Text Archive:Kinan Chemistry vol.3. Along the Road: Social and Cultural Change through Mobility (Part 1)

This is part 1 of the text archive for the online talk session “Kinan Chemistry vol.3” held on Aug. 28, 2021.

The theme of the session is the concept of a “road.” What kind of changes have been brought to society and culture by walking and moving along roads, including Kumano Kodo and other paths around the world. From the varied perspectives of a sociologist who has a deep knowledge of “street” related contemporary art and two Kumano Kodo guides, we dig deep into what a “road” means to us.

Click here for the video archive

Title: “Around the Road: Social and Cultural Change through Mobility 
Date and time: Saturday 28 August 2021, 19:00-20:30
Venue: Online (ZOOM webinar)
Participation: free of charge
Speakers:Yoshitaka Mouri (Professor, Tokyo University of the Arts / Sociologist)
     Megumi Ueno (illustrated map artist)
Konomi Sakamoto (Administrator of Kumano Log)
Moderator: Daisuke Miyazu (Artistic Director, Kinan Art Week)
General Moderator: Ryota Morishige (Regional Revitalisation Producer)

Around the Road: Social and Cultural Change through Mobility (Part 1)

Good evening, everyone.
I would like to begin the 3rd Kinan Chemistry Session. I am Ryota Morishige of Nanki Shirahama Airport, and I will be your host for today’s session. I would like to thank you all for your cooperation.

The Kinan Chemistry Session is an online talk session that invites various guests to discuss the culture, history and climate of Kinan freely leading up to Kinan Art Week 2021.

The third session, entitled ” Around the Road – Social and Cultural Changes Caused by Mobility”, will focus on the theme of “the road” itself, including the Kumano Kodo.

We are delighted to welcome three guests.

The first is Mr. Yoshitaka Mouri, a sociologist with a deep knowledge of contemporary art, the second is Ms. Megumi Ueno, an illustrated map artist who has traveled all over the world and is also a guide on the Kumano Kodo. The third is Ms. Konomi Sakamoto, who has travelled the various routes of the Kumano Kodo by hand, and has been promoting its charms. The moderator will be Mr. Daisuke Miyazu, Artistic Director of Kinan Art Week.

Here are some more profiles of our guests.

First of all, I’d like to introduce you to Professor Yoshitaka Mouri*, a sociologist specialising in media/cultural studies and professor* at the Department of Music Environment Creation, Faculty of Music,  and the Graduate School of Global Arts, Tokyo University of the Arts. He is a sociologist specialising in media and cultural studies, with a particular focus on contemporary art, music and media, the organisation of contemporary culture and urban space, and social movements. His publications include Banksy* and Street Philosophy *. Today, we would like to invite you to talk about “the street” from a professional and diverse angle.

※Reference: Yoshitaka Mouri (@mouri,Twitter)
※Reference Yoshitaka Mouri(Teacher Profiles, Tokyo University of the Arts,Faculty of Music, Department of Music Environment Creation
※Reference: Yoshitaka Mouri (researchmap)
※Reference Yoshitaka Mouri, “Banksy: Art Terrorist” (18 December 2019, Kobunsha Shinsho, Kobunsha)

Reference: Yoshitaka Mouri, Street Philosophy: The 1990s as a Turning Point (NHK Books No.1139, 30 July 2009, NHK Publishing)

The next speaker is Megumi Ueno*, an illustrated map artist. When she was a student, she cycled across Japan and walked in the Northern Alps. After graduating from university, she became interested in the ancient paths walked by people in ancient times, and left many footprints on ancient roads in Japan and abroad. Since then she has been working as a picture map artist*, illustrating fields in Japan and abroad, and currently lives in Tsu city, Mie Prefecture, with the Kii Peninsula as her main base of activity.

※Reference: Megumi Ueno (Facebook)
※Reference Megumi Ueno Kumano (@camino_de_kumano,Instagram)
※Reference Atelier Camino de Tierra (The Way of theEarth)
※Reference Atelier Chikyu no Michi (Facebook)
※Reference Atelier Chikyu no Michi (@atelier_chikyu_no_michi,Instagram)

Finally, there is Konomi Sakamoto*. She runs a blog site called “Kumano Log*” about Kumano Kodo. She has made it her life’s work to walk all kinds of ancient roads, including minor routes such as the road from Kyoto to Kumano and the Yodo River Road. We have heard that she met her  life partner through the Kumano Kodo.  She is currently preparing a new base, Gongen-do*, in Hongu town, Tanabe City, where she lives.

