Category Archives: Art

Hibiku: A Photographic Experiment at Cafe Foodelica, Kyoto; April 17th – May 11th 2014

14 artists. 28 images. 8 nationalities. Anonymous ‘seed’ photos are met with visual responses. A strange amalgam ensues.


The Hibiku 響 photo exhibition opened at Cafe Foodelica in Shugakuin, Kyoto on Thursday April 17th and continues until Sunday May 11th inclusive. Admission is free, though guests are requested to sample some of the Cafe’s fantastic food & drinks.
The opening party is on April 19th (Saturday) from 7pm – 10pm (last food order 9pm),  and the Meet the Artists night is on the following Saturday (26th) from 6.30 – 10pm. All welcome.
Location: Cafe Foodelica is easy to find, just a short walk West from the junction of Kitayama and Kitashitakawa streets in Shugakuin. Alternatively, walk East from Shugakuin station on the Eiden line, for just two minutes. Look for the red door. If you are coming by bus (#5, 北8) get off at Shugakuinmichi.
Here is a MAP.

From the Hibiku blog:

‘Seed and Response’
The process of creating the exhibit was integral to the project. We all selected ‘seed’ photographs, taken by ourselves, and placed them in untitled brown envelopes, shuffled them up, and received them at random from the pile. It then became our task to respond to those images photographically. When we come to hang the show in April, the seed and response images will be displayed alongside each other, with some textual comment on how and why we responded as we did. we were inspired to do this, to some degree, by poetry and the ‘call-response’ and ‘renga linked poetry’ genres, and a strong desire to explore new avenues of creativity.


See also:

The Ryōzen Kannon, Kyoto, 1958

…suppose there are immeasurable hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of living beings who are undergoing various trials and suffering. If they hear of this Bodhisattva Perceiver of the Word’s Sounds and single-mindedly call his name, then at once he will perceive the sound of their voices and they will all gain deliverance from their trials. If someone, holding fast to the name of bodhisattva perceiver of the world’s sounds, should enter a great fire, the fire could not burn him. This would come about because of this bodhisattva’s authority and supernatural power. If one were washed away by a great flood and call upon his name, one would immediately find himself in a shallow place… – from the Lotus Sutra Chapter 25 translated by Burton Watson

Buddhist goddess of Mercy Statue in Kyoto, Japan on May 11, 1958, after the unveiling of a memorial to Allied dead of World War II on June 8.

“Some 50 colorfully-garbed Buddhist monks march from the Buddhist goddess of Mercy Statue in Kyoto, Japan on May 11, 1958, after the unveiling of a memorial to Allied dead of World War II on June 8. A white marble tablet, honoring more than 48,000 soldiers who died fighting against Japan, was uncovered in base of the 80-foot-high statue. The Buddha is dedicated to the more than one million Japanese who perished in the war.” (AP Photo)

I found the picture above in a collection of fascinating photographs showing life in 1950s Japan at The Atlantic: It seemed like a timely discovery. Continue reading

Kyotographie: International Photography Festival 2014

“The KYOTOGRAPHIE International Photography Festival blossoms in Kyoto for its second year in April 2014…during the height of Kyotoʼs booming tourist season. The festival celebrates art and culture, bringing a distinct dimension to the historic city. KYOTOGRAPHIE creates opportunities and events that bring people together of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds. Situated in Kyotoʼs world-class atmosphere KYOTOGRAPHIE unites ancient history and contemporary art.”

Photo by Tim Flach

Photo by Tim Flach

This year’s Kyotographie photography fesitval runs for four weeks from April 19th to May 18th. Check the website to view the artists involved and the calendar of public programs!

First Impression – Daniel Kelly Exhibition at Hakuhou-Dou

Daniel Kelly’s exhibitions at Hakuhou-Dou have become an annual event!

daniel exhibition…And it seems only natural now, as the sakura blooms, that we celebrate the rites of spring at Daniel’s reception party. Here are the details!

First Impressions: April 1 – April 13 2014
Reception party Friday, April 4, 6:00 – 9:00pm
April 1 – 12, 11:00am – 7:00pm
April 13, 11:00am – 5:00pm
Closed Monday April 7

Hakuhou-doh is on the east side of Jingumichi, south of Niomon Dori. Here is a MAP.

Address: 〒606-8344
TEL: 075-771-9401075-771-9401
Opening: 11:00~19:00
Closed: Mondays

To find out more about Daniel Kelly’s life and art read my article here, or take a look at his spiffy website here.

