Help Send a Bright Young Tibetan, Tsewang Phuntsok, to University

The following is from Kyoto blogger Heenali Patel,

Hello everyone!

I’d like to introduce you to somebody who has meant a great deal to me for almost 7 years. His name is Tsewang Phuntsok.

Tsewang

Tsewang Phuntsok has “dreams of bettering the lot of his family, ambition, and a generous heart to match” – Click on the picture to help him go to University.

Tsewang was a 12 year old student at the school I volunteered at, in Nepal back in 2008. His family comes from a small village in Tibet- he was sent to live in Kathmandu in the hope that it would give him a better life.

Unfortunately, his life in Kathmandu was anything but better. The school where he lived was poor, dirty and managed by a corrupt individual who siphoned any funds from sponsors into his personal bank account.

I remember feeling utterly shocked to see all 100 students or so, sleeping in cramped spaces, infested with insects and rats. They had no clothes but for their tattered school uniforms- many didn’t even have shoes. I even knew a little girl who took to wearing a cardboard box. Illness and infection was common, and despite the best efforts of the cook, meals were often nothing more than porridge.

Yet, the children were bright, always happy to play- and always happy to learn. Many had a thirst for education that I’d never seen in the UK. One of these students was Tsewang- he had dreams of bettering the lot of his family, ambition, and a generous heart to match. We became friends very quickly- by the time I left Nepal, I thought of him as a brother. Me and my mum Vina Patel promised to help him pursue his education.

After I left, there was an outbreak of tuberculosis at the school. I don’t know how many of the children I had played with survived. In an act of total bravery- the likes of which I’ve never seen from any other 13 year old- Tsewang ran away from the school. With our promise to support him, he found a new school that gave him what the other could not- a decent chance at life.

My mum and I have supported Tsewang through his education for almost 7 years. Far from the undernourished child that I knew, he has grown into a strong young man- though his heart remains as beatiful as the day I met him.

Now, I’ll get to the point. Tsewang’s dream is to become a marine captain. He needs to train at the Nepal Institute of Maritime Studies in order to do this. But his fees are too much for us to pay entirely. His parents have sold what little land they own in the mountains- but even then, this only covers half the cost.

So now I’m going to try putting Tsewang’s education into the hands of all my friends, family and any other genourous soul who want to change someones life for the better.

I need to raise £2000 for Tsewang’s university fees- this will cover him for his full course, including an apprenticeship that will secure a regular paying job for him in the future. PLEASE HELP ME! :) Any amount would be appreciated so much- this isn’t just helping any anonymous charity- but helping a young man who I have known and loved for a very long time!

Thank you so much!

Thank you Heenali! Well, £2000 doesn’t seem like such a difficult target. I’m sure if a few big-hearted Deep Kyotoites chip in, even just a little bit, it will go a long way to setting Tsewang on the road to a brighter future. Whaddya think?

Please add your donations at: http://www.gofundme.com/bu6824

See also Heenali Patel’s site: The Japan Philes

Awakening/Leadership Workshop with Catherine Pawasarat @ Impact HUB Kyoto; July 25th

A two-hour workshop with Mindful Catalyst and Social Entrepreneur Catherine Pawasarat, building on her 12 Jul presentation on the Gion Festival’s spiritual traditions and sustainability.

leadership

Beyond the hype, mindfulness and conscious entrepreneurship are coming together to create the future we seek. Awakening/Leadership is a program for Changemakers in startups, non-profits and established businesses that combines transformative practices to bring the change you want to see in the world to your organization. HUB Kyoto member, environmental journalist turned social non-profit founder and CVO (Chief Visionary Officer) Catherine Pawasarat offers this powerful workshop for change, following on its joint offering at HUB Tokyo on 10 July with Tokyo social entrepreneur and philanthropist John Munroe (HUB Tokyo member).

Catherine has studied and practiced “Impact Leadership” for years, in the Brazilian Amazon, traditional Kyoto, and North America, participating in the Social Venture Institute, ALIA and BALLE-related Community Economic Development. Ten years ago she helped found the 310-acre Clear Sky Retreat Center in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, where as Chief Visionary Officer she’s helped develop and implement a social business-based program combining mindfulness and leadership.

Awakening/Leadership offers:
Drawing on leadership skills to bring about the positive future we want to create
Using the wisdom of natural cycles to find opportunities in challenges
A practical approach to changing the world: changing oneself
Using conscious intention to direct the energy of our projects or organizations
Pair and group exercises to support our learning process

Time & Date: 19:00–20:45, Friday July 25th
Participation fee:
¥3,000
Impact HUB Kyoto Members: Special Price! ¥1,000!
Location: Impact HUB Kyoto. Access details and map here: http://kyoto.impacthub.net/access/?lang=en

Some of Catherine’s involvements:
http://gionfestival.com/
http://akasavisionconsulting.com/
http://planetdharma.com/
http://clearskycenter.org/

See also John Dougill’s review of Catherine’s Gion Matsuri talk here: http://www.greenshinto.com/wp/2014/07/14/gion-festival-talk/

Into the Tumult – An Extract from Deep Kyoto Walks by Pico Iyer on BBC Travel!

