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Dialogue project #8 “Kumano and Art – Kumano Kodo and Nanki-Kumano Geopark -“

Kinan Art Week Dialogue project #8

Guest :

Wakayama World Heritage Master (Kumano),
Member of Nanki-Kumano Geopark Guide Group,
Nature Park Instructor (Ministry of the Environment, Wakayama Prefecture),
Member of the Cultural Heritage Protection Council of Kushimoto Town

Mr. Keishi Jimbo

Born in Kushimoto Town, Higashimuro County, Wakayama Prefecture. After graduating from university, he worked for an electric power company and was transferred to a think tank before returning to his hometown in Wakayama. In order to protect and pass on the rich nature and culture of Kumano, he is working as a guide and is involved in the maintenance and conservation of the Kumano Kodo.

Interviewer :

Kinan Art Week Executive Committee Chairman
Yuto Yabumoto


Editing :
Kinan Editorial Department by TETAU
https://good.tetau.jp/

Kumano and Art – Kumano Kodo and Nanki-Kumano Geopark –

< Table of Contents >
1. Jimbo’s background
2. As a professional of Kumano Kodo and Geopark
3. About “The Road”
4. Beliefs of Kumano
5. Kumano Kodo and Geopark Attractions
6. Relationship with art
7. To connect our heritage to the future
8. Kumano, the advanced land

1. Jimbo’s background

Yabumoto.
Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us today.
I was very much looking forward to talking with you about the Geopark and Kumano Kodo, which are important elements of Kinan.
First of all, I would like to ask you about your background, Mr. Jimbo. After graduating from Doshisha University, you worked for an electric power company. I heard that you were also transferred to a think tank during your tenure.

Mr. Jimbo.
After graduating from university, I joined the Kansai Electric Power Company and worked there until I retired early at the age of 50. I was an office worker, and my main job was to import petroleum fuel for thermal power plants. This was right around the time of the oil crisis, and it was a difficult time with the soaring price of crude oil.

During my tenure, I was also transferred to a think tank in Wakayama Prefecture. It was called the Institute for Social and Economic Research, and it was a foundation funded by companies related to Wakayama Prefecture. What I was doing there was researching the economic situation in Wakayama Prefecture and working with municipalities on long-term planning and other projects. I worked there for about four years and then returned to my hometown, Koza,  in Kinan.

Yabumoto.
You have also translated a book called “The New Science of Life Field: The Discovery of the Unseen Template of Life.

Mr. Jimbo.
One of my acquaintances is a translator of foreign literature, and when I was helping him, he asked me to translate “The Science of Life Field”. Since then, I’ve had more and more opportunities to do translations as relief (laughs).

Yabumoto.
Is the field of the book about the invisible concept of bioenergy?

Mr. Jimbo.
That’s right. At that time, the spiritual world was becoming popular, during the 1970s, when the occult boom was taking place.

Yabumoto.
I am working on Kumagusu Minakata’s contemporary art, and I think it overlaps with Kumagusu Minakata’s concepts of “suiten” (*1) and “yaritate” (*2). In terms of invisible concepts, are there any connections to your current activities?

*1 Suiten is a word coined by Kumagusu Minakatau. A place where various things and matters come together.
What is Suiten – Kotobank

*2 Yariate: A word coined by Kumagusu Minakatau. A discovery or invention beyond the realm of chance.
Taisuke Karasawa, “Bricoleur Kumagusu – On ‘Yaritate’ ‘ and Bricolage”.

Mr. Jimbo.
During the occult boom, I got to know many people, not “strange people”, but I got to know the field. In this way, I became able to distinguish authenticity from falsehood.

2. As a professional of Kumano Kodo and Geopark

Yabumoto.
Based on this background, you came back to Kinan and are now working as a professional on Kumano Kodo and Geopark*.

