Author Archives: Michael Lambe

Song: The Streets of Kyoto ~ An Exhibition by Photography Collective “Visions of Kyoto”

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Image courtesy of Visions of Kyoto

Here’s a project inspired by a song learned by every child in Kyoto. “Kyoto toori na kazoe uta” 「京都通り名数え唄」 is a folksong used to memorize the names of the streets that run east to west from Marutamachi in the north of Kyoto, all the way down to Kujo in the south.

The Streets of Kyoto: Image courtesy of Visions of Kyoto

The Streets of Kyoto: Image courtesy of Visions of Kyoto

The song goes like this.

Inspired by this song, the “Visions of Kyoto” collective, seven foreign-born photographers long resident in Kyoto, have tried to capture the spirit of modern Kyoto, by photographing these 26 streets. You can see their efforts displayed at Cafe Foodelica until Monday 11th of May. And the opening party is at Cafe Foodelica on Saturday 25th April from 18.30. Check their website for details: http://visions-of-kyoto.jimdo.com/

Cafe Foodelica is situated near Shugakuin station. Here is a MAP.

You can also browse from of the photos here: http://visions-of-kyoto.jimdo.com/photos/

I shall give the last word to the photographers:

In historical Kyoto, the past is very much alive, tangible and relevant to our lives in the present, and it informs us as we try to describe our visions of the future and move forward together. “Visions of Kyoto” is our way to express what Kyoto represents to us in photographs. However, our aim is to not only show the traditional face of Kyoto, but also the city as it exists today, new and modern and vibrant. We would be delighted if our photos help people better understand and feel more connected to Kyoto. Kyoto is, after all, not a city stuck in the past, but a city of innovation, technology and scholarship. With “Visions of Kyoto” we take pride in the city and its people, forging a link with future generations, and spreading appreciation for Kyoto beyond Japan to the world. - Visions of Kyoto

Kerria at Matsuo Taisha

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After the cherry blossoms fall, successive waves of spring flowers vie for our attentions. At Matsuo Taisha bright gold kerria, known as “yamabuki” in Japanese, are in full bloom right now.

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We went to see them last year, but for some reason I never got around to posting the pictures – until now.

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Matsuo Taisha, (formally called Matsu-no-O Taisha), is said to have been founded in 701 AD, thus predating Kyoto itself and may even be the oldest of Kyoto’s shrines (though a few shrines make this claim).

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The yamabuki or kerria, are certainly lovely. Yamabuki is sometimes translated as “Japanese yellow rose”, but I find this misleading. They bear no relation to roses, and don’t resemble them in the slightest. Besides kerria is quite a pretty name, don’t you think?

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Entry to the outer grounds of the shrine is free. This is where the kerria is (in massive quantities).

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There is also an inner garden which you have to pay to get into, but I wouldn’t bother. It is rather disappointing. This is what the inner garden looks like at its best.

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But basically it is quite an ugly and haphazard assortment of rocks quite lacking in any sense of grace or aesthetic design.

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What is worse, there is very little sense of care about this garden. The whole place seems very sloppily presented with working tools left lying around the place, and walkways that look like this.

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A rather oddly designed walkway. Watch your head!

There seemed to be a lot of plastic wire and piping lying around too, with sections of the garden separated by sloppily tacked together sheets of plywood.

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Just some of the random stuff left lying around the inner garden of Matsuo Taisha.

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On my way in to the shrine I spotted some patriotic posters preaching national pride. The one on the left says “I’m so glad I am Japanese!” and the one on the right reads “Let’s raise the Hi-no-Maru!”. The Hi-no-Maru is of course Japan’s national flag.

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It seemed very telling that those who speak loudest of love of country and national pride, cannot properly tend to their own patch of garden. Really, where is the pride in that?

Stick to the outer grounds of the shrine if you visit Matsuo Taisha.

Stick to the outer grounds of the shrine if you visit Matsuo Taisha.

I enjoyed Matsuo Taisha for the kerria. They are very much worth seeing. Give the inner garden a miss though. I found that rather depressing.

