Category Archives: Crafts

Zenbu Zen Winter Tour of Kyoto January 2016 with Food Writer Jane Lawson

zenbu zenIn December 2010, food writer and photographer Jane Lawson, escaped her overworked and stressed out life as a publisher and ran away to her dream city: Kyoto. Here she spent five months exploring Kyoto culture, particularly Kyoto food culture, and wrote a book to record that exploration. Zenbu Zen is part memoir, part cookbook, and part pictorial tribute to the city she loves: a beautiful book to look at and an excellent primer for the study of Japanese cuisine. But the story doesn’t end there, for Jane has continued her love affair with this city and each year hosts expert culinary and cultural tours of the ancient capital. Here’s Jane to tell us more…

Thinking about travelling to Kyoto but don’t want to do it on your own? Do you lean towards an intimate, connected travel experience over larger in-personal group travel? If so, this in-depth Kyoto tour hosted by food and travel writer Jane Lawson, author of Zenbu Zen – Finding Food, Culture and Balance in Kyoto has just 4 spots ( of 8) left!

ZENBU ZENzenbu 3

Winter Cuisine & Culture Tour of Kyoto

12 days/11 nights

9 -20 January 2016

AUD $10, 199 p/p or $9799 p/p twin share

(maximum of 8 places available)

Jane says, “We’ll spend our days soaking in the serene atmosphere of Kyoto, the country’s cultural and historical heart, returning each night to the luxurious Kyoto Hyatt Regency Hotel – an appropriate base for witnessing the best of this city’s omotenashi (hospitality).

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This is an in-depth experience for like-minded folk who appreciate the finer things in life – great food, sake and laughter. Meet creative and talented locals, visit quiet temples, shrines and gardens. Shop for artisan ceramics, antiques or stunning contemporary home-wares. Float around galleries and museums. Sample your way through this spectacular cuisine in some of Jane’s favourite restaurants and take time out to relax or explore on your own. We’ll also day trip to wonderful Kanazawa, the ancient city of Nara and vibrant Osaka.’

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Blissful Kyoto, encircled by snow-capped mountains is the perfect place to relax and recharge for those who appreciate aesthetics, culture and peace. Magical vistas, alpine air, seasonal delicacies and the opportunity to wander minus the crowds of spring and autumn. Experience the beauty in simplicity and be nurtured and inspired by this mystical city of layered textures.”

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Click the link for more details!

All images courtesy of Jane Lawson.

Kawai Kanjiro’s House


This is the house of Kawai Kanjiro, a legendary potter and a key figure in the mingei or Japanese folk art movement. His beautiful wooden townhouse has been preserved as a memorial run by his family. The building itself and the garden are wonderful, but you can also see here many of his works: ceramics, sculptures, and woodcarvings. His kilns are preserved at the back of the house. I was there back in September and took some 360 degree pictures which I shall share here as they give a good impression of how much there is to explore in the house. Just click on them to have a proper look around: Continue reading

Craft Beer in Japan: The Essential Guide by Mark Meli

Ry and mark

Real beer lovers: Publisher Ry Beville and author Mark Meli launching the book at Tadg’s Bar Kyoto.

This is an excellent little book, packed with useful information for beer lovers here in Japan and a handy portable size for carrying around to all those bars. Personally, I enjoy drinking craft beers, but I am very far away from being an expert, and far too lazy to study the variety of beers available in a systematic way. Fortunately, Mark Meli has done my homework for me. Mark has long had an almost venerated reputation as the authority on craft beer here in Kyoto. In fact Tadg revealed at the book’s launch party that he has long relied on Mark’s counsel when choosing beers for his bar. Now Mark has distilled that expertise and five years of research into this fine book: the very first, and currently only English language guide to Japan’s craft beers. Continue reading

Craft Beer in Kyoto

A pinty at Tadg's

A pint at Tadg’s. Craft beer has become a serious business in Kyoto.

Craft beer is trending in Kyoto with craft beer festivals twice a year, many bars stocking varieties and some bars dedicating their business completely to promoting craft beer culture. There are two craft beer breweries in Kyoto, and another starting next year. Here I talk to Tadg McLoughlin who runs the eponymous Tadg’s: a craft beer specialty bar in Kyoto, about being on the cusp of this trend. Below the video I have posted a list of bars serving craft beer in Kyoto, with links for maps and details. Continue reading

Kubota Rekkou’s Blue Celadon Works @ Robert Yellin’s Gallery

On Wednesday I spent a very pleasant evening at Robert Yellin’s ceramics gallery, looking at all beautiful things that he has gathered there and enjoying his fascinating conversation. Robert had invited me up to see his new exhibition; the beautiful blue celadon of Kubota Rekkou. Light, pale and graceful this 青白磁 (seihakuji – or blue-white porcelain) stands in marked contrast to the heavier, and more rustic wood-fired wares already on display. Robert drew my attention first to the latter kind of pottery, the high-fired, unglazed “yakishime.” In the corner were two large jars, one from Bizen and the other from Shigaraki. Explaining how such works are made, he told me,

