Category Archives: Up-and-coming…

Support Kai Fusayoshi & the Spirit of Honyarado this Saturday February 28th at Urbanguild!


Honyarado as it was…

…the café caught fire in an unknown cause before dawn of 16th January and over 2million frames of black-and-white photographic negative film I’ve saved for more than 40 years, along with tens of thousands of prints, thousands of copies of more than 40 books I wrote, posters, postcards, my favorite cameras, a hundred and several tens of diaries I’ve kept for 43 years, manuscript of “Youth of Honyarado”, my new book on the pleasant early days that was about to be published, valuable guest books conveying the atmosphere of early days vividly, and thousands of books from my library, were mostly burned down and lost.
I am now at a total loss. I don’t know where to begin…

KAI Fusayoshi

the spirit of honyarado

Legendary Kyoto cafe Honyarado, once famed as a center for counter-culture and folk music, was sadly lost to us in a fire on January 16th of this year. Fortunately, Kai Fusayoshi the proprieter, escaped unhurt, but he did lose many of his precious negatives and books. Kai is a well-known black-and-white photographer who has been documenting the lives of ordinary Kyoto citizens (and cats) for many years now, so this is a terrible loss. The good news is that the good people at Urbanguild have organized an event this Saturday to show their support for Kai, and encourage him to start afresh. This is a good opportunity for the local community to come together and show some support for one of our most valued members, and I’m sure it will be a memorable night.

Here are the details:

February 28th Saturday
Doors open: 17:00
Show starts: 18:00
Close: 21:00

Entry: 1000 yen (+ one drink) -> and a donation!

The Performers:
Kevin McHugh
trace elements (max & ryotaro)
草壁カゲロヲ (VOGA)
ゲバゲバ2 [KEi-K (alto sax) + 横田直寿 (ds)]

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.

Apparently some “smoked” photographs will also be on sale & there will be an after-party at Kai’s bar, Hachimonjiya (map here).

Kyotographie 2015 Crowdfunding Campaign Now Open!

kyotographie 2015

The crowdfunding campaign for Kyotographie 2015 has now begun. This has become a major art event in Kyoto over the last two years. Please lend your support if you can! Here’s the link:

About Kyotographie:
KYOTOGRAPHIE is a high-end photographic event that runs annually in Kyoto (Japan), for over three weeks during the height of the spring tourist season. With a unique approach in Asia to traditional exhibition, KYOTOGRAPHIE presents world-class photography with original scenography in Kyoto City’s unique traditional and contemporary architecture. Recognized as a distinguished photographic event, the festival successfully proved its significance in 2014 with around 40,000 visitors coming from across the country and overseas.

KYOTOGRAPHIE 2015 – 3rd EDITION, April 18th – May 10th, 2015. Exhibiting widely recognized and celebrated Japanese and international photography from 9 countries in 14 iconic venues.

KYOTOGRAPHIE aims to foster an appreciation of photography as a medium and art form. The festival brings together the international arts community and creates opportunities and events that generate quality exchanges for people of all ages and cultures. In addition to the major festival program the festival also fosters opportunities for emerging photographers through its satellite event KG+.


Breaking News: Philippe’s Bar – aka Bar F.S.N. #3 is Open!

This picture by John Gorman

This picture by John Gorman

This news from Mr. John Gorman:

Philippe is proud to announce the long awaited opening of F.S.N. the third!

The bar will be open from tonight!

Opening party Saturday February 21st, DJ’s from 22h.

DJ’s boogie Dan, Rei and Raijin.

The new bar is located between Kawaramachi and Nishi-Kiyamachi, on the north side of Rokaku Dori, on the third floor of the Rokaku Terrace Building.


Rokkaku Terrace Building 3F
Kawaramachi-Rokkaku Higashi-iru

〒604-8032 京都府京都市中京区河原町通六角東入ル 六角テラスビル3F

Ancient Football at Kamigamo Shrine


A public domain image of Emperor Jinmu – Stories from “Nihonki” (Chronicles of Japan), by Ginko Adachi.

Tomorrow, 紀元祭 – Kigensai (National Foundation Day), will be celebrated at shrines all over Japan with prayers for peace and prosperity. This is said to be the day when the legendary first emperor of Japan, Jimmu ascended to the throne. If you go to Kamigamo Shrine tomorrow, it is also a good opportunity to see a Heian era game resembling an early form of football called “kemari” (“kickball”). There will also be karate and kendo demonstrations.