Kageri Utsurohi ~ Shadow & Reflection: A Hanging Scrolls & Calligraphy Exhibition by Liza Dalby & Yoko Nishina

yoko nishina…a line drawn by the brush produces a certain resonance. The moment by moment expression of the drawn line is like the intersection of the many resonances in a symphony. The living quality of calligraphy is precisely this. The resonance follows the time dimension, appearing and disappearing, changing—not simply repeating itself, but mastering the surface of the paper and the surrounding space. According to the resonance of the black inked path of the brush, the surrounding white space may be squeezed or enlarged, deeply interior or placidly peaceful. And from where does it arise, this resonance that shapes time and space?
- Yoko Nishina

陰翳Nagaeke Jūtaku will host a collaborative exhibition of calligraphy by Yoko Nishina mounted on scrolls by Liza Dalby on March 21st, 22nd and 23rd.  Liza has been mounting scrolls for four years and this will be her first public exhibit. She will give a talk (in Japanese) accompanied by slides on the culture of mounting hanging scrolls at 1:00 on each day that the exhibit continues.

Nagaeke Jūtaku is located on the west side of Shinmachi Street just south of Ayakoji (two streets west of Karasuma & one street south of Shijo)

Address: 394 Funabokocho, Bukkoji agaru, Shinmachi-dōri, Shimogyo-ku KYOTO (〒600-8443 京都市下京区新町通仏光寺上ル船鉾町394)
Tel: 075-351-1029075-351-1029

Liza Dalby is an anthropologist and author specializing in Japanese culture. You can view a gallery of her previous scroll works here. About scrolls she writes,

liza dalbyMy eyes became attuned to hanging scrolls over the many years I spent in Japan when I was young. Of course I liked scrolls as art, but did not really notice them as scrolls until I lived in Hong Kong and saw many Chinese examples. Suddenly I became aware of the different aesthetic driving the way Chinese and Japanese mounters worked. Of course, like many now-thoroughly Japanese cultural artifacts, rollable scrolls were a Chinese invention, first imported into Japan and copied in the sixth century. But like many Chinese arts adopted into Japan, a new aesthetic gradually took hold, changing the original object in interesting ways. Japanese sensibilities really are quite different from Chinese, and a hanging scroll is the perfect object to illustrate many of them. In fact, the closer one looks at the elements of a scroll, and the more one knows about how it is created, a fascinating universe of cultural choices is revealed. There is something deeply reflective of Japanese social and aesthetic norms rolled up in these creations of paper and silk.
- Read more here.

See also: Liza Dalby’s site.
Yoko Nishina’s site.

Takeuchi Seihō – Japan’s most important modern Japanese-style painter

Takeuchi_SeihoTakeuchi Seihō (竹内 栖鳳 – his real name was Takeuchi Tsunekichi) lived from December 20, 1864 – August 23, 1942. He was an early master of nihonga art, and prior to World War II led a notable circle of painters in Kyoto. His former residence in Higashiyama still stands as The Sodoh – now a restaurant and event space.

Ian Ropke writes,

During Takeuchi’s early youth his father said to him, “You are the only boy in the family. So you must succeed me in my business.” The boy replied, “Yes, father. But I would really like to be a painter.” An age-old dilemma in traditional societies, children had very little choice in deciding their career, even if they dreamed passionately of doing something very different. However, Takeuchi was fortunate enough to have an older sister who loved him dearly and who was willing to take his place in the family business. Lucky for the boy, his father agreed. Immediately, Takeuchi started to study Japanese painting earnestly. Only 13 years old at the time, he set out to learn what he could from an established artist in his neighborhood. At the age of 17, he became a disciple of Kōno Bairei, a leading Japanese-style painter of the late Edo period.

On Takeuchi’s first day, Bairei gave him model paintings of a pine, bamboo and plum. However, 3 days later Bairei stopped asking him to paint from the models and gave the boy a new first name, Seihō, saying, “Paint the way you feel.” The name Seihō means “phoenix”, an exceptional name for a young, new pupil. But already in the first days, Bairei had seen promising talent in the boy. Takeuchi’s painting skills improved rapidly under Bairei’s direction as the boy concentrated on sketching and studying traditional paintings.

lionIn 1900, when he was only 36 years old and already a leading person in Kyoto painting circles, one of his paintings was selected for display in the modern art section of the Japanese Pavilion at the International Exposition in Paris. This exhibit allowed him to make the long journey to Europe, where he came into direct contact with the European painting tradition. In a chance visit to the zoo in Antwerp in Belgium, he discovered a lion that he just had to sketch. He remained in Antwerp for an extra 3 weeks just to sketch the lion to satisfaction. Profoundly affected by his experiences in Europe, Takeuchi returned to Japan to become a leader of the modern movement in Japanese-style paintings, producing powerful, large-scale pieces year after year. His painting “Lion,” the result of his intense sketching at the zoo, was put on display at a major Japanese exhibition the year after he returned from Europe and won the Gold Prize.

rainWhile Takeuchi is largely known for his introduction of Western painting styles to Japan, he also inquired deeply into the fundamental elements of Japanese paintings. During the middle of the Taisho period (1912 – 1926), Takeuchi began to shift from large-scale paintings to smaller works which revealed his increasingly keen artistic sensitivity and maturity. In this new style, his paintings, which were quickly executed, impart an energy similar to the poetic compositions seen in haiku. His masterpiece, at the age of 45 — Oh, Rain — is a truly poetic work.