* Geopark: A place where you can not only learn about the history of the earth in the area, but also enjoy experiencing the relationship between the earth and human life through history, culture, flora and fauna, and food.
About the Geopark | Nanki-Kumano Geopark

Source: Learning about Nanki-Kumano Geopark | Nanki-Kumano Geopark https://nankikumanogeo.jp/geo_theme/

Mr. Jimbo.
That’s right. Ohechi has not been fully researched yet, and there are many things we don’t know about it. Researchers come here to do research, so I help them. The reason for the lack of progress in research is that Ohechi  is not a mainstream road. The Kumano Kodo that people imagine is Nakahechi, right? Not many noble people traveled through Ohechi , so it  was a forgotten place.

Yabumoto.
Is it the Shimanto Belt? There were some researchers that came to research Ohechi , weren’t there?

Mr. Jimbo.
The southern half of Wakayama Prefecture, Shikoku, and Kyushu are known geologically as the Shimanto Belt. It is a so-called accretionary complex. The name “Shimanto” is derived from the word “Shimanto” of the Shimanto River, and the geology of the Shimanto area was first studied by scholars, who found that the geology of the area was very similar, and gave it the name “Shimanto”.

Source: Origin of the Earth | Nanki-Kumano Geopark https://nankikumanogeo.jp/geo_theme/earth/

Yabumoto.
It’s a landform that comes out of the Kii Mountains called the Shimanto accretionary complex.

Mr. Jimbo.
Yes. An accretionary complex is a landform created by the energy of a plate subducting into the Nankai Trough.
The Shimanto Belt has a long history, ranging from the Jurassic to the Neogene. The terrain grows to the south, so the further north you go, the older it gets. The geology around Kushimoto town seems to be the most recent.

Yabumoto.
In this way, are you guiding the Kumano Kodo and also guiding the Geopark?

Mr. Jimbo.
I also guide Kumano Kodo, but recently I’ve been doing more Geopark guiding. The Geopark is older than the Kumano Kodo, so it is used as the base for  the Kumano Kodo.

Yabumoto.
In addition to that, I heard that you are also in charge of the “Nature Park Instructor” and the “Kushimoto Town Cultural Foundation Protection Advisory Committee”.

Mr. Jimbo.
I guess I have a tendency to take on jobs without much consideration  (laughs). There’s also  the fact that not many people are interested in research and study, so I have to do it.

3. About “The Road”

Source: Nanki-Kumano Geopark Promotion Council, https://www.facebook.com/nankikumanogeo/

Yabumoto.
This time, I would like to ask you about the “road”. There are various routes along the Kumano Kodo, such as “Nakahechi” and “Ohechi ,” where my great-grandfather and grandfather came from, but what is the value of the road itself?

Mr. Jimbo.
Originally,  I did not think that Ohechi  was the Kumano Kodo. I thought that the main part of Kumano Kodo was the Nakahechi, where the great temples and shrines are located.

Yabumoto.
What’s more, there’s really not much in Nakahechi, is there? .

Mr. Jimbo.
When it comes to Kumano, most people focus on the “World Heritage” part, such as the three Kumano mountains, but naturalist Dr. Kumagusu Minakata refers to “Kumano’s forests and ecosystems” and philosopher Dr. Takeshi Umehara refers to “its culture”. Dr. Umehara says that Kumano is a Jomon culture, and he concludes that Kumano, Hokkaido and Okinawa are the only places where the Jomon culture still exists. I don’t know if this is true or not, though.

Yabumoto.
Do you think that “roads” have cultural value in the sense of connecting nature and people? I heard that you are patrolling the Kumano Kodo, but if left unchecked, the “road” will fall into disuse, won’t it?

Mr. Jimbo.
That’s right. That’s why I didn’t have the image of a “road” becoming a cultural asset, but it is registered as a World Heritage site because it was a path followed by pilgrims. Of course, it was not only used for pilgrimages, but also as a way of life between villages.

Yabumoto.
In this sense, we can say that “road = media (mediation) = art”, and indirectly “road” and “art” can be connected.

Mr. Jimbo.
What is curious is that the Kumano River is registered as a World Heritage Site. It is a river, not a road, but it seems to have been recognized as a road because people used to travel the river by boat. So the middle of the river is registered as a World Heritage site.

