Category Archives: Literature

WiK Writing Competition Winners

Here’s some news from John Dougill, and Writers in Kyoto (WiK):

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The judges of the first WiK Writing Competition are delighted to announce the winners, as listed below. The competition was on the theme of Kyoto, with a maximum of 300 words. Each of the three prize winners will receive a small gift from the Kyoto Convention and Visitors Bureau, in addition to which the First Prize will feature in the forthcoming Writers in Kyoto Anthology. The Local Prize Winner will receive a gourmet meal for two at Tadg’s Irish Bar and Restaurant in Kiyamachi, Kyoto.

* First Prize “Kimono Memories”
Name: Peter Jonathan Mallett

* Second Prize “Nippon”
Name: Jesse Efron

* Third Prize “To live in Kyoto”
Name: Richard Steiner

* Local Prize Winner “In the spring. summer, autumn and winter – Colors in Kyoto”
Name: Mayumi Kawaharada

The judges wish to express their appreciation to all those who entered, and the high quality of submissions made the final decision difficult. Indeed, each of the judges chose a different piece as their favourite! In the end though consensus was reached as to the outstanding pieces. (It should be noted that the judging process was done on a completely anonymous basis throughout.)
The entries came from a surprisingly wide range of places. Nearly half were submitted from different parts of Japan, not just within Kyoto but such areas as Miyazaki and Fukuoka. Others came Malaysia, Kathmandu, Philippines and Montreal. As it happened, however, the winners are all resident in Japan – two in Kyoto, one in Kyotango, and one in Kobe.

In form the entries ranged from a single haiku to essays, pieces of fiction, poems, conversations and personal impressions. By and large, the prose was more successful; some of the poetry was too slight, some too obscure. The best pieces were those that got under the skin of Kyoto life, and this was the case with the overall winner which used the Nishijin connection with kimono to reveal something of the secrets that lie behind the courtesies of Kyoto manners.

The one surprise was that some applicants thought a single haiku would carry enough weight to win a prize. Unless you’re a Basho or a Buson, this seems improbable. However, one of the prizewinners did string a series of haiku together to convey images of Kyoto throughout the year, and this amounted to a substantial and impressive portrayal of seasonal changes. An alternative approach, which no one attempted, would be to write a poetic essay-cum-haiku in a genre known as haibun.

Our thanks to the sponsors, the Kyoto Convention and Visitors Bureau, Tadg’s Irish Bar and Restaurant, and for the backing from the International Community Center (kokoka). I’d also like to publicly thank Karen Tawarayama in particular for facilitating the whole process, as well as Tadg McLoughlin and Shigenori Shibata for acting as judges. Finally, thanks to all those who took the time to enter the competition. Your entries made the whole thing worthwhile, and each one was appreciated.

We are eager to build on this year and make next year’s competition even better, so if you have any suggestions or feel you could contribute in any way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, John Dougill, at dougill<at mark>mbox.kyoto-inet.or.jp.

Peter Mallett of Kobe, whose 'Kimono Memories' took first prize

Peter Mallett of Kobe, whose ‘Kimono Memories’ took first prize

Geiko & Maiko of Kyoto by Robert van Koesveld now on sale at Maruzen Bookstore

Last week I was very happy to catch up with photographer Robert van Koesveld while he was in town. Robert was kind enough to give me a copy of his new book, “Geiko & Maiko of Kyoto” which he self-published after an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign.

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If you are at all interested in the world of geiko and maiko then I would happily recommend this book. Robert’s beautiful photography and insightful text provides a wonderful pictorial guide to the world of Kyoto’s geisha. And I particularly like the part of the book that also introduces those people who work behind the scenes; the footwear makers for instance, the kimono artists, and the shamisen teacher etc…

Robert and his book in Maruzen bookstore.

Robert and his book in Maruzen bookstore.

Pop into Maruzen bookstore in Kyoto now, and you will see a large display of Robert’s books close by the Maruzen Cafe. Several of his images are also featured on posters there, to give you an idea of the contents of the book. Take a look. I’m sure you’ll be tempted.