This weeks extract from Deep Kyoto: Walks is brought to you by the BBC! We are all very pleased that BBC Travel have used a version of Pico Iyer’s article “Into the Tumult”, to launch their new Words & Wanderlust site. The version published on the BBC site differs mainly in the second half, though there are numerous small changes throughout. To read the original, download our book!

picobeeb

The BBC version of Pico’s article is entitled “The walk that made me love Japan” and is splendidly illustrated by wandering artist, Candace Rose Rardon. A big thank you to both Pico Iyer for his continued support for this project and also to BBC Travel for referencing our book with the article. Here is an extract:

My favourite Kyoto walk begins at a half-hidden temple called Gesshin-in ­– two-storey, white-walled, eminently missable – on a lane dominated by huge Buddhas, high towers on either side, and shops selling exquisite prints of kimonoed women and samurai warriors. It’s in the very centre of Japan’s ancient capital, between the can’t-miss sights of Maruyama Park and Sannenzaka, just next to the steps leading up to the temple known as Kodaiji.

As you stand on this narrow street, Nene-no-michi, looking west (downtown happily obscured by low bamboo fences and thickets of flowering maples), you’ll see scores of visitors surging past you, south, to climb the narrow sloping streets of Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka. Glamorous Japanese couples linking arms, foreigners with Nikons around their necks, chattering matrons and (in the daytime, at least) school groups – all are hurrying towards one of the last pilgrims’ districts in Japan, leading up to the legendary Temple of Pure Water, Kiyomizu.

Sannenzaka is golden in the late afternoon, and though it’s full of souvenir shops crammed with Hello Kitty key chains and posters made for Bieberites, though its lanterns sometimes come with outlines of Mickey Mouse’s ears on them, it’s still quite magical, with its walkways between shops selling dark blue Kiyomizu pottery, its tatami tea-rooms, the sight, as you ascend the steep paths, of slanting grey roofs extending below you towards the city. At the top, behind Kiyomizu, you come to a waterfall surrounded by hills that take you back to the world that might have been here before a soul had seen it. The temple itself was in place two centuries before the second millennium began.

But even as the crowds throng toward these postcard vistas, I recommend you move in the other direction, towards what ultimately looks like chaos. Turn right, and start walking towards the Gionkaku Tower at the end of the street, beside a modern temple. If you want to absorb Kyoto, you have to head into the clamour of downtown and find those graces that are not incidental to the place, but at its very heart. Both shopping streets and templed hills, after all, glow in the late November light with a magic-hour sharpness that deepens the blue above even as it catches the leaves whose turning speaks of coming winter and coldness and dark.

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To read the rest of this story, visit BBC Travel’s Words & Wanderlust, or download the 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 Pico Iyer
pico-iyerAcclaimed travel writer, Pico Iyer, is the author of two novels and eight works of non-fiction, including The Lady and the Monk describing his first year in Kyoto. He has been based around Kyoto and Nara since 1987.

You can find more of his articles online at http://picoiyerjourneys.com
Follow his travels on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/PicoIyer
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This is actually not the first time Deep Kyoto has been featured by BBC Travel! See also this article from 2012: Living In: Kyoto.

To learn more about our book please check the following links:
About the Book
Extracts
Reviews
Videos
Interviews

Gods, Monks, Secrets, Fish – An Extract from Deep Kyoto Walks by John Ashburne

Today John Ashburne takes us on a mouth-watering tour of Nishikikōji market and along the way adds a sprinkling of zen spice from the Buddhist teacher Dōgen Zenji…

IMG_8004 (Medium)

Daiyasu

Maintain an attitude that tries to build great temples from ordinary greens, that expounds the buddhadharma through the most trivial activity, handle even a single leaf of a green in such a way that it manifests the body of the Buddha. This in turn allows the Buddha to manifest through the leaf.

Two and a half decades ago, I would have read the above, and dismissed it out of hand. Buddhist transubstantiation? Temples made of lettuce! Bah humbug! I would have snorted. Not anymore. When the missus announced the other day “If a person is unhappy inside, you’ll taste it in their food”, I just nodded in silent agreement. Reverence. Awareness. Cooking as meditation. Sounds good to me. And I reckon if Dōgen had lit out for Venice Beach, he’d have made a killing.

Whilst you’re in Kyoto, you should push the boat out once and eat at one of the great restaurants. Sakurada is one of the best. Here’s a tip. Reserve a table for lunch. It’s the same with all the ryōtei, you still get the fabulous cuisine they serve in the evenings, just at a third of the price.

