A Deep Kyoto Christmas Book List

Here are some last minute Christmas stocking filler suggestions for the Kyoto lovers in your life.

zenbu zenZenbu Zen – Food writer and photographer Jane Lawson, escaped her overworked and stressed out life as a publisher and ran away to her dream city: Kyoto. Here she spent five months exploring Kyoto culture, particularly Kyoto food culture, and her book is a record of that exploration. Part memoir, part cookbook, part pictorial tribute to the city she loves, Jane Lawson’s Zenbu Zen is both beautiful to look at and an excellent primer for the study of Japanese cuisine.

city that silk builtThe City That Silk Built: The Courier Edition – Fresh from the printers, Chris Mosdell’s latest book of poems replicates the ancient Heian era tradition of poems sent as messages and responses. Each pair of poems is accompanied by a map of the location in which it was composed and an illustration: sometimes a woodcut and sometimes a photo.  It’s lovely book, steeped in history, literature and lore and makes for a unique guide to the mysterious side of Kyoto.

FWGcover2The Forest Within the Gate – The numinous photography of John Einarsen, the contemplative poems of Edith Shiffert, graceful calligraphy from Rona Conti and thought provoking essays from Marc Peter Keane, Diane Durston and Takeda Yoshifumi all come together in this glorious celebration of the Imperial City. Buy it direct from Kyoto Journal here: http://www.kyotojournal.org/backissues/kyoto-the-forest-within-the-gate/

kyoto urbanKyoto: An Urban History of Japan’s Premodern Capital by Matthew Stavros – A thorough and academic guide to eight centuries of Kyoto’s formation and urban development. Covering history,  culture, art, architecture, religion, and urban planning this is a scholarly work and may be too weighty for the casual reader. Truly deep Kyoto lovers, however, should enjoy the  challenge!

WHS-CoverJapan’s World Heritage Sites – A wonderful and beautifully illustrated guidebook from our friend John Dougill. Kyoto has 17 World Heritage properties all listed here along with other locations throughout the Japanese archipelago. My own copy has become an indispensable aid when planning trips about these fair isles.

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Deep Kyoto: Walks – What can I say? With such an illustrious collection of writers this book of meditative strolls throughout Kyoto is destined to be a classic. And did you know that you can gift an ebook? It saves on wrapping!
Take a look at the first three chapters here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KFM2J0C

mewby reading2

Where’s Mewby? Deep in a forest within a gate that’s where!

Sanka’s Winter Ritual: A Mixed Media Performance by Ensō Watt @ Urbanguild; January 25th

I am very excited to learn that Ensō Watt’s Rite of Winter will be performed at Urbanguild on January 25th 2015! This is the third in Ensō Watt’s series celebrating the 100th anniversary of Stravinski’s Rite of Spring.  I attended the Rite of Autumn in October and it was fantastic. Be prepared to be thoroughly immersed in a world of intense colours, poetry, music and myth!

Sanka's winter ritual
Date: Sunday, January 25th
Doors Open:
19:30
Show Starts:
20:00
Tickets on the door:
2600 yen
Tickets in advance:
2000 yen
Student Tickets:
1500 yen
(all tickets include one drink)

About Ensō Watt:
Initiated in 2014 by the sound designer Samuel André, the Ensō Watt artist collective is born in Kyoto from the encounter of artists coming from different countries and raised in entirely different artistic universe, from classical music to electro, improvisation and sound design.

The Seasonal Rites:
A hundred years after Stravinsky’s revolutionary “Rites of Spring,” the members of this artistic collaboration pursue the experience-cum-experiment by focusing on Japan’s seasonal cycles, especially celebrated by the little-known mountainous tribe, the Sanka.

The Show:
The music is inspired by the poetry of Chris Mosdell; it navigates between improvisation and conducted improvisation live by Yannick Paget, based on scored music’s elements. The performers, positioned in the audience, generate an immersive, musical surround-experience (broadcast on 4 speakers). More than just a musical experiment, the event is also shot live via a series of 6 cameras, and is processed and projected on 2 screens during the performance.

city that silk builtThe Poet:
Incidentally, the poet Chris Mosdell has just released a wonderful bilingual book of poems written in Kyoto entitled The City That Silk Built. Chris was kind enough to send me a copy and though I haven’t had time to look at it properly yet, what I have seen looks marvellous. I shall review it in good time, but for now, you can take a look at it on Amazon.co.jp.