This shrine sits right by Matsuo station which is easily reached on the Hankyu line. From Kawaramachi station it takes about 16 minutes with one change at Katsura. Check Jorudan for details. Here is a map of the location.

You can read more about the history of Matsuo Taisha on John Dougill’s very excellent Green Shinto blog.

Arabesk ~ Gypsy, Soul, Jazz Music @ Blue Note Kyoto; May 7th 2015

Put some Gypsy in your Soul with Arabesk in Blue Note Kyoto!

Arabesk play a brand of music that is often described as Gypsy Soul. For those looking to embark on a journey of authentic m
usical exploration, not contained by any cultural boundary, they are a band guaranteed to put some real “gypsy” in your “soul”.

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Many thanks to George Bourdaniotis for sending in the following information on Arabesk’s upcoming show at Blue Note Kyoto.

Date: 7th May
Open: 19:00
Start: 20:00 & 21:30
Charge: ¥1,500
Location: Blue Note, Kyoto is located on the south side of a little street between Kawaramachi and Kiyamachi three streets south of Sanjo. Here is a MAP.
Address: 〒604-8021 京都府 京都市中京区 北車屋町北車屋町264,

Originally formed in 2003 Arabesk are a Sydney based quartet who have adopted many of the disparate international rhythms and melodies of Australia’s multicultural society and molded them into their own unique style. Theirs is a journey of constant discovery that has taken them from the tradition-steeped back streets of Eastern Europe, to the bustling bazaars of Turkey. Added to this potent worldly brew are a list of influences that include luminaries such as guitarist Django Reinhardt, jazz drummer Elvin Jones, tango master Astor Piazzola, and bassist Stanley Clarke.

Here’s a clip of the band in action at the Takatsuki Jazz Festival in 2011.

Find out more about Arabesk’s music on their website here: http://www.arabesk.com.au/
Follow their 2015 Tour of Japan on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/ArabeskJapanTour2015

Established in 1953, Blue Note Kyoto is an intimate venue with a rich history of hosting big names over the years.

Read my previous article on Blue Note here: http://www.deepkyoto.com/blue-note/
Visit Blue Note’s website here: http://kyoto-bluenote.jp/

Ludovic B.A. Lyra & Yoko Takeda Live @ Zac Baran & Philippe’s Bar

Ludovic B.A Lyra et Yoko Takeda: Image courtesy of Yoko Takeda

Ludovic B.A Lyra et Yoko Takeda: Image courtesy of Yoko Takeda

I had a listen to these two musicians yesterday and was quietly impressed. Check them out here:

https://soundcloud.com/ludovicbalyra/sets/ludovic-b-a-lyra-et-y-ko

Good, eh? Ludovic B.A. Lyra & Yoko Takeda have two live shows in Kyoto, coming up very shortly. Here are the details:

This Thursday, April 23rd, they will play at legendary jazz izakaya ZAC BARAN.

Doors open: 18:00
Show starts: 19:30
Charge:¥1800 (+drink/food order)
For reservations: 075-751-9748

This Friday, April 24th, from around 21:00 they will play a cozy set at Philippe’s bar. Entry is free, but please buy a drink (or two) and tips would be appreciated (by which I mean money in the hat – not musical advice).

Amy Chavez at the Writers in Kyoto Launch Party

Writers in Kyoto (WiK) got off to a great start on Sunday with a very well attended launch party. In an illuminating talk our guest speaker, Japan Times and RocketNews24 columnist, Amy Chavez, gave us the benefit of her own experiences as a full-time freelance writer and some good pieces of advice for those considering a similar career. Personally I have a great deal of respect for anyone who manages to make their living as a professional writer, so I was very interested in what she had to say.

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Amy’s talk was at times thoughtful and at times humourous as she told us of her own struggles to get published. One message that came through very clear was that if you want to be a writer, you have to be very determined to make a real go of it. You also need to be clear what your aims are. Most writers won’t make their fortune from writing, but the upside is that you do get to influence people, and society at large will be affected by what you write. As a writer you bear a responsibility to your readers, and this should not to be abused. Sincerity of purpose is essential.

