Shakuhachi & Piano Concert with Yoshida Koichi, Ikeda Ippei & Carmen Alvarez

shakuhachipiano january concert

Yoshida Nazarov Koichi is coming home to Kyoto! After two years performing music in Russia and Europe, shakuhachi player Yoshida Nazarov Koichi will return to Japan this January, and play his first performance at the legendary Zac Baran! Playing once again with his former bandmate, the jazz pianist Ikeda Ippei, Koichi has a fresh new batch of original tunes, traditional numbers and covers from all genres! As an added bonus, our good friend, the flamenco singer and dancer Carmen Alvarez, will also be joining in the night’s entertainments.

Date: January 10th 2015
Doors open: 18:00
Start : 19:30
Charge: ¥1800
Place:Zac Baran 

Shakuhachi: Yoshida Nazarov Koichi:
Piano: Ikeda Ippei:
Guest Artist: Carmen Alvarez from Spain, flamenco dancer and singer:

See also: Video of Koichi’s band Yugao with Carmen Alvarez at Zac Baran

People & Nature in SouthEast Asia: A January Screening @ Kyoto University

via Mario Lopez,

On January 14th 2015, there will be a film forum at Kyoto University to screen five documentaries by independent, young film-makers from Southeast Asia on the topic of people and nature. All of the films are subtitled in both English and Japanese.

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Click to download this poster.

From the sky to the mountains, forests to mangroves, fields to orchards and animals to insects,what is the relationship between people and nature in Southeast Asia? How do people connect with their environments? In what ways do they think about, feel, touch, speak and share their surroundings in their societies, and through their cultures? This year, the visual documentary project presents five short documentaries, by young Southeast Asian filmmakers in the region,selected by an international committee for screening in Japan.

Date: January 14th, 2015
Time: 13:30 – 18:00
Participation: Free to All
Venue: Kyoto University Clock Tower Centennial Hall
Language: Japanese/English [with Interpreter]
Organizer: Center for Southeast Asia Studies
Co-organizer: Japan Foundation Asia Center

For more details and information on the lineup of documentaries please visit the official website here: Visual Documentary Project 2014

Deep Nara #1 – Kojiki Exhibition

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Last month Mewby and I went down to Nara and took in the Kojiki exhibition currently ongoing at Nara Prefectural Art Museum. I would happily recommend the exhibition as a fascinating and comprehensive exploration of every aspect of Japan’s oldest book. Whether, you are interested in the deepest roots of Japanese culture, ancient mythology and the glorious art it has inspired, or in the very dodgy political interpretations that have attached themselves to the book, it’s all there for you in the Kojiki exhibition. I wrote a bit about it for John Dougill’s Green Shinto blog, and he was kind enough to post my review today.

八岐大蛇退治図 鈴木松年 - Susanoo slays the eight headed dragon. Suzuki Shonen, 1871.

八岐大蛇退治図 鈴木松年 – Susanoo slays the eight headed dragon. Suzuki Shonen, 1871.

The Kojiki or Record of Ancient Matters is a collection of myths detailing the creation of the Japanese archipelago, along with stories of the first Gods, heroes and emperors. Compiled in 712 it is the oldest book in Japanese. It is also notoriously difficult to read, even in translation. The exhibition’s own stated aim is to overcome this difficulty and help the visitor to look beyond the text’s ancient language and obscure cosmological convictions, to the lives and emotions of the people from whose culture these legends sprang. To do this they have gathered art and archaeological materials from city museums and private locations across Japan that provide a thoroughly immersive Kojiki experience. The result is a comprehensive overview of this book’s place in Japan’s cultural history. We spent a good afternoon at the exhibition learning that the text of the Kojiki, and its mythological contents, have been not only a rich source of creative inspiration, but also historically of propaganda and political influence. In both regards it is a fascinating story!

