Category Archives: Literature

Spring Antiquarian Book Fair at Miyako Messe

I must admit I am a fan of the artwork on Kyoto’s Antiquarian Book Fair flyers, but with this most recent and most glorious depiction of Meiji Era Okazaki, local illustrator Nakagawa Non has excelled herself!

Meiji OkazakiThis is the 32nd Spring book fair! Though the majority of the books available (about 500,000 in all) are Japanese, there are always some English books available, as well as art books and ukiyo-e prints etc. You can read about last summer’s book fair here.
Date: May 1st – 5th 2014
Location: The first floor of Miyako Messe in Okazaki (京都市勧業館「みやこめっせ」1F第二展示場). Miyako Messe is a stone’s throw away from Heian Jingu. Here is a MAP.
Address: 〒606-8343 京都市左京区岡崎成勝寺町9-1
Business Hours:10~16:45 (Closing at 16:00 on the final day)

This is one of three annual used book fairs held in Kyoto. The other book fairs for 2014 are scheduled as follows:
August 11 – 16 Summer Antiquarian Book Fair
October 30 – November 3 – Autumn Antiquarian Book Fair
For further details in Japanese please refer to:

Meltdown – An Anthology of Haiku, Z – A

meltdownMELTDOWN メルトダウン (2013) An Anthology of Haiku, Z to A.
ISBN: 978-4-9900822-5-3
Edited by Stephen Henry Gill
Includes almost 500 haiku and a short 4-part seasonal renku cycle over 228 pages.
Cover by Richard Steiner.
Price:¥1,500; airmail $20, incl. p&p
Dimensions: 19 x 13 cm.  Covers feature a tactile matt paper finish.
How to order: details are at the Hailstone Haiku Circle’s Publications page:

I thought I might examine some gems from the latest Hailstone haiku anthology for clues as to haiku possibilities. What makes a haiku a haiku? Wherein lies the haiku’s charm? Why indeed, write haiku at all?

Haiku, we know, should be brief, and Japanese haiku conventionally (though not always) follow a 5-7-5 Japanese syllabic count. There are some masters of the haiku craft who stick to the 5-7-5 syllable count in English – and work wonders within those confines:

Ainu songs are sad:
like this deep blue crater lake
with fog cascading

(Nobuyuki Yuasa, Meltdown, pg 119)

Many people also think a haiku should be written in three lines, and this is often the case. But not always. There are those who throw both syllable and line counts aside, with brilliantly bold experiments.

Unspoken history dark clouds shroud the hunter’s moon

(Duro Jaiye, Ibid, pg 71)

sun fingers
the forest snow
no-one is here

(David McCullough, Ibid, pg 65) Continue reading

Barry Lancet + Japan Town at Impact Hub

Japantown_cover_Lancet_3.22.13A couple of weeks ago I went to see thriller writer, Barry Lancet, give a talk at Kyoto’s Impact Hub, in an event organized by Kyoto Journal. Impact Hub, is situated in a wonderful old building up near Doshisha University and they have all kinds of interesting events going on there. I do hope they have more book signings. Barry’s talk about his experiences getting published at a major publishing house was fascinating, and he also gave some advice to prospective writers that I am sure many present were keenly interested to hear. Though JapanTown is Barry’s first novel it has been chosen as the Best Book of 2013 by Suspense Magazine, Simon & Schuster have signed him up for a book series, and (!) it has been optioned by no less than J. J. Abrams for a TV series! It looks very much like Mr. Lancet is on the cusp of massive success. What’s his secret?

Well, a lot of it is down to patience and perseverance. The first book was written over a period of some years, whilst holding down a full-time career as an editor in Tokyo, and then rewritten – more than once.  However, the writer himself reckons, that part of the interest the book is drawing might be due to the unique character he has created in Jim Brodie. Jim, an American, who spent his formative years in Japan, somehow manages to balance two roles in life, as an antiques dealer and as a private detective. From his ex-army/ex LAPD father he learned street smarts and fighting skills. From his mother, a museum curator, he learned  an appreciation for fine arts. So in both America and Japan he is equally at home with both high culture and the underworld, – and he’s quite tasty with the martial arts too!  What this means in practice is that the book is flavored liberally with Barry Lancet’s expert knowledge of Japanese culture. Barry’s talk having tweaked my interest, I purchased a copy myself – and read all 400 pages in the space of a few days.

