Director Yujiro Seki
My name is Yujiro Seki, and over the course of the past several years I singlehandedly planned, shot and edited a feature length documentary, called Carving the Divine.
I had the rare opportunity to follow a guild of Buddhist sculptors from the studio of Busshi, Koun Seki, a former apprentice of the legendary Busshi, Kourin Saito. Master Seki is a pioneer in preserving and advancing the art of Busshi: He’s not only taken many apprentices under his wing; he’s also established a school for the Japanese public to learn the craft.
I was also grateful to be able to feature one of Japan’s foremost Busshi, Kourin Saito himself. Grand Master Saito shows not only the craftsmanship, but also the passion and discipline it takes to master this demanding art form.
Lastly, I was granted rare access into the life and rites of Buddhist priests, and especially those of Shigon, or “True Word” Buddhism. When I explained the import of the film, these priests granted me the honor and privilege of filming from within their altar area, a secretive space within temples that’s usually off limits to anyone outside the priestly class.
Meet Yujiro Seki
At Madrid International Film Festival
Publications and Media
AS SEEN IN:
By Raindance Film Festival
"The art of Busshi is timeless; it’s always relevant. If 100 years from now people watch Carving the Divine, I believe they would appreciate the work the same way they appreciate it now. The art of Busshi is not a trend or fad. It’s in our heart and soul. I didn’t think so much about its true value when I captured the first footage of Carving the Divine. But as time goes by, I’ve come to see the power and the profound nature of the art that is so much bigger than my mere ego realized. Everything comes and goes. Everything is transitory. But if I can leave something behind that would truly benefit the people who come after me, maybe there was a reason for me to be born and live this life. And this is the life that’s worth fighting for."
By Battle Royal With Cheese
"There are some great insights gained by viewing Carving the Divine. We are reminded that craftmanship—especially in this case, a craftmanship that has developed over nearly 1,400 years—can never be matched by mass production in terms of design quality. We are also reminded of the importance of discipline in an artist’s development. Perhaps the master Busshi know better than anyone else that discipline is required not only in creating a statue but also an artist."
Carving the Buddha—the Same Way—for 1,400 Years: The director of “Carving The Divine” discusses how traditional Busshi sculptors in Japan preserve their craft.
"I found that modern Busshi would be the perfect subject to put my heart into. Though many aspects of Japanese culture have been appreciated by the Western world, the Busshi tradition remains virtually unknown outside of Japan. Since my family had been in the Buddhist furniture and statues business for so long, I had access to the Busshi world. I knew my Japanese identity would allow me to make a movie few others could, and believed my American sensibility help me share it effectively with a Western audience."
“It is my absolute honor to present this movie to the world, portraying one of the most important—or arguably the most important—spiritual arts of Japan and the artists who carve these divinities. In fact, this project has also become ‘divine’ to me; it truly fills me with a great sense of purpose. I’ve poured my heart and soul into this project, but not for my personal glory. In the film, I see something bigger than myself. My physical body will one day decay and disappear but as an artist, I aspire to leave behind work that is not temporal but eternal. Carving the Divine has given me that opportunity.”
By Lion’s Roar
“It is very hard to become a competent craftsman/woman to make a living in the world of Japanese Buddhist woodcarving. One must reach the highest level of craftsmanship and discipline. Not just anyone who gets into the industry can make it as a professional.It is easy for the master to be lenient and to not scold the apprentices, but the master forces him/herself to do so in order for the apprentices to reach their full potential and become a bread-earning busshi [a Japanese sculptor specializing in Buddhist statues]. Young apprentices learn to restrain their egos, build character and grow into mature human beings.”
How To Complete An Innovative Documentary: Strategies From Filmmaker Yujiro Seki, Creator Of Carving The Divine
By Authority Magazine
"As a Japanese person, I felt that I had a responsibility to tell an authentic story of Japan, especially if the subject is about 1400 years of tradition. This is the precise reason why I took my time to complete Carving the Divine. I captured a tremendous amount of footage and organizing it was a pure nightmare. But, as I patiently made revision after revision, I felt great for so many years of work coming together."
The Way of the Busshi Bridging Past and Present, East and West
By Discover Nikkei: Japanese Migrants and their Descendants
"These sculptures created by busshi are not mere crafts. They have a deep spiritual connection to the collective Japanese psyche. So if I can use skills, gained by straddling continents and cultures, to bridge peoples and preserve and enrich the spiritual significance of these sculptures, that would be a fantastic accomplishment, and one that will go far in mending my divided identity." (Spanish and Portuguese languages are available)
By The Zen Gateway
"In the background we see the backdrop of urban Japan. It is like a world within another quite different type of world. Will that backdrop world overtake this much older world which seems to be based on the unpopular values of obedience, discipline and religious devotion? As we hear that many temples in Japan are closing due to a diminishing priesthood this is always a precarious possibility. If so, then this film is even more important and is a testament to what a pair of hands and a heart, with a pure intention, can achieve. In a world where most of our manual labour has been given over to technology, there is a danger that we might forget just what the naked human spirit can acheive."
"Carving the Divine is a one of a kind documentary because it offers a rare and intimate look into the life and artistic process of modern-day Busshi — practitioners of a 1400 year lineage of woodcarving at the heart of Japanese, Mahayana Buddhism. The art of Busshi is one of the most significant cultural legacies of Japan. Yet, at this point, the tradition remains virtually unknown to the Western World. It is my greatest pleasure to introduce this multifaceted, magnificent culture to the rest of the world."
By Thrive Global
“I wanted to make something that speaks to my soul and to the world. I wanted to make a piece of work that would last long after I die. This is when I decided to work on the subject about the Buddhist sculptors of Japan, Busshi.”
© 2021 Carving the Divine All Rights Reserved