Category Archives: Up-and-coming…

Hiking Mount Atago – An Extract from Deep Kyoto Walks by Sanborn Brown

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As the annual Sennichi Tsuyasai pilgrimage to the top of Mount Atago takes place this Thursday (July 31st), I thought I would post an extract from Hiking Mount Atago by Sanborn Brown. In this excerpt from our book Deep Kyoto: Walks, Sanborn describes his ascent with an eccentric tea ceremony master, and other pilgrims, to the top of Mount Atago, during this very special festival. For those who don’t know much about this festival, here’s a brief explanation from Sanborn’s excellent Cycle Kyoto site:

…on the night of July 31, Mount Atago witnesses a huge number of pilgrims. On that night, from roughly 9 pm, Mount Atago plays host to “Sennichi Tsuyasai,” a festival that is all about fire, both good and bad.

It is a holy and profound and magical night not to be missed.

The origin of the festival derives from the hope for a thousand days of flame (cooking, heating), and also for a thousand days without home-wrecking fire. From top to bottom, the hike is roughly four kilometers. Hikers gather in the village of Kiyotaki at the base of the mountain around dusk. To guide them, the city strings up lights from Kiyotaki to the very top at Atago Shrine. Families, couples, older people, and groups make the hike up a crowded and sociable affair. Once at the top, pilgrims can purchase good luck charms that are said to ward off fire and bad luck. [Click to Read More]

Picture 12 Mount Atago by Sanborn Brown (Medium)

Hiking Mount Atago

From the stone steps in front of the imposing gate of Ninna-ji Temple and its two wooden Nio-san deities protecting the walled compound, a Japanese friend who calls himself Amigo and I head west on squeaky single-gear mamachari bikes. It is 8 pm on a sultry late July night and a bright moon lights our way. After an up-down stretch along which homebound commuters in cars speed past us, Lake Hirosawa spreads out on our right. This manmade lake was dug out around 969 C.E. so that the monks at nearby Henjō-ji Temple would have a better view. Today it is popular for bird watching, strolling its 1.3 km (almost a mile) perimeter, or paddling about in a rental boat. On our left, in the darkness, the smell of farm fields is pungent. We continue on to the northern outskirts of Arashiyama. Panting our way up a narrow bumpy slope lined by traditional homes and buildings, we park beyond Adashino Nenbutsu Temple (once a dumping ground for corpses) in a bike lot set up every year on this one evening. The barely lit tree-covered lot is manned by a lone uniformed guard in reflective gear, and is already filled with hundreds of bikes.

From there, it is a fifteen-minute walk up and over a hill on an old mountain road. Normally, pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to make a white-knuckle trip through the 500-meter long single-lane tunnel once used by trains. On this night however only vehicles are permitted to enter. We are already coated in a sheen of sweat when we reach the top. In the distance below us, at the opposite end of the tunnel, there is lighting and people are milling about in hiking gear; some have finished, others like us are about to set out.

Kiyotaki

Here, at the foot of Mount Atago, we find our party waiting in front of the Toenkyo Bashi (“Monkey Crossing Bridge”) that spans the Kiyotaki River. Fellow pilgrims, they will hike with us to the top of the mountain tonight, returning in the early hours of the following morning. Like Amigo, they are all learning sado, the Japanese tea ceremony. After short introductions, the group forms a circle, and in the center our leader – the rotund, elephant-kneed, and blustery tea Sensei – does a quick head count. All incline toward him toward him; then, on his command, we set off.

Having proceeded 20 meters, Sensei calls us to an abrupt halt in the middle of the bridge that will take us into the village of Kiyotaki. We have to check for the legendary Japanese giant salamander, which is said to inhabit the cool and clear waters of the river below. Sensei gives a brief talk on the creatures while we peer into the darkness below…

…After the brief lecture concludes, followed by a thirty-second scan of the dark waters below for a possible sighting of one of the reticent nocturnal giants, Sensei orders us onward, “Let’s go, let’s go! We’ll find one on the way down.”

Sensei wobbles on in front, his two wooden hiking sticks flailing out on either side of his torso as we press through the village. His bulk heaves in syncopated locomotion. The village is thronged with hikers and nighttime activity, but we move through it quickly to the entrance to the trail – passing under the vermillion torii gate that signifies that we are entering holy ground – and begin the ascent of the 924-meter high mountain, the highest in Kyoto.