※Reference konomi@kumano.log (@kumano.log,Instagram)
※Reference Kumano Log|Kii Peninsula Pilgrimage Routes and Information Site for Walkers
※Reference Kumano Log|Life in the middle of Kii Peninsula (@kumanolog,Twitter)
※Reference Gongendo (Motomiya-cho, Tanabe CityFacebook)

I would like to start the talk session right away. I am very much looking forward to seeing what kind of chemical reactions we will have today. Thank you very much for your time, and please join us in welcoming our moderator, Mr. Miyazu.

【1】Introduction of the three of you

Thank you all very much for coming on Saturday evening. My name is Daisuke Miyazu, and I will be your moderator today. I look forward to working with you.

The title of today’s Kinan Chemistry Session is ” Around the Road – Social and Cultural Changes Generated by Migration”. We would like to invite you to a discussion on all kinds of “roads”, including land roads such as the Kumano Kodo and sea roads, and to discuss the society and culture related to roads from various angles.

First of all, I would like to ask each of you to introduce yourselves.

Meet Dr. Mouri

First of all, Professor Mouri would like to introduce himself.
Actually, I am slightly nervous today because Mr. Moori is also my teacher (laughs).

Professor Mouri is a rare professor at Tokyo University of the Arts, where he teaches both visual arts and music. Professor Moori’s research and critical work crosses various disciplines, including sociology, cultural anthropology, music and art. In addition to writing books such as Street Philosophy, he also translated the book Roots* by James Crifford*. The word ‘roots’ in the title means ‘pathways’.

※Reference James Crifford (Kotobank)
※Reference Roots:Travels and Translations in the Late 20th Century translated by James Crifford and Yoshitaka Mori March 2002 (Gekyosha)

Professor Moori, please introduce yourself.

Mr. Mouri:
I am Yoshitaka Mouri and I look forward to working with you.
Thank you very much for inviting me here today.
I have never been to Kumano Kodo, but I am very excited to be here today to discuss “the road” with you.

Actually, it is very difficult to talk about paths. Usually, we think that the place to think is seen as an “enclosed space”, such as a library, a room or a classroom. But on the other hand, the path is often thought of as just moving from enclosed space to enclosed space, not as a place to think about things. So I hope that we can remove that assumption that moving is not the only thing worth discussing. 

I am looking forward to talking to you today, but more than that, I am looking forward to hearing what you have to say. Thank you very much for your time.

Meet Ms Ueno

Next is Ms. Megumi Ueno, who has travelled many ancient roads around the world and is now introducing various roads and regions around the Kii Peninsula. Please introduce yourself.

Good evening, everyone. My name is Megumi Ueno. Thank you very much for inviting me here today.

I am from Tsu City, Mie Prefecture. When I was a junior high school student, I read a book by a certain travel writer, which made me have a vague and strong longing to travel around the world. When I was in university, I wanted to go to the world, but I couldn’t answer any questions from a professor I met after entering university, who asked me about Ise Jingu Shrine. Moreover, I was shocked when the professor said to me, “If you don’t know these things , you will embarrass yourself if you go abroad”. After that, I decided to learn more about Japan, so I cycled across the country during my university holidays. Through this journey, I learned that Japan, which I thought was a small country,  was actually a big country, and I became interested in travelling by human power.

Also, a relative of mine lives in the Kii Peninsula, which is how I came to know about the Kumano Kodo. When I was at university, I also traversed the Kumano Kodo. I felt a sense of achievement at having done so on foot, and at the same time I felt that there must be paths like the Kumano Kodo all over the world. Later, when I was researching roads in other countries, I found out about the Inca Trail (El Camino Inca)*, a network of roads in Peru that was built during the Inca Empire, and that there are ancient roads similar to Kumano Kodo in Australia and Europe. I decided to start by going where I could, so I set off on a backpacking trip. As I travelled around the world, I asked myself, “What kind of work do I want to do? “I decided that I would like to work in a job that conveys the excitement of travel. I used to work both as a Kumano Kodo guide* and as an illustrated map artist, but now I make a full-time living as an illustrated map artist.