Useful links: Geiko & Maiko of Kyoto
Robert van Koesveld Photography
(always) Learning to See: A photography blog by Robert van Koesveld

Maruzen Bookstore on Inside Kyoto

My review of the new Maruzen Bookstore & Cafe is now up on Inside Kyoto

Maruzen Bookstore Returns to Kyoto

After a 10-year interval Kyoto’s best bookstore, Maruzen Books has returned! Our resident bookworm, Michael Lambe, went to take a look at the new premises and see if the new store matches up to its legendary past.

Check out the full story here: Maruzen Bookstore Returns to Kyoto!

Kyoto’s 39th Autumn Antiquarian Book Fair 2015

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Kyoto’s annual Autumn Antiquarian Book Fair starts Thursday Oct. 30th at Chion-ji Temple – just a stone’s throw away from the Hyakumanben intersection. Though the majority of the books available (about 200,000 in all) are Japanese, there are always some English books available, as well as art books and ukiyo-e prints etc. The grounds of the temple are also a very peaceful and pleasant location in which to browse for bargains.

Dates: Friday October 30 – Tuesday November 3
Location: Chion-ji Temple
Time: 10 am to 5 pm
Access: Chion-ji Temple is on the north side of Imadegawa opposite Kyoto University. It’s a ten minutes walk east of Keihan Demachiyanagi Station, or 3 minutes from the Hyakumanben bus stop. (map)

This is one of three annual used book fairs held in Kyoto, the others being held in spring and summer. I have written about the summer sale here.

Once again the flyer for this event has been designed by the very talented Nakagawa Non. You can view more of her artwork at her site here: http://nonkimegane6-6.com/

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The First Annual Kyoto Writing Competition; Deadline March 1st

From John Dougill,

wikcompWRITERS IN KYOTO PRESENTS

THE FIRST ANNUAL KYOTO WRITING COMPETITION

(Sponsored by Tadg’s Irish Bar and Restaurant)

Theme: Kyoto (English language only)

Deadline: March 1, 2016 (midnight JST)

Genre: Short Shorts (unpublished material only)

Form: Haiku, short poems, character studies, essays, whimsy, wordplays, experimental verse, anything that helps show the spirit of place in a fresh light

Word Limit: 300 words (to fit on a single page)

Submissions:
send to kyotowritingcompetition2016@gmail.com
Please use Microsoft Word format, headed by the following information:
※ Full Name ※ Email Contact ※ Nationality ※ Location of Current Residence

Prizes to include Kyoto crafts and publication in the Writers in Kyoto Anthology

Kyoto resident prize: Gourmet meal for two at Tadg’s

Maruzen Bookstore Returning to Kyoto!

MaruzenIt’s been ten long years since Kyoto’s best bookstore closed it’s doors… but now Maruzen is coming back! Kyoto’s legendary bookstore occupied a special place in the hearts of expats because of it’s huge English language book section. Locals too were sad to see the historic shop close down, for Maruzen had occupied a spot on Kawaramachi Street since 1907.

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The new Maruzen store will occupy two basement floors of the renovated Bal building which reopens on August 21st. Apparently it will include a cafe, western books and stationary – and it is going to be huge. This is a team effort with Junkudo, so we will have to wait and see if the new shop really has that old Maruzen magic. I’m going to be there on August 21st to find out though, and I’m sure a lot of other Maruzen fans will be there too. You can find a map for the Bal building and other details on the Bal Kyoto website here: http://www.bal-bldg.com/bal-kyoto/

Thanks to Mewby for giving me the hot tip on this breaking news!

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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See also:
ABOUT THE BOOK
EXTRACTS
INTERVIEWS

A Long March – Ted Taylor Reflects on Anti-Nuclear Protest in Kyoto

Each year, as the anniversary of the 3/11 disaster in Tōhoku approaches, anti-nuclear protestors here in Kyoto hold a rally and march to protest the government’s pro-nuclear policies. On Saturday March 7th this protest will take place once again. A year ago Ted Taylor joined this same rally and reported on it for our book, Deep Kyoto: Walks. As the marchers once again gather in Maruyama Park, the time would seem opportune to revisit that report. We join Ted as the demonstrators begin to move from the Park into the streets of Kyoto…