“The artist, makes the piece, the form, but has no idea how it’s going to turn out in the kiln… And the process is pretty intense you know. We just look at the finished product, but you have to think of the digging of the clay, the processing of the clay, the wedging of the clay, the drying… It’s a very long process to make a piece. And then they put it in this wood-fired entity of a kiln and they let go. Which to me is amazing because we live in this world where everybody wants control of processes, of their own lives, but it’s actually the letting go where a lot of the beautiful drama occurs. And that’s what goes on with these works. The potter put them in and had no idea how it would turn out, in coloration… It’s very different from Western aesthetics because it’s not perfect. You got these drips, you got cracks, you got fissures, you got pitted works, a lot of it’s uneven, but there’s a large portion of Japanese spirit in these wood-fired pieces. It’s the imperfection that makes them beautiful. And they are also very seasonal as well. These pieces are more meant for the autumn. They are heavy. They are really beautiful, large, energizing pieces. They are not really summer pieces…

Which is why I wanted to introduce a summer type of style. In the summer, you want something that imparts not so much energy, but a coolness. Something that you just look at and you’re cooled. And that’s why we are having this exhibition of the bluish-white porcelain called seihakuji. You just walk into this room and you feel very light and airy. The touch when you do touch a piece becomes chilled… And with the energy issues that are going to be happening this summer, how are we going to cool ourselves? The Japanese have done it in an energy-saving way for a long time. Whether it be furin (a wind-chime) , whether it be some mugicha (barley tea), or kakigōri (shaved ice). And obviously people have changed their surroundings in the past to match the seasons. This house has these screens to let the air flow through. These are summer fusuma. The Japanese were pretty brilliant about matching their lifestyles to the seasons. When it was winter this whole house was divided into individual rooms and you heated one with a hibachi or something. But in the summer, it was furin, it was kakigōri, it was bamboo and sudare (light bamboo screens)… and it was using vessels like this, because your senses are affected by colors, by touch, and how you make this part of your daily life. Just look at that color! It cools you on many visceral levels.” Continue reading


Somushi is a beautiful Korean tea shop on the north side of Sanjo, a short walk west of Karasuma.

John Einarsen and I have gotten into the habit of meeting up here whenever a new issue of Kyoto Journal comes out. These pictures were taken in the spring. Continue reading

Two Things I Love: Poetry & Beer

This Sunday presents a unique opportunity to hear some finely crafted poetry and sample some fine craft beers!

Let’s start with the BEER first, shall we? This Sunday (16th May) the first ever CRAFT BEER FESTA in Kyoto will be held at Shimpukan (that is the large red bricked building opposite Karasuma/Sanjo Starbucks – here is a map). There will be over twenty top Japanese breweries represented.
It opens at 11am and finishes 8pm, but be warned that they may finish earlier if they run out of food and beer. Beers are are 300 yen by the glass and 500 yen by the bottle. Original glasses and other goods will also be on sale so please bring your own “eco-bag” if you think you might buy some or take a few bottles home. If food and Thanks to Tadg Mc Loughlin for putting me onto this. Incidentally, if you can’t make it to this event, you can always try Tadg’s pub instead. Formerly named Mc Loughlin’s, but now simply Tadg’s, they have ten new craft beers on tap. Every night’s a craft beer festa at Tadg’s! Click here for more info on Tadg’s and for directions. Continue reading


A couple of months ago, I was at Tezukuri Ichi when I came across a stall selling some rather nifty pottery:

!-style (reads “exclamation style”) is the brand-name of a series of products made by the !-design project based to the south of Kyoto. The brand was created in order to give people with disabilities the means and skills to be self-supporting. This particular venture is unique in that they have their own in-house designer and I think you can see the results in the quality of the goods shown above. Although !-style is an irregular visitor to Tezukuri Ichi, some of their products can also be found at Duce Mix on the corner of Takakura Dori and Sanjo, and also at Heart Plaza on the 9th floor of the Kyoto Station building (just round the corner from KPIC).

The Duce Mix Shop is on the 4th floor of the Duce Mix building and is open from 11:00 ~ 20:00 every day but Monday. Duce Mix Map
Heart Plaza is open from 10:00 ~ 18:00 and is open every day but Tuesday. Heart Plaza Map
Tezukuri Ichi is held on the 15th of each month at Chionji from dawn till dusk. Tezukuri Ichi Map


UPDATE MARCH 2014: Sad to say but due to the changing life circumstances of the good folk at Kisui… this wonderful little bar has now closed. We wish both Setsuko and Risae all the best with their new lives. Kisui has gone, long live Kisui!

The name Kisui (器酔) could be translated as “vessel intoxication”. You see, what’s intoxicating about this bar is not just the booze. Every drink here is served in a beautifully decorated earthenware cup, hand-made and hand-painted by the bar-keeper Setsuko’s own fair hand. These are kyouyaki; traditional Kyoto ceramics, and in addition to the cups there are other wares on display that you can buy if you take a fancy to them. And in addition to the handicrafts, and the flowing beer, there is also Setsuko’s friendly smile and happy conversation. Who could resist?

Tel: 075-561-4746075-561-4746
18:00 ~ 24:00
Closed on Sundays.

To find Kisui, go south on Kawabata from Shijo, Kisui is on the corner of the next road you come to on your left. (Setsuko’s brother also runs an izakaya style restaurant on the second floor that I haven’t been to but Setsuko-san says that the turtle-soup is very very good indeed.) Here is a map. And here are a few more pictures for you. Click through to flickr for a closer look.