Zen and the Arts of Japan

Pre-registration: Use the Google form below to let us know which Toronto Pursuits seminar you would like to pre-register for. Please choose only one seminar.

Fill out the form

Toronto Pursuits and COVID-19: We expect to formally open registration and collect deposits early in 2022, once we get more information from the University of Toronto. See the main Toronto Pursuits page for more details.

We do have a variety of online seminars running now, with new groups starting regularly. Thank you for your patience!




Sean Forester is an artist and lecturer from the San Francisco Bay Area. As a painter, Sean has a long been inspired by Japanese art. He will lead the Classical Pursuits travel tour to Kyoto in November 2022. Sean studied at St. John’s College, Cambridge University, and the Florence Academy of Art.


Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings, edited by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki
(Tuttle Publishing, 1998)
ISBN-13: 978-0804831864

How to Look at Japanese Art, by Stephen Addiss
(Echo Point Books & Media, 2015)
ISBN-13: 978-1626542822

The Art of the Japanese Garden, by David Young and Michiko Young
(Tuttle Publishing, 2019)
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-4805314975

Sean will also provide a PDF with haiku poems and excerpts from The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo, which is in the public domain

Participants are required to obtain the specified editions to facilitate the group’s ability to find and cite portions of the text during discussion. Details will be provided at registration.

Japanese art inspired by Zen Buddhism has a particular beauty—a beauty of stillness and silence. With its simplicity, ritual, and authentic way of being, Zen developed the aesthetic of wabi-sabi: natural and perfectly imperfect. From haiku poetry to raku ceramics, Zen artists recognized the gift of life and the impermanence of all things. Zen teaches that we can not reach awakening by thinking alone. Through the practice of meditation and mindfulness in everyday life, we go deeper.

Do you sometimes feel stressed by the pace of contemporary life? Contemplating the expanse of the white gravel in a rock garden offers such a moment of stillness and silence. A few artistically placed stones emerge like islands from the sea or mountains above a layer of clouds. Some would say the garden expresses the Zen philosophy “form is emptiness, emptiness is form.”

Join us for a seminar on Zen teachings and how they shaped the arts of Japan. This is an opportunity to explore a rich diversity of Japanese arts: painting, poetry, sculpture, ceramics, calligraphy, garden design, tea ceremony, textiles, and woodblock prints. Open yourself more fully to this unique culture and artistic tradition. Then see how Japanese art shaped Western art, how Hokusai and Hiroshige inspired Monet, Cassat, and van Gogh.

“What a strange thing!
To be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
—Kobayashi Issa




The cost of Toronto Pursuits registration will be announced shortly. Registration includes one seminar Monday to Friday, morning coffee and newspapers, five buffet lunches, afternoon speakers, a five-day opera lecture series, film screenings, guided walks, two cocktail receptions, and a range of other cultural and social activities. All costs are subject to the 13% Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).

See Registration and Cancellation Policy at https://www.classicalpursuits.com/fine-print/registration-policies/


ONE per registrant

  • Participants who have attended Toronto Pursuits at least five times receive a C$215 discount.
  • Register with a friend, and if one or both are first-time participants, each receives a C$215 discount.


You are responsible for booking your own accommodation. Click here for more information.

Stratford Shakespeare Festival Weekend

We expect to have more information about the Stratford Festival Weekend in early 2022.


Additional information


Concert ticket, Not eligible for discount, Five times, With friend, Gift registration