Category Archives: Photography

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!

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

Exploring Kyoto with the Ricoh Theta

Click on the images displayed below to view them in fully immersive 360 degrees.

Having played with my little Ricoh Theta camera for about a week now, I think it’s time for a wee review with some example shots to give you an idea of it’s potential. First though a few words on how it works. The camera has a double fish-eye lens that takes a simultaneous 360 degree shot of your surroundings, up, down, every which way and fully immersive. A simple set-up and you can connect the camera to your i-phone (or i-pad or i-pod touch) via a wi-fi signal emitted from the camera itself. An app will then let you explore the image from multiple angles and play around with it. There is no way to preview the image before you take it, so you just have to trust your judgement and see what happens. However, if you have a playful temperament and like to experiment then this can be a lot of fun. I’ve found also that some images work better when reduced down to spheres like this:


Kyoto Station + Kyoto Tower – click for the immersive spherical image.

Or stretched out into panoramas like this:

Fushimi Inari

At Fushimi Inari Taisha. Click this image and all further images for the full 360 degree experience!

You’ll also noticed from that first picture that taking pictures manually will necessarily turn your pictures into glorified selfies and give you massive arms. No problem – you can take pictures remotely from your i-phone. Standing the camera up on a flat surface can give good results.

Cafe Kocsi

Cafe Kocsi

But sometimes a tripod is better. I got myself a GorillaPod, a wonderful little creation with legs that can wrap around branches and railings – and that is how I took this image from a balcony railing. I love the fact that I could take a picture that includes both the restaurant and the river that it faces!

Yuka balcony dining at Shiki Yoshina

Yuka balcony dining at Shiki Yoshina

Now though I live in Japan’s most photogenic city, traditional landscape views are not necessarily best suited to this camera. Unless that is you enjoy taking candid shots of other people taking pictures. I confess I do.


At Kinkakuji – The Golden Pavilion

No more how subtle you are though, this little camera does attract a lot of attention.


“What’s that?” – At Kiyomizu Temple

The best pictures tend to be those in which your entire surrounds are of interest and not just that which lies before you. This makes you think about your pictures, and indeed the world about you in a whole new way.


Among the red torii gates of Fushimi Inari Taisha

Another strong point for this camera is group shots. The person who takes the picture can also be included in the shot and need never be left out again!


My students.

I have more pictures to post from Pontocho, Kawaii Kanjiro’s house and other sites around town, but it grows late… For now I shall leave you with my favorite picture so far. I thought this might turn out well, when I took it, but it exceeded my expectations. Further 360 adventures will follow soon!


Fushimi Inari Taisha

See also: Climbing Mount Daimonji with Robert Yellin & the Ricoh Theta

Climbing Mount Daimonji with Robert Yellin & the Ricoh Theta

When you write a blog, and a reasonable number of people follow it, sometimes you get stuff for free. Probably this is the best thing I ever got for free:


Pretty, isn’t it? This is the RICOH THETA – the first camera that can take 360 degree panoramic images in one shot. And as it isn’t on sale yet, I’m the very first person in Kyoto who gets to give it a go! Soon after it arrived my friend Robert Yellin suggested we take it up Mount Daimonji for a test run and below are the results. Just click on the dew drops to step into a bubble and view the image in 360 degrees!

Crossing the Bridge at the foot of Daimonji:
Dai 1
In the Forest:Dai 2
At the top! You can climb this in 30 minutes at a reasonable pace and it really does energize you when you get to the top. I’m still buzzing from it now.
Dai 3

Taking in the view!Dai 4

After our descent we went back to Robert Yellin’s pottery gallery:Gallery 1

Robert had ice-cold beers ready! Much appreciated after our climb!Gallery 2
While we talked I expressed an interest in some of the works of Shimura Noriyuki that were on display. Robert brought out some mugs for me to look at. Colorful and quirky, I find them delightful.

Gallery 3

I actually ended up buying one, I liked it so much. I feel like every one of those pieces has a story in it, but this was my favorite (standard picture).

IMG_6516 (Medium)
It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Many thanks to Robert, and also to Daniel Rosen for choosing me to try out this great new toy!

Lotus – A Joint Exhibition by John Einarsen & Tiery Le…

Now on at Cafe & Gallery Rokujian and continuing until December 25th is an exhibition of photographs by John Einarsen and oil paintings by Tiery Le… Open 12:00-20:00, and closed Mondays, Rokujian is in the Okazaki area, to the east of Heian Shrine and drectly to the north of the Kampo Museum. Click here for a map.

See also: The Photographs of John Einarsen

The Photographs of Jane Lawson

Last year on Deep Kyoto we posted a short series of Kyoto-based photographer profiles. Each photographer  was challenged to choose just five of their own favorite pictures from Kyoto and tell us a little bit about why they chose them. It’s time to reboot that series! This month I’ve asked Australian foodie Jane Lawson to accept the challenge. Though Jane is not technically resident  in Kyoto, she has visited this city so many times over the last three decades that I figured I could bend the rules. Also, her pictures are fantastic! Jane says,

Ok, of course choosing just 5 of my favourite images was near impossible – I must admit to feeling somewhat unhealthily attached to all documented vision of my days wandering beautiful Kyoto. Each moment is special to me for one reason or another – I probably wouldn’t feel compelled to snap away at it otherwise. To make it easy on myself I decided to theme this selection in ode to my favourite season and the most magnificent Kyoto winter earlier this year. We don’t get much snow in Australia so it was an absolute treat to experience a particularly white winter – mother nature gave a rather generous sprinkling in 2011.