Head up Karasuma, across the busy Karasuma-Shijō crossing, until you reach Nishikikōji-dōri and turn right. Head past the Christian off-license advertising ‘Wine for Mass’ and Trappist Butter, and where the proprietors never, ever smile. If you’re hungry but the budget doesn’t stretch to Sakurada, try Eitarō, the noodle shop underneath Irish Pub Field. Their yuzu ramen with Japanese citron is excellent, especially on a cold winter’s day when the aromatic fruit are at their freshest. Or you can just wait till you hit the market. We’re nearly there now.

As you enter Nishiki from the Western entrance, notice the fabulous paintings of cockerels by the market’s most famous son, Itō Jakuchū who ran his father’s grocery, Masuya, before becoming one of the Edo period’s most celebrated artists. Jakuchū’s ‘Colourful Realm of Living Beings’ is a masterful collection of paintings of the very highest level, and it always puzzles me that he hasn’t achieved the fame in the West accorded to the likes of Utamaro and Hiroshige. I’d put him up there with the Old Masters. Not bad for a grocer’s lad from Kyoto.

Known nationwide as Kyō no Daidokoro, ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’, the Nishiki market has existed here since the 17th century. Back in the day, the market specialized in footwear for samurai, and was known as Gusoku-no-kōji, ‘army footwear alley’, but the locals abbreviated it to Kuso-no-kōji, the rather less flattering ‘shit alley’. Its current name – Silk Brocade Street – was bestowed upon it by Emperor Go-Reizai, in 1054, and the market has been pandering to Imperial appetites, and basking in the approval of the upper class and the wealthy, ever since. And rightly so. Nishiki rocks.

The market is in fact a long, narrow, covered arcade, the 130 or so stores facing each other across a paved walkway of ishidatami ‘stone mats’. As you enter Nishiki from Takakura-dōri the smell of charcoal and roasting shellfish draws you immediately to a perennial favourite, Daiyasu.

Picture 9 Nishikikoji Market View by John Ashburne (Medium)

Nishiki Market View

‘Daiyasu-san’, the old man hauling oysters from a crate, greets me with a warm smile. “This foreigner knows his Japanese food, all right” he tells two young Japanese tourists. They look more bemused than impressed. The phrase Daiyasu-san uses is washoku no tsu, washoku meaning Japanese cuisine, and tsu a cross between gourmet and expert, but not at all snotty unless you use it of yourself. I wish we had a word like that in English. I can’t stand the self-congratulatory element of ‘foodie’, and ’maven’ sounds like a witch. ‘Gourmet’ too posh. I reply with sono koto nai, the diffident denial expected on such occasions, but secretly I feel pretty chuffed.

Those of us long enough in the tooth remember when Daiyasu was just a regular, unassuming fishmonger. Now it’s turned into a fish shop-cum-izakaya, the in-place to eat fresh magaki oysters from Toba, Mie Prefecture, oasari giant venus clams from Aichi, fresh hotate scallops and sazae turbo. The latter are cooked in the tsuboyaki style, ie roasted in the shell directly over a flame. Watch out for their super bitter wata intestines and reproductive organs, the Japanese gourmet’s delight and very much an acquired taste. As a good friend succinctly put it, “Like a shit bomb going off in your mouth”. When I reported this to another mate, he replied “Well actually, in gastropods, the anus is located on the head”. For once, I didn’t know what to say.

At Daiyasu I usually content myself with Toba’s finest, and a cold beer. “Shellfish are the prime cause of the decline of morals and the adaptation of an extravagant lifestyle” harrumphed Pliny the Elder, clearly not a fan. Jonathan Swift deemed oysters cruel and uncharitable. Not these, they are superb.

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Text by John Ashburne. Daiyasu photograph by Michael Lambe. Nishiki Market View by John Ashburne. To read the rest of John stroll through Nishiki Market download Deep Kyoto: Walks here: LINK.

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.

John ASHBURNE for Canon 1About John Ashburne
John writes on Japan, and in particular on its Food Culture, for a host of publications including the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the Japan Times, etc. He is guest editor for the Fall 2014 Kyoto Journal special issue, ‘Food’. He has lived in Japan for 27 years, and calls Kyoto home. His hobby is extracting ‘dashi’ from a variety of seaweeds, fishes and certain mystical mushrooms that you’ll only find growing half way up a mountain in Gunma.

John blogs at www.johnashburne.com/
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See also:
Meet the Authors
Meet the Artists
An Exclusive Extract from Judith Clancy’s Walk
Old School Gaijin Kyoto – An Excerpt from Deep Kyoto Walks by Chris Rowthorn
Ghosts, Monkeys & Other Neighbours – An Excerpt by Bridget Scott
Blue Sky – An Excerpt by Stephen Henry Gill
Across Purple Fields – A Reading by Ted Taylor (VIDEO)
Kamogawa Musing – An Excerpt from Deep Kyoto Walks by John Dougill

Daijoubu! Photography & Kansai’s International Portrait Project

kansai-int-projectsmallA message from Javier Montaño of Daijoubu! Photography:

Are you a foreigner living in Japan? Would you like to have a professional take your portrait for free? Then this may be your chance. Three people from Kansai will be selected based on an interesting photo idea they submit.