You can read the rest of this article here:

The good news is that the Kojiki exhibition is FREE for foreigners, but you’d better be quick as it finishes on December 14th. You can find more details in Japanese and a map to the Museum are here:

See also: Songs and Stories of the Kojiki retold by Yoko Danno

tRace elements – The Final Kiyamachi Tour – Video & Photos from Tadg’s

Two Kiyamachi legends: Ryotaro & Max

Two Kiyamachi legends: Ryotaro & Max

Unfortunately, due to other commitments, Mewby and I were only able to attend one stop on Max & Ryotaro‘s final 10-bar tour of Kiyamachi. We enjoyed every minute of the set they played at Tadg’s though. Here are some photos and finally a video of my personal favorite among all of Max’s songs…








See also:

Contemporary Ink Painting Exhibition @ Kyoto Prefectural Center for Arts & Culture

sumiThe Kyoto Contemporary Ink Painting (京都現代水墨選抜展) began today at Kyoto Prefectural Center for Arts & Culture (京都府立文化芸術会館). Our friend, the sumi artist Christine Flint Sato, has a work on display there so I thought I would pop in and have  look. Expecting typical sumi works in black and white I was surprised at how colorful many of the works were.

While I was there a lady asked me if any of the works had impressed me at all, and I immediately pointed to an atmospheric painting of a passage through the woods. The lady was very happy to hear this, for by pure chance that was her very own painting!


Nagara Yasuko and her work 秋 麗 or “Autumn Grace”

I was taken aback when she told me she had only been practicing ink painting for a year or two. All credit to her teacher Okada Ikuko pictured below with her work 明日へ, “For Tomorrow”.


Twenty-three works are on display by twenty-three artists, and they display a wide variety of style and theme. If you are in the area, it is certainly worth a look. The exhibition is free to enter and continues until December 7th.
Kyoto Prefectural Center for Arts & Culture is on the west side of Kawaramachi just below Imadegawa. Here is a MAP.

Free sake tasting at Machiya in Kyoto by Nihonsakari;13th December

From Kenji Fukuda,


machiya 1Nihonsakari Co. Ltd., a sake brewery located in Nishinomiya-city Hyogo will hold a free sake tasting event at a cozy Machiya (traditional merchant house) in central Kyoto.
Please give your valued opinions through a questionnaire!

Date: Saturday the 13th December 2014
Times (two sessions):
1st session: 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. <Limited to 40 guests>
2nd session: 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. <Limited to 40 guests>

machiya 2

Sake sampling and questionnaire and free sake with some snacks at each session.
Place: Chionsha (Machiya, traditional merchant house)
3 minutes on foot from Subway Karasuma Oike Station

sake cups*To reserve your space, please choose which session (1st or 2nd) you would like to attend and send an e-mail with your name and nationality to Kenji Fukuda (kenji.fukuda[at] by the 10th December 2014.
*All guests must be 20 years and older (the legal drinking age in Japan) as we ask you to drink alcoholic beverages.
*Please do not come to the event by car, motor bike or bicycle as we ask you to drink alcoholic beverages in the event.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Kenji Fukuda at: kenji.fukuda[at]

See also:

Brian Williams Exhibition at Takashimaya, Kyoto; 11/26 – 12/2

On my way home from work earlier today, I stopped off to admire a magnificent display of golden autumn leaves at Nishi-Hongan-ji.

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When I got home I found in my mailbox the following flyer from Brian Williams, featuring his painting of the very same tree!

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And from the very same angle! Serendipitous in the extreme! Well, Brian’s wonderful paintings are now on display on the 6th floor of Takashimaya in Kyoto until December 2nd. Brian himself says,


It’s my own little triennalle at Kyoto Takashimaya again… This time with a focus on the grand old capital itself: over half the works are views of Kyoto. In an unexpected wrinkle, the store has asked me to give a gallery talk in English, at 4 pm on Saturday the 29th. It would be nice to see you, either then or at any time during the show. I’ll be there every day, ready to give you a wave. And my parabolic paintings will wave at you too.

brian in actionYou can find a map and other details about Takashimaya Kyoto here: 高島屋京都店

To learn more about Brian’s parabolic paintings visit his site here: Brian’s Eye
Or you can read this article I wrote about him here: The Artist Brian Williams

UPDATE 2/12/14:  I popped in to see Brian on the last day of his exhibition today and found Robert Yellin admiring the very same painting of Nishi-Hongan-ji’s gingko tree. “You can feel the sunlight!” he enthused. And here are we three, with the tree, infused with Brian’s light.