For more information on the show:
Press contact: Marguerite Paget: mgtpaget[at]gmail.com / 090 6556 1974
Event coordination: Samuel André: sandre.constellation[at]gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ensowatt?fref=ts

See also the following sites:
Chris Mosdell: http://chrismosdell.com/
Yannick Paget: http://www.yannickpaget.com/
Samuel André: http://p0llenrec.tumblr.com/ https://soundcloud.com/ieva
Ensō Watt: http://ensowatt.org/
Urbanguild: http://www.urbanguild.net/ 

And my short review of the last Ensō Watt performance here: Pictures from Sanka’s Autumn Ritual by Ensō Watt

Hiking the Rice Buyers’ Way

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Into the woods!

Two of the most rewarding activities I have been involved in during my time in Kyoto, are the events organized by the Hailstone Haiku Circle, and the conservation activities of People Together for Mt. Ogura (PTO). Stephen Gill is a primary organizer of both organizations, and so some of their activites tend to merge. So it was that on October 26th Mewby and I took part in a joint Hailstone/PTO hike along the Rice Buyers’ Way between Mizuo and Saga, in Ukyo-ku, Kyoto.

Says Stephen,

The Komekai no Michi 米買の道 was the route taken by citizens of Heian-kyo and their horses and oxen when they went off to buy cheaper, more delicious rice from Mizuo, Koshihata and the province of Tamba beyond. The journey involved climbing at least two passes (there is a third on the way to Koshihata/Kameoka). With an early start and a brisk pace, the buyer’s mission could possibly have been accomplished in a single strenuous day… Few people pass this way nowadays, but the trail is still pretty good…

However, unlike the rice buyers, we would walk in only one direction and not there and back again. Meeting up at Hozukyo station at 9am, we boarded a mini-bus for Mizuo. From here we would hike back to Kyoto. Here are some pictures from our walk.

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The view from Mizuo. This little mountain village was once the home of the Emperor Seiwa (清和天皇, Seiwa-tennō, 850–878) and it was here he passed away.

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Stephen and Mewby tree hugging at Enkaku-ji, Mizuo.

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Here Mewby inspired me. “Look at the spider web shining! Doesn’t it look just like a CD!” she said. And, “Did you know that in experiments spiders change the shape of a web according to the music they are played?”

to what tune
does the spider spin
this disc that snares the light?

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On our way…

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Much of the route is sign-posted.

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Stephen Gill – upstream

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東の田んぼ跡 – The east rice field ruins. Hard to believe this was once farmland.

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Another source of inspiration, this fungus is called サルノコシカケ or Monkey’s seat. Surprisingly it can actually take quite a bit of weight.

a fungal seat –
each in turn, we try to prove
we are monkeys

And Okiharu Maeda’s translation:

座れるか?
サルノコシカケ
人が猿か

Our troop

Our troop

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大岩 – The big rock

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Climbing 大岩

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Scrambling

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Kunugi is a type of oak, but there was no kunugi to be seen here. Maeda-san explained that there must have been one in times past, that was used as a landmark to help people find the way…

for the ghost of the tree,
that pointed the way,
now stands a simple sign

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Mr. Gill in reflective mood

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「アメンボ!」 says Mewby 「見て!」


water strider –
back and forth he stakes a claim:
this rock is mine

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At Kiyotaki

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The Hozu River Gorge

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Closer

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One of PTO’s main activities is collecting rubbish that has been illegally dumped on Mount Ogura. Maeda-san and Stephen were scouting out an area in need of work along the way…

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The return to Saga

Having returned to Saga, those that still had energy visited a Balinese eatery and there over our drinks and just desserts, we shared our haiku. You can read some haiku from the other walkers here: Of Michio, Toshi and the Village of Mizuo

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A reward at journey’s end.

Many thanks to Stephen Gill for organizing a very enjoyable day.

