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“Lost Japan” by Alex Kerr

Alex Kerr
Japan, the end of the line of the Silk Road, became over time a treasure house of the culture and philosophy of East Asia. After centuries of refinement, Japanese arts developed to a degree of complexity and colorful variety unparalleled in the world. In the 20th century these arts succeeded in modernizing, so that Japanese architecture, flowers, tea ceremony, kabuki, drum ensembles, and many other cultural forms exert a huge international influence. What made this possible was the ideal of the Literati, a concept born in China that took on its own life in Japan. The lecture will focus on the Literati, then and now. At the same
time, since the 1990’s, Japan’s environment and culture has come under unprecedented threat. Alex Kerr will describe the roots of Japan’s “modern malaise,” and hopeful signs in the arts, both traditional and modern.

Alex Kerr came to Japan in 1964 when his father, a US Naval officer was posted to Yokohama. He later studied Japanese at Yale (1969-74) and Keio (1973) and Chinese at Balliol College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar (1974-77). In 1977, he joined the staff of the Oomoto School of Traditional Japanese Arts, in Kameoka, near Kyoto. In the ensuing years, Alex became involved in traditional Japanese arts: Kabuki, calligraphy, and tea ceremony, and he restored old Japanese houses in Iya Valley, and in Kameoka, where he lives when he is in Japan. His book Lost Japan (written in Japanese) became in 1994 the first book by a foreigner ever to win the Shincho Gakukei Literary Prize. In 2001, Alex published Dogs and Demons, a critical look at Japan’s modern environmental and cultural crises. Today he is Chairman of Iori Co, a company based in Kyoto that restores old townhouses and rents them out to visitors. He also is President of the Origin program of traditional Japanese arts, and serves on the Prime Minister’s Tourism Committee. Since 1997, Alex’s home has been in Thailand, where he runs Origin programs in traditional Thai arts in Bangkok and in Chiangmai.

Mr. Kerr will speak on 27 July, 2006 at 19:30. For more information, contact:

Khun Preechaya or Khun Arunsri at:
Tel: (02) 661 6470-7
Fax (02) 258 3491

Office Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.
Non-Members Donation: 150 Baht
Siam Society Members, Members' spouses and children, and all students showing valid student I.D. cards, are admitted free of charge.


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