Seika University Manga Faculty Article in Morning Calm Magazine

Passengers on Korean Air flights this month can read my article on Seika University’s Manga Faculty, in the inflight magazine Morning Calm.


I visited Seika’s Manga Faculty in late September and found a truly unique university department with top-class teachers from all parts of the manga industry. Teachers at Seika inspire their students with an open and collaborative attitude to education and an emphasis on personal development. As Faculty  head Yoshimura Kazuma told me, “Rather than teaching we prefer that students and teachers discuss, consider and learn together. And rather than trying to find one correct answer to a problem, we prefer to discover through dialogue that there can be many possible answers and choices available. To debate these things is very important.”


“The most enjoyable thing is the freedom, being able to do what I want without criticism. The school accepts and encourages everyone’s individuality and self-expression. I think this is what makes Seika different from other Universities.” - Korean student Kim Eunji

morning calm 3
I interviewed several students and teachers at Seika, enough for a much longer article, and a lot of what I wrote (necessarily) got cut, but I’m glad all the interviewees got some representation in the finished piece.  You can check out the full article online from page 72. Check out also the great photography of my partner on this project Mr. Paul Crouse!

Christine Flint Sato’s Sumi Workbook & November Workshop

sumi workbook coverWell-known British sumi artist Christine Flint Sato has recently published a wonderfully accessible Sumi Workbook which presents a complete introductory course for anyone who would like to try their hands at the traditional sumi ink arts of calligraphy or brushed ink painting. Having studied these arts herself for over thirty years and taught workshops in both Japan and the UK, Christine has now come up with an innovative method of teaching and practice that stresses the meditative, experimental, and playful aspects of these arts. If you would like to enter into a new artistic venture and learn a little more about Japanese culture,  then this book could be the right entry point for you. I’ve read the book and can highly recommend it, but don’t take my word for it. Two opportunities are coming up to meet the lady in person!

If you would like to meet Christine, this coming Sunday (November 2nd), she will be at the International Exhibition of Art and Design being held in the annex of the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. Her work will also be on display there, so if you have an interest in taking up the sumi arts this may inspire you. Christine will be there from 13:00 until 16:00. Here is a MAP to the location.

Christine will also be teaching a Sumi Arts Workshop in Nara on November 30th. The details are below… Take it away Christine!


Sumi Workshop Nov 30th 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

Come and enjoy working with sumi in a free and experimental way. We will begin the day with brush exercises to free up your body and mind, and then using dots, lines and shapes will work with gradations of sumi and wet and dry brushwork.
We will have the opportunity to try out the many sumi inks at Boku-undo Sumi Manufacturers during the workshop.

Date: Nov 30th 2014 11:00 – 4:00 (Please arrive by 10:45)
Meeting place : Boku-undo Sumi Manufacturers.
Please come to the Boku-undo shop inside Ganko Shopping Street , Nishinokyo
Here is a MAP.

Nearest Station: Nishinokyo on the Kintetsu Kashihara jingu line. At Kintetsu Yamato Saidaiji take the local train to Nishinokyo, it takes about 6 or 7 minutes.
Please bring: Shodo equipment: brush, felt, water container, paperweight
A packed lunch and drink
Warm clothes

Fee: 3,000 Yen. This includes fee for the room and for paper.

Please contact Christine if you would like to attend the workshop and if you have any questions.
See also her site at:

Ran Hotei Cafe – Vintage Taishō Romance & Excellent Cake

On Wednesday I took a walk over to the Sanjo-kai Shōtengai shopping arcade and popped into Randy Channell’s machiya cafe Ran Hotei.

IMG_7226 (Medium)

Randy is well known as a master of Japanese tea ceremony, and he does teach a few tea ceremony classes at Ran Hotei. Mainly though he gives classes at a shrine near the Imperial Palace. So if you are not interested in tea ceremony, that’s ok, Ran Hotei is essentially a cafe, a place to relax, with coffee, tea and other standard beverages plus some damn fine cake.

IMG_7232 (Medium)

On my visit I had a coffee and cake set for 850 yen. It was a maple chiffon cake, not too heavy and not too light and tasted excellent.

IMG_7236 (Medium)

Randy opened the cafe in 2007, after having the building, a traditional wooden townhouse, or machiya, thoroughly renovated. He explained that he was looking for an art-deco, “Taishō Roman” kind of style when decorating the interior. Taishō refers to the Taishō Era (1912-1926), a short period of liberalism in Japanese politics and culture, which in popular memory stands in sharp contrast to the chaotic drive towards modernism of the Meiji Era that preceded it and the more militaristic early Shōwa Era that followed.  “Roman” is short for romantic, so essentially Taishō Roman stands for a kind of vintage romance.