The schedule is as follows:

9 – 10:00 am: Kendo
10:00 am: Hoisting of the Hi-no-maru national flag and singing of Kimigayo (the national anthem)
10:15 am: Karate demonstration from local children
11:00 – 11:50 am: 蹴鞠 – Kemari kick-ball. Players dressed in colorful Heian era costumes attempt to keep a deer-skin ball in the air.

Image taken from Kamigamo Shrine website. Click to visit the site.

Image taken from Kamigamo Shrine website. Click to visit the site.

For more details check the link (Japanese only):

Walk ‘N’ Write in Kyoto – A SWET Event with Rebecca Otowa – Now on March 1st!

UPDATE!!! Due to a clash with the Kyoto Marathon on February 15, this event will now be held on March 1st!

Rebecca Otowa (author of At Home in Japan) will lead a “walk and write” event in Kyoto on Sunday, February 15th March 1st at Heian Jingu.

Entrance to Heian Jingu - Picture by Michael Lambe

Entrance to Heian Jingu – Picture by Michael Lambe

This event is organized by SWET (Society of Writers, Editors and Translators)   so here from their website are the details:

Get that blood flowing again—to your brain as well as your extremities—with a brisk walk followed by a writing-and-sharing session. We’ll meet at Heian Shrine in Kyoto and take in the formal garden, which has a subtle beauty in winter and not too many people. Heian Shrine, itself, is a scale replica of Heian Palace, which was originally built in the late 8th century when the capital was moved to Heian-kyo (today’s Kyoto).

Afterward, we’ll walk (about 15 minutes) or cab it down to Tadg’s Irish Pub in Kiyamachi Sanjo, for drinks and snacks. There, we’ll each write a short piece about what we experienced, and then share it with the group.

Whatever genre is most comfortable for you—haiku, flash fiction, micropoetry, sonnet, a plain old paragraph, whatever. Join us for a civilized afternoon in Kyoto. If there is a little powdering of snow, so much the better!

(1) Silence. No talking to anyone from entering until leaving the garden.
(2) No electronic devices to be used during the walk through the garden, with the exception of taking notes and/or photographs.
(3) No cheating—walk, experience, process and THEN write later!

Date: Sunday, February 15 March 1st, 2015
Meeting time: 1:00 pm (We should get back to Tadg’s by 3 pm.)
Place: Meet at the main entrance of Heian Shrine, Okazaki Park, Kyoto (
Cost: 600 yen (garden entrance fee), minimum 1 drink and snack at Tadg’s
Reservations: We recommend you contact us at SWET Kansai to ensure we reserve enough seats at Tadg’s.

See you there! Don’t forget your woollies, gloves and hat, not to mention writing materials.

For further details please see the SWET website.

With thanks to George Bourdaniotis.

Celebrating Setsubun in Kyoto, February 3rd 2015

Setsubun is an old festival for seeing out the hardships of winter and welcoming in the spring, symbolized in the ritual act of throwing beans at mask clad devils… 鬼は外福は内! (“oni wa soto! fuku wa uchi!” – “devils out, and good luck in!“) people cry while pelting their lucky beans till the demonic forces beat a retreat. There are a variety of sites around town where you can join in with devil dances and bean throwing ceremonies which I shall list below.


Detail from a poster for “Gionsan no Setsubun” at Yasaka Jinja (see below).

Yasaka Shrine
img_setsubun01Here you get to see Maiko and Geiko throwing the beans! Bean pelting and traditional dances will occur at various times on both the 2nd & 3rd of February as ladies from different districts come to perform. Times on the 2nd are: 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. On the 3rd the times are 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 4pm.
To get there take Kyoto City Bus #206, and get off at Gion. Here is a MAP. Website (Japanese):

001Heian Shrine
February 3rd: From 11:30 am until 2pm there is a Kyogen traditional comedy performance. Bean pelting is from 3pm followed by a sacred bonfire. Sweet sake is served free all day.
To get there take Kyoto City Bus #5 and get off at Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae. Here is a MAP. You can find more details in Japanese here:

50setu_oni1biki_BRozan-ji Temple
February 3rd: Here you can see devil dancing from 3pm and bean pelting from 4pm. Old charms will be burned in a bonfire from 5pm.
To get there take Kyoto City Bus #205 and get off at Furitsu Idai Byoin-mae. Here is a MAP. You can find more details in Japanese here:

Yoshida Shrine:
The biggest disappointment this year is that Yoshida Shrine won’t be holding will be seriously downsizing their annual bonfire. Traditionally, Yoshida Shrine holds the biggest (and longest) Setsubun festival in Kyoto from the 2nd to the 4th. Since the Muromachi era, the climax of this festival has always been a huge bonfire on the night of the 3rd. Pilgrims return all their old amulets and charms and a huge pile of them is burned in a truly massive inferno before the shrine… However, this year the City Government has seen fit to impose new regulations on the disposal of ash after the fire, and these have proven too costly for the shrine to afford. This really is a terrible pity, both for local residents who take part in the annual cycle of seasonal rites, and for visitors to the city who will be denied a chance to see this incredible spectacle. Let’s hope the shrine can work out a deal with the pen-pushers at City Hall for next year. In the meantime, Yoshida Shrine will continue with its festival sans conflagration. It is still worth visiting for the ceremony to drive out evil spirits which will be held at 6pm on the evening of the 2nd. This involves actual mask-clad devils in colourful costumes getting pelted with beans. And as with most festivals there are 屋台 (yatai – food stalls) galore lining the route to the shrine, so there’s plenty to eat and drink. See details at the Yoshida Shrine website (Japanese):
To get there take Kyoto City Bus #206 and get off at Kyodai Seimon-mae. Here is a MAP.

UPDATE: Apparently, Yoshida Shrine will have a fire, but a much, much smaller one. I only came across this story today, but it seems it has been something of an ongoing saga. I’m told the city actually backed down about the new rules, but it was too late for the shrine to change their revised plans… Better luck next year!
*With the exception of the poster detail at the top of this article, other images are taken from the respective shrine and temple websites.

Kobudō Martial Arts Lessons in English at Kyoto Impact Hub

This winter, martial arts teacher, Benjamin Gross, began a new class at Kyoto Impact Hub in the Japaneses classical martial arts tradition of Kobudō.

I asked Benjamin to explain a little about the classes:

Kobudō 古武道, the martial way of ancient Japan originated over 500 years ago. Although through the ages many schools of the various traditions have become forgotten or extinct, a few of these traditions still remain. Although life in Japan has changed considerably from the time when this martial art first took shape, the teachings remain unchanged and still hold great value and application to modern life. Along with helping in preserving a valuable piece of Japanese culture, you may also improve your physical and mental well being.

It is my wish to make the fundamental teachings of one of the oldest jujutsu traditions of Japan available to people of many cultures. Teaching in English allows for a multicultural learning experience, which I hope will bring a truly unique perspective to the art.

The classes begin with meditation, followed by full body stretching and warming-up exercises. Next the basics of footwork, break-falls (ukemi), and striking/defensive techniques are performed together. These basics are then performed in the context of two person kata. The class then finishes with light stretching and meditation.

Benjamin is a follower of Takenouchiryu Bitchuden Kobudo 4dan. If you would like to take his class here are the details:

Day & Time: Mondays: 18:00 〜 19:30
1 session: ¥2,500 (Impact Hub Kyoto Members: ¥1,500)
The 1st trial lesson: ¥500 (only for Kyoto residents)
Wear: loose fitting sports wear or dogi, bare feet, no accessories

If interested you can find more details on the Impact Hub Kyoto website, or apply directly to join the lessons HERE.

Here’s some more information from Benjamin about this fascinating ancient art:

Each class covers a wide variety of topics and techniques. Example topics for lessons include but are not limited to the following:

Bowing or rei 礼): 「武道は礼に始まり礼に終わる」 Budo begins and ends with bowing.
Why do we perform rei in the martial arts? Although the history of bowing 礼 in Japan is very ancient and closely linked to culture and religion, the reason for etiquette (礼儀作法) in the dojo is simple. It is to humble yourself in the sense that you are requesting permission to borrow the space (dojo) for your training. This feeling of humbleness and respect for those that have followed this path of training before you may also bring serenity to your own being. Before bowing before the altar (Shinzen 神前), look at the Shinzen. In similar fashion, when bowing to a training partner, look at them first before bowing.


Reverse breathing (逆腹式呼吸) practice can have many positive effects on the body. The application of proper breathing techniques will be continuously put into use throughout each lesson. With regular practice, this exercise can strengthen the abdominal muscles, making your breathing naturally strong. Reverse breathing can even create change in the pressure between your chest and abdomen, helping boost your energy levels and increase lung capacity by allowing more air in the lungs. One form of condensed powerful reverse breathing is kiai 気合.

One of the most important foundations and goals of budō is the development of proper physical posture. The stance you use, how you move in relation to your opponent, all of it begins from your center. Movement as well as breathing is all linked to your hara or abdomen…

Stu Gibson Photo Exhibition @ Cafe Foodelica; January 15th – 25th

Our friends at Cafe Foodelica will be hosting an exhibition of Scottish photographer Stu Gibson’s Kyoto images from January 15th to the 25th.