Yabumoto.
That’s certainly a unique point. I am interested in snakes, and I wonder if the path is the contact point between humans and gods, just as snakes connect the chaotic earth and the heavenly world, and if this is related to the unusual stones that exist on the Kumano Kodo.

Mr. Jimbo.
There are three main types of stones found on the Kumano Kodo. One is a stone that has been bent by the force of the accretionary process during its formation. Phoenix folds are a typical example.

Source: Phoenix Folds, https://nankikumanogeo.jp/geosite/%E3%83%95%E3%82%A7%E3%83%8B%E3%83%83%E3%82%AF%E3%82%B9%E8%A4%B6%E6%9B%B2/

The other is the stones formed by the shallow sea above the accretionary complex. One example is Senjojiki.

Source: Senjojiki https://nankikumanogeo.jp/geosite/senjyojiki/

In addition to that, there are stones that were created by volcanic activity in the new era. I guess you could call it another charm point. Nachi Falls, monolithic rocks, and Gotobiki Rock.

Yabumoto.
Stones are also a kind of path, aren’t they? They are kind of like  a medium.

Mr. Jimbo.
The so-called  “Iwakura” in Shinto. Waterfalls and megaliths are often the center of worship.

4.Beliefs of Kumano

Source: Nanki-Kumano Geopark Promotion Council, https://www.facebook.com/nankikumanogeo/

Yabumoto.
Stones, waterfalls, and roads are like symbols that appear in this world to have contact with God. What does this have to do with the Marebito faith?

Mr. Jimbo.
I think there is a belief in those  who come from the sea. They are also called “migratory gods *”. The Potalaka faith is the  belief that there is a land of everlasting life beyond the sea, and that people come and go from there. Monks set sail from Nachi beach to the Pure Land of the Goddess of Compassion.

* The belief in Goddess of Mercy’s abode, Mount Goddess of Mercy (ⓈPotalaka). Mt. Goddess of Mercy is said to be a legendary mountain on the south coast of India.
Adoration of the Buddha – Jodo Shinshu Dictionary

On the other hand, folklorist Dr. Kanichi Nomoto says that in Kumano, there are beliefs from beyond the sea, but there are also beliefs in the mountains. There is a mountain called Mt. Myoho on top of Mt. Nachi, where there is a belief that people go to the place when they die. When people die, they put their hair and other belongings on the mountain. Dr. Nomoto says that Kumano is complicated because there are beliefs about both the mountains and the sea.

Yabumoto:
Regarding the connection between the belief in Susanoo and the belief in the ocean, is it possible that the two are actually the same?

Mr. Jimbo.
When people hear the word Shugen, they have a strong image of walking along mountain paths. However, there are some people, such as the religious folklorist Dr. Shigeru Gorai, who says that Shugen started with “going around the edge of the sea”.

Yabumoto.
As I mentioned earlier about the Jomon, I feel that there is a hint hidden  thousands of years ago that connects the Jomon people who lived in the mountains and the Yayoi people who came from the sea.

Mr. Jimbo.
In fact, in Kumano, many ruins of both Jomon and Yayoi remain by the sea. Therefore, it seems that in the past, there were few people living in the mountains. Rather, in the Warring States Period and Muromachi Period, there were many wars and fallen warriors. It seems that many of the fallen warriors who escaped went up the river and settled in the mountains.

5. Kumano Kodo and Geopark Attractions

Source: Nanki-Kumano Geopark Promotion Council, https://www.facebook.com/nankikumanogeo/

Yabumoto.
The purpose of this project is to introduce the value of Kinan to the world. Could you tell us about your thoughts on future activities in terms of what we can do for the future?

Mr. Jimbo.
I often hear people say, “Kumano is a nice place,” but I don’t know exactly what I like about Kumano. When I was younger, I was more interested in the city. Mr. Umehara also says that he doesn’t know why people want to go to Kumano. There is a theory that the dense Kumano forest attracts people, though.
However, I used to think that the mountains of Kumano were boring because they were low and had poor views. However, when I went back to my hometown and visited the mountains, I felt that there was something unique about the place. I thought it was the “Kumano Forest”.