IMG_7234 (Medium)

The stained glass doorway above was found for him by our old friend Rob Mangold.

IMG_7237 (Medium)

Take a pew – the seating above was originally from a church!

IMG_7244 (Medium)

Or if you prefer you can kick off your shoes and relax on a tatami floor.

IMG_7240 (Medium)

Randy has decorated the machiya very nicely with some lovely items. Check out that beautiful chandelier.

IMG_7246 (Medium)

The Ran of  Ran Hotei is from Randy’s name and the Hotei comes from the popular figure above. Randy has an extensive collection of Hotei statues and images, over 3000, but the one above he tells me, is his “treasure”. Hotei is a folkloric figure representing contentment and generosity.

IMG_7252 (Medium)

Plus points: Ran Hotei is non-smoking and it is also officially a “Dog Cafe” meaning you can pop in here after taking Rover out for walkies. If you are lucky, you may get to meet Snow, above, so named because she is black (?), but perhaps also because she is すなお, a very calm, gentle natured dog.

IMG_7255 (Medium)

Randy is a very welcoming and friendly chap and he has been in Kyoto long enough to have a few stories under his obi. Before he was a tea master, he was a practitioner of various martial arts. I was very glad to meet him and am looking forward to getting to know him better. Mostly though I just want to go back and have another piece of that cake.

Ran Hotei is situated on the south side of the Sanjo Arcade which lies between Horikawa and Senbon Streets. Here is a MAP.

World Heritage Kyoto by John Dougill

Our good friend, John Dougill, recently published a wonderful (and beautifully illustrated) book on Japan’s World Heritage Sites. Today he has been good enough to write a guest post on the many World Heritage properties of Kyoto, with some excellent personal recommendations.

WHS Cover

To research my book on Japan’s World Heritage Sites, I travelled the length of Japan from Hokkaido to Okinawa to visit all the 17 sites. (With the recent addition of Tomioka Silk Mill there are now 18.) It’s a peculiarity of Unesco registration that a single one of Japan’s sites – namely Kyoto – boasts no fewer than 17 ‘properties’, each of which can claim to be a World Heritage site in its own right.

Kyoto was capital of Japan for over 1000 years, and in its river basin was fostered much of the country’s culture: courtly aesthetics, Zen, Noh, the tea ceremony, Kabuki, Ikebana, and geisha arts. Small wonder that the city is recognised worldwide as a glittering gem. ‘Kyoto embodies all the values that Unesco treasures,’ declared Director General, Irina Bokova. ‘It is blessed by glorious nature. It has many intangible assets, like the Gion Festival. And it has wonderful people.’

At Kozan-ji Temple

At Kozan-ji Temple

In 1994 the ‘Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)’ was officially registered as a World Heritage site. The cumbersome title allows for the inclusion of Enryaku-ji on Mt Hiei, which lies within the boundaries of Otsu City, as well as Byodo-in and Ujigami Shrine in the small town of Uji. Altogether there are 13 Buddhist temples, 3 Shinto shrines and 1 castle. Or put another way, there are over 200 buildings and gardens of the highest aesthetic and cultural significance. They include well-known places for which people fly across the world – the Golden and Silver Pavilions, Nijo Castle, Kiyomizu Temple, the Ryoanji rock garden, etc.

Ujigami Jinja

Ujigami Jinja

Yet there are also obscure properties, unfamiliar even to people who live in Kyoto. Take Ujigami Jinja, for instance, or Kozan-ji. Who would have thought these modest places would outrank such omissions as Daitoku-ji, Fushimi Inari, Katsura Villa or the Gion geisha district? The list of places left out could easily match those that have been included, which begs the question: how exactly did the 17 properties get selected? It’s a question I tried to enquire into, without ever getting a satisfactory answer.



So apart from the obvious, what are my tips for visitors? Two underrated places are Ninna-ji and Daigo-ji, which belong to the Shingon sect of Buddhism. ‘No, not another temple’ is a common complaint of visitors to Kyoto, but sites such as these are much more than places of worship. In fact, you could easily enjoy both of them without even stepping into a temple hall.

Ninna-ji 1


Ninna-ji contains the Omuro Palace that exemplifies the aristocratic lifestyle of former times. Covered corridors; fusuma paintings; ancient tea houses; gorgeous garden and exquisite view over pond and pagoda. Nearby is a grove of late flowering cherry blossom, named after the palace.