Excerpt from A LONG MARCH by Ted Taylor

…Most around me are in their 30s or 40s, being political only to the extent that they want a safe home and future for their children. As there are fifteen reactors just to the north of us here in Kyoto, they have great reason for concern. Regardless of personal beliefs about whether or not nuclear power is safe, the Fukushima disaster proved how unsafe they can be under current conditions. While the marchers here today are most certainly against even a single one of the fifty inert reactors in Japan coming back online, an even larger percentage of Japanese takes a more pragmatic approach, and would accept some of them back online as a temporary solution until other means can be found, though with greater safety protocols in place. As I walk I ponder this, and the passing buses and automobiles douse us in their exhaust, a reminder of equally unpleasant alternatives.

We’ve moved up Shijō-dōri by now, following the parade route that the yamaboko floats take during Kyoto’s renowned Gion festival. The festival began as a purification ritual to appease the gods thought to cause fire, floods and earthquakes. Perhaps in this nuclear age, our group of walkers serves as a new type of float. Today too, our procession is being observed by the thousands of people out shopping and sightseeing, many of whom have bemused looks on their faces. None are more amusing than the confused looks on the faces of foreign tourists. A worker at one of the tourist shops stands out front offering samples of yatsuhashi to passersby. For a moment I’m tempted to break ranks and taste one of these famed sweets, as it seems like a very Kyoto thing to do.

Our bit of street theater merges briefly with the crowds just coming out of the Minamiza, and then we’re off again, crossing the river and making an eventual right turn onto the bustling Kawaramachi. As the chants now turn to “Kyoto o Mamorō!” or “Protect Kyoto!” I look up this canyon of towering steel and glass, wondering if there is anything left to protect.

Picture 15 A Long March by Ted Taylor (Medium)
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Text and photograph by Ted Taylor. To read the rest of Ted Taylor’s A Long March, 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 Ted Taylor

tedBased in Kyoto, Ted’s work has appeared in The Japan Times, Kyoto Journal, Resurgence, Outdoor Japan, Kansai Time Out, Elephant Journal, and Skyward: JAL’s Inflight Magazine, as well as in various print and online publications. A Contributing Editor at Kyoto Journal, he won the top prize in the Kyoto International Cultural Association Essay Contest. He is currently at work on a series of books about walking Japan’s ancient highways. Ted blogs at www.notesfromthenog.blogspot.jp.

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See also:
Meet the Authors
Meet the Artists
An Exclusive Extract from Judith Clancy’s Walk
Old School Gaijin Kyoto – An Excerpt from Deep Kyoto Walks by Chris Rowthorn
Ghosts, Monkeys & Other Neighbours – An Excerpt by Bridget Scott
Blue Sky – An Excerpt by Stephen Henry Gill
Across Purple Fields – A Reading by Ted Taylor (VIDEO)

Kyoto Conference on Contemplation, 27-29 March 2015

“The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions – the little, soon forgotten charities of a kiss or a smile, a kind look or heartfelt compliment.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Many thanks to Peter Cheyne for sending me the following information on an upcoming conference on contemplation at Kyoto Notre Dame University.

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Peter writes,

While the title is ‘Coleridge and Contemplation’, not all talks are specifically about Coleridge, although all will discuss aspects of meditation and contemplation.

Each of the three days is loosely themed as follows:

Friday 27th: Literary/ Philosophical

Saturday: Philosophy, and some Religious perspectives

Sunday: Walking, Mystery, Nature, Environment, and some Buddhism

There will be free tea, coffee, juice, drinking water and light snacks during the breaks.

Summaries of each talk can be found on the webpage for each speaker: http://kyotocontemplation.org/plenary-speakers/

Guest Chairs from around Japan will help with some of the sessions, including Kyoto’s own John Dougill (Ryukoku), David Chandler (Doshisha), Rob Kritzer (Kyoto Notre Dame), and Elizabeth Kenney (Kansai Gaidai): http://kyotocontemplation.org/guest-chairs/

Though this is an academic conference, it is open to the public and free of charge.

Please visit the official website to learn more about the schedule and speakers: http://kyotocontemplation.org/