Category Archives: City Design

A Trip into the Past at Meiji Mura

IMG_6860 (Medium)In 2011 McKinsey & Company commisioned 80 writers and thinkers to contribute to an anthology rather grandly titled Reimagining Japan: The Quest for a Future that Works. I bought my own copy after browsing through it at Kansai Aiport and reading Alex Kerr‘s piece “Japan after People”.  His contribution was a wry form of dystopian projection that took various current trends, both national and local, and followed them into the far future to entirely logical yet completely absurd conclusions. His prediction for Kyoto in 2060 amused me greatly: Continue reading

Shijo Kyo Machiya BBQ Night II

Look at this lovely old machiya! How could you resist a barbecue here?

Shijo Kyo Machiya BBQ Night II is on Saturday, June 18th from 5pm-8pm. Here are the details:

Shijo Kyo Machiya BBQ Night II will feature a special lecture by architect Geoffrey Moussas. In 1994, he started the all-out research work of Kyo Machiya and, with his company Design 1st, has since become known for his Machiya renovation design while incorporating modern elements.

1st Part: 5PM-6PM: Lecture on Kyoto machiya by Geoffrey Moussas

2nd Part: 6PM-8PM: Dinner in the 100 year-old machiya building, garden and “Kura bar”. All of this will turn into a big party space, where business persons and students can socialize and network.

Also, this event is our “tribute” to the non-Japanese who continue to visit and live in Japan after 3.11. In short, non-Japanese will be given a

Non-Japanese / Students: 2,000yen
Japanese: 2,500yen
With RSVP: food + two drinks / Without RSVP: food + one drink

For reservations, please visit this facebook page,
or send an e-mail to:

There are some pictures from the first Shijo Kyo Machiya BBQ Night here on facebook.

Venue: Shijo Kyo Machiya (Nishinotoin-Shijo)
〒600-8493 11 Kakkyo-Yama-Cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City
Just 5 minutes on foot from the subway Shijo Station or Hankyu Karasuma Station. Here is a map.

Easy access, plenty of food & drinks, inspiring presentations.
Don’t miss it!!

Thanks to Eric Luong for sending both the information and the pictures.


Two Views from Yasaka Shrine…

…separated by time. Both images give us a “bronze lion’s eye view” down Shijo as seen from the entrance to Yasaka Shrine. The first is a recent image painted by my hopelessly romantic friend Ichsan. Do please visit his website to see more of his wonderful paintings. This is the image of Gion with which we are familiar today.

This water colour sketch "City Guardian" is by the artist M Ichsan Harja Nugraha. Click to visit his website.

And now here is the same view, as it was over a hundred years ago:

Click to view more photographs of 19th century Japan.

Incredible how much it has changed, isn’t it? The man wasn’t kidding when he said “the past is a foreign country”. If we could transport citizens of 19th century Kyoto to the present day and show them what we’ve done to this city, how do you think they would react? Would they see progress or would they weep? In turn, what would it have been like to live in this city then? Can you imagine the sound of the streets without motorized traffic? Can you imagine being able to see the mountains all around you from the very center of the city? Can you imagine waking up in the morning, walking out onto those streets and greeting the people there? If you are familiar with 21st century Kyoto, doesn’t this picture haunt you? Only a few key buildings from that time remain today, and all the rest has changed utterly… How will this scene look in another hundred years?