Just imagine a place where you would like your photo taken, decide what kind of clothes you would wear in the atmosphere of your choice. If you are selected we will work it out to make your dream a reality.

All you have to do is send your information and explain your concept in 50 words or less by using the form at the end of this page. The better the idea the greater the chance to win!

Submissions will be accepted until July 31, 2014. The winners will have their portraits taken somewhere between August and October.

For full details and an application form please visit http://www.javiermontano.net/kp/

Kamogawa Musing – An Excerpt from Deep Kyoto Walks by John Dougill

In this extract from Deep Kyoto: Walks, John Dougill walking by the Kamo River, the nature reserve that cuts through the heart of Kyoto, muses on history and literature…

Leisure activities on a cloudy day at the meeting of the Kamo and Takanogawa

Leisure activities on a cloudy day at the meeting of the Kamo and Takanogawa

“The flow of the river is ceaseless and its water is never the same. The bubbles that float in the pools, now vanishing, now forming, are not of long duration. So in the world are man and his dwellings.” – Kamo no Chomei in Hojoki (tr. Donald Keene)

Kyoto ranks among the world’s great cities. What other town can boast of 17 different World Heritage properties – and it could have been so many more! One only has to think of the places left out: Fushimi Inari, with its seductive tunnel of torii; Daitoku-ji, home to Zen and the making of tea; the Former Imperial Palace and detached villas, including the exquisite Katsura estate.

To live in such surrounds is to be blessed indeed. I’m reminded of this every single morning as I open my curtains to gaze onto the great Dai of Daimonji and the thirty-six peaks of the Eastern Hills. I live next to one World Heritage site (Shimogamo Shrine), and I work next to another (Nishi Hongan-ji). From my writing desk I look up towards holy Mt. Hiei, ‘mother of Japanese Buddhism’. Culturally, one could hardly ask for more; it’s like living in a treasure box.

Yet for me, Kyoto wouldn’t be the city I love unless it were for the life-sustaining river that runs through its heart, forming a sliver of greenery and wildlife within the concrete city. I walk the river almost every day, for I live next to the lower reaches of the Takano where it merges with the Kamo to flow southwards towards Osaka. Most days I walk down to the Starbucks at Sanjō (Third Avenue) to set up office in the basement, but today I’m heading all the way down to Shichijō (Seventh Avenue), before turning west along the thoroughfare to my university.

The walk offers ‘time out’ from the daily round of urban life, a place for solitary contemplation of the larger matters. Here the spirit swells and relaxes. Here the mind can think in centuries. Here immersed in the rus in urbe I lose myself in observation of the wild life and muse on the seasonal round. There are fish that flash silver in springtime, large funa that glide improbably in the shallow water, even the occasional carp let loose in the river water and looking lost.

But this is not so much a river of fish, as of birds. Birds that swoop, scavenge and shriek in sheer delight at the oasis of water and greenery. Kamogawa translates as Duck River, and along with the duck varieties are pigeons, sparrows, cormorants, herons, wagtails, egrets, hawks, Siberian seagulls, crows galore, even the occasional kingfisher. These are my companions on my solitary walks. And the wonder is that you get all this while passing through downtown Kyoto. It’s almost miraculous.

The things I’ve seen on these river banks. A trumpeter sounding the Last Post on one long blood-red sunset; the cherry blossom delight of merry picnickers stretching away into the northern hills; the sad, sorry sight of flooded cardboard boxes belonging to the homeless; hawks snatching rice balls out of the hands of the unsuspecting. Strangest of all, one January dusk I saw a group of people in the river immersed to their waists like frozen statues. A trick of the eyes? A joke? An art performance? No, it turned out to be a karate club performing winter austerity rites. Walking this river can be an education too.

For it’s not just wildlife that enjoys this strip of water and greenery – it’s a vital playground for humans too. This is where people take time out to stretch and play, eat their bento or strip off to sunbathe. Old folks do gateball, youngsters play American Football. This is where musicals are rehearsed, Noh verses recited, tunes learnt, haiku composed, and dogs walked by dogged owners. Foreigners practice tai chi here, prompting children to tug at their parents in wonder, while TV crews add Kyoto glamour to their documentaries and celebrities pose for fashion magazines.

For me personally, the pleasure of a city like Kyoto derives from the way physical space is enhanced by the patina of time. ‘No city or landscape is truly rich unless it has been given the quality of myth by writer, painter or by association with great events,’ wrote V.S. Naipaul. In this sense Kyoto is rich indeed, for every corner of every street is fraught with poetic or historic significance. Here passed a poet, here martyrs were sacrificed, and here stood the palace of a shogun.