Yabumoto.
I can’t talk about Kumano Kodo and the Geopark separately, so it’s difficult to explain all the attractions.

Mr. Jimbo.
From the perspective of faith, it could be said that there is a connection with Geo in terms of Nachi Falls and volcanic eruptions.

Yabumoto.
It has a charm that cannot be put into words. The challenge is how to convey this charm and leave it for the future.

Mr. Jimbo.
If anything, it is probably better for people from outside to see Kinan from a new perspective rather than those who have been immersed in it all their lives.

Yabumoto.
Just like Mr. Sakamoto*.

* Mr. Sakamoto: Representative Director of Furusato MORI Corporation / Certified Public Accountant
Reference: facebook Naoya Sakamoto

Mr. Jimbo.
That’s right. When I asked Mr. Sakamoto, “What’s good about Kumano?” he told me, “As a resort, it’s good because it has a good infrastructure.” Resorts in the Philippines are built in places where there is no infrastructure such as communication, roads, and electricity. So, when I heard that it takes a lot of energy to maintain it, I thought, “Oh, really?

Yabumoto.
Kumano is basically self-sufficient and close to the local culture, you know. The “resort” is more like a place to live comfortably.

Mr. Jimbo.
I guess you could say  that the places called resorts overseas are artificial places that people  worked hard to create.

6. Relationship with art

Source: Nanki-Kumano Geopark Promotion Council, https://www.facebook.com/nankikumanogeo/

Yabumoto.
Indeed, the resort is a very artificial place.

I just used the word “artificial”, didn’t I? We are talking about art, and art comes from the artificial. Therefore, it is sometimes said that art is about what is created  and that natural beauty is not art. However, I believe that if it moves your heart, it is art, and Geoparks and Kumano Kodo are also art.

Mr. Jimbo.
You’re right.  However, Geoparks were created by geologists, so there is not much of an art component to them.

Yabumoto.
Couldn’t you call something like Senjojiki an art form in a sense? It was originally created by nature alone, wasn’t it?

Mr. Jimbo.
There is a category of World Heritage called “Cultural Landscape”. A landscape is called a cultural landscape when it is not nature itself, but a landscape created by people working with nature, and has cultural value. For example, the construction of roads, shrines, and terraced rice paddies in the middle of nature. Kumano Kodo is also categorized as a cultural landscape.
There are other “natural heritage” sites that are nature itself.

Yabumoto.
I guess you could say that there’s a level of art involved with cultural landscapes.

Mr. Jimbo.
Fuji was first attempted to be registered as a natural heritage site,  but the mountain trails did not pass the screening because they were full of garbage and man-made objects. Fuji itself is a deity, and so it is  registered as a cultural landscape on the World Heritage List.

7. To connect our heritage to the future

Source: Nanki-Kumano Geopark Promotion Council, https://www.facebook.com/nankikumanogeo/

Yabumoto.
I would like to link this “heritage” to the future. In order to do so, I think it is important to give it economic value and connect it to a new culture. Do you see the seeds of this kind of thing growing in your guiding activities?

Mr. Jimbo.
When I hear the word “legacy,” it sounds like a relic of the past (laughs).

As for me, I believe that I am playing a role in finding value in places that have not been exposed to the sun. In Nanki-Kumano, we have selected 107 geopark sites*. We’ve  selected not only famous spots such as Nachi Falls and monolithic rocks, but also geographically interesting spots that have not been well known. We are hoping that this will attract more people to the park.

* Geopark site: A place to visit that features geology, topography, nature, history, and culture.
About the Geopark | Nanki-Kumano Geopark

Yabumoto.
They’re  linked on  Google Maps, right? That’s a lot of places. .

Mr. Jimbo.
The points on Google map are a bit rough, and there are some places that I don’t think I can go to, so there is room for improvement (laughs).

Yabumoto.
Looking at the guides on the website, I have the impression that there are not many young people going to these places.

Mr. Jimbo.
They’re places that you visit to feel a little younger,  but the young people have not yet grown up.

