Category Archives: Conservation

ECHOES: Painting & Poetry Exhibition at KICH – February 25 ~ March 2

ECHOES is an upcoming poetry and art exhibition organized by the Hailstone Haiku Circle, and featuring the conservation efforts of PTO (People Together for Mt. Ogura). Click on the flyer below for details!
H a i g a c o l l a b o r a t i o n
Hailstone Haiku Circle is an international group founded in 2000 by Stephen Gill and centred on Kyoto. Its main activity is to compose, share and publish English language haiku, but recently it did so based on paintings brought to the meetings. Each poet took home one of these paintings and wrote a haiku to accompany it. Many of these collaborations are displayed in this exhibition. Haiku seems like an entirely new art when written in English, and, fortunately, many of the poets are also fine artists!

M t. O g u r a c o r n e r
In summer 2003, Stephen Gill spent 16 hours walking about Mt. Ogura in Saga, Kyoto. His objective was to write poems celebrating the mountain, but inadvertently he discovered many environmental problems, including a huge amount of rubbish tipped there. The following year, he met Okiharu Maeda of the NPO ‘ACE’ (and more recently, PTO) and, ever since, together they have been clearing the rubbish and attracting to this beautiful mountain many volunteers, both Japanese and foreign. There will be a small section of the exhibition devoted to artworks and poetry made on or for Mt. Ogura.

4 min. from Keage Station on Subway Tozai Line. Here is a MAP.
Dates: February 25 (Tue.) ~ March 2 (Sun.) 11:00~19:00
First day opens 12:00, reception 18:00~ 20:00 last day closes at 18:00
Admission Free!
Enquiries (K.I.C.H.): 075-752-1187
HAILSTONE HAIKU CIRCLE (Stephen Gill): 075 865 2773
Hailstone Haiku Circle:


A Trip to Inuyama

IMG_6833Here are some pictures from Inuyama in Aichi prefecture, which we visited last month. By clicking on the spherical images, you can explore a fully immersive 360 degree view.

IMG_6819 (Medium)
Inuyama Castle is supposed to be the oldest castle in Japan: the original fort was built in 1440, and the current structure was completed in 1537. However as you can see from the scaffolding in the picture above, it still needs a bit of maintenance from time to time. Despite the metal poles and boards though, the views from atop the castle, of the Kiso river and the surrounding mountains, were wonderful. Continue reading

Kawai Kanjiro’s House


This is the house of Kawai Kanjiro, a legendary potter and a key figure in the mingei or Japanese folk art movement. His beautiful wooden townhouse has been preserved as a memorial run by his family. The building itself and the garden are wonderful, but you can also see here many of his works: ceramics, sculptures, and woodcarvings. His kilns are preserved at the back of the house. I was there back in September and took some 360 degree pictures which I shall share here as they give a good impression of how much there is to explore in the house. Just click on them to have a proper look around: Continue reading

A Trip into the Past at Meiji Mura

IMG_6860 (Medium)In 2011 McKinsey & Company commisioned 80 writers and thinkers to contribute to an anthology rather grandly titled Reimagining Japan: The Quest for a Future that Works. I bought my own copy after browsing through it at Kansai Aiport and reading Alex Kerr‘s piece “Japan after People”.  His contribution was a wry form of dystopian projection that took various current trends, both national and local, and followed them into the far future to entirely logical yet completely absurd conclusions. His prediction for Kyoto in 2060 amused me greatly: Continue reading

Nov. 23 (Sat.) Autumn Recreation Hike & Maple Planting on Mt. Ogura, Kyoto

View from Ogura

Photo from Stephen Gill.

