Last night I attended a book launch party for Alex Kerr’s latest book, Another Kyoto. The setting was a lovely old machiya townhouse in the Kamishichiken area of Kyoto where his friend and co-author, Kathy Arlyn Sokol has been living. Apparently about 70 people attended the event, and it certainly did feel like a crowd in the unseasonably hot weather. It was a nice occasion though, and I was happy at the opportunity to meet some old friends, and new people – and not least Alex Kerr himself!
Another Kyoto is a book born out of conversations that Alex had with his friend Kathy whilst strolling round some of his favorite locations in Kyoto. It is on the surface a book about architecture: gates, walls, floors and roofs… However, the book goes much deeper than that into the culture that has produced these architectural forms, into exactly why they take the forms that they do, into what these forms signify, and also rather interestingly it compares and contrasts these forms with those of other cultures with which Alex Kerr has a great deal of familiarity, those of China, or Bali, or Thailand for example. I am still only on chapter 3 myself but am finding it very absorbing and not least because of the style in which it is written. Kathy Sokol spoke last night about how the book is a transmission of old and erudite knowledge that has been passed down through generations of scholars to Alex, and now through him to us. And this is true. However, the tone in which it is written is so light and conversational that it really doesn’t feel like a heavy or scholarly book at all, but more like a chat with a particularly knowledgeable friend while sightseeing. That’s quite a balance they have struck there and it makes for a very enjoyable read!
Let me a add a quick word of thanks to John Dougill of the Writers in Kyoto group for suggesting last night’s event and also to Kathy and Alex for organizing and hosting it. I must admit I was very excited to finally meet Alex Kerr, whose book Lost Japan was a huge inspiration for me before moving to Japan in the 1990s. I was glad to find him in person to be just as amiable and friendly as I had imagined from his books. It was a very nice evening.
More pictures and details about the event, plus a video link can be found on the Writers in Kyoto website.
Another Kyoto by Alex Kerr with Kathy Arlyn Sokol is available from Amazon.co.jp