Yabumoto.
When I talk with farmers in Kinan, they say that the only way to solve this problem is to train local elementary school students.  They say, “If we teach them hard enough, they will come back when they are in their twenties.

Mr. Jimbo.
I also think that it would be difficult to do without financial benefits. If we don’t create a system that allows young people to earn an income from guiding, I don’t think it will continue. For example, on Yakushima, the guiding fee is very high, which makes the guiding business possible. It’s not so much that it’s expensive, but it’s natural to charge that much.

Yabumoto.
Are the guides in Kumano completely free?

Mr. Jimbo.
I understand that guiding inside the Geopark Center is free. If you want to set up a tour and guide outside, you have to pay for it.

Yabumoto.
So, the guides will also receive income. However, this is also an area that needs to be structured, and I would like to practice new ways of doing things, such as direct export and using technology.

8. Kumano, the advanced land

Source: Nanki-Kumano Geopark Promotion Council, https://www.facebook.com/nankikumanogeo/

Mr. Jimbo.
In recent years, research on the Kinan area around the Warring States period has been progressing. It was a time when pirates were around,  but it has been discovered that they had high technology in shipbuilding, and there is talk that Kumano may have been a very advanced area.

Yabumoto.
Koza was a shipyard, wasn’t it?

Mr. Jimbo.
There is a professor named Kaizu at Wakayama University. He says that Kumano has had shipbuilding technology since ancient times  and was able to repair the steamships that came in from the West after the Meiji era. He also says that the pirates were stateless and had a strong sense of being international people rather than Japanese or people of Kumano.

Also, people from Kumano have been going to foreign countries since the beginning of the Meiji era.

Yabumoto.
It’s a sense of the world of seafaring people as represented in Ryotaro Shiba’s “Night Party on Thursday Island” and other works. I think the people of Kinan at that time did well to go to Australia and America.

Mr. Jimbo.
It’s all mountains, so maybe they had no choice but to go out to sea.

Yabumoto.
Perhaps it is because there are only mountains and the sea that the “culture of basking” and the “culture of ports” have been fostered. What  do Kumano Kodo and Geoparks have in common?

Mr. Jimbo.
One of the characteristics of Kumano is that there are no barriers. In the past, it was said that women were not allowed to enter sacred places, but women who were paying homage to shrines and temples were allowed to visit Kumano.  Also, there is the legend of Oguri Hangan, who was diagnosed with leprosy and came back to life after bathing in the hot springs of Kumano. It seems that the hot springs and Hongu were open to people with such diseases, which are generally considered abhorrent. The cultural background of Kumano is that it was developed by strangers, fallen warriors, who cultivated the mountains, so I heard that they did not discriminate against various people who came to the area.

Yabumoto.
Indeed. In Ryotaro Shiba’s “Kaido wo yuku” (Travels on the Road), he says that the Kinan region has no honorific language.

Mr. Jimbo.
That’s right. It is said that Kumano is a mecca of Shintoism and Buddhism, where various religions are accepted, such as Shintoism from ancient Japan, Buddhism from Mount Koya, and mountain worship. This is one of the reasons why Kumano was registered as a World Heritage site.

Yabumoto.
Where did this receptive mindset come from?

Mr. Jimbo.
I don’t know about that (laughs). But Dr. Umehara says that it is the “original home of Japan”.

Yabumoto.
You mean  “Kumano, the Original Land of Japan” by Takeshi Umehara. I haven’t read the book yet, so I will try to read it. I think that accepting and integrating things from outside without creating a hierarchy is a concept that is valuable to the whole world. And how to convey the essence of this to the world may be important.

Listening to you, I realized that the Nanki-Kumano Geopark and the Kumano Kodo itself is a composite art form created by people and nature. Lastly, I would like to ask you if you have any expectations for Kinan Art Week.

Mr. Jimbo.
Whether it is contemporary art or anything else, I just want people to take it easy. It would be even more wonderful if the charm of the Kumano Kodo could be conveyed to the world from there.

Yabumoto.
Thank you very much for your time today. I learned a lot.

.

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