Sennichi Tsuyusai Festival

This nighttime trek up an ancient pilgrimage route is part of the annual Sennichi Tsuyasai festival, which is held at Atago every July 31st until the early hours of August 1st. It is a hike to the peak on which Atago Shrine sits.

Our ascent commences in the aforementioned Kiyotaki, a rural hamlet made up of an art gallery, several restaurants, and a handful of houses. On this night, a tent has been set up in the village; under it sits a cluster of firemen who will be there until morning ready to respond in the event of injury or an emergency. Kiyotaki is one of several entrances to the mountain but the main one for the festival (it is also the “male” entrance to Atago; a “female” entrance can be found near JR Hozukyō Station on the other side of the mountain). The distance to the top is marked in two ways: by Jizo statues, adorned with red bibs and spaced roughly 109 meters apart; and, more legibly, by umber-colored placards set up by the fire department. The latter breaks the hike into forty stages, and each of the forty signs has a hand-written fire prevention slogan.

“Go on ahead! Go on, go on, don’t wait for me; it will take me hours to get to the top,” barks an out of breath Sensei after the initial climb. This is the first of his many breaks along the route. “Besides, we have all night, and someone has to keep an eye out for Tengu!” The mythical Tengu, the legendary long-nosed creature in Japanese folklore, is thought to have resided at, among other locations, Atago since ancient times.

The first nineteen stages are a steady climb, busy with colorfully dressed pilgrims in every manner of hiking gear. From that point, the trail becomes less severe, even flat in places. At one rest place, near the 20th stage, we take a break. From here, the lights of Kyoto twinkle far below in the distance through an opening in the trees…

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To read the rest of this story (and learn more about giant salamanders!), 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 Sanborn Brown
Sanborn Brown teaches at Osaka Kyoiku University, and writes for www.CycleKyoto.com and www.JapanVisitor.com. He also has a blog, Miyako on Two Wheels at www.cyclekyoto.blogspot.jp. He is from Philadelphia, USA, and has lived in Kyoto for more than a decade.

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

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/

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/

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.

Bias in Japan’s Media – A Free Lecture by Eric Johnston @ Kyoto University

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Eric Johnston, Deputy Editor of the Japan Times, will be speaking on media bias at Kyoto University on July 3rd. The talk will be in English but the subsequent Q & A session will be in English and Japanese.

Date: July 3rd
Time: 2:30-4:15 p.m.
Place: Kyoto University

The event is open to the public but please RSVP Eric Johnston if you wish to attend: erichartley1964[at]gmail.com

Click here for a pdf of the flyer.

Gion Festival: Where Spirituality Meets Sustainability – A Talk by Catherine Pawasarat

gion

Gion Festival images from Catherine Pawasarat

This from John Einarsen,

Did you know that the Gion Festival is one of the world’s oldest and most successful experiments in spiritual sustainability? This year the Great Ship Float (Oofune Boko) destroyed by fire in 1864 is being relaunched along with pre- and post-festival processions on July 17 and 24. Let spiritual teacher, environmental journalist and Gion expert Catherine Pawasarat guide you through the intricacies of the festival’s fascinating spiritual legacy and its latest iteration bringing together 1100 years of tradition with contemporary Japanese technology and sustainability practices.

Day: Sat, 12 July, 2014
Time: 17:00-18:30
Location: Impact HUB Kyoto. Access details and map here: http://kyoto.impacthub.net/access/?lang=en
Entrance Fee: 1500 yen per person

CataIndigoKimonoKitaKannonYama16Jul2008_0194PctclrdDgmrkdSmallProfile:
Catherine Pawasarat is the creator of gionfestival.com. Catherine’s lifelong love affair with Kyoto began right after she graduated from Columbia University in 1989. With over two decades living in Japan as a journalist, writer, editor and intepreter, Catherine lived in the heart of the Gion Festival neighborhood. Her reporting on the Festival has focused on everything from the role of women in the festival to the heritage textiles that first piqued her interest in one of the world’s oldest living cultural legacies.