※Reference: Shiho Yamada, “EIC Pickup:No.149 Peru in South America, Walking the Inca Trail “EICNet,July17, 2008)
※Reference Guide: Megumi Ueno (notty) (Kumano Experience Planning: Kumano Kodo Eco Tour)

Source: Atelier Chikyu no Michi:Atelier Camino de Tierra

Here  is the website that you run, Ms.Ueno.

The profile page* says that I have  been to 42 prefectures in Japan, but now I have  traveled to 45 prefectures, and there are only 2 prefectures that I have not been to  yet.

※Reference profile (Atelier ChikyuChichu no Michi: Atelier Camino de Tierra)

When you traversed the prefectures, did you land in each one and walk the roads, rather than passing through them?

Some of them are just a few prefectures I’ve passed through (laughs). But when I cycled across Japan, I think I set foot on  most of the land.

How many countries have you been to in the world?

That’s 23 countries now. Sometimes I stay in one place for a long time if I visit a big country. In the future I’d like to travel to 100 countries, but that’s a long way off (laughs).

Are there any of the five continents that you have not visited before?

Antarctica, South America and Africa. The South American continent is the one I’ve always wanted to visit first, but I haven’t actually been there yet. A travel writer I admire traveled the Inca Trail in South America, which made me admire it very much, but I’ve actually visited mainly countries in Europe and Asia.

Will you try the Inca Trail once the  coronavirus pandemic  is under control?

I’d love to try it!

Source: works(Atelier Chikyu no Michi : AtelierCamino de Tierra)

This photo shows the picture map that Ms.  Ueno is drawing.

This is a relatively new work and the location of the pictorial map is Tako in Kushimoto Town, Wakayama Prefecture.

The map looks like a bird’s eye view*1, but I will ask Ms. Ueno about it in detail later.

※1 An oblique view of the earth’s surface from above.

What is a bird’s eye view (Kotobank)?

Meet Ms. Sakamoto

The next speaker is Ms. Konomi Sakamoto, who has been walking and exploring the Kumano Kodo and spreading the word about the beauty of “the path”. Morishige told us that Ms.Sakamoto-san met her partner on the Kumano Kodo. Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Sakamoto.

Good evening, everyone. I’m Konomi Sakamoto. Nice to meet you.

I am from Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture. I was born and grew up in a city by the sea and now live 5 minutes by car from Kumano Hongu Taisha* in Hongu Town, Tanabe City.

Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine
Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine (Kumano Hongu Tourist Association)
Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine (Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau)

I became interested in the Kumano Kodo when I used to work in a hotel in Tanabe. I myself did not know much about the local area. The Kumano Kodo was registered as a World Heritage Site in July 2004*, but I had never walked it before, so I thought “I’d like to walk it, even if only a little”, and that’s how I started walking the Kumano Kodo. I had never walked before, I was not very good at sports either, but when I felt that I could walk if I practised little by little, I became more and more absorbed in Kumano Kodo.

What is the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range: What has happened so far (Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range)?

Left: Mr Yasue, Kumano Kodo Storyteller, Right: Mr Sakamoto
Source: Konomi Sakamoto, “Spring2019- Kyoto, Osaka, Wakayama360km!’m going to start my journey on the Kumano Kodo” (16December2018, Kumano Log|Kii Peninsula pilgrimage routes and information website for walkers)

These photos were taken in April 2019, when we walked a 360km route, starting from Jonan-gu* in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, and forcing our kayaks down the river path as well.

In fact, it was through this project that I also met my husband: we met in 2019, got married in 2020 and were able to have our wedding this year, which had to be postponed due to the new coronavirus infection.

Reference Seongnam Palace

Source: “Wedding at Kumano Hongu Taisha”9April2021,konomi@kumano.log,@kumano.log, Instagram)

For me, walking the Kumano Kodo is a kind of life work. Through my blog, I hope to convey the charm of Kumano Kodo and the joy of travel in an unpretentious way. However, as it is very difficult for me to go sightseeing at the moment, I don’t update my blog as often as I would like. I would like to keep updating it, accumulating various information little by little.