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Another excellent piece of advice is that if you want to be a writer – you need to read. You need to read the kind of books that you want to write, and you need to read a lot of them – for they will both teach and inspire you. I took her at her word on this and bought a copy of her own book right after the talk!

It was a pleasant evening and also very nice to meet Amy in person. Congratulations to WiK founder and organiser, John Dougill for his successful launch of this fledgling group! Long may it prosper!

For more information about Writers in Kyoto check their website here: http://www.writersinkyoto.com/

Omuro Sakura at Ninna-ji Temple

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This year’s cherry blossom season was basically a washout, with many hanami parties cancelled because of the incessant rain. Ninna-ji Temple in western Kyoto, has a special variety of cherry blossom that blooms later than most, but when it was at its best last week, the rain was still coming down. Mewby and I resolved to defy the weather and visit the temple anyway. At least, I thought, the rain will keep the bulk of tourists away. We’ll probably have the place to ourselves. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Even in the rain, Ninna-ji Temple is very popular.

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Perhaps it is because Ninna-ji is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list as one of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”? It is certainly ancient. Ninna-ji Temple was first built in 888.

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Like many Kyoto temples though, the original buildings of Ninna-ji were long ago destroyed by fire. In Ninna-ji’s case the temple was destroyed during the conflict of the Ōnin War in 1467. The majority of the current buildings date from a 17th century restoration.

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Most striking of all must be the five storied pagoda…

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But the grounds are extensive and there is much to see here.

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The Kyōzō (経蔵) or sutra repository had a sign outside describing many treasured wall paintings and Buddhist statuary, yet the building itself was completely locked up. There was however a tiny hole in the wooden walls through which we took a little peak and saw…

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The main attraction though was Ninna-ji’s famous orchard of 200 dwarf cherry trees. These date from the early Edo period, so people have been enjoying cherry blossoms here for about 400 years!

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This orchard was designated as a national scenic beauty spot in 1924.

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Even in the rain, cherry blossoms can gladden the heart!

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We enjoyed our trip to Ninna-ji and will certainly go again – but hopefully in better weather!

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You can find out more about Ninna-ji Temple at their multi-lingual website here: http://www.ninnaji.or.jp/multilingual_info.html It is also possible to stay at Ninna-ji overnight. You can find out about that here: https://ninnaji.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/staying-overnight-at-ninna-ji/

Directions:

Getting to Ninna-ji is little complicated but much of the route is quite scenic and pleasant.

To get to Ninna-ji from Kyoto station, take the JR subway to Karasuma-Oike Station and change to the Tozai line. Go as far as Uzumasa-Tenjingawa/Randen-Tenjingawa (it has two names), and then change to the Keifuku Dentetsu-Arashiyama line. Take that line as far as Katabiranotsuji and then take the Keifuku Dentetsu-Kitano Line as far as Omuro-Ninna-ji. That’s three changes over 46 minutes for 610 yen.

To get to Ninna-ji from the town center take the Hankyu line from Kawaramachi to Sai, then change to the Keifuku Dentetsu-Arashiyama line. Take that line as far as Katabiranotsuji and then take the Keifuku Dentetsu-Kitano Line as far as Omuro-Ninna-ji. That’s two changes over 45 minutes for 360 yen.

Check for details of train times at: http://www.jorudan.co.jp/english/

Sanka’s Spring Ritual: A Mixed Media Performance by Ensō Watt @ Urbanguild; April 29th

The fourth and final part of the epic seasonal rites sequence by the experimental arts collective, Ensō Watt will take place at Urbanguild, Kyoto on April 29th. This is an event not to be missed!

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Date: Wednesday, April 29th
Doors Open:
19:30
Show Starts:
20:00
Tickets on the door:
2700 yen
Tickets in advance:
2000 yen
Student Tickets:
1500 yen
(all tickets include one drink)

About Ensō Watt:
Initiated in 2014 by the sound designer Samuel André, the Ensō Watt artist collective is born in Kyoto from the encounter of artists coming from different countries and raised in entirely different artistic universe, from classical music to electro, improvisation and sound design.