This Saturday PTO (People Together for Mount Ogura) & the Hailstone Haiku Circle will have a joint hiking/recreational event on Mt Ogura. Here are the details from Stephen Gill: Continue reading

Ten Year Plan to Reafforest Kyoto’s Mount Ogura Goes Ahead

Good news today! The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (BTMU) has thrown its weight behind a plan to restore the natural beauty of Kyoto’s Ogurayama. The ten-year reafforestation project aims to undo the damage wrought by human neglect and the recent of blight of diseases that are killing off much of the native oaks and pines. Mount Ogura has been famed since Heian times as the “Poets Mount” and is celebrated in the tanka anthology Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (100 poems by 100 poets). It’s nice to know that volunteer groups such as People Together for Mount Ogura (PTO) are no longer fighting these problems on their own.

Full article on the BTMU site here: Start of the Ogurayama Restoration Project in Kyoto
Get involved with PTO’s conservation activities here: Let’s begin with what we can do!


Last weekend I joined PTO for their first rubbish clearance of 2012. The weather was changeable to say the least and I got well dirty, but the results did us proud.

We had a good turn out on this occasion with people from China, Indonesia, Canada, New Zealand, a fair few Brits and the local J-crew. I was also pleasantly surprised to see both Mike Chan and Masyhur Hilmy (who were up in Tohoku with me) joining in too. Anyway, there is always room for more volunteers! If you are interested in poetry or conservation, come and join us next time on the Poet’s Mount!

The meeting place is normally Saga/Arashiyama Station at 9.45 am. You should bring your lunch and something to drink, and you should probably also contact organiser Stephen Gill in advance to let him know you are coming:

Here’s the schedule for the rest of this year. This may be augmented with other events or adapted slightly as the year proceeds. Check the new PTO website for updates.

Apr. 7 (Sat.) Footpath maintenance
15 (Sun.) Brushwood preparation “
21 (Sat.) Footpath maintenance

May 5 (Sat.) Deer-fence repairs
19 (Sat.) Deer-fence repairs
27 (Sun.) Rubbish clearance *

June 3 (Sun.) Brushwood preparation “
16 (Sat.) Brushwood preparation “ (reserve)

Jul. 1 (Sun.) Fieldwork
14 (Sat.) Discussion meet “ (dinner afterwards)

Aug. (Management Committee meeting)

Sep. 2 (Sun.) Bamboo fence repairs “
9 (Sun.) Bamboo fence repairs “ (reserve)
16 (Sun.) Bamboo grove maintenance “
22 (Sat.) Bamboo grove maintenance “ (reserve)

Oct. 6 (Sat.) Pine forest maintenance
14 (Sun.) Rubbish clearance *
20 (Sat.) Footpath maintenance
27 (Sat.) Autumn Festival event (if wet, moves to 28)

Nov. 3 (Sat.) Pine forest maintenance
17 (Sat.) Pine forest maintenance
25 (Sun.) Rubbish clearance *

Dec. 1 (Sat.) Pine forest maintenance
15 (Sat.) Pine forest maintenance

Dec. or Jan. (Management Committee meeting)

* goes ahead except in heavy rain; all other workdays may be postponed or cancelled in the event of rain: if in doubt, best check with organizers on the day!
“ does not require any hiking

Of related interest:
One Hundred Poets on Mount Ogura, One Poem Each
People Together for Mt. Ogura – The Poets’ Mountain

Pine felling on Mount Ogura

Once again last Saturday I joined P.T.O. (People Together for Mt. Ogura) for another day of pine cutting on the summit of Mount Ogura. Above you can see a misty view of the Hozu river gorge.  To the right of the view in the foreground is a pine tree that is completely brown. It has unfortunately succumbed to the pine disease that is killing so many trees not only on Mount Ogura but throughout Japan. This is why we are cutting down the pine trees that have died – to stop the disease from spreading. Below is another view of the Hozu river. In a week or two when the maples have turned, this view will be spectacular. Many people will be taking the Torokko train through the valley and the Hozu-kudari boat trip back to Arashiyama to enjoy the wonderful autumn scene… little knowing a large part of the oaks and pines in the Saga/Arashiyama are threatened by separate diseases… Continue reading

October on Mount Ogura

On Saturday my colleague Chris Carver and I joined PTO for another day of conservation work on Mount Ogura. After a solid day of rain the day before I had fully expected  Saturday’s work to be cancelled, but the rain held off in the morning and the planned day of work went ahead. It was very humid up on those forested slopes, but we were fortunate with the weather as the next solid downpour didn’t occur until the evening – after our descent. The views over Kyoto from Mount Ogura are always spectacular, but Saturday morning they were rendered strange and mysterious by the mists and cloud.