Here’s the schedule of special events:
17th January from 7pm: Stu Gibson Solo Photo Exhibit Opening Party
24th January from 5pm: Stu Gibson Solo Photo Exhibit Meet the Artist event.

Cafe Foodelica is situated near Shugakuin station. Here is a MAP.

For more images of closely observed Kyoto, check out Stu Gibson’s portfolio here: Life Through A Lens.

Sugar Army at Club Socrates, Kyoto; January 11th 2015

In a scattering of mikan oranges, I am briefly popping my head out from the warm kotatsu of oshōgatsu hibernation to bring you this important announcement.

Flying in all the way from Perth, Western Australia, Sugar Army will play Live House Socrates in Kyoto on Sunday January 11th!!!

sugar army
Details of the show:
Date: Sunday, January 11th
Doors Open: 16:30
Show Starts: 17:00
Tickets + 1 drink: ¥1,500
Sugar Army
Great Big Kiss

Live House Socrates is a short walk south of Imadegawa on Kawaramachi. Here is a map.

From a review of Sugar Army‘s live show on AMH Network:

Sugar Army has become one of Perth’s premier rock acts from the last few years. Building on their success of their album Summertime Heavy; Sugar Army has used their melodic rock sound to become one of the most creative rock bands in recent years. Touring on the back of their latest album Summmertime Heavy, the band is playing intimate venues to play up close and personal with their fans…Becoming a 5 piece has made their live performance phenomenon…  Smashing each song out perfectly. Patrick was ever so brilliant with his unique vocals. Ending the set with the most unique track and the title track Summertime Heavy shows how mature they have become in many different facets. Sugar Army is one of those bands which should be much bigger as they deserve it. Definitely watch out for the band in the next few months where they will be touring once again.
–Read the rest of this review: LINK.

How cool are Sugar Army? Check out the extreme coolness below:

Greeting the New Year in Kyoto

Kurodani - New Year's Eve 2010

Kurodani – New Year’s Eve 2010

For the last post of 2014, let us return to a piece first written by our good friend, John Dougill in 2010.  That year I followed John’s advice by paying a visit to both Kurodani and Shimogamo Shrine on New Year’s Eve, and so I am reposting some photos from that night too. It had been snowing quite heavily on the 31st, so Kurodani in particular was really beautiful; all dressed up in white like a fairytale.

Kurodani - New Year's Eve 2010

Kurodani – New Year’s Eve 2010

John Dougill writes…

The true soul of Japan is neither Shinto nor Buddhist. It’s Shinto-Buddhist. Until the artificial split of early Meiji times, the country had more than 1000 years of happy syncretism. Born Shinto, die Buddhist is the Japanese way.

Shinto is this-worldly, concerned with rites of passage and social well-being. Buddhism is other-worldly, concerned with individual salvation. At New Year the two religions come together like yin and yang, either side of midnight. Buddhism sees out the death of the old; Shinto celebrates the birth of the new. Joya-no-kane (tolling of the bell) gives way to Hatsumode (first visit of the year).

To get the full feel of a Kyoto New Year, you need to be syncretic too. In the dying minutes of the year, go hear the bell at a Buddhist temple. By tradition it is rung 108 times once for every attachment that plagues the human condition. Then head for a shrine to pick up arrow and amulets for protection through the coming year.

With over 3000 temples and shrines in Kyoto, you’re spoilt for choice. A popular but crowded combination is Chion-in and Yasaka Jinja. File up the hill to watch the young priests at the temple acrobatically swing on ropes to ring the bell. Then head down to the shrine to get twisted bamboo lit with the sacred Okera fire. It will purify your home.

Kurodani - New Year's Eve 2010

Kurodani – New Year’s Eve 2010

Personally I prefer the open space of Kurodani, where the bell booms soulfully over the nearby hillside. Open fires give off a warm glow, which you can add to with heated sake before lining up to ring the bell. Afterwards a twenty-minute walk leads through dark and dozing streets to the wooded surrounds of Shimogamo Jinja.

Shimogamo Shrine in the early hours of January 1st 2011

Shimogamo Shrine in the early hours of January 1st 2011

Suddenly there are laughing voices, bright kimono, and gaudy lights. Aspiring yakuza sell candy floss and goldfish. Here all is jollity and smiles. ‘Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu’ rings out on every side. At the shrine people toss coins over the heads of those in front into the offertory boxes. With the blessing of the kami, this too will be a happy New Year. A happy Kyoto New Year!

At Shimogamo Shrine

At Shimogamo Shrine

At Shimogamo Shrine

At Shimogamo Shrine

At Shimogamo Shrine

At Shimogamo Shrine


Text by John Dougill. Photographs by Michael Lambe

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 ( 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.