In 1980 I went on a shared grant to study the disciplines of brush calligraphy in Japan and China, intrigued by the spiritual aspect of that artistic tradition in Asia. I spent more than a year in a most remarkable remote mountain community in the Japanese Alps, with a group of people who were rediscovering the old and lost country traditions of Japan. We lived in unheated thatched-roof farmhouses with indoor fire pits for cooking, through a winter of 15 feet of snow – our community can be see buried in snow in this photo. The focus was on our basic needs, and we spent our time growing and harvesting food using age-old methods, gathering wild vegetables, making our own noodles, tofu, miso, and alcohol, carrying on the rituals required by the local Shinto and Buddhist shrines, and spending a lot of time in the winter around the fire, drinking sake, telling stories, singing songs, and laughing. Just as my early art training came as much from my Botany professor as from my Calliraphy professor, my training in aesthetics came from day to day life in Japan as much as it came from my art teachers in Asia. For the formative part of the sotry involving my Chinese teacher, please read about The Red Seal in the Journey section of this site.