Winter Patterns

I shot winter patterns on busy Sanjo Dori but it could have been deep in a remote forest. The moody imagery and pattern takes me back to researching one of my books in Scandinavia. I love the contrast of black and white and the shadows of grey in between. Continue reading

Three Kyoto Photography Collections for Disaster Relief

Here’s another fine fund raising effort for disaster relief in East Japan. Dutch photographer Albert Kuiper writes,

To raise funds for the relief of the Japanese tsunami and earthquake I have made a small series of books, with photos from my wonderful month-long stay in Kyoto in April 2010. All proceeds will go to the Japanese Red Cross.

I have made three books:
Kyoto, Eternal City of Cherry Blossoms, Geishas and Temples

This book contains an overview of sakura and hanami, shows the day in a life of those dressing as a geisha for a day, and a visit is made to some temples and shrines.

Kyoto, City of Rituals

This book shows many forms of rituals in Kyoto. A city with some 3.000 temples and shrines, these are places for expressing devotion, as well as wishes. In my book on ritual, I embed the wish for a safe rebuild of the country.

Kyoto, City of Many Signs

The old city center with its wooden houses and shops does not have many flashing neon lights. Instead, the customer is welcomed with noren, the colorful banners hanging in front of the entrance of shops.

The books are available at the Blurb Bookstore, a publishing-on-demand book printer. The books can be ordered at the book site directly. All proceeds go to the Red Cross.

Thank you Albert!

See also: 2:46 – Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake

Manyōshū exhibition @ Hounen-in

By pure chance today I had a little errand to run up at Hounen-in and while I was there I thought I might as well take in the current exhibition. It turned out to be just my cup of tea!

The poem that accompanies this photograph in the exibition reads: 「夕されば、小倉の山に鳴く鹿は今夜は鳴かず寝ねにけらしも」 ~ "The deer that cries out each night with longing from Mount Ogura is silent tonight. Maybe he sleeps early, his longing fulfilled."

I have written about Hounen-in before. It’s always a nice little temple to visit, nestled in the woods along Kyoto’s north-eastern hills. The fact that they have a little gallery there makes it alll the more special. The exhibit that opened today is of costumes and photography inspired by Japan’s oldest anthology of poetry, the Manyōshū (万葉集 or “A Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves”). The exhibitors Akio Nishimoto, Kara Yamaguchi and Namie Nishimoto have specifically selected 17 love poems from the collection and arranged them about the room to reflect the cycle of the seasons… Why love poems? They write: “Today we hear many young people in Japan describe love as a “bother” or they go about finding a partner like a job search, but what could be more poignant than an expression of human love in all its forms?” Maybe it’s because I’m a summer baby (and born around the time of Tanabata) but my own favorite poem was this one:

天の川 瀬ごとに幣を たてまつる 心は君を 幸く来ませと

There in the heavenly rapids of the Milky Way I made an offering of cloth to the gods. Please give him safe passage to me tonight.

Kara Yamaguchi and Akio Nishimoto among their works: colorful cloth offerings and vibrant natural images.

It is inspiring to see artists today continuing to find their motivation in words of love first spoken over a thousand years ago. Their colorful works enhance the enjoyment of these ancient poems and are in turn imbued themselves with new shades of meaning. The artists themselves speak of a desire to reinfuse modern Japanese with the simple profundity and passion of the people of ancient Yamato.

…people of ancient Nara sang about love, life and the land of Yamato. Today we can relive their vibrant spirit through the more than 4,500 poems which make up the Manyōshū, Japan’s oldest anthology of poetry. They expressed the profound journey of human life in great depth, as they embraced their daily lives with the flow and ebb of the seasons on the Yamato plain.

Many mountains adorn the land of Yamato
But it is to the heavenly summit of Mt. Kagu that I climb now
to behold the great unfolding plain.
Pillars of smoke rise from hearths far below
and seagulls soar here and there over the waters of the land.
Oh what a sight to be cherished, this great land of Yamato.
- Emperor Jomei

…The spirit of the Manyōshū also reminds us of the intimate connection between the cycles of nature and human spirit, and if we but stop to smell the fragrance of the plum blossoms, we will once more be reminded of the joy of our existence  in the eternal cycles of life.


The gallery building at Hounen-in

The Manyōshū exhibtion at Hounen-in continues until Sunday (March 13th) and is open each day from 10:00 ~ 16:00. Entry to the temple and the gallery is free.  To find Hounen-in go south from Ginkakuji along Tetsugaku-no-michi (The Path of Philosophy) and after a 15 minute walk you should see a sign on your right for 法然院. Cross the canal and you’ll find yourself on a side street. Go left again and you’ll find the entrance on your right leading up through the woods. Alternatively, coming directly from Shirakawa Dori, just go in a straight line east from the Fresco Supermarket (south of Imadegawa and north of Marutamachi) till you get to Tetsugaku-no-michi and then follow the directions as above. Here is a map.