The Seasonal Rites:
A hundred years after Stravinsky’s revolutionary “Rites of Spring,” the members of this artistic collaboration pursue the experience-cum-experiment by focusing on Japan’s seasonal cycles, especially celebrated by the little-known mountainous tribe, the Sanka.

The Show:
The music is inspired by the poetry of Chris Mosdell; it navigates between improvisation and conducted improvisation live by Yannick Paget, based on scored music’s elements. The performers, positioned in the audience, generate an immersive, musical surround-experience (broadcast on 4 speakers). More than just a musical experiment, the event is also shot live via a series of 6 cameras, and is processed and projected on 2 screens during the performance.

city that silk builtThe Poet:
Incidentally, the poet Chris Mosdell recently released a wonderful bilingual book of poems written in Kyoto entitled The City That Silk Built. Chris was kind enough to send me a copy which I shall review in good time, but for now, you can take a look at it on Amazon.co.jp.

For more information on the show:
Press contact: Marguerite Paget: mgtpaget[at]gmail.com / 090 6556 1974
Event coordination: Samuel André: sandre.constellation[at]gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ensowatt?fref=ts

See also the following sites:
Chris Mosdell: http://chrismosdell.com/
Yannick Paget: http://www.yannickpaget.com/
Samuel André: http://p0llenrec.tumblr.com/ https://soundcloud.com/ieva
Ensō Watt: http://ensowatt.org/
Urbanguild: http://www.urbanguild.net/

And my short reviews of the last two Ensō Watt performances here:
Images from Sanka’s Winter Ritual
Pictures from Sanka’s Autumn Ritual by Ensō Watt

Jean Luc Caradec Photography Exhibition: More False Memories; April 18th – May 10th

A screengrab from Jean-Luc Caradec's website. Click to view his photography.

A screengrab from Jean-Luc Caradec’s website. Click to view his photography.

From exhibition curator, Marguerite Paget,

<< New artist / New art space / KG+ Kyotographie satellite event >>
April 18th – May 10th Jean Luc Caradec presents More false memories ! A KG+ exhibition.

April 19th : Opening party (11am – 3pm Brunch)

French photographer Jean-Luc Caradec presents More false memories at 鳳凰画廊Hôô Gallery, a new art space part of Yōkai SOHO, a new building designed by two architects and scholars specializing in Japanese architecture : Benoît Jacquet and Joshua Levine. Yōkai SOHO is located on the outskirts of the great Kita-no-Tenman-gū shrine, in a vivid traditional commercial area of small shops (shōtengai) leading to the famous Yōkai street

This exhibition presents two new series of the artist brought together as a conversation in images. The first series, “Trouble”, is a play on words in French, bringing together the notions of ‘blurriness’, ‘emotions’, and ‘disturbance,’ and consists of landscapes and depictions of female figures. The second, “S8 Memories”, is an evocation of childhood and memory in a soft dreamlike setting, where discomfort and contentment are never far from one another.

See more: http://www.jeanluccaradec.com/
The Hôô Gallery: 24 Nishimachi (Shimonomoridōri) Kamigyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 602-8371
075-748-0626
https://plus.google.com/107666619603985946514/about

Writers in Kyoto – Launch Party with Amy Chavez on April 19th

This month sees the birth of a new group in Kyoto: Writers in Kyoto (WiK).

A screengrab from the new Writers in Kyoto website.

A screengrab from the new Writers in Kyoto website.

This from the website sets out its aims:

Writers in Kyoto is a group of published and self-published English-language authors working or living in the city. It is run on a membership basis and its purpose is for writers to help each other by creating opportunities for promotion, book launches, readings, the exchange of information, and social events. We work in an informal way and are open to new ideas for projects, such as the ongoing ‘Books set in Kyoto’ feature. We are an independent group, but collaborate with Kyoto Journal and SWET (Society of Writers, Editors and Translators).

Wik’s first event will be a talk by the popular columnist Amy Chavez on being a freelance writer in Japan. The event will take place on Sunday April 19 at Pub House ROARS near Sanjo Bridge (see map). Doors open 4.30 and the talk begins at 5.00. ¥500 entry (free for those joining WiK). Drinks and food will be available afterwards, with time for socialising.