Up & Down the Ki’ – Two Extracts from Deep Kyoto: Walks by Michael Lambe

This month we have two extracts from Deep Kyoto: Walks. Both are from my own piece on a musical tour of Kiyamachi bars conducted by my good friends Mark (Max) Dodds and Ryotaro Sudo in late November last year. On Saturday November 29th 2014 Max and Ryotaro will again perform this tour for the tenth and final time, so a couple of short excerpts from my account seemed timely. In the following passage we have reached Tadg’s bar, and the musicians and the audience are all having a splendid time when suddenly a song of Max’s induces a mood of wistful reverie…


Two extracts from Up & Down the Ki’
A Musical Tour of Kiyamachi & Pontocho with Mark Dodds & Ryotaro Sudo

…There are a small group playing Irish music as the rest of our party arrives and Max and I, in honour of our roots, dance a little faux jig as they play. Max manages to persuade the fiddle player Peter Damashek to join himself, Ryotaro and four members of another local band, Dodo, who are due to join them for a full band experience: one fiddle, two guitars, an accordion, bass and two percussionists. This is going to be good.

The magnificent seven raise their glasses in a mutual toast and then play for us a spirited set that is one of the highlights of the night, starting appropriately with a Pogues number before moving onto Max’s originals. Everyone is dancing now, and laughing, the musicians are smiling as they play and Tadg himself happily taking pictures is absolutely beaming. I suddenly feel rather moved at the scene before me, for it doesn’t feel like a show as such but a big family gathering. And then they play Max’s “Glory Be”. I absolutely adore this song: on the surface it is a toast to a loving relationship that has yet outlasted life’s trials and turmoils and with that in mind, I feel a pang for my own girl Miu, remembering that time we swayed to this song together just a year ago.

Babe you know who I am
Without needing to understand
I am just a grain of sand…

As the day winds down the night winds up
And we will share a loving cup
Of the sacramental wine

Tonight though, there’s something else, I feel like the song is also a serenade to this old town and the people in it and that the band is raising a loving cup to us all.

Every soul will be delivered
Somewhere up or down this deep, dark river
Every drop of rain, every grain of sand…

And so another memorable night at Tadg’s draws to a close, and Lawrence and I head over to Urbanguild ahead of the others, as Lawrence says, “to get the pints in”…

In this second extract we have now reached Urbanguild and things are about to get wild!

…It’s well after eleven for we are running late and whatever performances Urbanguild had tonight have now finished, but the audience and performers are unaware that Max and Ryotaro are about to treat them to some indoor busking. Back in Tadg’s, Ryotaro was talking about “having a rest” and playing a few quiet songs outside by the elevator. But they don’t do that. And they don’t set up their gear on the stage either, but in the middle of the floor between the wooden benches. As the onlookers gather round in a smiling but curious half-circle, our rebel rockers commence to play. Lawrence pulls out a harmonica and joins them in his shy way, diffidently floating round the edges. He clearly hasn’t got enough pints in yet. But Max has, or he’s simply high on the music, hunched over his guitar and leaning into the mic, singing “Stone Cold Blind!” with a passion. As for Ryotaro, he is on fire, strutting about, teasing his audience with wild flourishes of the accordion bellows. The musicians are clearly enjoying themselves and their enthusiasm is infectious as the audience responds with appreciative whoops and cheers. This is the second high point of the night. And as they replay Circus of the Sun, the song takes on a new tone, and the blessed freedom they sing of seems both proud and ecstatic…

Text, photograph and second video by Michael Lambe. Glory Be video by John Wells. Original song lyrics by Mark Dodds. To read the rest of this story, download our book here: Deep Kyoto:Walks.

To follow the tRace elements musical tour of Kiyamachi one last time click here: The 10th & Final Kiyamachi Tour.