See also: Gion Festival – The Best English Language Resource on Facebook!
Gion Festival in Literature & Memory

Noh by Torchlight – Takigi Noh

I just got tickets for the torchlight Takigi Noh performance at Heian Jingu this Sunday. Since March Mewby and I have been occasionally attending Noh performances at the Kanze Kaikan. Noh is of course notorious for sending people off to sleep, but our experience is that if you have a script to read along then it can be enthralling. Fortunately I was able to find the scripts for three of Sunday’s plays, Takasago, Matsukaze, and Shakkyō on the能.com. This will be our first time to try Takigi Noh so I’m quite excited!

kyoto-takiginoh65
Here’s what John Dougill wrote about Takigi Noh on this very blog back in 2010:

For many people Noh is a turn-off. The plays have no conflict, no humour and no facial expression. Actors move at a snail’s pace, the language is arcane and the music archaic. To its detractors it’s simply an outmoded relic of medieval times. Noh way, Noh thank you.

There are regular performances in Kyoto, and if you attend you’ll find a good number of the audience asleep. One top performer told me he would do the same if he were watching rather than on stage! It’s very much an acquired taste, for knowledge is needed of the crafts and skills to truly appreciate them. The types of play and their ethereal nature, for example. The stately movement of the actors. The exquisite quality of the costumes. The almost sacred nature of the masks. The musical form. It’s an art form for connoisseurs.

Once a year, however, Kyoto offers an opportunity to enjoy Noh in a different light, when an outdoor show in the atmospheric surrounds of the Heian Shrine brings the plays to life in spectacular style. With over 3000 expectant people packed into the courtyard, the event begins in daylight with robed figures gliding towards an open stage accompanied by the peculiar ‘ya-oh’ chants of a drummer and the piercing sound of a flute.

At 6.30 priests emerge to light the braziers and as darkness descends, the illuminated shrine buildings provide a decorative backdrop. A rustling of the curtain and a masked figure enters, dressed in the most gorgeous of robes. In the deepening darkness the effect is eerie. The visual splendour, the ethereal music, the rising moon over the eastern hills combine to produce a sense of theatrical wonder.

With its masks, chorus, music and all-male cast, Noh is sometimes compared to the drama of ancient Greece. Viewed at the Heian Shrine, however, it has something of the great religious dramas of South-east Asia, such as the Balinese beach performances of the Ramayana. The event started as a revival of an older tradition and has been held every year since 1949. It proved such a success that it spawned some two hundred similar events around Japan. Why not give it a go? You might have thought you weren’t the type to go to Noh, but I can guarantee this is one performance you won’t be sleeping through.

Location: Heian Jingu Shrine (may be postponed in case of rain)
Dates: June 1 (Sun), June 2 (Mon) from 5.30 to around 8:45 (Gate opens at 4.30)
Cost: Y4000 at the gate (Y3000 in advance)
Recommended to take a sweater or light jacket for later in the evening
Schedule: Different plays are scheduled for each day – you can see the schedule here: http://www.kyoto-kanze.jp/takiginoh/takiginh65-program.htm
Inquiries (in Japanese): The Kyoto Takigi-noh Office 075-771-6114

Diego Pellechia has some more details about the performances up on his site The Noh Diaries.

John Dougill is professor of British Studies at Kyoto’s Ryukoku University and the author of Kyoto: A Cultural History and In Search of the Hidden Christians. He is also a contributor to our book, Deep Kyoto: Walks.

Learn more:
Japanese Noh: Performances for the Gods
the 能.com probably has pretty much everything you need to get started with Noh drama…

The 3rd Kyoto Photo Walk – June 1st at Nanzen-ji

Photo Walk

By popular demand the third Kyoto Photo Walk will take place on Sunday June 1st at Nanzen-ji. It’s a good opportunity to socialize and pick-up some tips on how to shoot…

Details:
Time: 3-6pm
Meet-up: Keage Station (Tozai Line) entrance at 3pm
Bring: A camera or even just an i-phone.

All welcome!
For more details please check the Daijobu! Photography page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Daijoubuphotography

The Flame Music Night at Papa Jon’s Eatery ~ May 25th

Three super talented musical acts for just 500 yen? Where else but at Papa Jon’s Eatery?

The Flame

At Papa Jon’s Eatery on May 25th.
Doors Open at 18:00 Show starts 7pm
Acts: Nick Ogawa, Phil Norton, Max Dodds
Charge for the musicians: 500 yen
There is also an all-you-can-stuff-your-face-with buffet for 1000 yen
Location: Papa John’s Eatery is on the 3rd floor of the Shimpukan Building, just south of Oike, on the east side of Karasuma.