This walk along the river is thus about much more than physical movement. It’s about the passage through time and how the past has shaped the present. And there’s a personal dimension too, for the surrounds give me pause to reflect on the curiosity of my own life. Kyoto was founded in 794, and as it happened I first came here to live in 1994. For the city, the 1200th anniversary was a cause for celebration; for me, it marked the beginning of a whole new era.

An egret rests on one-leg, determined not to stick its neck out.

An egret rests on one-leg, determined not to stick its neck out.

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Text and photographs by John Dougill. To read the rest of John Dougill’s Kamogawa Musing, download Deep Kyoto: Walks here: LINK.

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.

John-Dougill-2-242x300About John Dougill
John Dougill is the author of Kyoto: A Cultural History, Japan’s World Heritage Sites and In Search of Japan’s Hidden Christians. He also keeps a blog, Green Shinto (www.greenshinto.com). Born in the UK to a Czech mother and a Yorkshire Viking, he studied Russian and Slavic Studies at university. However, a lust for wandering took him to the Middle East, where he married a Yemeni, before travelling around the world for a year. He set up house in Oxford, but fate intervened to send him to Kanazawa where he was a lone gaijin on the backside of Japan, dreaming of one day teaching in Kyoto. Now he has to pinch himself every morning as he looks up from his bed at Daimonji. When not playing chess, writing haiku or walking along the Kamogawa, he works as professor of Cultural Studies at Ryukoku University.
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See also:
Meet the Authors
Meet the Artists
An Exclusive Extract from Judith Clancy’s Walk
Old School Gaijin Kyoto – An Excerpt from Deep Kyoto Walks by Chris Rowthorn
Ghosts, Monkeys & Other Neighbours – An Excerpt by Bridget Scott
Blue Sky – An Excerpt by Stephen Henry Gill
Across Purple Fields – A Reading by Ted Taylor (VIDEO)

Talk and tea tasting with Jeff Fuchs @ Robert Yellin’s Yakimono Gallery, July 10th

From Kyoto Journal:
tea horse road

A Kyoto Journal Hosted Event: THE TEA HORSE ROAD
Talk and tea tasting with explorer Jeff Fuchs
10 July 2014 @ Robert Yellin’s Yakimono Gallery
Session One: 1pm
Session Two: 6pm
Maximum of 12 participants per session. RSVP REQUIRED: feedback[at]kyotojournal.org
Entry: ¥1,000

The ancient origins of tea and the present hotbed of the rapidly rising Puerh teas, southern Yunnan was for centuries the remote base from which the green stimulant made its way along the famed Tea Horse Road. A look at the most ancient tea tree forests on the globe and what is left of one of the most daunting trade routes in history. For much of history southern Yunnan’s minorities have cultivated teas that were largely items of trade and tribute. Puerhs from the ancient forests now command enormous prices amongst collectors ironically because of the fact that their production techniques have remained largely unchanged and the raw materials unequalled. Ancient medicine, panacea for the masses, and a fuel and food of timeless vitality.

Award-winning explorer, author and tea procurer Jeff Fuchs presents the origins and routes of Asia’s eternal green. This will also be opportunity to sample Yunnanese tea.

ABOUT JEFF FUCHS:
North Face Ambassador and award-winning explorer Jeff Fuchs, was the first westerner to have travelled by foot the legendary Tea Horse Road over the Himalayas – a journey that took over 7 months. He followed that up with becoming the first documented westerner to journey along and document ‘Tsa-Lam’, The nomadic ‘Route of Salt’ through the eastern Himalayas, a month long foot journey. He subsequently won an ‘Explorer of the Year’ award for “sustainable exploration of the Himalayan Trade Routes”. He most recently completed 36-day expedition along the Route of Wind and Wool through the Himalayas.

Fuchs is a ‘Scholar-in-Residence’ with the prestigious ‘East-West Center’ in Hawaii, counseling and mentoring on the Himalayas’ and advocating a more full understanding of Asia. He is fluent in Mandarin, French, and Tibetan and has counseled PhD students from 22 different countries during his time at the East West Center.

Fuchs’ work has centered on indigenous mountain cultures, oral histories and an obsessive interest in tea. His photos and stories have appeared on three continents in award-winning publications, UNESCO, The Huffington Post, and Outpost Magazine, as well as The Spanish Expedition Society, The Earth, The Toronto Star, The South China Morning Post and Traveler amongst others.

Fuchs has spoken to institutions, universities and schools around the world on the importance of oral narratives and sustainable exploration and tea culture. His work and life have been featured in numerous publications including the Huffington Post and the Financial Times.

He is an admitted ‘tea addict’ who never journeys without an assortment of green leaves to fuel him and is the co-founder of JalamTeas. When he isn’t sipping tea or exploring, he’s based in Shangri-la, northwestern Yunnan, where he’s been for the past 10 years.

Please remember to direct all inquiries to Kyoto Journal at feedback[at]kyotojournal.org!