I think it’s really wonderful that you discovered the charm of Kumano Kodo when you were working at a hotel, and that you are now using your blog to document your travels and spread the word about the beauty of Kumano Kodo. Moreover, his activities have led him to meet his life partner, so it seems to me that Mr. Sakamoto’s life is filled with Kumano Kodo.

【2】The charm of Kumano Kodo

From here, I would like to ask you about the charm of Kumano Kodo. There are many kinds of Kumano Kodo, including well-maintained paths and unmaintained mountain paths. First of all, could you tell us about the Kumano Kodo, focusing on how long it is and what specific routes there are?

The Kumano Kodo route

There are so many different routes on the Kumano Kodo. It is said that the total length of all the routes is nearly 1000km. However, the Kumano Kodo is visited by people from all over Japan, so in the sense of a “highway”, it is truly a road that connects all of Japan.

The main route of the Kumano Kodo is the Nakahechi*. The 38km* walk from Takijiri Oji to Kumano Hongu Taisha is taken up as “The Kumano Kodo”, the so-called royal route.

Kumano KodoNakaheji (Shingu City Tourist Association)

Reference Model Route: Takijiri Oji – Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine (Wakayama Sightseeing: Wakayama Prefecture Official Tourist Website)

Source: Kumano KodoNakaheji (Shingu City Tourist Association)

I feel that the Kumano Kodo and other highways are connected to each other far and wide in every direction, and I think that starting to walk from your own home is the starting point of the Kumano Kodo.

Of course, there are unpaved paths on the Kumano Kodo. But in the case of the maintained paths, you have to walk on asphalt, which is very hard on your legs. When you actually decide on a route to walk, you will plan the distance you want to walk and the itinerary, but there are certain points on the Kumano Kodo that are “walkable for everyone”. However, there are certain points on the Kumano Kodo that can be walked by anyone, and if you can find such a route and walk it, you will be able to enjoy the Kumano Kodo more.

How long does it take to go from Takijiri-oji to Kumano-Hongu-taisha, which you said was “the Kumano Kodo”, and can it be done in one day?

It is usually said that the 38km route from Takijiri Oji in Tanabe to Hongu Taisha can be traversed in one night and two days, making it a route for healthy legs*2. I myself treaded the Nakaheji route in sections, via Takijiri Oji, Takahara* and Chikatsuyu Oji*, about five times. However, many Japanese people are not able to take long holidays and many visit Kumano Kodo as a sightseeing trip for one night and two days. However, if you are aiming to walk it in a few days, it is quite a steep mountain walk, which is difficult for those who are not in the habit of walking.

2 Strong legs, good at walking and climbing.

What is a “good leg” (Kotobank)?

Reference: Takijiri Prince – Plateau (Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau)
Reference: Kogen – Jizakura Oji (Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau)

After today’s talk session, you may be thinking “I really want to visit Kumano Kodo! But there are some routes that are difficult for beginners. For example, is it OK to take shortcuts or walk only part of the Kumano Kodo route?

You don’t necessarily have to walk the whole route. When I was working in a hotel, we had a limited number of tourists, some of whom were physically challenged and some of whom were elderly. There are different ways of walking and enjoying the area to suit all levels. For example, one way to enjoy the Kumano Kodo is to walk for 3-4 hours only from 7km before Hongu Taisha.

Kumano Kodo and Ise Road

You were born in Tsu City, Mie Prefecture, and there are various highways in Mie Prefecture, such as the Ise Highway*. I would like you to talk about the charm of Kumano Kodo, comparing it with the Ise Kaido, or even with the charm of Ise.

Reference: Route of Ise Kaido (Mie no Rekishi Kaido)

The first route I traversed was the Iseji*, which runs from Ise Jingu* to Shingu and is the most easterly of the Kumano Kodo routes. The Nakaheji route, which connects the three Kumano mountains*, is said to have been travelled by nobles in the past. The Iseji route, on the other hand, is a relatively new path that has been walked since the Edo period (1603-1868), about 200 years ago*.