If you would like to join in the activities of the Hailstone Haiku Circle or PTO then please visit the websites below.

https://hailhaiku.wordpress.com/
http://www.ptogura.org/ep.html

Kōtō-in – An Excerpt from “Deep Kyoto: Walks” by Joel Stewart

This month’s extract from Deep Kyoto: Walks is taken from a very fine ramble by the artist Joel Stewart, titled “In Praise of Uro Uro”. Uro uro is a Japanese expression for aimless wandering.

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Kōtō-in by Joel Stewart

I really don’t think much needs be said here about Kōtō-in, other than it’s a real escape from the city, right in the city. And beside all the interesting history you can find about this place, I think essentially, its purpose hasn’t changed that simple fact. It is, by design, a perfect example of understatement; a deceptively simple and brilliant combination of layout and materials meant to change your awareness and heighten your senses, starting as you make your way in. Highly calculated without it seeming to be so at all, Kōtō-in is refreshing and cleansing.

One of my favorite tricks for people visiting from abroad is to send them first to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, with all its over-the-top no expense spared attitude broadcasting loudly, its crowds and, yes, all that gold. Once done with that, bring them here to Kōtō-in’s less traveled, quieter, more inward-looking space, to show the other end of the spectrum of the Japanese aesthetic-meets-spirit equation. Kōtō-in still functions as a place of respite and refuge…

The entry way alone is worth the price of admission: several scenes are framed in succession as you go in, each frame helping you shed one more layer of the city behind you, and by the time you make it to the veranda overlooking the garden, you are lost in love and have forgotten why. You’ve been set up. Today, like before, I make my way in my socks to the veranda and sit. And sit some more. Bamboo high above, a vast carpet of moss below, and thread-like layers of maples in between. Silent except for the leaves rustling above and a bit of conversation by the couple beside me. In the center of the garden stands a craggy old stone lantern acting as a lone sentry. This scene is rich with the barest minimum. I feel no hurry, and since it is always so hard to leave, I just wait until my butt tells me it’s time to get up. Some places are just conducive to the simple act of observation… and letting the mind wander.

On the opposite side is the teahouse known as Shoko-ken, designed by one of Sen no Rikyu’s disciples, Tadaoki Hosokawa (who also happened to be the samurai warrior-cum-daimyo apparently responsible for Kōtō-in itself). It’s worth a visit just to scratch your head…..”What is ALL the fuss about these teahouses?…It’s SO DARK, mumble, mumble, etc…”. And yet. If you sit there a bit, let your eyes adjust, details start to emerge. I check out the stained earthen walls, the textures and planes, and note the hushed outside world. Everything but the absolute essential is removed from this space, for the guest who is about to receive tea. Senses are honed by what is there, and equally so, by what is absent. It’s sort of like blindfolding someone and placing an ice cube in their hand.

Time passes and my accustomed eyes see how the tokonoma and shoji window are placed in relation to each other so that the filtered light comes in at a diagonal and softly illuminates the base of the alcove like a subtle spotlight. Imagine what a single flower in season would look like in a rustic, hand-molded vase right next to you as the tea master passes you a warm frothing bowl of tea out of the shadows… Cool stuff to ponder in the darkened silence here.

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Text & photograph by Joel Stewart. To read the rest of this story, download our book here: Deep Kyoto:Walks.


DeepKyoto-cover-0423-finalAbout Deep Kyoto: Walks

Deep Kyoto: Walks is an independently produced anthology of meditative strolls, rambles, hikes and ambles around Japan’s ancient capital. All of the writers and artists involved in this project have lived and worked in Kyoto for many years and know it intimately. The book is in part a literary tribute to the city that they love and in part a tribute to the art of walking for its own sake.

About Joel Stewart
joelJoel Stewart is an American artist from Washington State who has resided in Kyoto since 1986. His work is in the permanent collections of several US museums and can be seen online at both “Joel Stewart Art” on Facebook and www.joelstewartart.com.

