Category Archives: Galleries

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

Cafe & Gallery Rokujian

I had a bit of free time this afternoon, so I popped over to see the exhibition at Cafe Rokujian of photographs and paintings by our friends John Einarsen and Tiery Le. The cafe forms part of the Kampo Cultural Center, which as I understand it, opened up last month. The center consists of three parts, the cafe, a small gallery space, and a learning center where you can take classes in flower arrangement, calligraphy and art – the latter with Tiery Le himself! Currently, John Einarsen’s graceful and exquisite black and white lotus photographs occupy most of the gallery space, whilst Tiery Le’s exhilarating and dynamic oil paintings decorate the cafe walls.

The cafe itself is spacious and comfortable and a pleasant place to stop and rest if you happen to be visiting the Higashiyama area. They do three lunch time sets of curry, a panini sandwich, or pasta, which all come with a (negligible) salad and a drink (tea, coffee, etc). If you want beer or wine it is 200 yen extra but the beer is Moretti, which happens to be one of my favorites so I was quite happy about that.

Each of these dishes changes daily.
I ordered the pasta, which on this occasion was spaghetti in tomato sauce with olives, anchovies and capers. It was tasty, and it came in a goodly portion so I was quite satisfied, though I think at 1180 yen for the set, it could be a teensy bit cheaper. The panini and curry sets are cheaper at 980 yen apiece.

Here are a few more pictures from both inside and outside the cafe and gallery…

Open 12:00-20:00, and closed Mondays, Cafe & Gallery Rokujian is in the Okazaki area, to the east of Heian Shrine and drectly to the north of the Kampo Museum. Click here for a map.

See also: Lotus – A Joint Exhibition by John Einarsen & Tiery Le…
The Photographs of John Einarsen
Tiery Le’s website.


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


Sean Roe invited me out to this place ages ago. “¥380 a beer,” he said. Very hard to resist. So I went. And here’s what I found:

Kanso is a bar, and an art installation combined. Its concept can be roughly summarized as

drink x cans = fun

The art here is nothing precious,  consisting as it does of cans. Big cans that you sit at like tables and walls of cans to dazzle your eye. Continue reading

Frank Signage

Cycling down Yasaka Dori today I spotted this “ukiyo-e small museum”…img_0973

…and the sign pleased me.


Caffe dell’Orso

20090306000945A few weeks ago Ted Taylor introduced me to Cafe dell’Orso a nice new Italian restaurant on Higashi Ichijo Dori. They do a good ¥1000 set lunch there; one pasta of your choosing + salad + focaccia with a home made pate and a wee slice of quiche. I decided to go back for dinner, and try some more dishes. In my pictures below you can see various appetisers and desserts but not the main dishes, as I was so intent on eating them up I forgot to photograph them! Thankfully, this popular Kyoto blogger has some good pictures on his site too, so you can check his pictures out here. I actually had the asparagus and parmesan gratin (¥700) and the tomato and clam spaghetti (¥1100), and washed them down with a cold sharp Peroni beer (¥700). They were all very good. However, the desserts were especially delicious, or as my companion Mewby put it  “yabai!” (which is Japanese for dangerously awesome). There are more pictures below and if you go to flickr you can see the prices too.

This restaurant/cafe is run by two friends, Stefano Bandini and Sasha Ashburne. I asked Stefano why the name is “Orso” which means “bear”, and he told me that his father used to have a gallery on Via dell’Orso in Milan named Galleria dell’Orso. The Caffe shares more than just the name with his father’s gallery though, as the walls here too are used to exhibit local art. At the time I visited they were decorated with the photographic work of Fumio Inoue. And as for the “cucina naturale”? Stefano explains:
“Cucina naturale” means that we are making, as far as possible, everything home made. Salad dressing, sauce, ginger ale etc. are all home made. When possible we also use organic ingredients. So far the dry pasta we have been using is organic. We have now started using fresh pasta, that we buy from a non-organic supplier. In the near future, if economically convenient, we’d like to make our own pasta. In this case we’ll try to find organic semolina…

Caffe dell’Orso, is on the north side of Higashi Ichijo Dori. Go east from Kawabata and it is just a little further past the Sakyou-ku ward office. If you get as far as Higashioji Dori you have gone too far! Here is a useful map.
Tel: 075-761-7600


img_9538-mediumSheep’s Public Cafe is a place I have been meaning to check out for a while. I kept seeing it as I cycled home from work and thinking to myself “Sheeps. Why Sheep’s?” The signboard outside says “Fish & Chips”, “Guinness” and looking at the exterior I imagined just another foreign style pub. Once inside though I was impressed by how bright and cheerful it is. The owners have abandoned traditional British or Irish pub trappings in favour of their own relaxed cafe style. And though they do serve Guinness and chips, and Bass Pale Ale, they also have a large selection of very nice Belgian beers including some on tap. And why is it called Sheep’s? Well, the two handsome young fellas who run it, Sawano Takehiko and Yokoyama Naoki, were both born in the Year of the Sheep. Simple really.

