Category Archives: Up-and-coming…

Walk ‘N’ Write in Kyoto – A SWET Event with Rebecca Otowa on February 15th

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

Christmas Dinner & Music in Kyoto 2014

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

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


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

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

The Gael Irish Pub is serving a Christmas Dinner Plate for 2,000 yen from the 22nd to the 25th. See the menu below. Please make reservations at 075-525-0680.
Location: On the 2nd floor of the Oto building on Nawate Dori across from the Minamiza Theatre. Come out of exit 8 of Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Line and turn right and right again up the north side of the underground car park. Look up for the Irish flag and Guinness sign on the building at the end of the road. Here is a MAP.

Tom’s Burger Bar, despite having closed for regular business a couple of months back, is still serving Christmas dinner! A few spaces are still left for Christmas dinner on December 23rd at 6:00pm. The price for a full turkey dinner and a glass of champagne is 3800 yen. See details with the picture below. To make a booking call 075-703-3711 or email
Location: 5min walk from Ichijo-ji Station of Eizan line. Tom’s is on the street behind the Karaoke shop on Higashi-oji St., next to the curry shop. MAP.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Other Christmassy Events:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inquiries (in Japanese) to:
All Doshisha Messiah Concert Committee (全同志社メサイア演奏会実行委員会) TEL 080-3864-2412 (Ibuki)

Please check the Christmas Concert website for further details (Japanese):

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

After a two year hiatus – Bliki Circus are back!

Bliki flyer

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

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

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

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

bliki flyer reverse
See also: Images and Sound from Bliki Circus

Whisper of the Land – Visions of Japan: Ed Levinson Talk & Book Signing

Here’s an upcoming event of interest hosted by Cafe Foodelica.


Edward Levinson is an American photographer and writer living in Japan for 35 years. He will be speaking about his approach to photography, writing, and life with visual examples and readings from his new book of essays “Whisper of the Land”. The talk will be mainly in English with a little Japanese as necessary. Signed copies of his books will be available for purchase.

Date & Time: Sunday December 14th 16:00–18:00
Admission: ¥1000, including coffee or tea and snack.
RSVP to 075-703-5203 or foodelica[at] by December 13th, 8pm please.

ed pic