Author Archives: Michael Lambe

Arabesk Return to Kyoto

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“One of the most rewarding aspects of living in a multicultural society like Australia is the remarkable diversity of music heard – African, European, Arabic, Asian, Latin. Sydney-based quartet Arabesk take these disparate international sounds, spice them with their musical experience and mould them into their own unique style. Theirs is a journey of constant discovery that defies genres. The label Gypsy Jazz is only a hint at the musical language this powerhouse of innovation speaks. Having won local awards, they play extensively throughout Australia at festivals and venues large and small.”

The brilliant Australian Gypsy Jazz band Arabesk will be playing with singer Akou at Modern Times, Kyoto on August 16th. Catch them if you can!

Details:
open 17:30 / start 18:00
*18:00 – 19:50 Live and Jam Session
*20:00 – 20:50 Okuribi Bonfire – Free Time
*:21:00 – 23:00 Live and Jam Session
charge 2500yen (+1Drink)

Location: Modern Times is in the basement of the Empire Building on the east side of Kiyamachi a short walk south of Oike. Here is a map.

Here’s a clip of them playing last year at Kyoto’s famous Blue Note venue.

The Tea Crane Introduces the Authentic Rite of Tea

Today we have a special guest post from Tyas Huybrechts, Japanese Tea Trainer at The Tea Crane.

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While visiting Kyoto, you wouldn’t want to miss out on at least one of those cultural experiences now widely available here – activities such as taking first steps in any of Tea-ceremony, flower-arrangement, calligraphy, classical dance and Japanese cookery.

Each traditional Japanese art has come down to us imbued with the pre-modern philosophy and values upon which its founder and his successors drew. When people undertake to render so venerable an art more accessible to those with hardly any knowledge of the culture relevant, one unfortunately-prevalent tendency is irresponsibly to dumb down what is taught. This, however, falsifies the impression with which the learner is left, and withholds from her matters she might otherwise have found sympathetic, revelatory … and even inspiring.

Take, for example, Tea-ceremony. Upon attending a run-of-the-mill Tea-ceremony “experience,” you will be offered a perfunctory demonstration of a very basic service of thin tea (a lower grade of matcha – characterized, once prepared, by its surface of bright green froth), and then be provided with what you need to prepare a bowlful yourself – and for yourself.

Central to the Way of Tea is interaction between guest and host; and yet nothing of that can be gathered, either from a mere demonstration, or from serving only yourself.

Again, what is considered true tea is thick tea, which utilizes matcha of a higher grade, employed in a higher concentration. (Thin tea, on the other hand, is properly served at the very end of a full tea-gathering, as no more than an informal refreshment rounding off the climactic service of thick tea.)

Moreover, ‘Tea-ceremony’ – this term a most-regrettable mistranslation – is neither ceremony nor performance. Rather, a Tea-occasion is best understood as a social event for the success of which its guests have as much responsibility as does its host. Consequently, no “Tea-experience” can live up to that name as long as those attending remain uninvolved in active participation. Only once so engaged can they at least glimpse such a gathering’s true functioning.

If – in order to render it accessible to a wider range of persons – the forms characteristic of a pursuit are abbreviated, or its representation is distorted, what is actually offered will fail even to approximate that to which such treatment purports to afford access. In providing uninitiated persons with an authentic representation of an art, what should be adjusted to those persons’ likely needs is not that art itself but, instead, the means by which it is presented.

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With these convictions firmly in mind, we at The Tea Crane have evolved an innovative and yet authentic workshop, designed for persons visiting Kyoto, and as yet remaining uninitiated with regard to the rite of Tea. What this offers is a full encounter with the core to the art of Tea, along with support for participants in functioning as an integral and therefore indispensable part of a genuine (and enjoyable) Tea-occasion.

Of the guidelines we observe, these following may be those most innovative:

・The workshop’s participants are presented with a shared bowlful of real tea – thick  tea – expertly blended according to a ritual unique to employment of the grand Tea-sideboard (daisu). (Use of this austere daisu is probably the very earliest, and still the most august and solemn, form of service of tea in the presence of guests (rather than elsewhere); and we have selected this service in order to aid our participants in traveling with us – back to that epoch during which the rite of Tea first arose.)

・From the start of each workshop-session its participants, rather than being left merely to look on, are requested to take active part in the rite, and are duly guided regarding so doing. Such guidance enables each participant to exchange respectful salutations with her host and fellow-guests, with the latter share and appreciate a bowlful of real tea, and gain at least an initial understanding of the principles, values and aims embodied in all conduct desirable in the Tea-chamber.

・The rite of Tea must surely be the most syncretic of all Japanese arts – combining as it does calligraphy, flower-arrangement, ceramics, lacquer-work and very much more. Since a competent Tea-practitioner should be well-versed in all of these, we help participants to acquire an initial understanding of what to look for in the utensils employed – these being each hand-crafted, valuable, and worthy of detailed attention – and handled by every participant in turn.

In brief, our aim is gently to initiate participants, during just ninety minutes, into the decorum expected of, and pleasures offered to, any well-mannered guest. In so doing, our dearest wish is that, when they return home, and people closest to them ask them what of Japan has left the deepest impression within them, former participants should at once reply, ‘A fascinating Tea-ceremony workshop! Once it had ended, I found I now understood so much!’

To read more about this workshop and other Tea-related activities, visit our website:
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Tyas Huybrechts is a fully-accredited instructor in Tea ceremony, and in addition a nationally certified Nihoncha Instructor. His heart’s desire is to convey directly, and to as many interested persons as possible, the true essence of both Tea-culture and also Japanese tea.

Kyoto Journal #86 – OUT JULY 25th 2016

Some news from KJ…

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The 6th Kyoto Photo Walk with Javier Montaño

Here’s our friend, Javier Montaño, with news of The 6th Kyoto Photo Walk. All queries regarding this event should be sent directly to Javier at info@javiermontano.net

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Date & Time: 24 April at 14:00–19:00
Meeting Place: Takaragaike Park, 国際会館駅 , Kokusai-Kaikan-eki. In front of Entrance No. 3 (train station on Subway Karasuma Line), Kyoto, JP

Spring has come and it’s time to shoot again- Meet new friends and learn about photography in beautiful Kyoto.- All you need is a camera or a smartphone- Let’s Take the biggest selfie in Kyoto!- The Photowalk is FREE of charge but you have 2 options:

Join just the photowalk or
Join the photowalk and the afterparty at a Japanese Izakaya for food and drinks (3000 Yen per person which is paid on the day of the event).

FAQs
1. How do I make a reservation?
Easy! Go to the Eventbrite Photowalk event page. Click on “Register”. Select one of the 2 options: the photowalker ticket or the photowalker + afterparty ticket.
2. What if it rains?
We photograph in rain. In the event that there is a weather cancellation because of a Typhoon or something similar, I will do my best to contact and let you know. If, however, you are unsure, feel free to call or text 090-9889-1640 to see if the photowalk is still running.
3. What if I don’t have a DSLR or PRO camera?
It does not matter. Any camera will do!
4. What should I bring besides my camera?
Enthusiasm to meet new people. Friends or family are also fun to bring with you.
Dress appropriately for the weather, as we will be outside for the most part.
A tripod could be handy too, but it is not indispensable.
A bottle of water is a good idea too.
5. Where do we meet?
In front of Entrance No. 3 of the station at 2 PM
6.How long are the photowalks?
Normally they will last until around 6:30 PM or 7:00 PM. After that, we will move on to the afterparty.
7. Is everyone in the group at the same skill level?
Not at all! People come with different levels of photography experience but we all learn from each other.
8. How do you accept payment?
The photowalk is and will always be free! During the after party we will start receiving cash in order to pay for the food and drinks served.
9. Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?
Send me an email at info@javiermontano.net
Remember, the photowalk is and will always be free!

Kyotographie 2016 – Masterclass & Tour

Kyotographie is Kyoto’s annual international photography festival, this year being held at various venues around the city from April 23rd Sat to May 22nd. In addition to the regular exhibitions and events, this year there will also be a tour and a masterclass. Find out more below!

Shinichi Suzuki II, Tea Ceremony, 1880’s © MNAAG.

Shinichi Suzuki II, Tea Ceremony, 1880’s © MNAAG.

Kyotographie Tour

This full day tour costs 7,000 yen.

“For its fourth edition, April 23rd – May 22nd, 2016 KYOTOGRAPHIE International Photography Festival returns with 14 exhibitions, in 15 venues with two associated programs. These major exhibiting artists are presented inside historical buildings (Old tea houses, tradtional artisan buildings, temples and garden). This year theme is « CIRCLE OF LIFE ». The Festival, with more than 60,000 visitors last year, is now considered a major international artistic event in Asia, gathering both photography lovers, professionals and the general public. We offer you an intimate chance to discover a selection of KYOTOGRAPHIE exhibitions. The KYOTOGRAPHIE passport (included in the visit fee) gives you access to all the exhibitions.”

To find out more about the tour please visit the Japan Experience website.

Kyotographie Masterclass: DREAMS TO REALITY
With Arno Rafael Minkkinen

Fosters Pond, 1989 ©Arno Rafael Minkkinen courtesy PUG OSLO

Fosters Pond, 1989 ©Arno Rafael Minkkinen courtesy PUG OSLO

“Improve or find your personal visual language and style. Developing a personal & recognisable style is key to photographic practice, it also allows a photographer to change subject matter, maintaining identity.
Arno Rafael Minkkinen is a Finnish-­‐American photographer, educator, curator, and writer with over 100 solo shows and nearly 200 group exhibitions in galleries and museums worldwide.”

Date : April 23rd 10:00-12:00*
25th, 26th 9:00-17:00
Fee : 20,000JPY (tax inclusive)
Venue : Ryosokuin (Kenninji Temple)
Language : English with Japanese translation
Inquiries : public.program@kyotographie.jp

For application details please visit this page: http://www.kyotographie.jp/en/2016portal/event/masterclass-with-minkkinen

To find out more about the various exhibitions and events, you can visit the official website or download a presskit.

WiK Writing Competition Winners

Here’s some news from John Dougill, and Writers in Kyoto (WiK):

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The judges of the first WiK Writing Competition are delighted to announce the winners, as listed below. The competition was on the theme of Kyoto, with a maximum of 300 words. Each of the three prize winners will receive a small gift from the Kyoto Convention and Visitors Bureau, in addition to which the First Prize will feature in the forthcoming Writers in Kyoto Anthology. The Local Prize Winner will receive a gourmet meal for two at Tadg’s Irish Bar and Restaurant in Kiyamachi, Kyoto.

* First Prize “Kimono Memories”
Name: Peter Jonathan Mallett

* Second Prize “Nippon”
Name: Jesse Efron

* Third Prize “To live in Kyoto”
Name: Richard Steiner

* Local Prize Winner “In the spring. summer, autumn and winter – Colors in Kyoto”
Name: Mayumi Kawaharada

The judges wish to express their appreciation to all those who entered, and the high quality of submissions made the final decision difficult. Indeed, each of the judges chose a different piece as their favourite! In the end though consensus was reached as to the outstanding pieces. (It should be noted that the judging process was done on a completely anonymous basis throughout.)
The entries came from a surprisingly wide range of places. Nearly half were submitted from different parts of Japan, not just within Kyoto but such areas as Miyazaki and Fukuoka. Others came Malaysia, Kathmandu, Philippines and Montreal. As it happened, however, the winners are all resident in Japan – two in Kyoto, one in Kyotango, and one in Kobe.

In form the entries ranged from a single haiku to essays, pieces of fiction, poems, conversations and personal impressions. By and large, the prose was more successful; some of the poetry was too slight, some too obscure. The best pieces were those that got under the skin of Kyoto life, and this was the case with the overall winner which used the Nishijin connection with kimono to reveal something of the secrets that lie behind the courtesies of Kyoto manners.

The one surprise was that some applicants thought a single haiku would carry enough weight to win a prize. Unless you’re a Basho or a Buson, this seems improbable. However, one of the prizewinners did string a series of haiku together to convey images of Kyoto throughout the year, and this amounted to a substantial and impressive portrayal of seasonal changes. An alternative approach, which no one attempted, would be to write a poetic essay-cum-haiku in a genre known as haibun.

Our thanks to the sponsors, the Kyoto Convention and Visitors Bureau, Tadg’s Irish Bar and Restaurant, and for the backing from the International Community Center (kokoka). I’d also like to publicly thank Karen Tawarayama in particular for facilitating the whole process, as well as Tadg McLoughlin and Shigenori Shibata for acting as judges. Finally, thanks to all those who took the time to enter the competition. Your entries made the whole thing worthwhile, and each one was appreciated.

We are eager to build on this year and make next year’s competition even better, so if you have any suggestions or feel you could contribute in any way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, John Dougill, at dougill<at mark>mbox.kyoto-inet.or.jp.

Peter Mallett of Kobe, whose 'Kimono Memories' took first prize

Peter Mallett of Kobe, whose ‘Kimono Memories’ took first prize

Miksang Contemplative Photography; Kyoto Workshop: May 4th – 15th 2016

Thanks to Lisa Allen for sharing the following course information:

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Photo by Julie DuBose

Kyoto Journal and The Miksang Institute are co-hosting a special ten-day intensive Miksang Contemplative Photography workshop in Kyoto from May 4-15, 2016.

The course will be taught by teachers, Michael Wood and Julie DuBose, and will include the first three levels in the Miksang training curriculum: Opening the Good Eye, Making Contact, and The Heart Of Perception.

Instruction will be in English with Japanese translation. Cost for the entire 10-day course is $1000 USD. The workshop will be held at Kyoto International Community House. This special workshop will begin Wednesday evening, May 4th and end at 5:00pm on May 15th, 2016. Monday May 9th will be a day off.

For more information, please email: info@miksanginstitute.com

For more workshop details and registration information: http://www.miksang.com/miksang-in-kyoto/

What is Miksang?

Miksang is a form of contemplative photography that asks us to see our world in a new way. In some ways it seems very simple, but it is not always easy.

If we can place our mind’s attention, our awareness, in our sense of sight, we will see vivid, mind stopping perceptions fully and completely, without distraction. And when that happens, we can connect with what we see deeply and intimately.

This requires stillness of mind, patience, and the desire to really see what is there, so that we can understand how to express what we are seeing with our camera simply and precisely.

Miksang is photography in which we use the camera to express our visual perceptions exactly as we experience them. Because we know how to prepare ourselves to receive perceptions when we see them, and we know how to understand exactly what we have seen, we then know exactly how to express what we have seen with our camera. The resulting image is an exact expression of our eye, mind, and heart as it connects with the perception.

Miksang means ‘Good Eye’ in Tibetan. We all have a Good Eye as part of our human makeup. This means we have the ability to see the world in a pure way, without overlays of meaning and value, pleasure, dislike, or disinterest.

When we can see with our Good Eye, the world is always fresh, because everything we see is as for the first time. There is no memory, no association, only the world manifesting to us, as it is, out of nowhere.

These perceptions are vibrant and vivid, pulsating with life. The visual world is our feast, our playground.

Seeing in this way brings us joy in being alive.

Through our images we can express our experience of seeing. Our photographs will carry within them our heart, our mind, the blood of our experience.

Geiko & Maiko of Kyoto by Robert van Koesveld now on sale at Maruzen Bookstore

Last week I was very happy to catch up with photographer Robert van Koesveld while he was in town. Robert was kind enough to give me a copy of his new book, “Geiko & Maiko of Kyoto” which he self-published after an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign.

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If you are at all interested in the world of geiko and maiko then I would happily recommend this book. Robert’s beautiful photography and insightful text provides a wonderful pictorial guide to the world of Kyoto’s geisha. And I particularly like the part of the book that also introduces those people who work behind the scenes; the footwear makers for instance, the kimono artists, and the shamisen teacher etc…

Robert and his book in Maruzen bookstore.

Robert and his book in Maruzen bookstore.

Pop into Maruzen bookstore in Kyoto now, and you will see a large display of Robert’s books close by the Maruzen Cafe. Several of his images are also featured on posters there, to give you an idea of the contents of the book. Take a look. I’m sure you’ll be tempted.

Useful links: Geiko & Maiko of Kyoto
Robert van Koesveld Photography
(always) Learning to See: A photography blog by Robert van Koesveld

Another Night of Japanese Sake and Cuisine – Sponsored by Takara Shuzo

Here’s some news from Chris Malcolm about the next Takara Shuzo sake tasting event. These events are extremely enjoyable and educational too. Apply quickly though, as seats are limited and places get booked up quick! All queries should be directed to the email address given below.

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Event:

Takara Shuzo, based in Kyoto and one of Japan’s leading sake and shochu producers, is looking for non-Japanese participants for a fun and informative night of Japanese food and sake at a beautiful Kyoto-style town home in Higashiyama, Kyoto. This cultural event will be hosted in English by international staff from Takara Shuzo, and attendees will have a chance to taste and learn about 9 premium sake, including several daiginjo varieties, while enjoying a full meal*. Before dinner, the staff will give a short seminar on sake and a guided tasting. In addition to the meal, participants will receive a bottle of Mio Sparkling Sake at the end in exchange for their cooperation in filling out a couple of short surveys.

*Please inform us of any dietary concerns at the time of your application.

Fee:

500 yen. This includes a full meal, and sampling of 9 premium sake.

Time:

Friday, March 11 from 6:30pm (doors open at 6:15) until 8:30pm.

Participants:

The event is limited to 16 non-Japanese guests.

Application Method:

・Simply send a message with your name in an Email titled ‘Sake Tasting’ to international@takara.co.jp. If you wish to invite friends, please include their names in the Email as well.

Application deadline: Wed. March 9, 2016 at 5:00pm.

・All applicants will be notified by email with the result of their application.

・Participants will be determined via their applications on a first come, first serve basis.

・If we have reached capacity at the time of your application, we will add you to a waitlist and contact you if there are any cancellations, or for the next edition of this event.

Location:

5 min from Higashiyama Station on Kyoto’s Tozai subway line. Participants will be given specific location details, and event and contact information via email once their participation is confirmed.

* Participants are not to drive to the event by car, motorcycle or bicycle, as alcoholic beverages will be served and we do not have available parking facilities.

Other:

・Any information collected via Email from attendees will be used solely for the organization of this event or future editions of the same event for applicants unable to attend due to overcapacity.

・Takara Shuzo does not sell, trade, or rent your personal information to others.

・All guests must be at least 20 years old.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Utagawa Hiroshige’s Journey – 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō Exhibition at Museum “Eki” Kyoto

If you haven’t see it yet, the exhibition of ukiyo-e woodblock prints by Utagawa Hiroshige now on at the Museum “Eki” Kyoto is really well worth a visit.

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During the Edo period, the Tōkaidō was a major land route between Edo (now Tokyo) and Kyoto. The name Tōkaidō means “East Sea Road” because the route mostly followed the coastline, and so there were many well known scenic spots along the way. Utagawa Hiroshige created his 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō print series after traveling this route in 1832, and it quickly became a bestseller. In this exhibition, prints from the original first Hōeidō edition of the series are displayed alongside later editions so that you can see the alterations that Hiroshige made to the pictures over time. All 53 stations are included in this exhibition.

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Museum “Eki” Kyoto often has excellent shows, which are very well presented and organized and this is no exception. For each picture there is English information alongside the Japanese, that is extremely informative and really helps to explain exactly what you are looking at, the interactions between the characters depicted and where they are. Viewing the prints like this, in order, with such detailed and fascinating explanations really is like taking a little trip back in time. Mewby and I were both thoroughly absorbed and really enjoyed this show.

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There were also some kimono and a light yukata on display that bore gorgeous designs, taken from Hiroshige’s famous prints.

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歌川広重の旅 or Utagawa Hiroshige’s Journey continues at Museum “Eki” Kyoto until March 27th 2016. Museum “Eki” Kyoto is located on the 7th floor of Isetan department store in the Kyoto Station building. Entry is 900 yen.

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