For those who wish to sign up for a WiK membership there are all kinds of perks:

* Featured writer spot on the website’s top page, on a rotation basis according to membership numbers
* Books advertised on the website
* Book extracts carried in the Featured Writing category
* Participation in a closed Facebook discussion group with access to archival material
* Discounted entry for WiK-sponsored events
* Participation in WiK social activities, such as get-togethers and literary dinners
* WiK backing for future book launches
* Eligibility for WiK public readings, to be held twice a year

For more information about WiK and their upcoming event please check the website: http://www.writersinkyoto.com or contact the facilitator, John Dougill.

Regarding the Cherry Blossoms in Okazaki, Kyoto

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Just over a year ago I took a walk in Okazaki just before the cherry blossoms bloomed, and recorded my thoughts for the book Deep Kyoto: Walks. I was primarily focused on the architecture of the area, a lot of which dates from the Meiji era. Throughout my walk though I was very conscious of those cherry blossom buds which were “just about to pop”. So a week later I went back and took some pictures of the same area with the trees in full bloom. Here is a short excerpt from that original walk and some of those later photographs. At this point, I have just departed from the the Lake Biwa Canal Museum…

Excerpt from Red Brick and Sakura by Michael Lambe

I head west along the Shirakawa canal, which carries water not from Lake Biwa but from Kyoto’s eastern hills. Pink banners wave in the breeze advertising sakura viewing boat trips, though the sakura itself has yet to bloom. Of this I am glad for I’m sure the area will be packed with tourists once the blossoms are out…

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The Shirakawa canal.

…Turning right I cross a bridge, pausing to look back down the canal towards the eastern hills. Yes, another day or so and the cherry trees along these banks will be spectacular. People will come from all over Japan to see them, and rightfully so. Even though much of old Kyoto has been lost, it is still the best city to view the cherry blossom. Somebody said that in a documentary once. I think it might have been famed movie director Nagisa Oshima, but this was way back in the early 90s and I wasn’t taking notes. The point is, that was when the idea of Kyoto, as a city of sakura, first entered my mind. It made a big impression on me. How wonderful it would be, I thought, to see that for myself. Imagine my delight when I first visited this city and the sakura chose the very day of my arrival to bloom. Such a blessing, and yet I still wasn’t satisfied. One can never be satisfied by cherry blossom. Legendary haiku poet Matsuo Bashō famously wrote “Even in Kyoto… I yearn for Kyoto”. I might add, even when I see the cherry blossom, I yearn for cherry blossom. So beautiful, yet flowering so briefly, even as we enjoy their splendor we are conscious of their imminent loss. The joy of their flowering contains a hidden seed of grief. But you cannot grasp it. To stand beneath a cherry tree and gaze into the billowing clouds of sakura above is to feel your soul being pulled out of you by the infinite regression of those heavenly petals. I wonder it does not drive people mad.

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Looking back towards the Lake Biwa Canal Museum.

I move on, north past the giant red tori gate on Jingū-michi… …where the great shrine of Heian Jingū sits like a proud bird. This red and white structure with its green tiled roofs appears to be a typical example of traditional Kyoto architecture, but actually it too is a Meiji era building. As part of the general drive to revitalize the city, it was decided in 1894 to build this shrine as a smaller scale reconstruction of the Chōdōin, part of the Imperial palace in Heian times (794 to 1185). It would be a proud symbol of the city’s Imperial heritage, a declaration to the world that even as Kyoto moved forward into the modern age it yet kept one eye on its past. I step through the entrance into the shrine’s vast grounds. No matter how many times I visit it stuns me to think that this is but a fraction of the scale of the Heian era original. I walk across the grounds to the main hall, wash my hands, throw a coin and say a prayer – this time for the continued prosperity of my adopted city. On my way out I notice some pink sakura-colored omikuji fortune slips tied to some trees to the left. I briefly toy with the idea of buying one, but no. I’ll write my own fortune and with my own words.

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The entrance to Heian Jingū.

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Text and photographs by Michael Lambe. To read the rest of Michael Lambe’s Red Brick and Sakura, download Deep Kyoto: Walks here: LINK.

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
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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.

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