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Japanese Incense Ceremony, Art & Wellness, Japanese Calligraphy

Interview with Eriyo Watanabe on her Arts and Wellness Center, Incense Ceremonies and Arts Therapy

Q. How did you get first become interested in, and acquainted with expressive arts therapy?

Eriyo Watanabe - Arts and Wellness Center
Eriyo Watanabe

I lived in Boston for almost eight years. I felt a sort of frustration when expressing myself verbally and had tried to find a way to use non-verbal expression. One day, a friend of mine sent me an email to let me know there were programs in expressive arts therapy at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. I immediately signed up for the program and was accepted as a student later.

The Lesley programs were experiential and truly beneficial for me. My mentor is Shaun McNiff, was the president of American Art Therapy Association at that time. I was very lucky to have excellent teachers in this field. I cannot believe that I got my Master’s Degree in such a such a short time.

Q. Can you tell us about your retreat programs at Iriai-mura in Izu?

We started retreat programs in Izu last summer. You can enjoy the beautiful beaches, mountains, organic farms, orchards and stars at night. The traditional Japanese house can accommodate 40 people.

Izu Retreat House
Izu Retreat House

We give a live concert in the grand room and creative arts workshops. We will give retreats for ladies, summer camp for international teenagers and special live concerts with several musicians. We can arrange custom designed retreat programs for groups of more than 8 persons. It is a great destination in spring and summer - nice to get out of city and enjoy nature. Please check our website at to see the photos and details.

Q3. What is the history of the Japanese Incense Ceremony?

When the Higashiyama Bunka was flourishing during Muromachi period (15th c.), tea ceremony, flower arrangement, Noh plays and the incense ceremony were established. Only privileged people were able to participate in the incense ceremony up until the Edo period. I would like to provide a chance to experience the incense ceremony for anyone who is interested.

The Japanese Incense Ceremony
The Japanese Incense Ceremony

We say ‘listen’ to the incense not ‘smell’ it. Through an inner journey, we can touch the deep sense. Many people say that old memories from childhood come to their mind. It is a very subtle experience and truly peaceful. It is a great way to be centered and grounded with deep breath. We offer the Japanese incense ceremony by appointment. We give live concerts with the incense ceremony once a month at a salon near the British Embassy.

Q. Could you tell more about the stress management program you offer?

At the art space in Setagaya-ku, we offer stress management programs. You will experience breathing exercises, stretching, movement, drawing, painting, free writing, Japanese calligraphy and the incense ceremony. It is a great way to raise self-awareness. The creative process is very healing. We will offer private and group sessions.

Q. Can you tell us about your programs for teachers and therapists?

We will offer a program, especially designed for teachers and therapists. It is a series of four sessions on Friday evenings or Sunday afternoons.

The titles of the sessions are:

• Opening yourself up with pastel drawing
• Rhythm and dance with percussion
• Experience how to surrender and let go with watercolor
• Self-awareness through the incense ceremony

Q. I hear your basic concept is based on the four elements; earth, air, fire and water as well as yin-yang. Can you explain why you are attracted by these symbols?

Earth, air, fire and water

When I lived in Boston, I met several Native Americans through the class at Lesley University. I was fascinated by their philosophy. As an Asian, I respect Taoism. I do believe our emotional and physical conditions can be described by the balance of the four elements as well as yin-yang . Our living world consists of four elements. Nature is the greatest healer on earth. And we are responsible for taking good care of it. I always use the symbols of the four elements in my sessions. When I dance, make art, sing and write poems, those symbols are the basis of my work.

Earth, air, fire and water

My images are Earth as physical body and grounding, Air as breathing and freedom, Fire as living force and passion, and Water as blood and emotion. We plan to create our own original CDs of the images the four elements in order to use them in our workshops and sessions at Iriai-mura in Izu this year. I believe that they will offer great rhythm and sound for music, dance and art therapists in their sessions.

Q. What is your favorite art form?

Well, I would say Japanese calligraphy. I started calligraphy lessons when I was six years old. I was very proud of myself - when I was a child as a very talented calligrapher. I won many prizes. When I moved to the States, I started calligraphy again. Now I do calligraphy regularly. I would like to share my talent with foreigners in Japan. Please come to my place to try it! It is one of the greatest arts in Asia.

Izu Retreat House where Eriyo holds retreats.
Izu Retreat House
where Eriyo holds retreats

To join one of Eriyo’s classes in Setagaya, Tokyo contact her on: 080-6552-4709.
You can also see her website for more details:


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