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To learn more about Deep Kyoto: Walks please check the following links:
About the Book
Extracts
Reviews
Videos
Interviews

Christmas Dinner & Music in Kyoto 2014


~Things to do in Kyoto this Christmas!~
Here is a listing for dinner options and other events this holiday season. A number of locations will be serving Christmas dinner – but reservations must be made in advance and you will need to book it fast! In no particular order…

Tadg’s Gastro Pub will be serving Christmas Dinner at 6pm from the 20th to the 26th of December. The charge is 3,500 yen per person. To reserve, please contact Tadg: 075-213-0214. Check the menu details below.
Website: http://tadgs.com/
Location: A short walk north of Oike on the east side of Kiyamachi. Here is a MAP.

tadg's

Cafe Foodelica are serving Christmas dinner from 7pm on the 23rd and 24th of December. The charge is 3,500 yen per person. Check the menu below. Reservations should be made by the 21st to 075-703-5208.
Website: http://foodelica.com
Location: On the South side of Kitayama-dori, between Shugakuin station and Kitashirakawa-dori. Just a minute’s walk East of the Eiden Shugakuin station. Look for the red door. Here is a MAP.

foodelicaFoodelica Xmas Dinner Menu
*Complimentary Foodelica Winter Warmer Cocktail
*Picardie-style Crèpe Gratinée with Home-cured Ham and Mushrooms
*Rouge et Vert Marine Red Cabbage and Apple Salad
*il Rossaverde ‘X’mas Special’ Pasta
*Carbonade à la Flambade Beef Stewed in Beer with Onions or Huîtres a la *Crème Grilled Fresh Oysters in Cream sauce
(both pictured above)
*‘Eastern Promise’ Special Dessert
*Coffee/Tea/Espresso

The Gael Irish Pub is serving a Christmas Dinner Plate for 2,000 yen from the 22nd to the 25th. See the menu below. Please make reservations at 075-525-0680.
Website: http://www.irishpubkyoto.com/
Location: On the 2nd floor of the Oto building on Nawate Dori across from the Minamiza Theatre. Come out of exit 8 of Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Line and turn right and right again up the north side of the underground car park. Look up for the Irish flag and Guinness sign on the building at the end of the road. Here is a MAP.
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Tom’s Burger Bar, despite having closed for regular business a couple of months back, is still serving Christmas dinner! A few spaces are still left for Christmas dinner on December 23rd at 6:00pm. The price for a full turkey dinner and a glass of champagne is 3800 yen. See details with the picture below. To make a booking call 075-703-3711 or email info@tomskyoto.com
Website: http://www.tomskyoto.com
Location: 5min walk from Ichijo-ji Station of Eizan line. Tom’s is on the street behind the Karaoke shop on Higashi-oji St., next to the curry shop. MAP.

Tom's Christmas Dinner: "Roast turkey, stuffing, mountains of mashed potato and lots of fresh veggies Pots of hot gravy, festive soup, and a real traditional Xmas pudding with brandy butter, even a wafer thin mint with your coffee to top it all off when you are just too stuffed to eat another bite."

Tom’s Christmas Dinner: “Roast turkey, stuffing, mountains of mashed potato and lots of fresh veggies Pots of hot gravy, festive soup, and a real traditional Xmas pudding with brandy butter, even a wafer thin mint with your coffee to top it all off when you are just too stuffed to eat another bite.”

Papa Jon’s Eatery is serving Christmas Dinner on December 24th only. The charge is 3,200 yen. See the menu below. Reservations should be made to 075-211-1600.
Website: http://papajons.net/html/page18.html
Location: Papa Jon’s Eatery is on the 3rd floor of the Shimpukan complex, which sits on the east side of Karasuma a short walk south of Oike. Here is a MAP.
Papa Jon's Christmas
Music!
Papa Jon’s Eatery is also hosting a Christmas musical event “Canciones & Christmas Carols” on the 23rd with a special Christmas buffet. Charles Roche says,

Ayaka Tanimoto – Mezzo Soprano (graduate of Royal College of Music in London) and Kumi Matsuo – Piano (also a graduate of RCM) will be performing an evening of Light Opera and Christmas Duets. This is a great opportunity to hear this talented world class duo in an informal setting.

We are preparing a Seasonal Christmas Buffet including Chestnut Pumpkin Soup (warm your innards), hors d’oeuvres (to remind you that you will never be able to correctly spell that word), assorted salads, etc.