DeepKyoto-cover-0423-finalAbout Deep Kyoto: Walks

Deep Kyoto: Walks is an independently produced anthology of meditative strolls, rambles, hikes and ambles around Japan’s ancient capital. All of the writers and artists involved in this project have lived and worked in Kyoto for many years and know it intimately. The book is in part a literary tribute to the city that they love and in part a tribute to the art of walking for its own sake.

About-Michael-Lambe-256x300About Michael Lambe
Michael Lambe is from Middlesbrough in the North East of England. He moved to Japan in 1997 and has lived, worked and studied in Fukushima, Saitama, Tokyo and Kyoto. He has been writing the Deep Kyoto blog since 2007 and doing odd jobs for Kyoto Journal since 2009. He is the Chief Editor of the Deep Kyoto: Walks anthology and has written articles for Japan Today, Morning Calm, and Simple Things magazine.


To learn more about Deep Kyoto: Walks please check the following links:
About the Book

Please Support EMA Japan’s Campaign for Same-Sex Marriage Rights & Sign their Petition!

emaLast week the good people at Japan Today were kind enough to publish a profile piece I wrote on the Equal Marriage Alliance of Japan (EMA Japan for short). Founded in February of this year, EMA Japan is the only NPO advocating solely for legal same-sex marriages in Japan. Unfortunately, same-sex marriage is still illegal in Japan, so EMA are running a petition that aims to put pressure on politicians of all parties to support a change in the law.

I would urge you to sign that petition: LINK.

My article was the result of a lengthy interview with EMA’s President Kazu Terada, and Vice President Jeffrey Trambley. In the finished piece I tried to emphasize how denying a minority of people their spousal rights impacts negatively both practically and profoundly both on individual lives and on society at large. Here is a clip :

…the spousal rights denied to same-sex couples are many. To name but a few, same-sex couples cannot benefit from the tax deductions and inheritance rights that are due to married couples. They cannot apply for joint housing loans. In a medical emergency, a same-sex partner cannot make decisions on behalf of their loved one, and perhaps most upsetting of all, in the event of death, a same-sex partner has no legal entitlement to attend the funeral.

But beyond these legal rights and benefits, Terada believes that marriage equality would bring social validation to the whole LGBT community. “The social meaning of the right to marry could be the most important benefit. When legal discrimination ended in Denmark, society became much more open. There were fewer instances of bullying in schools because the new law sent a message of tolerance and acceptance. Parents of those with homosexual children didn’t have to worry about their future. They could be confident that their children would be treated fairly before society and the law.”

Trambley adds, “I think of closeted people working in Japanese companies and those that cannot come out to their families. It’s hard for them that they can’t be themselves. Even if a person doesn’t want to get married, to have an easier time being yourself in society, this is a major benefit of marriage equality.”

You can read the full article here: New NPO brings same-sex marriage equality into Japanese public debate.

My interview with Kazu and Jeffrey covered a lot of ground, but of course I was not able to include everything within the parameters of the Japan Today article. On a blog though, you can do what you like. So here is part of our original conversation, where we discuss how the lack of overt discrimination in Japan, paradoxically leads to a lack of action on LGBT rights…


DK: How much of the opposition to same sex marriage is tied in with traditional ideas about marriage and family?

KAZU: The situation in Japan is that we don’t see so much opposition to the idea of same sex marriage. The problem is more indifference. The problem is not staunch opposition per se, but the intrinsic indifference in society.

DK: Do you think a lack of outright discrimination against the LGBT community, has also led to a lack of awareness about the legal issues facing same sex couples?

KAZU: Yes, absolutely. And this is why European countries were able to achieve same sex marriage earlier. Because of outright discrimination, like Stonewall in New York in the 1969 and other cases of discrimination in Denmark in 1973, the LGBT communities were moved to action.

JEFFREY: So without a galvanizing event, it is a challenge to get people to think about the issue seriously and educate, not only the LGBT community, but society at large, that inequalities exist.

DK: Much of the Japanese media seems to treat gay identity as a source of amusement. Do you think this has helped to create an atmosphere of indifference? How should this change and what role should the media play in the future?

JEFFREY: The popularity of such celebrities such as Matsuko Deluxe shows that the media generally accepts sexual minorities only in a humorous way. Unfortunately, the existence of such celebrities and talento can lead some to assume that all gay men like to dress up as women, whereas this is a very small minority. The media does not highlight the more mainstream gay or lesbian members. Rather than indifference, the media has created a mistaken image of the LGBT community.

KAZU: First, the media itself should take up more mainstream gay and lesbian people in their stories – present a more balanced image of LGBT members of society, not just the comic portrayals. If you look at the dramas in the US and UK these days, there is more diversity in casts, often including gay, lesbians and transgender roles, portrayed in a realistic way.

JEFFREY: Yes, the diversity in American dramas and sitcoms has grown tremendously in recent years. A recent Amazon TV drama called Transparent, features the story of a transgender man in his 50s how he came out to his adult children and wife. This kind of story at present does not exist in the Japanese media portfolio. In America, the buzzword of diversity is everywhere, especially in the major networks. Americans want to see TV that reflects the society in which they live. In Japan, LGBT members exist in society, but they are as of yet not represented on the TV we watch here, other than these caricatures that are presently shown.

DK: How much popular and political support is there for marriage equality?

KAZU: We have been pleasantly surprised to find many politicians quite supportive of equal marriage. In fact, EMA has met with several prominent politicians in both the ruling and opposition parties and progress is being made towards bringing the issue forward in the Diet. The opposition parties, especially the liberal-leaning DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan), are beginning to see that in order to get back into power, supporting a platform of diversity including marriage equality, could be vital to facilitating their return to power.

JEFFREY: With the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020, Japan should strive to be a leader in human rights in Asia. We see the marriage equality issue as a human rights one. The Olympics and Paralympics are a huge opportunity for Japan to create a legacy of openness and acceptance. Especially after the negative press Russian received when its anti-gay laws were put into force, Japan should see the 2020 games as a chance to show the world the true meaning of omotenashi.


I believe that in a fair and just society people should be allowed to live with and legally marry whoever they love, regardless of their gender. Denying people the legal right to marry is a form of discrimination, and an insidious one that has far-reaching effects on our society and in some ways harms us all.  Please add your voice to the EMA Japan petition here:

You can also find EMA Japan at the following links. Sign up, spread the word and don’t be indifferent.

tRace elements – “Up & Down the Ki” – The 10th & Final Kiyamachi Tour

One night, ten bars, and a whole lot of foot-tapping tunes.

UPDATE!!! 11/26 There has been a small change in the schedule. Max & Ryotaro will now start their tour on the corner of Kiyamachi and Sanjo and NOT in front of the old school!

On Saturday  November 29th 2014, Max and Ryotaro will return to Kiyamachi as tRace elements for their tenth and final ten bar musical tour. Last year I followed the busking bravos from dusk till dawn and found myself caught up in a wonderful festive spirit of camaraderie and convivial good cheer. Join the tour at any spot on the following schedule and prepare yourself for some great music and magical memories:

17:45 ~ 18:15 Street Live (in front of school) On the corner of Kiyamachi & Sanjo.

18:30~19:05 ING with HAKO (075-255-5087)

19:15~19:45 BAR【Lowo=Tar=Voga】075-251-2810

20:00~20:40 Tadg’s Gastro Pub 075-213-0214

21:00~21:40 Agave 075-254-7605

22:00~22:40 Jam House 075-351-9715

23:00~23:40 booze k 075-251-6763

24:00~24:40 UrBANGUILD 075-212-1125 with the Dodo Ensemble

25:00~25:40 八文字屋 (HACHIMONJIYA) 075-256-1731

26:00~26:40 Alphabet Ave. 075-251-0069 with YungTsubotaj

27:00~27:40 うさぎ(USAGI) 075-351-6093 with friends~

There’s no charge for entry to this event but please buy at least one drink in any of the bars you enter.

Video and Images from last year’s tour here: Kiyamachi Tour Highlights
A more detailed record of last year’s tour can be read in the ebook Deep Kyoto: Walks.