John Dougill’s Book ‘Japan’s World Heritage Sites’ to be Launched @ Tadg’s Gastro Pub, Kyoto, July 11th

jwhsFrom our friend & fellow DK Walker, John Dougill:John-Dougill-2-242x300An invitation to the book launch of John Dougill’s new publication, ‘Japan’s World Heritage Sites’, which involved him travelling the length of Japan, from Shiretoko in Hokkaido to the Ryukyu ruins of Okinawa.

It’s a large format richly illustrated book, with over 150 photos by John himself supplemented by Picture Library items.
Place: Tadg’s Restaurant just north of Oike Kiyamachi.  (Tel. )
Here is a MAP.
Date: Friday, July 11th.
The event will take place from 6.30 pm to 8.00 pm.  Free buffet and a cash bar.   There will be a lottery to give away free copies for marketing purposes, and books will also be on sale at a substantial discount price (they make excellent
gifts!).
For more about the book, see the Amazon page.
There’s also an early review at GoJapan.

Japanese Kanji & Kana – A Review

kanji and kanaJapanese Kanji & Kana
A Complete Guide to the Japanese Writing System
Authors: Wolfgang Hadamitzky & Mark Spahn
Paperback: 424 pages
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; Revised edition (April 10, 2012)
Price: $24.95

Order direct from Tuttle Publishing here:
Tuttle Language Books

This book is designed to help students of Japanese learn the first 92 basic kana characters and the 2,136 standard jōyō (officially sanctioned “daily use”) kanji characters. Clearly it is meant to be a study aid for the complete spectrum of ability from true beginners to advanced. The book is divided into two main sections: the introductory chapters and the kanji listings. I will review each in turn.

Part 1: The Introductory Chapters
The first section of the book consists of 60 pages that give a thorough explanation of the development and organization of the Japanese writing system. A lot of the information given here is interesting but fairly academic, so after you read it once you may not need to refer to it again. There are some sections that are worthy of note though, both here and in the study tips given at the end of this section.

Good points in Part 1:

  • Table 16. This is a list of the 214 traditional radicals (the common elements that are used to classify the kanji) and their meanings. This is probably the most important thing in the book. You should photocopy these pages, blow them up large and pin them up over your desk. They are invaluable.
  • Table 12. Punctuation Marks & their explanations on pages 34-38. It’s amazing but I have never formally studied Japanese punctuation before! This helped clarify a few things for me, and there were some I was unfamiliar with. This will be a useful reference tool in the future.
  • Tips on Learning Kanji. There are some good tips here. For example, I wish someone had told me to prioritize and not to overload myself when I first started to study kanji. Too often in the early days I felt overwhelmed by what seemed like the endless readings for some kanji (the kun and on readings for 上 and 下 for example). The authors of this book suggest however, “it can make sense to learn at first only one on reading and one kun reading… Trying to take in too much information all at once can detract from concentrating on what is important”. Wise words.
  • Another tip I agree wholeheartedly with is to learn the appearance, readings and meanings of a character together. This runs counter to the Heisig method which demands that you learn only the meaning of the kanji first and their readings later (in a second book). I never liked that method as it seemed to double the length of the learning process, and  I have always found that studying the meanings and readings together strengthened my own learning process.
  • Finally, it’s not really a strong point as such but I rather liked the fact that the old Iroha syllable order was listed. The Iroha is an ancient poem which contains every character of the Japanese syllabary exactly once, but the poem also means something of course and the English translation is also given. It’s nice to see that included in the book, but ultimately it probably won’t help you with your studies!

Potential weak points in Part 1:

  • At a couple of points in the book the writers encourage students to use the game “Kanji in Motion” and the web-based kanji dictionary “KanjiVision”. To date, a full two years after this edition of the book was published, both of these web-based learning aids are listed on Hadamitzky’s website, but neither are available for use.
  •  We are encouraged to use writing practice manuals to practice the correct stroke order. However, though useful at the beginning of your kanji studies, I don’t believe that this is necessary for the full 2,136 kanji listed. Although many Japanese swear blind by this method, because it is the one they are familiar with, it does take them the full 12 years of elementary and high school education to learn kanji this way. Most foreign students would like to pick up the pace a bit! At some point you will need to move on from simply repetitive writing and use flash cards and some form of mnemonic system. But more about that later.

Part 2: The Kanji Listings
The bulk of the book, the second half, consists of a little over 300 pages of jōyō kanji listings. The individual kanji therein can be looked up via three indexes which are organized by radicals, stroke counts and readings. With each kanji, are presented its meanings, readings, stroke-count, radicals and example compounds. This is the most practical part of the book which can be used either as a reference tool or simply as a course book of kanji that can be studied and memorized from start to finish.

Strong points in Part 2:

  • It contains a complete and up-to-date listing of the jōyō kanji and these are listed in a sensible fashion: from the simplest and most frequent kanji to those that are more complex and less commonly used.
  • The example compounds given for each kanji always consist of characters that have been listed before, so if you work through the book in the order it is presented you will be reviewing previous kanji as you go.
  • In the index by readings, kanji with the same on reading are grouped together by common components. For example kanji with the on reading SEI and the common component 生 are listed like this 生、姓、性、星、醒、牲. This is fairly standard practice but the really good part comes next. At the end of the list those kanji that contain the same component, but have a different reading are also listed with their correct reading given in brackets: 産 (SAN). Trust me when I tell you that this will be a really useful tool to help you find a kanji when you recognise its components but can’t remember how to pronounce it correctly!

Potential weak points in Part 2:

  • There is no mnemonic system in this book. If you wish to learn and remember the kanji at a reasonable pace, then a mnemonic system is essential. To be fair though, no given mnemonic system is perfect, and you might be better off using your own creative imagination to make up a personal mnemonic system. You can use the meanings of the kanji radicals and components listed in the book and build memorable but simple stories from them. For examples of how to do this I recommend following Hiroshi Kawada on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KawadaHiroshi. He posts simple yet memorable mnemonics on a regular basis. This one for example:

hiroshi

  • Japanese grammar guru Tae Kim, in his own review of this book, suggests that it has no real value as a study aid, because a lot of the material in the introductory chapter is available online (on Wikipedia for example) and you can also find a lot of free kanji dictionaries online that could be used instead of this book’s kanji listings. He has a point. Personally though I find the internet such a constant source of distraction that when I study, I prefer to turn my computer off and simply focus on my books. It really does depend on how you personally prefer to study, so I would encourage you to read Tae Kim’s review and think hard about your own preferred method before you buy this book.

How I would use this book to study kanji:
Everybody has to find the best way to study for themselves and the only way you can do that is by trial and error. However, based on my own experiences of studying Japanese I would focus on the kanji listings in the second part of the book, and work through them in the order prescribed.

To practice writing the kanji according to their proper stroke count, you can download writing sheets for the first 300 kanji from author Hadamitzky’s website here: Writing Templates. Beyond the first 300 kanji you can purchase writing manuals. However, I believe beyond the first 300 kanji, further writing drills are unnecessary as you are likely to start feeling frustrated by your slow progress, and some kind of mnemonic system will become essential to aid your memory retention.

Word cards in the convenience store! 130 yen including tax!

Word cards in the convenience store! 130 yen including tax!

If you are in Japan you can buy blank flashcards in any convenience store or even 100 yen shops. You should write the kanji according to its correct stroke order on one side and its readings, meanings and a simple mnemonic sentence on the other. Mnemonics can be built up using the radical meanings listed in Table 16 (see above) of this book.

Overall I think this is a good book and could be a useful study aid for a student of Japanese kanji. If you wish to order it, you can do so directly from Tuttle here: Japanese Kanji & Kana.

I am about to embark on a summer of intense study so be prepared for more Japanese language textbook reviews over the coming months!

The 2nd Kyoto Bloggers Meeting @ Kyoto’s Impact HUB

Impact Hub Kyoto strives to be a place where people with a strong desire to change society and the world can gather, learn from each other and find new solutions. We believe, however, that in order for sustainable change to come about, we must first embrace change in ourselves…
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Impact HUB Kyoto

Last Wednesday (June 18th) we held our second Kyoto Bloggers Meeting at a new location: Kyoto’s Impact HUB. Many thanks to Impact HUB for hosting our event and to their global communications co-ordinator Lisa Allen for arranging it. It turned out to be the perfect venue!

Two of our speakers, Akiko Morita and Hugo Kempeneer chatting by the interior garden.

Two of our speakers, Akiko Morita and Hugo Kempeneer chatting by the interior garden.

Housed in a lovely traditional wooden Kyoto residence, with a gorgeous bamboo thicket in the interior garden, the main hall is very spacious  and they were able to provide us with a computer, projector and screen so we could look at each other’s blogs. The HUB ordered in drinks for us, all at cost price, and Obento Waka provided a sumptuous feast of vegan nourishment at 800 yen a head.

I didn’t take a head count but at a guess I would say about 20 people attended. After mingling, meeting old friends and new, and enjoying some dinner and drinks it was time for our presentations. Each talk was followed by a question and answer session. Lisa Allen spoke first on her role as Global Communications Coordinator for the Kyoto branch of the HUB.

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HUB headerShe spoke about the HUB’s role in fostering local community and of the many upcoming events that would be hosted there. One blogger, Gary Bloom, wrote to me later about how impressed he was by this:

A big thanks for putting the Impact Hub bloggers gathering together this month.  Not only was it a great evening, but it was a great introduction to that space! …I was blown away that that sort of space has been there, right under my nose, without me knowing about it! I just joined, so I’m a member there now and am looking forward to enjoying the space and the people there.

Next up, was Hugo Kempeneer, who introduced us to his blog Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips.
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kndtThrough his blog, Hugo shares his twin interests in photography and Japanese culture. His blogposts on the not so well-known temples, shrines and gardens in our region are very thorough and an excellent introduction to local festivals, ceremonies and traditions. Hugo has been living in Kyoto area for 20 years and so knows the area inside out! He writes: “Here you will find information on popular tourist sites of Nara and Kyoto and also the not-so-popular sites which are often equally rewarding. You can also find information posted on the wall about famous Japanese peoples’ birthdays, famous historical events, and different odd and widely unknown traditions. Discover a side of Japan which you never knew existed, here at Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips!”

Garden photographer, Akiko Morita then introduced us not only to her blog but to her secret recipe for success!

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In her blog, EdenWalkers, Akiko photographs and writes about the most beautiful gardens of Japan and the U.K. She writes,

edenI love gardens and photography! When eyes meet at a garden, people smile at each other for no reason and start talking. Do you know why…? We experience love within, not necessarily love to someone or something, but deep within. A specialness of visiting gardens is to experience beauty. Beauty is something which connects us to a deeper part of ourselves. Knowing beauty is instantaneous because it is beyond words and more than the mind’s understanding. When mind meets beauty, our mental activities are highly reduced. We feel connected, centred and fulfilled.

Akiko told us how her love of gardens led her to photography and how she became a professional photographer just 18 months after first picked up a camera. Her secret was simply to live in the present moment and put herself forward as a professional photographer right from the word go – even when she only had one lens! The difference she told us between an amateur photographer and a pro, is simply that the amateur always says they will have the perfect pictures ready later on, when their skills have improved. But a professional has the photos ready right away. She told us the difference is simply one of attitude, so if you have the right attitude you can achieve anything and be exactly what you want to be!

After that inspiring talk, I got up and talked to the gathering about our ebook Deep Kyoto: Walks. In some ways this book could be seen as a model for future collaborations between local bloggers, as several of our Kyoto Bloggers are also contributors to the book.

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Mostly though I spoke about how the motivation for the book evolved from simply wishing to write something with my old pal Ted Taylor, to an idea for an anthology of meditative walks.

DeepKyoto-cover-0423-finalLast spring I was practicing a kind of walking meditation – which is simply walking around your neighborhood and paying more attention to the details around you: to the quality of the air, the wind on your face, the sounds, and the smells and the people; to look down and notice the things at your feet and also to look up at the roof-tops. At the same time though, you are also paying attention to your own mind. For just as your body wanders, so does your mind. And when you know a neighborhood well, walking around it brings up all kinds of associations and memories. And I thought it would be interesting to combine this kind of external and internal wandering into one narrative. That would make for a very unique guidebook. Not a typical guidebook of directions and simple nuggets of historical and architectural information, but a book that actually gives you a taste of life in this city when it is lived in. When it is your home.

I spoke of how I had envisaged a book of meditative strolls, but how everybody involved interpreted the original idea in different ways. Some walks were more meditative, and some less so, and in addition to strolls, the book now contains meditative hikes, meditative bar crawls and even a meditative protest march! And I spoke of how our list of contributors expanded beyond my initial list of people I knew to writers like Judith Clancy and Pico Iyer – who were both amazingly, very keen to take part! The lesson learned: if you have a good idea and follow it through, it will grow – and often into something beyond what you originally imagined.

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Finally Ted Taylor introduced his own walk from the book with a preamble about how the idea for it developed and then gave a fine reading from it. There is a video of that reading, which I have previously posted here: Across Purple Fields – A Reading by Ted Taylor from Deep Kyoto: Walks.

Each of these talks was followed up by lively question and answer sessions and all in all it was a fun, entertaining and often inspiring night. We will have our next meeting sometime in the autumn and no doubt we will continue to use the fine Kyoto Impact HUB venue.

If you would like to join our Kyoto Bloggers group then please drop me a line in the comments with your email address and I will send you an invite to the Google Group.

If you are interested in learning more about Kyoto Impact HUB and their various community orientated activities then please check out their site here: http://kyoto.impacthub.net/

You can find out more about hiring the HUB for your own events here: KIH SPACE.

And here is a list of upcoming Impact HUB events:

July 2nd: 11:30am – 1:30pm – Sexy Salad:
Members: Free+ favorite salad ingredient
Non-members: 500 yen + favorite salad ingredient
July 4th: 6-9pm – HUB Drinks
Members and non-members FREE/Donations of drink & food
July 12th: A special talk on Gion Festival by Catherine Pawasarat
Part 1 – 5-6:30pm Talk
Part 2 8-9.30pm Festival Tour
More details here: LINK
July 16th: Sexy Salad
(time and details as above)
July 26th: Community Gathering
An event exclusively for members to connect, network and make a delicious dinner together.

Kyoto Impact HUB is located a short walk south of Kuramaguchi Station (JR Subway) on the east side of Karasuma Street. Here is a MAP.

See also: Introducing the Kyoto Bloggers Support Group for Information Exchange, Community & Collaboration