Ayaka’s and Kumi-san’s intention is to make this event casual and “accessible”, so no black tie puleeze. Quote Ms. Tanimoto, “We want to introduce our music to a new audience”.

canciones

Entrance: ¥2500 per person (including buffet)
Papa Jon’s Eatery is limited to 40 seats
Reservations are recommended (open seating)
Call (075) 211 1600
Doors open: 5:30PM
Buffet from: 6:00PM
Performance: 7:00PM

Other Christmassy Events:

MessiahAll Doshisha presents Handel’s Messiah at Kyoto Concert Hall
Date: Tuesday 24th December
Doors open: 17:00
Place: Kyoto Concert Hall
Ticket and reservation details in my previous post here: Handel’s Messiah ~ The 50th Christmas Concert from Doshisha

O-minugui Shiki at Chion-in Temple
Our friend John Dougill’s recommendation for a truly Kyoto Christmas is a magnificent Buddhist ceremony held every year on December 25th. Read all about it here: A Kyoto Christmas

…And if there any Christmas dinner or event options I have missed, then please add them in the comments. Joys of the season to you all!

Handel’s Messiah ~ The 50th Christmas Concert from Doshisha

Every year Doshisha University puts on a Christmas performance of Handel’s masterpiece, “Messiah”, at Kyoto Concert Hall and this year is the 50th!

Messiah
The annual All Doshisha Messiah Concert is hugely popular with members of the local community, as well as with the students, graduates, teachers and staff of Doshisha…. All the performers do their best to make it a Christmas to remember.

All Doshisha Messiah Concert 24th December 2014
Doors open: 17:00
Show begins: 18:00
(B seats open from 16:30)

Place: Kyoto Concert Hall [Access]
Tickets:
S seats [Should be reserved in advance]:2000円
A seats [Should be reserved in advance]:1500円
B seats [Can be bought on the day]:1000円

Tickets can be bought via
Ticket Pia: TEL 0570-02-9999 http://t.pia.jp/(Pコード 243-954)
Kyoto Concert Hall Ticket Agency: TEL 075-711-3090
Doshisha University Co-operative: TEL 0774-65-8376
Or reserved online: here.

Inquiries (in Japanese) to:
All Doshisha Messiah Concert Committee (全同志社メサイア演奏会実行委員会) TEL 080-3864-2412 (Ibuki)
E-mail: doshisha.messiahconcert2014@softbank.ne.jp

Please check the Christmas Concert website for further details (Japanese): https://alldoshishamessiah.net

Deep Nara #3 – The Rose Garden at Ryōsen-ji

Just outside Nara City proper is the temple of Ryōsen-ji. Founded in the 8th century by Indian monk Bodhisena, this temple has a long history and many cultural treasures. But I’m not going to write about those today. Today I’m going to show you the rose garden.

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This rose garden was made in 1957, as a living prayer for world peace.

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There are over 200 blooms to view here. Many of them also have a heady scent.

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We spent a pleasant time here, savoring the many fragrances and the varied velvet blooms.

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I love roses. And I loved this garden.

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There is also a cafe at one end of the garden where you can try some rose flavored tea or coffee.

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I asked for cream with my coffee, but the good lady instructed me that it would detract too much from that unique rosey taste. A drop of cream would have been a mercy though. That coffee was nasty.

A bitter cup indeed.

A bitter cup indeed.

The roses are at their best in the spring (from mid-May to mid-June) and autumn (from mid-October to early November).

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To get to Ryōsen-ji take the Kintetsu Nara line from Nara station and get off at Tomio (富雄). From there you will have to take a bus or taxi. Here is a MAP.

I will post more pictures from the temple itself at a later date…

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See also: Deep Nara #1 – Kojiki Exhibition
Deep Nara #2 – Cafe & Restaurant Bambuno

Deep Nara #2 – Restaurant & Cafe Bambuno

After visiting the Kojiki Exhibition in Nara last month, Mewby and I wandered into the Nara-machi area in search of a place to eat. A warm glow from Restaurant Bambuno caught my eye, we studied the menu, we liked what we saw, and so we plumped for Italian that night. IMG_7266I’m glad we did. The food was great and service very friendly. I’m happy to recommend this little restaurant to anyone visiting Nara. Here’s what we had:

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Oysters Ajillo

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Salmon Marinated with rock salt, lemon & olive oil.

