Japan: Spiritual Beings in Trees


Spiritual Beings in Trees

October 13–24, 2020 

Join archaeologist Fumi Arakawa and Hopi artist Ramson Lomatewama on an exploration of the sacred nature of trees. Throughout human history, trees have provided an invaluable resource that has contributed to the rise and fall of empires. For both Hopi and Japanese cultures, forests are intimately connected to the natural world and provide living testimony to sacred practices. Fumi contributes his knowledge of the puppet masters of Japan, and Ramson shares his experiences as a Hopi wood-carver and so much more. Explore the wonders of central and southern Japan while discussing how different cultures conceptualize the sacred properties of wooden resources, past and present.


  • Hike through Yakushima’s primordial forest. Visit local pottery studios and enjoy a lecture with a local forestry expert.
  • Visit one of only three wooden castles left in Japan.
  • Explore the thatched-roof villages of Gokayama, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Take a guided history tour of Kanazawa from a local historian. Stroll through Kenrokuen Park, home to many ancient trees and beautiful gardens. Visit the samurai and geisha districts, and visit with a bamboo master.

Japan: Spiritual Beings in Trees

  1. Scholars
  2. Accommodations
  3. Is This Trip for You?
  4. Terms & Policies

Fumi Arakawa is the museum director and an associate professor of anthropology at New Mexico State University (NMSU). He also serves as a research associate with the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center and directs the NMSU Summer Field School in the Gila National Forest, New Mexico. His primary interest is reconstructing sociopolitical organization among the ancestral Pueblo people in the Mesa Verde (focusing on southeast Utah) and northern Mimbres region. Fumi is also currently developing theoretical and methodological frameworks for exploring potential meanings behind tangible objects and intangible cultural heritage activities in Japan; he developed this interest through exploring his great-grandfather’s well-known puppets and iki ningyoo (life-form dolls) form in the early to middle 1900s.

Ramson Lomatewama is an award-winning glass artist, poet, jeweler, traditional-style kachina doll carver, and educator. He was born into the Eagle Clan; his art and poetry are influenced by his life at Hopi, and the way he looks at the world is a reflection of this rich cultural heritage. Ramson creates his kachinas in the old way, using obsidian to carve the cottonwood root. He uses natural pigments, and he spins his own twine to attach feathers to the dolls. Ramson and his family live in Hotevilla, AZ, where he pursues his current artistic interests. He is featured in Jonathan S. Day’s book Traditional Hopi Kachinas, and his books of poetry include Silent Winds: Poetry of One Hopi, Ascending the Reed, and Drifting through Ancestor Dreams. Photo Courtesy of School for Advanced Research.

Park Hotel Tokyo is located just a few steps from the lovely Hamarikyu Gardens and a short walk from the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Station. Occupying floors 25–34 of the Shiodome Media Tower, it is a contemporary hotel filled with art that is changed regularly. 

Uan Kanazawa is one of Kanazawa’s new generation of boutique hotels. This meticulously designed small hotel offers modern, tasteful décor and an excellent breakfast, and it is within easy walking distance of the Omi-cho market, Kenrokuen Park, and Kanazawa castle.

Takayama Green Hotel is a Japanese-style inn with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, a private natural hot spring, a variety of restaurants (Japanese, Western, Chinese, and buffets, all offering fresh vegetables from the Hida mountains and fresh seafood from the Sea of Japan), and the Sky Bar.

Hikone Castle Resort and Spa is in a great location facing 400-year-old Hikone Castle and within walking distance of Lake Biwa. The hotel features tastefully decorated rooms, a terrace with castle views, and a library lounge that includes a hot spring.

Sankara Hotel and Spa is a secluded retreat set between cedar forests and the sea. Sankara offers spacious rooms that blend well with Yakushima Island’s mountain and forests, a first-rate spa, a pool, and two excellent restaurants.

Hyatt Regency Kyoto is located in the traditional area of Higashiyama Shichijo, in the cultural heart of Kyoto, close to temples and the Kyoto National Museum. It has comfortable rooms, a full-service spa, and an incomparable breakfast.


While this trip is not hiking intensive, expect to walk around towns, on forest trails, and through museums. Many temples and shrines are accessed by long flights of stairs, and the older cities often have cobblestone streets, which can be uneven. You should be comfortable with walking, standing, and sitting for long periods of time. Flight times from the United States to Japan can be 12–18 hours, and our travel across Japan can be up to 4 hours by train. Our luggage will be with us for the long journeys on crowded public transportation; packing light is recommended.


The highest elevation level for this program is 6000 feet, on Yakushima Island. We recommend ramping up your exercise regime prior to arrival. If you have any questions, please contact your physician.

Remote Facilities

Modern facilities are available throughout the trip. Though travel times can be long, there will be restrooms along the way. We will encounter high-tech toilets as well as traditional Asian-style squat toilets. Wi-Fi will be available at all accommodations. If you require internet access at all times, we recommend renting a portable router or arranging a travel package with your cellular provider before you depart.

Cultural Sensitivity

Japanese is the major language of Japan. English may be spoken in urban centers and in tourist venues but is rarely spoken in rural areas. We will have an interpreter or two with us in our travels, but patience and respect should be exercised as we immerse ourselves in our host culture. In addition, consider wearing comfortable shoes that are easy to remove; we will be expected to take them off for most buildings we enter.

For further information on the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center’s Terms, Conditions, and Cancellation Policies please click here. You will find details on tuition, cancellations, travel insurance, accommodations, medical information, and more.