“At one point in life, we feel like we have learned everything there is to know,” says Tahsan, in an uncharacteristically excited tone. “This journey, where I followed the footsteps of Tagore’s 100-year-old journey to Japan, was a life-altering experience. In many ways, it has changed how I look at life.”
Since childhood, Tahsan was an ardent fan of Kabi Guru Rabindranath Tagore, and his book, Japan Jatri was one of his favourites. Young Tahsan would be fascinated on how one of the greatest poets of all time put Japan, its people, and their philosophies on such a high pedestal. Supported by Japan External Trade Organization: JETRO, this trip to Japan put the singer in the footsteps of Rabindranath Tagore, as he went on a remarkable journey with a fulfilling epiphany.
“In this trip, I realised how much soul the Japanese people put into whatever they do,” adds Tahsan. “For example, I dined in a sushi restaurant, where the chef only served 8-10 people a day. He shopped for groceries every morning, and if the market did not have the freshest of ingredients, he’d cancel the reservations altogether.”
Tahsan visited the factory of one of the biggest watch manufacturers in the wold, Citizen. “Even though they have state-of-the-art technology, their philosophy remains the same,” he says. “Historically, Japan did not rely on international trade because of accessibility problems. They traded internally, and had to make products for their friends, family and loved ones. The makers of the watches told me that they still manufactured each of the products as if they made it for a family member. What a wonderful philosophy! ‘Kaizen’, the Japanese word for ‘improvement’, is not merely a word, but a philosophy. They strive hard to improve on their crafts every single day, and there is a lot to learn from them.” said Tahsan.
The singer had the opportunity to visit the most prolific Bonsai tree maker in the world, Kunio Kobayashi. “Sensei told me that when you look at a bonsai plant, you realise how small you are in the grand scheme of things. We often tend to become materialistic and self-centred, and this is something valuable to ponder on.” He visited the legendary Masamune katana makers, where the family carries on the tradition of making these swords, even after the feudal age is over. “The family has passed the finesse and tradition of sword making across generations, and they will keep on doing so. This is how much they value their tradition.”
Perhaps the most momentous occasion in the trip came when Tahsan got to meet one of the most famous architects in the world, Kengo Kuma, at the house of artist Yokoyama Taikan, the legendary Japanese artist who designed the cover for Rabindranath’s Japan Jatri. “Being in the same room as the Kabi Guru was more than a century ago, and with one of the most prolific engineers of our time, was exhilarating!” says Tahsan, “You’ll notice that Japan, whilst being a developed nation, does not pollute their environment. Their architecture, engineering, and way of life ensures that there is no pollution.
“I always wondered why Rabindranath emphasised on subjects seemingly ‘trivial’ in Japan Jatri, for example, how they used their tea-cups and pottery,” he says. “Only in this tour, I realised the significance of it. There is soul in every aspect of their work, no matter what the profession. You can see it in a sushi chef, who oversees every little detail from the knife used to the plates served in. You can see in a factory worker, a craftsman of swords, or a master of bonsai. The patriotism amongst Japanese is not just for the land, it’s for the people, and that is where I feel that we have a lot to learn.”
Footsteps of Tagore will premiere tomorrow on 8 different television channels between 9-10 pm. The second episode will air on May 26.