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Margherita: fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil

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Pasta Napolitana; tuna, mushrooms, tomato sauce

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Satsuma-imo (sweet potato) tiramisu

Everything we ate was really great, but that sweet potato tiramisu was a real discovery. When you experiment with a classic recipe things can go horribly wrong, but this time the combination worked a treat. It was the perfect end to a lovely meal.

Here are the restaurant details:

IMG_0326 (Medium)Opening Hours:
Lunch: 11:30〜14:00
Cafe Time: 15:00〜17:00
Dinner: 18:00〜22:00
Closed on Tuesdays

Tel: 0742-27-0072
Address: 〒 630-8734
奈良県奈良市今御門22
Here is a MAP.
Site: http://bambuno.eek.jp/

See also: Deep Nara #1: Kojiki Exhibition

Christine Flint Sato Sumi Workbook Review in Kyoto Journal #81

sumi workbook coverThe latest issue of Kyoto Journal includes my review of Christine Flint Sato’s Sumi Workbook.

Christine Flint Sato’s Sumi Workbook presents a complete introductory course for amateur or professional artists who would like to try the traditional brushed ink arts of East Asia. Sumi, a black ink made of soot and animal glue, is the essential medium for the arts of calligraphy and ink painting, and, Sato warns, it is “essentially unpredictable.” Even professional sumi artists who have trained for years, do not expect complete control over their materials. So much depends on the thickness or dilution of the ink, the type of brush used, the quality and absorbency of the paper, and of course there is always an element of chance. You never know for sure what you are going to affect. Rather than being a source frustration, however, Sato tells us that this tension between chance and design is a source of endless fascination and “delight, as unexpected effects abound.” We are encouraged to think of the sumi artist’s concentrated response to this moment-by-moment unpredictability as a form of playful meditation, a liberating discipline.

You can read the rest of this review online here: The Unexpected Delights of Brushed Black Ink. The Sumi Workbook is available from Amazon.co.jp or you can order it directly from Christine via her website: http://www.sumiwork.com/

Kyoto Journal #81: Sustained Engagement is now available for download. Here’s a prelude:

KJ81Autumn is nearly over—luminous morning mists highlight Kyoto’s eastern hills, tawny hues flare and burn out on the slopes of Mt Hiei, reminding us again of the insubstantiality of day-to-day life. At the core, what lasts? Only sustained, gathered engagement, commitment to strongly-held objectives, carrying us through successions of seasons into the long haul of decades and beyond…

Among articles in KJ 81 we present stories of people whose commitment is manifested in long-term concerns, projects involving sustained incremental effort, where progress is measured not in hours or days or weeks but in years, even lifetimes, among those privileged to find such purpose and the means to fulfill it.

You can read more about Kyoto Journal #81 and  download it here: http://www.kyotojournal.org/current-issue-digital-edition/

Bliki Circus Are Back on Stage at Urbanguild on December 18th!!

After a two year hiatus – Bliki Circus are back!

Bliki flyer

Bliki Circus is an acoustic gypsy/punk group in Kyoto, Japan. Their music is reminiscent of traditional folk music from Japan, Eastern Europe and Russia, spiced with touches of Klezmer, tango, jazz, rock, and punk, and whatever else comes up.

If you have seen Bliki Circus before, you know you are ensured a great night out! If you haven’t, take my word for it! Don’t miss this show if you get the chance!

Date: Thursday December 18th
Doors Open: 18:30
Show Starts: 19:00
Charge: 2000 yen
Tickets in Advance: 1800 yen
All tickets include one drink order.

Location: UrBANGUILD. From Sanjo Dori go down Kiyamachi Dori. This is the narrow street running alongside Takase stream. Urbanguild is on the east side (left hand side as you walk down from Sanjo). Walk approximately 150 metres. Its on the 3rd floor of the New Kyoto Building – access by elevator or stairs. Here is a MAP.

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See also: Images and Sound from Bliki Circus