Reference Ise Jingu
Kumano Kodo Iseji
Kumano Sanzan (Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau)
About Kumano Kodo Iseji (Mie Prefectural Kumano Kodo Center)

Source: Kumano KodoIseji (Shingu City Tourism Association)

In the Edo period (1603-1867), the “Oise-mairi “* was a popular activity mainly among the common people. Some of the pilgrims were very religious and dressed in white and walked to Kumano Sanzan and the 33 temples of the West*, especially Nachi-san Seigantoji*. As a matter of fact, the Ise Road was often called the “Road of Death” and talked about with a gloomy image. However, it is not really “gloomy”, it means “revival”, where you change into white clothes with the intention of going on a journey of death and being reborn as a new you. This, I think, is the charm of Ise-ji.

Reference: “‘Oise-Mairi’: The Great Event that Everyone Longed for in the Edo PeriodQ&A”October19,2020,DiscoverJapan)
Reference: Pilgrimage to the 33 Temples of Western Japan
Reference: Nachisan Seigantoji Temple (World Heritage SiteNachikatsuura Tourism Organization)

Unlike the Nakaheji route, which takes you to the three Kumano mountains, the Ise route has no destination. “Some say, “Isn’t Mie Prefecture a transit point? But I feel that it is easier to convey the beauty of walking the path if there is no destination. When I was guiding Kumano Kodo, I tried to show the attraction of walking itself, because Iseji does not have the splendour of Kumano Sanzan.

In Ise City, which is also the starting point of the Ise Road, there is a plain. Walking through the mountains, what you will see when you reach the country of Kii is the Kumano Sea*. After that, you will continue to the direction of Shingu with a beautiful view of the sea.

What is Kumano-nada (Kotobank)?

Source: SALT.”The Kumano Sea” (PhotoAC)

The fact that we walk along the plains, the mountain paths and along the sea, makes the Ise path a path where we can truly enjoy a variety of natural environments. If you continue to walk along this simple path, you will come across the “core of Kumano Kodo” – Kumano Sanzan and Nachi-san Seiganto-ji Temple. In this sense, the Ise Road is a very attractive path.

History of Pilgrims

Mr Sakamoto, through your blog you have been promoting the attractions of the Kumano Kodo, but what is the actual purpose of people visiting the Kodo?

I think it varies from period to period, but in modern times, I think most people come mainly for the purpose of sightseeing at the World Heritage sites. In comparison, many Japanese people believe in both God and Buddha, but I have the impression that people from all walks of life visit the temple, regardless of their religious beliefs.

On the other hand, in the Heian period (794-1185), the aristocrats, mainly emperors and holy men, walked hard from the capital of Kyoto to Kumano Kodo. In the Edo period (1603-1868), some people visited Ise from Edo via the Tokaido highway, and others walked the Kumano Kodo in the hope of reaching the three Kumano mountains. Some of them even went on a pilgrimage to 88 places in Shikoku (Ohenro) *.

Shikoku 88 Sacred Sites Association (Japanese only)

There are also people who visit the Kumano Kodo not only for sightseeing but also to be cured of illness. For example, the Yunomine Onsen*, where the legend of Oguri Hangan* is told, is said to be the “hot spring of revival”. It is believed that the Oguri in this legend was modelled on a patient who had been struck by a serious illness.

Legend of Oguri Hangan (6January2020, Kumano Hongu Tourist Association)
Reference Yunomine Onsen (20January2020, Kumano Hongu Tourist Association)

Throughout history, people have different reasons for visiting Kumano Kodo, such as sightseeing or hot spring cures. For this reason, I feel that there is no “unified world view” of Kumano Kodo. For example, the pilgrimage is a “journey to the temples related to Kobo-Daishi and Kukai”, and the Camino de Santiago (El Camino de Santiago, the Way to Santiago Pilgrimage)* in Spain is a “path for Christian Catholics”. In terms of world-view, it is the most important. In terms of worldview, I see the Kumano Kodo as a kind of Universal Studios Japan (USJ)*, where you can walk around with different purposes. “I think that the Kumano Kodo is like Universal Studios Japan (USJ)*, where you walk around with different objectives, but the world view is not as unified as in Tokyo Disneyland*.

Reference: Reiko Takamori, “Camino de Santiago- Guided by the stars, a pilgrimage to Spain”December23,2020, Travel the world at home: Asahi Shimbun Digital&AIRPORT)

What is a pilgrimage to Santiago (NPOFriends of the Camino de Santiago)?

Reference Universal Studios Japan (USJ)
Reference: Tokyo Disneyland

Episode of three Pilgrims

Ueno-san, what kind of people do you think would come to Kumano Kodo? Please let us know what you felt when you were guiding the Kumano Kodo.

During my time as a guide, I met some clients who said they wanted to start climbing mountains but were not confident enough to do so on big mountains, and others who said they wanted to walk the Kumano Kodo because it had been registered as a World Heritage Site. We would like to introduce three people who left a particularly strong impression on us.

The first one is a guest from abroad who made the pilgrimage to Santiago in Spain. He had come to Japan because he had heard about the Kumano Kodo and wanted to visit it. When I guided him, we walked from Ise to Shingu. He thought it would be easy because it was 180km, much shorter than the Camino, but it turned out to be a very difficult journey. After completing the journey, the client was reminded that Japan is hot and humid and has a lot of undulating terrain.

The second guest is from Brazil, who just loves Japan. “This is his fourth visit to Japan and he wanted to visit an unusual place, so we took him to the “Kohechi “* road, which connects the Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine and the Kongobuji temple* in Koyasan. After walking the Kumano Kodo, he had posted 1,500 photos on Flickr*. “on the last day, he stayed at a lodging house in Koyasan.

Reference Koyasan ShingonshuSohonzan Kongobuji Temple
Kumano KodoKobe-ji (Shingu City Tourist Association)
Reference Flickr

Source: Kumano KodoKobe-ji (Shingu City Tourist Association)

The third is a friend of mine who I have known for over 30 years, since our nursery school days. She is working abroad in international relations. When she came back to Japan, she told me that she was feeling tired inside, so I took her to a place called “Matsumoto Pass*” in Kumano City, Mie Prefecture, where you can see a beautiful view. But then she started to cry. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “I am working at the forefront of the world, but I am only one of many. But the land of Kumano has blessed me and accepted me as an individual. I couldn’t help but cry when I heard her words.

The Matsumoto Pass and Hana-no-kutsu Cave (Kumano Kodo Ise Road) (Mie Prefecture)

The view from the path Source: Matsumoto Pass and Hana-no-kutsu Cave (Kumano Kodo Ise Road) (Kanko Mie)

Rather than visiting the Kumano Kodo as a “point”, I believe that all three of them saw the Kumano Kodo, or the “space” of the Kii Peninsula, as a crossroads in their own lives. In this sense, I feel that the Kumano Kodo is also a “healing path”. By walking the path and putting yourself down, you can change your mind. The Kumano Kodo is a place where you can detoxify your body and soul*3.

3 Based on the idea that toxic substances and wastes accumulated in the body interfere with health, toxins are excreted from the body through various methods such as herbal medicine, supplements, diet, exercise and bathing.

What is detox (Cotbank)?

【3】Kumano Kodo and the “experience of movement

Today’s talk session was attended by many people who live not only in Kinan area but also in Wakayama prefecture. We are sure that some of the participants have a close connection with the Kumano Kodo, and we hope that the talk between Mr. Ueno and Mr. Sakamoto will have given them an insight into the different face of the Kumano Kodo.

Earlier, the two of you talked about the appeal of “walking itself” and how you see Kumano as a “space” rather than a “point”. From here, Professor Mori would like to talk about the meaning of “moving” and how we perceive space.

“The meaning of ‘movement’

I have never been to the Kumano Kodo, but after listening to the two of you, I feel strongly that I must go there.

I found it very interesting that the three pilgrims introduced by Mr Ueno had different experiences. I think the episodes of these three people are related to what Mr. Sakamoto said: “Isn’t the Kumano Kodo similar to Universal Studios Japan? I think this is also related to what Mr Sakamoto said. Everyone who visits Kumano Kodo has a different experience, comparing it to their own background. I think this is exactly the characteristic of Kumano Kodo.