How is it? Well, for starters, JapanTown, is a great title, but a slightly misleading one, as after the initial brutal murder of a Japanese family in San Francisco’s Japanese quarter, the bulk of the plot takes place elsewhere. Jim Brodie having being called in to help with investigations, travels both to Japan and New York to find the culprits responsible. His one clue, is a mysterious kanji character left at the scene of the murder. Though he cannot read it, he does recognize it, and it leads him on a deadly trail that requires all of his knowledge and skills to survive. What he uncovers is a secret society of Japanese assassins with global reach and a connection to a personal tragedy in his own recent past. Wildly improbable? Perhaps, but while reading it I really didn’t care! The action, fast-pacing and tense narrative had me turning page after page long after this old boy’s bedtime. Curse you Barry Lancet for robbing me of my sleep! I found the scenes where Brodie and his Japanese partner Noda, were escaping trap after ambush in Shiga prefecture particularly well-done… (I mean, I have heard that Shiga natives can be a bit unfriendly, but who knew they were that bad?) Well, I thoroughly enjoyed JapanTown. My only criticism would be that no 6 year-old could witness the degree of gruesome violence that Brodie’s daughter does, without being seriously traumatised and requiring years of therapy. She seems like a sweet kid, so I hope Mr. Lancet keeps her well out of harm’s way in future. Which leads me to my final point – in his debut novel Barry Lancet has created believable characters, that I care about and I am looking forward to seeing them again in his next book: Tokyo Kill.

MewbyJapanTown is available from, and

Barry has kindly placed advice for would-be writers up on his website here: Barry Lancet’s Writer’s Corner.

See also:

Barry Lancet + KJ Pot-luck Party @ Kyoto HUB on December 15th

Japantown_cover_Lancet_3.22.13From John Einarsen,

Join Kyoto Journal, Japan Insider and novelist, Barry Lancet, at The
Kyoto HUB for a fun evening of nerdy book exchange followed by our
festive end-of-the-year party. Continue reading

Craft Beer in Japan: The Essential Guide by Mark Meli

Ry and mark

Real beer lovers: Publisher Ry Beville and author Mark Meli launching the book at Tadg’s Bar Kyoto.

This is an excellent little book, packed with useful information for beer lovers here in Japan and a handy portable size for carrying around to all those bars. Personally, I enjoy drinking craft beers, but I am very far away from being an expert, and far too lazy to study the variety of beers available in a systematic way. Fortunately, Mark Meli has done my homework for me. Mark has long had an almost venerated reputation as the authority on craft beer here in Kyoto. In fact Tadg revealed at the book’s launch party that he has long relied on Mark’s counsel when choosing beers for his bar. Now Mark has distilled that expertise and five years of research into this fine book: the very first, and currently only English language guide to Japan’s craft beers. Continue reading

Autumn Antiquarian Book Fair 2013

Autumn Books

Kyoto’s annual Autumn Antiquarian Book Fair starts Thursday at Chion-ji Temple just a stone’s throw away from the Hyakumanben intersection. Though the majority of the books available (about 200,000 in all) are Japanese, there are always some English books available, as well as art books and ukiyo-e prints etc. The grounds of the temple are also a very peaceful and pleasant location in which to browse for bargains. Continue reading

Kyoto: the forest within the gate

Here is a new book project from the team behind Kyoto Journal.


The ancient capital of Japan in images and writings

Resting on the earth
who needs satori or faith?
Embrace what holds you! Continue reading

Kyoto Antiquarian Book Fair

IMG_6130 (Medium)

We spent a very pleasant afternoon yesterday searching for bargains at the used book fair near Demachiyanagi. The books are largely Japanese of course, but there are some English books in there, plus many art books and Ukiyo-e prints etc. I actually found a huge treasure trove of English Literature all selling at very reasonable prices, and had to restrain myself from buying more books than I have space for (or time to read). In the end I settled for the two above plus a slim volume of Auden’s verse. Mewby picked up a couple of short story collections too. The book fair continues until, August 16th and is worth a visit even in this intense summer heat, as it is noticeably cooler under the trees of Tadasu no Mori where the fair is situated. If you can’t make it this time there will be another fair from October 31st – November 4th at the Chion Temple near Hyakumanben. Details below:

IMG_6129 (Medium)Summer Antiquarian Book Fair (August 11 – 16)
10:00 – 17:30 (until 16:00 on the last day)
Access: Kyoto City Bus #205, get off at Shimogamo-jinja-mae (map)
Tel: 075 231 2971
Link (Japanese)

Autumn Antiquarian Book Fair (October 31 – November 4)
Chion-ji Temple
10 am to 5 pm
Access: Ten minutes walk east of Keihan Demachiyanagi Station, or 3 minutes from the Hyakumanben bus stop. (map).

Kyoto Machiya Restaurant Guide: Affordable Dining in Traditional Townhouse Spaces

Kyoto Machiya Restaurant Guide - Click to buy!I am currently reading this new book by Judith Clancy and at some point will write up a proper review for Kyoto Journal. But for the time being here are some rough notes and impressions.

Machiya are the traditional wooden townhouses of Kyoto, sadly under continuing threat from modern developers and their preference for boxy apartment buildings and parking lots. This book provides a guide to 140 of Kyoto’s machiya restaurants and cafes, with 20 singled out as personal favorites. Many I have been to and many I haven’t, so it’s nice to know there is plenty yet to explore and with excellent maps, details and directions they all look to be easy to find.

In addition, introductory chapters describe the evolution of Kyoto’s machiya culture and design within a historical context, and celebrate the revival of machiya values in recent years. An excellent photo essay by Ben Simmons also helps to act as a guide to differing machiya design characteristics as well as helping the novice to appreciate their simple beauty.

Indices by both cuisine and shop name provide easy reference. And with a glossary of culinary terms, plus a guide to Japanese table manners, this is a very handy tool for the Kyoto explorer.

The small businesses featured in this book are helping to preserve and revive Kyoto’s machiya culture for future generations and so a book that supports those businesses in turn is to be praised. Judith Clancy’s Kyoto Machiya Restaurant Guide is an essential addition to the Kyoto lover’s library.

Available from,, and Also available on Kindle.

Exploring Kyoto - click to buy the bookJudith Clancy is the author of Exploring Kyoto: On Foot in the Ancient Capital, long a favorite walking guide to the city.

A portion of the proceeds from Kyoto Machiya Restaurant Guide are being donated to the Kyomachiya Machizukuri Fund to support machiya preservation.

See also: Machiya Revival in Kyoto
Images of machiya from Stone Bridge Press.

Charity “Books4Books” Book Fair @ The Gael Irish Pub on Sunday, June 24th

Children at Light School, Mae Sot, Thailand

Kevin Ramsden has organized another “B4B” book exchange event to raise funds for children in the refugee camps at Mae Sot on the Thai/Burma border. Kevin says,

This event is being held to raise money to help furnish camp schools with books and other essential educational items, as well as anything that will make the lives of the inhabitants more livable. We would like you to bring along any surplus books that you might have lying around at home (no textbooks though, and only books in good condition please) so that we can sell them to raise funds. We would, of course, hope that you might purchase some of the other books on offer to help build a decent total. As children are most welcome, we would love the wee ones to bring along any of their books they think they might have finished with, too. This is very much a social event, and we would encourage all members of the family to come along and hang out, have a drink (or two), engage in friendly banter, eat some lovely grub, and generally enjoy the day.

The details for the event are:

Date: Sunday June 24th, 2012

Time: 11.00 am ~ later on

Place: The Gael Pub, Gion. There is a map and directions here.

Food and Drink:
All the usual drinks available and also a lunch menu on offer from midday onwards.

Thanks, Kevin! It might be worth adding that last year’s event raised 55,000 yen which together with other generous donations and funds raised from the ongoing “B4B” scheme came to 125,000 yen. All of this went to help needy schools and orphanages in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Even if you can’t attend this event, you can still contribute to the “B4B” scheme at The Gael, Tadg’s, The Pig & Whistle, and Papa Jon’s in Kitayama. Each of these locations collect and sell second hand books for charity. It’s a very simple yet successful way to raise funds for a worthy cause and good source of cheap reading material too!

Enthralled by the books