Seihō’s long career came to an end in 1942, but even today his brilliant paintings continue to attract and fascinate people. Many great Japanese painters studied under Takeuchi, such as Tsuchida Bakusen, Uemura Shōen. For his unique achievements, Takeuchi was awarded Japan’s first Order of Cultural Merit, in 1937.

19286-1393570574Several famous works by Takeuchi Seihō are currently on display, with those of other great nihonga artists, at the Art & Living: Takashimaya Exhibition currently being held on the 7th floor of Kyoto’s Takashimaya department store. The exhibition continues until March 11th. You can read more about it here.

Text by Ian Ropke. Ian Ropke is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Osaka and Kyoto, and director of Your Japan Private Tours. You can read his previous articles for Deep Kyoto here.

Exhibition: “Art & Living: Takashimaya – The Department Store as Culture Setter”

If you can get down to Kyoto’s Takashimaya store before March 11th, I recommend going to see the 暮らしと美術と高島屋 (Life & Art & Takashimaya) exhibition now on in the 7th floor exhibition room. Billed as a celebration of Takashimaya’s role as a promoter of art and enterprise, it is an eclectic show with exhibits showing both the history of the company itself, and of its long-standing role as a promoter of the arts.

Among the most charming exhibits are the miniature models of the store in its old location on Karasuma. The first one is a reproduction of the store in 1864:

IMG_7910 (Medium)

And the second shows, the solid steel-framed, concrete structure of 1912.


There are also many fascinating photos and even some film showing how much Kyoto has changed over the last century or so. Take for example these “then” and “now” images of Kyoto Station. Continue reading

Charity Noh Performance for Tohoku Disaster Relief at Kyoto Kanze Kaikan 3/11

Next week Kyoto Kanze Kaikan is holding two charity Noh performances to raise funds for victims of the 2011 Tohoku Disaster. They will be held on the morning and evening of March 11th – the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami.



If you aren’t familiar with Noh, it’s best to take a script with you. There is a lot of talking in Noh plays, they are speaking medieval Japanese, and the speech patterns are very stylized, so even for native Japanese they can be hard to understand. Mewby and I went to see a couple of Noh plays at the Kanze Kaikan last weekend, but we only had a script for one of the plays. Let me tell you it makes a big difference when watching Noh, if you have a script with you to follow along with. Fortunately, translations of the scripts for both of the plays next week are available on the excellent the能.com site, with both English and modern Japanese.

Date and Times: Tuesday March 11th

10:30-12:30: The main performance  is of the Noh play Tsunemasa. You can download a translated script here: 経正

18:30-20:30: The main performance is of the Noh play Shōjō Midare. You can download a translated script here: 猩々乱

Location: Kyoto Kanze Kaikan is on the south side of Niomon Street between Higashioji and Jingu-michi. It is a 10 minute walk north from from Higashiyama Subway Station. Here is a map.

IMG_7847 (Medium)Both performances cost 1,500. They can be booked in advance at this number: 075-771-6114075-771-6114 (Japanese). However, specific seats cannot be reserved.

More details of the performances can be seen here (Japanese):

Traditional Theater Training Summer Program in Kyoto

Continuing the theatrical theme from my last post, here’s something I found via As it’s a summer program and in Kyoto, the part about “air-conditioned studios” is VERY important.

mission_logo02The Traditional Theater Training Program (T.T.T.) at Kyoto Art Center invites applications to its 30th annual program, July 18-20 (orientation and overview of performing arts) and training (Jul 21-Aug 8). Master-teachers of the Kanze school noh, Okura school kyogen, and Wakayagi school of nihonbuyo classical dance offer an immersive, authentic experience to artists and scholars. Classes are in the air-conditioned studios of the Kyoto Art Center, with a costumed recital on the Oe Noh Stage. Please find information in Japanese and English.ttt_photo_00

There are early bird and and student/artist discounts, and special rates on hotels, hopefully making this affordable to participants, Japanese and non-, from around the world.

Jonah Salz jonah[at] Program director

the能.com probably has pretty much everything you need to get started with Noh drama…

Noh masks

I have been following Diego Pellecchia’s Noh blog for a couple of months now,. Diego is training with the Kongō school of Noh, here in Kyoto and his blog offers a kind of portal into that world. Wanting to learn more, last week I asked him if he could recommend any beginner’s texts as an introduction to the world of Noh. Rather than a text he recommended this website, and I have to say it’s amazing! Not only do they have a wealth of instructional materials and essays on there, not only do they have performance schedules for all of Japan, not only do they have printable texts of the plays in both English & Japanese (new ones added each month!) which you can bring to performances, not only do they have a database of the masks used in performances, but (!) as I have just discovered, they also have photo-stories. Photo-Stories!
I have to say a big thank you, Diego! the能.com is a treasure!

Noh photostories

See also:
Japanese Noh Theater – An introductory essay by Ian Ropke
Takigi Noh (Noh by Firelight) – An annual June event at Heian Jingu Shrine
Diego Pellechia’s blog:
The International Noh Institute: