Author Archives: Michael Lambe

Kyoto International School Celebrates 60th Anniversary at Annual Festival; May 28th

Kyoto International School are hosting their annual festival on Sunday, May 28th. Here is a message from the KIS Middle School students:

“Last year, we had roughly 1000 people attend, and our goal for this year is to exceed that… It is the 60th anniversary for our school, which is very special for us, and we would like to celebrate it with the best festival yet… The festival has many kinds of international foods, a flea market and performances by the students and professionals. It would also be an informative experience for those interested in attending school in Kyoto. It is a great opportunity to make friends, learn about our school, and learn about life in Kyoto. Local people might also be interested because of the unique international goods and services the festival offers. Most importantly, you can support our Middle School booth at the KIS festival which is part of our Economics unit. It will be a day of fun for everyone!”

Click the image below to view the PDF flyer.

Shinkamanza: An Innovative Machiya Townhouse Resort in Downtown Kyoto

Last year I was invited to view the ongoing work on an exciting machiya revival project in central Kyoto. Overseen by a local architectural company called Good Design Works the plan is to renovate not just one traditional townhouse but an entire unit of houses as a single integrated resort hotel.

Machiya are the traditional wooden townhouses of Kyoto. Their dark lattice fronts once lined all the streets of the city, and their low-lying tiled rooftops formed a gentle rolling city skyline with here and there a palace or a temple rising up above them. Though the palaces and temples remain, that distinctive machiya skyline has now all but disappeared. Over the last 60 years or so, machiya have increasingly been torn down in favor of high rise blocks and parking lots. Though this destruction of old Kyoto continues today, there have been some efforts in recent years to find new ways to preserve these buildings. Famed Japanologist Alex Kerr was a pioneer when he founded the Iori company to renovate old houses for use as hotel lodgings. Other businesses have transformed machiya into attractive modern cafes, restaurants, and shops, and both the city and local banks offer attractive investments for new home-owners who wish to buy, restore, and refurbish these buildings.

This all represents something of a boom in machiya revival, but up until now most projects have focused on single buildings. Where Good Design Works are showing a new and rather daring approach is in seeking to redevelop an entire connected group of houses. This is actually really important. Traditionally, machiya were (and some still are) grouped together in small neighborhoods, and everybody in that neighborhood knew each other. Typically a narrow lane would run off the main road and around it there would be a close knit community of houses, with many neighbors employed in the same kind of work. People would see each other daily, meet up for gossip at the local public baths, and watch over each other’s kids when they played outside in communal areas. Restoring a single machiya is always a worthwhile enterprise, but on its own it does nothing to preserve this old communal spirit and there really is nothing quite as sad as the sight of an old townhouse hemmed in on all sides by looming apartment buildings.

This is why it is so wonderful that Good Design Works have taken a block of buildings in Kyoto’s Shinkamanza-cho district and renovated them as a group. The new resort is named “Shinkamanza” after this district, and it is an ambitious project, but having viewed the construction site I am happy to say it looks splendid. The resort sits in a well-preserved area on a quiet side street not far from the Shijo-Karasuma intersection, and despite its central location it forms a natural sanctuary from the busy urban surround. Within the resort are 9 houses containing separate apartments. Each house has its own individual design, its own facilities, and its own inner courtyard garden. All of these houses offer unique views on the rest of the resort complex that provide a nostalgic glimpse of old Kyoto. The resort has been conceived as a small village, and to bind this village together there is a communal garden with carefully chosen rocks, a small café bar area where guests can mingle, a traditional public bath for group or family bathing, and a flowing stream that provides both cool air and natural background music to calm the soul.

And the houses are comfortable! These houses have been fully refurbished, so that they will be warm and snug in winter, and cool and breezy in the hot summer months. I was also highly impressed by the attention given to each house’s bathing and toilet facilities. The chief designer, Moatesu Kiraeri, spent a lot of time explaining to me how important he felt these areas are. Machiya houses are generally not that big, and traditionally they didn’t have their own bathrooms, so modern refits tend to skimp on the space and materials used for these modern conveniences. Not so at Shinkamanza! Here you will find not a cramped plastic toilet, but an elegant room with a ceramic bowl, a spacious hinoki wood bath tub, or a piping hot shower, and in each area you can enjoy piped music, or a cleverly angled view of your inner garden (with your privacy preserved intact). As Kiraeri-san enthused on these areas I could see that he conceived of the toilet and bathing areas not simply as facilities, but as comfortable spaces for quiet contemplation. I was instantly reminded of Junichiro Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows where he waxes lyrically upon the Japanese toilet as a “place of spiritual repose”:

“No words can describe that sensation as one sits in the dim light, basking in the faint glow reflected from the shoji, lost in meditation or gazing out at the garden… surely there could be no better place to savor this pleasure than a Japanese toilet where, surrounded by tranquil walls and finely grained wood, one looks upon blue skies and green leaves.”

Furthermore, I was assured that each building is fully soundproofed, so you can play your music at top volume, and they won’t hear a thing next door.

Overall I was really excited by this project, both for its overall vision, and for the attention to detail in choosing the perfect materials: just the right paper for the ceilings, the very best cedar wood for the baths, and not this rock but another for the garden display… Clearly no expense or effort has been spared on this project and quite rightly it has been given full backing by the city government too. Shinkamanza looks to be not only a great place to stay when visiting Kyoto, but a brand new model for machiya revival projects elsewhere. Three cheers for Good Design Works and may others be inspired to follow their example!

The first floor design plan.

The Second floor design plan.

The Shinkamanza machiya resort will be officially opened in July 2017. All images from the Shinkamanza resort were taken by Elsa Arribas (aka BunnyTokyo). For more information visit the official Shinkamanza Facebook page or follow the project on Twitter.

Encounter: 4 Artists Exhibition at Gallery Space Kagiya, Kyoto; May 12-17

Christine Flint Sato has sent me word of an up-coming art show here in Kyoto. The details are below…

“4 artists, 4 lives converge in Kyoto. We meet here, a city of art, culture, history and future possibilities. We come from Israel, Slovenia, Poland and Britain and somehow it clicks. We hit it off. From the first spark of connection we talked, laughed, exchanged views, listened deeply to each other, wanted to learn from each other and to do something creative together. We use different media – photography, mixed media, sumi ink. This exhibition is a result of our encounter, and the first step of a new journey exploring what it may bring.”

People’s Climate March Kyoto; April 30th 2017

Here’s the good word from Aileen Mioko Smith:

The new Donald Trump administration has attacked the hard-won protections of our climate, health, and communities, and the rights of people of color, workers, indigenous people, immigrants, women, LGBTQIA, young people, and more.

A new wave of protests larger than at almost any other point in history is fighting back — let’s make sure that we mark the 100th day of his presidency with another mass action that stands up for our communities, including in Japan.

Join us on April 30th at 12pm at Bukkoji Kouen. Let’s march together.

Date: Sunday April 30th
Place: From Bukkoji Kouen to Kyoto City Hall
Time: Meet at Noon at Bukkoji Kouen (near Shijo/Kawaramachi)
Bring a placard.
The demo ends at Kyoto City Hall by around 1pm.
Directions to Bukkoji Kouen (park):
https://goo.gl/maps/KEZjL26EQRH2
From Shijo Kawaramachi intersection, go south to first signal, turn east.

Please spread the word!

Link: https://actionnetwork.org/events/peoples-climate-march-kyoto?source=direct_link&referrer=c-u

UPDATE: The new flyer for the march can be downloaded here: https://srv10.bitsend.jp/download/5517c5007d961678080f06eb9c3409d8.html

Talk by Robert Yellin at the Gael, Kyoto, April 23rd

Mr. Yellin knows his pots.

Our favorite pottery expert, Robert Yellin is giving a talk at the Gael pub in Gion. The event will be from 4.00-6.00 on on April 23rd. This is a Writers in Kyoto (WiK) event so Wik members get in free (after John Dougill has strong-armed them out of their renewal fees) and ordinary humans pay a paltry 500 yen to hear one of Kyoto’s most entertaining speakers. If you think you are not interested in ceramics, let Robert open your eyes not only to their beauty but also to their rich spiritual and cultural worth. Here’s John Dougill with the good word on this event:

Local personality Robert Yellin will share his journey into the fascinating world of Japanese pottery. He first became known to many of us through his column in the Japan Times, which showed a deep sensitivity and appreciation of the artworks described. For years he was based near Shizuoka, and after moving to Kyoto a few years ago and opening his gallery, he has become a popular figure in the city’s creative circles. He’s also been much in demand internationally, giving talks at several leading institutions in Europe and the US, in addition to which he’s a dedicated tennis player and Facebook poster with a growing reputation for the beauty of his photographs. How did his love of ceramics develop, what brought him to Japan, and how did he make the contacts which enabled him to build a unique career as a foreign dealer with his own gallery? This illustrated talk promises to be quite an event, and to celebrate the occasion Robert will bring along a Kamakura era cup (13th century). In passing this around, the audience will be creating a communal bond by adding to its 800 year old history. ‘Ichigo ichie’ runs the Japanese saying – a one time only meeting. Please be sure to come early to ensure that you have a good seat.

This is a strictly non-smoking event. (Hurray!)

The Gael is on the second floor of a building just to the north of Minami-za, Kyoto’s kabuki theatre at Shijo Kawabata. Please see here for details about the location: http://irishpubkyoto.com/en/index.html.

Doors open – 4.00. Entrance ¥500 (free for WiK members renewing the membership fee of ¥3000).

Talk – 4.30 (about 45 mins talk followed by questions)

Socialising -5.30-6.00

From 6.00 the pub will be open to the public (smoking allowed). (Boo!)

Kyotographie Masterclass with Isabel Muñoz & Taketeru Kudo

Thanks to Marguerite Paget for sending this in…

Capture the Moment! – Grasping the body and the movement

The work of Isabel Muñoz has always evolved around the body and movement. This is partly what has contributed Isabel Muñoz’s international notoriety.
Passionate about dance, she has worked on various series dedicated to the arts she herself practiced for a long time: Cuban Danza, Flamenco, Tango, Mitologias…
What captivates her more than anything is performance, boundaries, and sensuality.
This year, the KYOTOGRAPHIE Masterclass offers an original formula, exhilarating for both the participants and the photographer.
What better way of learning than to practise? Observe, understand, anticipate and capture!

It is through action that Isabel Muñoz invites you to step into her world and share her perspective. The workshop will be punctuated by moments of discussion and exchange, technical and theoretical advice (for example the handling light and the relationship to the subject) but mainly we will focus on shooting techniques applied in a unique context.
This context is created with the inclusion of Taketeru Kudo, one of the greatest Butoh dancers of his generation.

Can butoh be photographed?
Devoid of any decor, this art is inherently linked to black and white. The bodies of the dancers, covered in white powder, try to express the heaviness of the world and the dark forces at play within the soul.
In this context, photography rimes with intelligence, imagination and sensitivity.

Who can participate?
Anybody passionate about photography, with experience, that wants to experience a unique moment with out-of-the-ordinary teacher and a model.

Date:
April 17th 9:00-17:00
April 18th 9:00-17:00
*arrive 15min earlier

Fee: 20,000JPY (tax inclusive)
Venue: Former Shinpukan, Kyoto, JAPAN

For more details see: http://www.kyotographie.jp/en/2017portal/event/masterclass-by-isabel-munoz

Music on the Edge of Silence: Shakuhachi Concert with Adrian Freedman

A solo shakuhachi concert with Adrian Freedman in the beautiful garden of Eiun-In temple, part of the Kurodani temple complex in Kyoto.

April 13 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Location: Eiun-In temple, Kyoto-shi, Sakyou-ku, Kurodani-cho 33, Kyoto, Kyoto Japan +Google Map
Tickets on the door: ¥2,000

Bridget Scott says, ‘A friend of mine, who lived here many years ago and is a shakuhachi player is returning for a concert at Eiu-in on 13th April. Adrian Freedman has been back recently in the past few years and has performed at Robert Yellin’s studio… He is an incredible musician… his shakuhachi playing really is “music of the edge of silence”. ‘

Adrian Freedman says, “It’s been more than 20 years since the first concerts I gave in this beautiful, tranquil, secluded garden. ancient and new music for shakuhachi … gentle tones of spring earth awakening … spirit of stillness … following the breath, following the heart … from sound to silence … ”

For more information, please visit: https://www.adrianfreedman.com/

Kyotographie Event: Zanele Masterclass On Self-Representation.

Thanks to Marguerite Paget for sending this in…


Date: April 16th 9:30-12:30
Fee: 10,000 JPY

Muholi is a visual activist, photographer, educator with multiple solo shows and group exhibitions in galleries and museums worldwide.
In contrast to her life-long project of documenting members of the black LGBTI community of South Africa, for her latest body of work ‘Somnyama Ngonyama’, Muholi turns the camera on herself, experimenting with different characters and archetypes, portraying herself in highly stylized fashion using the performative and expressive language of theatre.
The black face and its details become the focal point, forcing the viewer to question their desire to gaze at images of her black figure.

‘By exaggerating the darkness of my skin tone, I’m reclaiming my blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other.’
Join her for the Masterclass and reclaim your own visual identity through self-representation.

Date: April 16th 9:30-12:30
*arrive 15min earlier

Fee: 10,000JPY (tax inclusive)
Venue: Former Shinpukan, Kyoto, JAPAN

Read more here: http://www.kyotographie.jp/en/2017portal/event/masterclass-by-zanele-muholi

Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with a Glass of Green Matcha Beer at Otani-Chaen Tea Shop, Inari!

If you happen to be in Kyoto on Saint Patrick’s Day and are wondering how to celebrate (other than heading to an Irish Pub and getting hammered) – here’s something new.

This traditional Japanese tea shop in Inari has a novel suggestion for Ireland’s national day.

I was strolling through the Fushimi Inari area today when I happened to spy this sign.

The sign suggests celebrating Ireland’s most important holiday, with a glass of beer, flavored and colored with matcha tea. I was immediately intrigued. So I went home, changed into some suitably green attire, and cajoled Mewby into coming along with a promise of matcha ice cream.

The tea shop, Ujicha  Otani-Chaen, is a 70-year old family business run by a friendly gentleman named  Otani Hideyuki. Their main product is fine green tea from the nearby tea-growing fields of Uji. However, also on the menu are both matcha flavored beer, and matcha-flavored non-alcoholic beer. Guess which one I chose…

First Mr Otani mixes up a fresh bowl of matcha. Then he mixes it into the beer. That second part of the process though, is a trade secret, so we can’t show you that here.

And the result is indeed a very vivid emerald green!

There’s definitely a whiff of the shamrock about this glass… But how does it taste?

To my surprise – not bad at all! The beer used at the Otani-Chaen shop is the Japanese salaryman’s beer-of-choice: Asahi. Asahi has a crisp but subtle flavor, so the added bitterness of the matcha tea really does dominate. In other words, if you like matcha tea, you will probably enjoy this beer.

A big thumbs up from Mikey Lambe

And they were good enough to serve it up with a couple of cubes of cheddar cheese which compliment it nicely.

Is that the green, white and gold that I see before me?

If you don’t like beer, you can always order a matcha flavored ice cream instead (like Mewby). I’m told it’s very good.

A glass of matcha beer at Otani-Chaen costs 500 yen. Alcohol-free beer is 380 yen. And a matcha ice cream is 280 yen. They also sell a range of fine teas, which make for very good local souvenirs. The shop is just a hop, skip and jump from Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. If you walk north on Honmachi Doori Street after exiting the shrine, you will see it on the west side of the street after about 150 meters. Here is a MAP of the location. The shop is open every day from 9.30 – 19.30.

All that remains to be said is – wherever you are in the world on March 17th – a very happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you!

Sláinte!

Visual Documentary Project Screening Event in Kyoto

Mario Lopez writes, “Are you free on the 15th December? We have our 5th Visual Documentary Project Screening in Kyoto! Come if you are around!


VISUAL DOCUMENTARY PROJECT 2016:
POLITICS IN EVERYDAY LIFE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

SCREENING DETAILS:
Date & Time: December 15, 2016
Admission: Free
Venue: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University Inamori Memorial 3rd floor, Large Meeting Hall
Language: Japanese / English Translation
Organizer: Center for Southeast Asia Studies
Co-organizer: The Japan Foundation Asia Center

PROGRAM
13:30 Women of the Forest Director: Inshallah P. Montero (Philippines & Malaysia)
14:00 Mother and Son Director: Thwe Myo Nyunt (Myanmar)
14:30 60 Days Directors: Htut Ye Kyaw, Pyay Maw Thein, Sett Paing Aung (Myanmar)
15:15 Break
15:30 Vein Directors: Htet Aung San, KO JET,Phyo Zayar Kyaw (Myanmar) 16:15 Discussion

COMMENTATORS
Ishizaka Kenji, Programming Director, “Asian Future” section at Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) / Professor, Japan Institute of the Moving Image (JIMI / a.k.a. Imamura Shohei Film School)
Wakai Makiko, Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Tokyo Office

ABOUT THE PROJECT
Southeast Asia is rich in its diversity of ethnic, religious and cultural composition. The region has maintained the coexistence of such diversity while at the same time achieving economic progress and becoming a hub for the flow of people, goods, money and information. Yet at present, the region is also confronted with serious issues such as the decrease of biodiversity and tropical forests, disasters, pandemics, aging population, ethnic and religious conflicts, economic differentiation and poverty. In the face of this, how is coexistence and sustainability possible despite the diversity that exists? How can we make public resources out of the region’ s social foundations which are the basis of people’ s everyday lives? And, how can we connect these in a complementary way to existing systems of governance towards solving the problems and issues mentioned above?

In order to address these questions in the context of Southeast Asia, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University has initiated “Visual Documentary project” which explicitly examines everyday life through a visual approach since 2012. This project aims to use visual forms of expression to complement the growing literature that exists on Southeast Asian societies. From 2014, the Japan Foundation Asia Center joins this project as co-organizer to help widely promote the richness of Southeast Asian cultures to people in Japan. As of 2016, the project has linked up with numerous film schools in the region to help strengthen the documentary filmmaking network.

For more information click here: https://sea-sh.cseas.kyoto-u.ac.jp/en/vdp2016/#screening