand’ Kumagusu, but not to be ‘convinced’ of him. You will not be able to understand the core of Kumagusu as a human being. I think it is important to take everything he says seriously, including certain occult aspects. Not to doubt it out of hand. I try to accept what Kumagusu is saying first of all, and try to approach Kumagusu by attuning myself to his point of view.

5.  Of the Relationship, and Beyond.

Thank you very much. Does anyone else from the audience have any questions?

Participants at the venue:
I am the advisor of the photography club at my high school. I took a lot of photos today and came here afterwards. And the theme of today’s activity was ‘relationships’. I was surprised to see that the word ‘relationship’ also came up a lot in your talk. If the speakers were asked to take photos on the theme of ‘relationships’, what would you take? If you can think of anything, I would like to know.

Very, very good question.

 Exhibit: provided by the Kinan Art Week Organising Committee.

I also brought my camera today, so I actually took a lot of pictures. Among them, I think the one I took the most pictures of was probably this one. Be Takerng Pattanopas’s ‘within/without #3’. I think this is exactly where the ‘relationship’ is expressed. This work reminded me of Indaramo. This is a metaphor often used in Kegon thought to express the relationship between the whole and the individual, where the whole is not only within the whole, but also within the individual.

My speciality is philosophy, and I believe that the most important question in philosophy is ‘relationship’. It can be said that it is a constant questioning of the complex and bizarre nature of self and others, life and death, and so on. I felt these questions in this work, so I took a lot of photographs.

Reference: the nets that adorn the palace where Indara (Taishakuten) resides. Each of its innumerable knots has a pearl, and they are said to reflect each other, and the reflected pearls reflect each other again, thus comparing all beings in the world to each other, each being related to the other, yet existing without obstruction.

Thank you. How about you, Ms Kuratani?

Teacher, can I ask the students who are with you today what you actually took?

I’m a bit twisted, so I didn’t want to take photos of relationships… When it came to deciding what to film, I thought: Let’s take pictures of irrelevant things. But when I looked for irrelevant things around me, surprisingly there were none.

In the end, a lot of things are connected and eventually come to me… I thought that would not work, so I brought one of the boys and walked in the direction of one of the houses. I told him to act as if it was the boy’s house.

They made it look like they went to the child’s house to take pictures, but in fact they were completely unrelated. That’s the kind of pictures I took.

(The audience laughed and applauded.)

It’s fantastic. I would even like you to speak at the art university where I work.

Even when we think we are irrelevant, we are always already in a relationship. When you meet that boy and you, a relationship has already arisen, and when you find a stranger’s house, you and that house are already involved in a relationship. After all, nothing is unrelated to us, everything is all dependent on each other. That’s the ‘world’. That’s a great realisation. Thank you.

6.  End

Finally, could Dr Karasawa give some concluding remarks? Please.

Kumagusu believed that the distinction between life and death by humans was never absolute. This is clear from the slime fungus, and the distinction is not so easy to make. However, we simply distinguish between life and death, and even place an absolute value on life. And unconsciously. But essentially, it is because of death that we understand the brilliance of life, and it is because of life that we can fear death. Whether or not we can become aware of this relationship. And I think that what is then sensed is the ‘macrocosm’.

If, in humans, death occurs when the brain ceases to function, and death occurs when the heart stops beating, what about slime molds, which do not have them? Or mikans? In other words, different organisms have different reference points for distinguishing between life and death. However, many organisms decay in the life-death process. This phenomenon of decay is interesting. Rot mediates between life and death. Naturally, mikans fall to the ground and rot, bacteria eat them, gradually decompose them and they return to the soil. Then they reappear in a different form. Whether it is slime mould or mikans, the distinction between life and death differs between living organisms, and the ‘world’ is made up of such a variety of life and death intertwined. There exists a tremendously beautiful energy. We first of all need a shift in thinking that goes beyond the human scale and tries to grasp life and death in a different way. Experiences in art can be a great opportunity to do so.

Last but not least, I would like to add a few words about the mikan mandala. Mandalas by nature are essentially visual information oriented. The ‘ mikan mandala’, on the other hand, I found to be very olfactory. Of course, the other senses were also very much stimulated, but overall, the smell of mikan was impressive in all the venues. There was a fresh smell that permeated all the venues. The whole exhibition was a mellow, fragrant mandala.

Thank you! Thank you to everyone in the audience for staying with us for such a long time. Please also give a big round of applause to our panellists.