Also, as you mentioned earlier, I have written a book called “The Idea of the Street”. The word “street” means “road” in Japanese, but it has a very different nuance to Kumano Kodo. I am interested in thinking about the meaning of “walking on the street” and “moving around”, but in fact these themes have not been discussed much in the past history. Usually, when we ask ourselves, “What is mobility?” is often taken in the sense of “moving from point A to point B”. On top of that, what tends to be the subject of discussion are all the enclosed spaces and places, and many people see ‘moving’ as if it were a time when nothing happens.

I believe that it is in the movement that there is a lot of change and thinking about things. It is a difficult task to express what is happening in the movement. However, I felt that the picture maps that Ueno-san is making and the blogs that Sakamoto-san is writing depict exactly the changes and experiences that are happening during the movement. I think it is very important, not only for Kumano Kodo, but also for “the experience of the road” or “the experience of moving” to “superimpose one’s own experience while walking the road”.

“Cultural Studies and the Experience of Mobility

When Professor Mohri returned to Japan from London*, where he had studied as a student, there was a growing movement called “Cultural Studies”*4, which took a cross-disciplinary approach to social and cultural research with a pluralistic and critical perspective.

4 A general term for cultural studies from a pluralistic and critical perspective that emerged in the UK in the 1960s and eventually spread to the US and other parts of the world. It refers to interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research that uses a variety of methodologies, covering a range of cultural fields and practices, rather than a single discipline with a single methodology.

What is Cultural Studies (Kotobank)?

Reference Yoshitaka Mohri(Teacher Profiles, Tokyo University of the Arts,Faculty of Music, Department of Music Environment Creation

You also translated James Clifford’s Roots in 2002, and wrote The Idea of the Street in 2009. In your research and critical work since the 1990s, have the words “movement” and “street” become major keywords for you?

You’re absolutely right: from around 1990 onwards, interest in space, roads and cities began to spread around the world. At the same time, I had doubts about the traditional idea of writing as a way of accumulating knowledge and passing it on to the next generation. For example, if you write a book, the format is established as “to describe the knowledge and ideas that you have accumulated, and to pass on this information”. However, I believe that this is not the case with original knowledge and ideas of things. I believe that experiences that cannot be expressed in text, such as movement or spatial understanding, actually contain more knowledge. I think in this way, and after all, the word “movement” has become a key word for me as well.

Roots”, translated by myself and other translators, is a book that I originally read with my students. I specialise mainly in sociology and cultural anthropology, and in the past, researchers in this field conducted their research in a way that seemed to downplay the experience of migration. Of course, traditional cultural anthropologists have carried out fieldwork in the same way as we do today. But when they wrote about the Kumano Kodo, for example, they wrote about it as if it were a ‘closed space’. In some cases, I only wrote about the Kumano Kodo, without recording the “process” of visiting it from Tokyo.

Essentially, researchers choose the places they want to study and make careful preparations to carry out their fieldwork. I think that this kind of “thinking time” is actually longer, because we plan things in our minds, thinking about many things. For example, if I say I’m going to research the Kumano Kodo, I might only stay in Kumano for three days. But in reality, for those three days, you will have to go through a lot of “experiences”, such as travelling to Kumano Kodo by bullet train. I think that what is needed in the field of sociology and cultural anthropology is exactly this kind of “personal experience” or “experience of movement” to be described.

Kumano Kodo is a kind of ”walking place”, but “how do we describe the experience of movement?” In other words, the Kumano Kodo is not a closed space but an open space. In other words, we can see Kumano Kodo not as a closed space, but as an open space.

What I found interesting when listening to Ueno-san and Sakamoto-san is that their “experience of moving” is clearly depicted in their picture maps and blogs. The fact that you describe in detail how you plan and how you actually walk is something that is possible because of your “mobility experience”. From a researcher’s point of view, I thought it was very interesting that you were able to disseminate information in a different way than just “introducing the region”.

Professor Mohri, your research style is a “methodology*5” that has been constantly evolving since the 1990s or even since 2000. I think it’s very interesting that it has a lot in common with what Ueno-san and Sakamoto-san are practicing, such as walking the Kumano Kodo and sending out information.

5 A discussion of the methods of scientific research. As a branch of logic, it is a discipline that studies logical reflection on the methods of science and the methods of cognition.

What is methodology (Cotbank)?

Continue to Part 2 > >