Japan/America Society of Kentucky

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Art, Culture, and Future Generations

30 Jun 2010 10:02 AM | Anonymous member

Interview: Dr. Andrew Maske, UK Art Professor

Japan Today – Dr. Andrew Maske, one of Kentucky’s premier Japanese art and culture scholars, has a lot to say about Japan today.  From an educated outsider’s point of view, Dr. Maske’s thoughts are particularly interesting for JASK members. 

Maske, assistant professor at the University of Kentucky department of art, lived in Fukuoka, Japan from the mid-1980s through the early 90s.  This article reflects his comments during an interview with JASK.

“It’s been particularly interesting to see the changes that took place in Fukuoka, the city I lived in,” Maske said.  “Fukuoka is known for festivals, Hakata Gion Yamagasa and Hakata Dontaku.  All the money for cultural things went into those festivals.  They didn’t have anything cultural before.”

Today, Fukuoka enjoys a city art museum, a city museum, a prefectural museum, an Asian museum, and a variety of theatres that enrich both modern and traditional culture.

“After having spent that year in Japan, it completely changed my view of what I wanted to do with my life,” Maske said.  “I was very fortunate that Japan offered me something that attracted me to focus my interest.”

Although he felt differences in the city between his first stay and the later visits, he observed a unique coexistence of modern and traditional cultures.

“What’s been always interesting to me is the connection between modern Japan and traditional Japan living together,” Maske said.  “Temples are not all museums; people continue to participate in Buddhism as a religion.  In summer, there are festivals, which are not things that the government sets up to preserve; ordinary people participate enthusiastically.  Some old things can come back; some good things can remain from the past.”

As Maske realized, tradition plays a great role in Japan.  He said experience and personal connection are the keys to passing these good traditions along to future generations.

“It’s a challenge in any culture to make young people familiar with, and have a respect for their own tradition,” Maske said.  “A young man in high school in Fukuoka has participated in Yamagasa [festival]; he feels the importance of the festival and the connection with the team.  So it’s not just a part of Japanese culture or historical culture, but his own culture.  I’ve seen young people who are involved in the traditional culture and they do see value in it.”

Finally, he mentioned what is important to learn in cultural exchange.

“I try to bring the experiences I’ve had to help people understand about Japan, not only about traditional Japan, Japan in history, or Japanese art, but how those different aspects of Japanese culture relate to Japanese people today,” Maske said.  “I think art plays a big role in understanding culture; you can’t understand culture without including its art.”

Working with Dr. Maske and others, JASK continues to plan artistic and cultural events that help to pass along both Japanese and Kentucky traditions – traditions that improve our individual and community lives.  Sincere thanks to Dr. Maske for granting this interview and sharing his observations with JASK.  Have ideas to share?  Send them to programs@jask.org.

Japan/America Society of Kentucky
464 Chenault Rd.
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 209-9630

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