Ninna-ji 2

At Ninna-ji

Daigo-ji too has an attractive villa named Sambon-in, though technically it’s a subtemple. The ruggedness of the garden reflects samurai values and is filled with rocks assembled by Hideyoshi from all over Japan. Nearby, within the precincts proper, is Kyoto’s most ancient pagoda and a picturesque Benten pond to which photographers throng in spring and autumn.



In addition to the man-made beauty both sites provide access to the wildness of the surrounds, where nature is augmented by a spiritual dimension. At Ninna-ji if you exit by the north-west gate, there is a miniature 88-temple pilgrimage which winds around a hill. And at Daigo-ji you can walk uphill for an hour from Lower Daigo to Upper Daigo, where a collection of ancient buildings has connections with Shugendo (mountain asceticism).

Daigo-ji 2


Those of us who live in Kyoto know that it would be well-nigh impossible to visit in their entirety all the gardens, temples, shrines, museums, villas, festivals and other items of interest with which the city is blessed. The historical associations and buildings which once housed the great figures of the past mean that Kyoto is far more than merely the proud possessor of 17 Unesco ‘properties’. It’s surely a World Heritage Site in itself!


Text and pictures by John Dougill. John Dougill is the author of Japan’s World Heritage Sites (Tuttle, 2014) as well as Kyoto: A Cultural History (Cityscapes)
(Signal/OUP, 2006), shortly to be reissued as an e-book.


Kyoto’s 17 World Heritage ‘properties’, in no particular order

ujigami 2

Purification at Ujigami Shrine

– Kamigamo Shrine
– Shimogamo Shrine
– Toji Temple
– Kiyomizu Temple
– (Hieizan) Enryakuji Temple
– Daigoji Temple
– Ninnaji Temple
– Byodoin Temple
– Ujigami Shrine
– Kozanji Temple
– Kokedera/Moss Temple
– Tenryuji Temple
– Kinkakuji Temple/Golden Pavilion
– Ginkakuji Temple/Silver Pavilion
– Ryoanji Temple
– Nishi-Honganji Temple
– Nijo Castle

William Merrell Vories – A 50th Anniversary Memorial Tour in Ōmi Hachiman

vorie posterWilliam Merrell Vories was a brilliant and prolific architect who was active throughout the Kansai region in the early 20th century. He is said to have built up to 1600 buildings over a 35 year career, all while leading an active life as an educator, entrepreneur and Christian missionary. Many of the buildings he designed are still standing today, including quite a few in Kyoto. This month, the city of Ōmi Hachiman in Shiga, where Vories made his home, is commemorating the 50th anniversary of his passing with a series of special events. Last Saturday, Mewby and I visited Ōmi Hachiman to take a tour of some of the beautiful buildings that Vories built there. Until November 3rd, you can get a special “passport” for 1,500 yen that will give you access to all of the buildings on the tour, many of which are also exhibiting material related to his life. Passports and maps are both available at the tourist information center at Ōmi Hachiman station. You can also download the map as a PDF here: 市内マップ&展示案内. Even if you can’t go before November 3rd, you can still visit or view many of the buildings on the tour after the special exhibition is over, but I would give yourself a good day to walk around all the sites. I really enjoyed visiting this town and would very much like to learn more about this  extraordinary man.

Here are some pictures from our day.

Mewby meets W. M. Vories.

Mewby meets W. M. Vories.

Ikeda Machi Jūtakugai (池田町住宅街), the Western residential area of Ikeda town, is a cluster of homes designed by Vories very early in his career. He had a house here himself, but that has long gone and can be seen only in old photographs. Three fine buildings do still remain though. Continue reading

Pictures from the “Hall of New Knowledge” – The New Wing of Kyoto National Museum

Entry to Kyoto National Museum grounds

Entry to Kyoto National Museum grounds

I have a guest article on Chris Rowthorn’s Inside Kyoto today, all about the new Heisei Chishinkan wing of Kyoto National Museum. This new wing presents a thought provoking contrast to the main building, the Meiji Kotokan. The latter was built in the late 19th century, when designing public buildings in a European style was seen as modern and progressive, and it has an ornate French Renaissance magnificence. The new wing however, expresses 21st century functionality in sleek, simple lines based on traditional Japanese aesthetics. Whereas the older building is showy, grand, and imposing, the Heisei Chishinkan presents itself with modest grace. In the hands of a lesser architect, such a contrast in styles and could have been a glaring eye-sore, but Taniguchi Yoshio has positioned his new building carefully in a deferential bow to the past.

