Shots in the Dark
Japan, Zen, and the West
In the years after World War II, Westerners and Japanese alike elevated Zen to the quintessence of spirituality in Japan. Pursuing the sources of Zen as a Japanese ideal, Shoji Yamada uncovers the surprising role of two cultural touchstones: Eugen Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery and the Ryoanji dry-landscape rock garden. Yamada shows how both became facile conduits for exporting and importing Japanese culture.
First published in German in 1948 and translated into Japanese in 1956, Herrigel’s book popularized ideas of Zen both in the West and in Japan. Yamada traces the prewar history of Japanese archery, reveals how Herrigel mistakenly came to understand it as a traditional practice, and explains why the Japanese themselves embraced his interpretation as spiritual discipline. Turning to Ryoanji, Yamada argues that this epitome of Zen in fact bears little relation to Buddhism and is best understood in relation to Chinese myth. For much of its modern history, Ryoanji was a weedy, neglected plot; only after its allegorical role in a 1949 Ozu film was it popularly linked to Zen. Westerners have had a part in redefining Ryoanji, but as in the case of archery, Yamada’s interest is primarily in how the Japanese themselves have invested this cultural site with new value through a spurious association with Zen.
Preface to the American Edition
1. Between the Real and the Fake
The Kitschy World of “Zen in/and the Art of . . .”
The Rock Garden in New York
The Moving Borderline
2. The Mystery of Zen in the Art of Archery
The Beginning of the Story
Spiritual Archery and Herrigel’s Meeting with Its Teacher
Becoming a Disciple
Purposefulness and Purposelessness
The Target in the Dark
The Riddle of “It”
3. Dissecting the Myth
The Spread of Zen in the Art of Archery
The Moment the Myth Was Born
What is Japanese Archery?
The Great Doctrine of the Way of Shooting
What Herrigel Studied
4. The Erased History
The Blank Slate
Herrigel’s Early Years
The Japanese in Heidelberg
Homecoming and the Nazis
From the End of the War to Retirement
5. Are Rock Gardens Really Pretty?
From the “Tiger Cubs Crossing the River” to the “Higher Self”
The Neglected Rock Garden
The Rock Garden in Textbooks
Unsightly Stones and a Weeping Cherry Tree
Shiga Naoya and Muro Saisei
Are Rock Gardens Pretty?
Popularization and the Expression of Zen
Proof of Beauty
6. Looking at the Mirror’s Reflection
Another Japan Experience
Bruno Taut and Ryoanji
The People Who Introduced Zen and Ryoanji to the West
How Zen in the Art of Archery and Ryoanji Were Received
Does Zen Stink?
Kyudo, Zen, and the Olympics
I Knew It! It’s Zen!
Appendix: Herrigel’s “Defense”
Kanji for Personal Names
Kanji for Japanese Terms