Not much is known about what kept Kuki busy for the ensuing several years. In 1921, at the age of 33, he embarked for Europe, accompanied by his wife Nui, intent on studying philosophy. He paid for his own way for those years in Europe. Once there, Kuki traveled Europe in the next seven years.
He crisscrossed Switzerland, France, and Germany for pleasure and work, staying in a city for a few months here and a few years there, just long enough to nibble at the academic offerings made available to him in these cities. These included private reading from Neo-Kantians Heinrich Rickert and Eugen Herrigel (the latter is famous among Japanologists for having written Zen and the Art of Japanese Archery, a book based on his experience as a student of archery in Japan), attending talks by his fellow countrymen, studying under the most famous phenomenologist Edmund Husserl, conferring with Martin Heidegger, attending his lectures, and visiting Henri Bergson in Paris. These were the luminaries in European philosophy then and only a few would have had the privilege of interacting with them. He put down in writing some of his important philosophical thought-a draft for The Structure (Iki no kōzō) was written in Paris in December of 1926. He also gave public lectures. For instance, in 1928 he lectured on the oriental notion of time and expression of infinity in Japanese art in Paris.
In these cities, he divided his time between work and pleasure. He spent weeks in the Swiss Alps collecting plant specimens to satisfy his boyhood interest in botany. Paris seemed to have agreed with Kuki most. When Kuki was not on the town dining at the most exquisite restaurants and visiting houses of pleasure in the French capital, he would meticulously record his private ruminations in tanka poetry and send the poems back to Japan for publication. Despite his opulent and decadent lifestyle, Kuki's scholarly cultivation impressed Nishida Kitarō (1870-1945), Japan's most prominent philosopher at the time, and former philosophy department chair at Kyoto Imperial University, Nishida wrote a letter to his successor Tanabe Hajime in December 1928 recommending Kuki for a position in Kyoto Imperial University's department of philosophy.
Kuki returned to Japan via the United States in 1929. He then joined the department of philosophy at Kyoto and began teaching courses on French philosophy, Husserl, Heidegger, problem of contingency, and history of western philosophy, among others. Kuki published The Structure of 'iki' in 1930, the year after he returned to Japan.
During the following years, he continued to teach French and German philosophies at Kyoto Imperial University. In 1936 he helped Karl Lowith, Kuki's acquaintance, Heidegger's student, and a Jew then being persecuted in Germany, to obtain a teaching position at Tōhoku Daigaku in Sendai in northern Japan and thereby securing an exit visa out of Germany. From 1937 on until his death in 1941 at the age of 53, Kuki contributed a number of articles to newspapers and magazines in which he extolled the virtues of Japanese culture and spirit, engaging in a kind of activity that some feel has made Kuki sound very nationalistic. In 1939 he traveled to Manchuria and China, among 174,000 tourists who visited that part in that year. He died in May of 1941 from peritonitis.
What is in "Iki no Kōzō"?
At this point you might wonder what it is that Kuki said in Iki no kōzō which made Kuki very famous. That will be the topic of this section.