Photos by mewby.

Takehiko worked for a time as a regular salaryman before jacking it in and getting a job in an Irish pub in Hirakata. Then he and Naoki opened up their own bar Sheep’s in September of 2007, doing a lot of the interior work, such as the wooden counter and flooring themselves. They have created a pub with a uniquely fresh and young feel to it. There is a screen opposite the bar on which you can watch the football (Takehiko is a keen supporter of Newcastle United).  And as of December 2008 there is also an art gallery in the basement, set up by a artist and neighbour Nika Feldman. The opening exhibition was not surprisingly a collection of works inspired by the theme: Sheep.
Photos by mewby.

Sheep’s is a nice spot for a quiet drink and a tasty bite to eat. You can find it on the east side of Higashioji Dori a short walk south of Marutamachi. Here is a map.
Open everyday: 16:00 ~ 3:00 (the gallery closes at midnight).
Tel: 075-334-5676

Many thanks to mewby for the photographs!

Related: In Search of … the Craic.
Next post: An upcoming music event at Zac Baran!

Iyemon Salon

The delightful Japanese tea emporium Iyemon Salon opened its doors last June and has quickly become a fashionable spot for lunch and dinner despite the competition from nearby Starbucks and Neutron Cafe. Breakfast is a choice between onigiri or a tasty egg sandwich for ¥400. The lunchtime and dinner menu ranges between ¥800 and ¥2000, and if you get a “plate” set you can be sure of a good feed for your money with plenty of rice, soup and side-dishes. However, if you are a vegetarian you may have to settle for tea and cake as the menu is heavily meat-orientated. I am told though, that the desserts are “divine” (I had a big fish plate there and couldn’t manage one I’m afraid). Naturally, all meals are best accompanied by one of Iyemon Cafe’s fine Japanese teas. For me a main attraction is the Chiso Gallery on the second floor which exhibits beautiful traditional Japanese art, crafts and antiques from the Chiso collection. Be sure to take a look after you have finished your tea.

Below are some pictures. For a closer look go to flickr.

To find Iyemon Cafe go west on Sanjo from Karasuma and you will find it on your left. Here is a map.

Telephone: 075-222-1500

Opening Hours: 8:00 – 24:00 OPEN EVERYDAY

Last Orders: FOOD / 23:00 DRINK / 23:30


法然院 is a lovely temple with carefully tended gardens nestled in the foothills of Kyoto’s eastern mountains. It was founded in 1680, and named after the priest Hōnen, who devoted his life to seeking salvation for all, no matter what their station in life. Today this temple holds regular exhibitions of both local and international artists. At the time of writing, there are two exhibitions. “Kazokuten” is an exhibition of calligraphy, sculpture, prints and other art-work by the multi-talented Nakamura family, and will continue until October 3rd. 日々の器 or “Daily Wares” is an exhibition of pottery by Shima Ruriko, and will continue until October 8th. Here are some pictures from the temple grounds. You can click through to flickr for a closer look.

With its beautiful grounds, Hōnen-In is a wonderful setting for an art gallery and well worth your time. To find it go south from Ginkakuji along Tetsugaku-no-michi (The Path of Philosophy) and after a 15 minute walk you should see a sign on your right for 法然院. Cross the canal and you’ll find yourself on a side street. Go left again and you’ll find the entrance on your right leading up through the woods. Alternatively, coming directly from Shirakawa Dori, just go in a straight line east from Fresco Supermarket till you get to Tetsugaku-no-michi and then follow the directions as above. Here is a map.


Just a little removed from the town centre, is the café / gallery etw (エトワ) Founded by university students 8 years ago, local artists display their work here regularly, and sometimes hold combined music and art events. Kyoto is a university town, so many of these events and exhibitions are by local students and it can be inspiring to see the enthusiasm and innovation of these young artists and musicians so early in their careers. At the time of writing the exhibition is eclipse; photography & words by Matsuda Yuu. You can see some of these works among the pictures below. Click through to flickr for a better look.

Cool and spacious, with white walls, wooden floors, (and some very comfy chairs), this café was created as a meeting place, a space for creative endeavour, a place for exchanging ideas, or a place for staring out the window with your coffee (¥420) and thinking of absolutely nothing at all… At this moment, with soft burbling music behind me and a view over the Kamogawa before me, it may be just the perfect place to be reading this Haruki Murakami short story.

To find etw head north on Kawabata. Shortly before you get to Marutamachi Street you will find it on the right, on the second floor above the brightly coloured “99” shop. The ever popular Club Metro is in the basement downstairs. The café opens from 3:00 pm till 3:00 am.
You can find a full menu, access guide and list of scheduled events on the etw website