On reaching the summit, we spent the day pine felling. There is a pine disease decimating the pine forests on the mountain. By removing the trees that have already died and burning them, the hope is that the disease will be prevented from spreading further. I first participated in this work a year ago, since when many more trees have died. It does seem like an endless task at times. At one point though, chopping up a tree by myself, I looked up the slope and saw a large stag and one or two doe flashing through the trees. A magical moment! I’d seen plenty of their droppings before but never caught a glimpse of them on the mountain.

Cutting down the pines with hand saws, and carrying the wood to the sorting area  is all good exercise and after the branches have been chopped and put into manageable piles there was a bit of fun in what Stephen Gill refers to as the Ogura Olympics – jumping up and down on the piles of smaller branches to flatten them down.

Really very springy indeed!

The fuzz around the edges of the pictures is from the mist adhering to the lense. The lenses of Chris’s glasses kept misting up too! It was so humid! Here we all are half way down the mountain after a solid day’s work.

And here is a view down the Hozu river valley on our return journey. Here from somewhere down in the valley we heard the long, high call of a stag calling for its mate – a typical autumn sound and a motif in much Japanese poetry.

After we had parted company with the bulk of the group, Stephen, Chris and I popped into a Balinese cafe/eatery named Koiuta Salon for a quick drink before going home. The people there were very friendly and I’m told they do a very nice green curry, and nasi goreng. We settled for a bottle of Bintang each. After a hard day of hiking and chopping down trees, I have to say those Bintangs tasted superb! Here are the owners and their beautiful Bintangs!

If you fancy a spot of Balinese food, or Balinese coffee or just a Bintang beer, the Koiuta Salon is opposite Saga Elementary School on the corner of Marutamachi Street and Prefectural Route 29 (府道29号線).

The next day of pine felling is on November 5th. Why not join us? To find out more about the conservation activities of PTO (People Together for Mt. Ogura) you can check this article or go direct to their homepage. There is also a very nice bilingual book of haiku and tanka available the proceeds of which all go to supporting PTO’s work on the mountain and you can read about that here: One Hundred Poets on Mount Ogura, One Poem Each.

Hiking Along the Old Hozu River Towpath

Last Saturday I joined Stephen Gill and Okiharu Maeda of the conservation group P.T.O. for a hike along the Hozu River. The hike wasn’t purely for the pleasure of getting out into the fresh country air though, Maeda-san and Mr. Gill were making a detailed report, with photographs of the exact location of trees on Mount Ogura that have been affected by a deadly oak disease. Even from a distance now you can see some patches of brown on the mountain (left click on these pictures twice to see them at their maximum size).

These trees are not exhibiting early autumn foliage – they are dead, and the process is quick. Stephen told me that most of these trees looked fine three weeks ago. As we moved closer to the mountain along the river, the full extent of the problem became clearer.

I think during our hike Maeda-san must have counted over 100 dead trees on the mountain. P.T.O. will submit their report to the city office and ask them to act upon it. There are methods to tackle this disease but as you can see from the damage that has already been wrought, these methods need to be implemented fast before this beautiful mountain view is ruined.

Our route took us along parallel to the old Funahiki trail that horses once walked when pulling boats back up to Kameoka. That path hasn’t been maintained at all and in places barely exists anymore so the going was a little hairy at times. Our first barrier however was this: Continue reading