For our first full day in the Kyoto we pre-arranged to have a personal guided tour of the area (similar to what we did in Tokyo with Selena). Mr. Nagata came highly recommended to us and he arrived at the hotel promptly at 9am. Our goal for the day was to have someone local take us to all the places that would be difficult to get to or find on our own. Mr. Nagata, or “Nobu” as he insisted we call him, far exceeded our expectations. In fact, it was just as magical as our day in Sendai with Selena.
Our first stop of the day was to visit the workshop of Buddhist sculptor Matsumoto Myōkei 松本明慶 (a famous living busshi 仏師). His workshop is nestled in a lovely little rural area in the northwest mountains outside of Kyoto.
Matsumoto Myōkei was born in 1945 and started carving when he was 17. He learned Buddhist sculpture from Nosaki Sokei 野崎宗慶, in the tradition of the Kamakura period master carver Unkei. In 1991, he received the title of “Great Buddhist Sculptor”, daibusshi 大仏師. Myokei has more than 40 disciples which he trains in the same tradition in his workshop, Matsumoto Kobo 松本工房. (Source: http://darumamuseumgallery.blogspot.de/2007/08/matsumoto-myokei.html)
As we drove by the entrance to the shop I noticed that there were three pairs of slippers quietly waiting for us. In Japan, this is a sign of welcome and on cue we were greeted by his highest ranking apprentice and shown around the workshop.
Then we were ushered into a show room where many of the master’s original works of art were brilliantly displayed. We were served green tea and were shown many of the carvings up close. Out of respect we sat quietly and just looked and listened intently to what we were being shown and told.
It was about this time that I started to realize the significance of where we were and what was happening. Originally we thought that Mr. Nagata was simply going to take us to a local wood carver. But then it dawned on me that this workshop was anything but ordinary. So can you imagine our shock when Mr. Matsumoto himself came to meet us? There are no words to adequately describe the experience, so I will let the following pictures tell the story.
“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” – Buddha