View of the old Meiji Kotokan from ground floor of the new wing.

View of the old Meiji Kotokan from the ground floor of the new wing.

Here’s a snippet from my article:

One of the most delightful features of this new exhibition area is that it too is open plan, so that you can enjoy multiple views of the floors below as you ascend through three levels. Unlike a traditional museum, where you would follow a strict route of one dimensional views of each exhibit in turn, at the Heisei Chishinkan all the exhibits are open to each other and each floor offers fresh perspectives. This also affords the visitor the opportunity to make fresh and startling connections. Having reached an upper floor and studied a gorgeous 17th century folding screen depicting scenes from Gion Festival, you can then immediately glance down and review the giant 11th century Buddhist statuary on the first floor – but this time from above.

You can read the rest of the article here: A New Home for Ancient Treasures – The Heisei Chishinkan Wing of Kyoto National Museum

And here are some more pictures from this fine new building.

Entry to the Heisei Chishinkan

Entry to the Heisei Chishinkan

Lobby shop

Lobby shop

Lobby - Audio guides are also available

Lobby – Audio guides are also available

Rest area

Rest area

Digitalised picture scrolls can be viewed at your leisure

Digitalised picture scrolls can be viewed at your leisure

Lobby - Rest area

Lobby – Rest area

View from the ground floor

View from the ground floor

What would Rodin think?

What would Rodin think?

Kokoka Open Day Event at Kyoto International Community House

This Kokoka Open Day event on Monday November 3rd includes includes song and dance performances on the Global Stage, food and drink from many lands at the World Market and a rakugo performance from Diane Kichijitsu. Check the flyer below for more details.

Date and Time: Monday November 3rd 2014, 10:00 – 16:00
Location: Kyoto International Community House
〒606-8536 2-1 Torii-cho,Awataguchi, Sakyo-ku Kyoto.
TEL. 075-752-3511
Access: Five minutes walk from Keage Station on the Tozai line. Here is a MAP.


Thanks to Toshiyuki Nakano for sharing this information.

Autumn Antiquarian Book Fair 2014


Kyoto’s annual Autumn Antiquarian Book Fair starts Thursday Oct. 30th 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.

Dates: Thursday October 30 – Monday November 3
Location: Chion-ji Temple
Time: 10 am to 5 pm
Access: Chion-ji Temple is on the north side of Imadegawa opposite Kyoto University. It’s a ten minutes walk east of Keihan Demachiyanagi Station, or 3 minutes from the Hyakumanben bus stop. (map)

This is one of three annual used book fairs held in Kyoto, the others being held in spring and summer. I have written about the summer sale here.

Nakagawa Non is the regular artist for the Book Fair flyers and I think you’ll agree that with her latest design (see above) she has done a lovely job. You can view more of her artwork at her site here:

Scottish Day in Kyoto – November 8th & 9th 2014

Thanks to Toshiyuki Nakano for letting me know about this upcoming celebration of Scottish culture. Though as it takes place over a weekend, perhaps they should have called it “Scottish Days”?

Lots of music, food and drink (in particular Black Isle organic beer) are promised. For a list of participating bars and eateries click here. You can also preview some of the musical acts on the event’s Facebook page.

Scottish Day in KYOTO

Saturday November 8th from 11:00 – 20:00
Sunday November 9th from 11:00 – 19:00
Food and drink sales will cease one hour prior to the event’s closing.

Place: Moto-Rissei Shogakko (元・立誠小学校グラウンド) on the west side of Kiyamachi, about mid-way between Shijo and Sanjo. Here is a MAP.

Drink tickets are for four drinks + a Black Isle Beer glass.
Tickets bought in advance:¥2,000 Tickets bought on the day: ¥2,500
Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased from participating establishments or via the event homepage or Facebook page.
Food should be bought separately.
Event Homepage:
Facebook page:

See also: Horie’s Bar

Irish Concert at Kurodani’s Eiun-in, with Niamh Ní Charra & Sean Whelan x Hatao & Nami

Irish music fans, of which there are more than a few in Kyoto, should take note. Irish musicians Niamh Ní Charra & Sean Whelan will be joining local duo, Hatao & Nami, for a show at Eiun-in on Sunday, November 9th. Details below!

Irish November Concert
Irish November Concert in 京都
~From Ireland & Japan, Two Duets~

Date: Sunday, November 9th 2014
Doors Open: 14:00
Show Starts: 14:30 Continue reading