Category Archives: Talks

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:

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: or contact the facilitator, John Dougill.

Media Coverage of the Fukushima Crisis – A Speech by Eric Johnston at Foodelica, Kyoto

Our good friend Eric Johnston will be speaking on media coverage of the Fukushima crisis at Cafe Foodelica on November 22nd (Saturday).Eric J

Eric will talk about how The Japan Times and foreign media covered the Fukushima crisis,  a bit about how they are covering it now, and how all that differs from Japanese media coverage.

DATE: November 22nd (Sat.)
TIME: 4:00-6:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Foodelica near Shugakuin station. Here is a MAP.
COST: 1,000 yen (includes one drink & a small sweet)
The speech will be in Japanese, but I’ll be using a bilingual PowerPoint for those who prefer English. Q&A will be in both languages.
Space is limited so anyone who plans to attend please RSVP Cafe Foodelica at (075) 703-5208.

Awakening/Leadership Workshop with Catherine Pawasarat @ Impact HUB Kyoto; July 25th

A two-hour workshop with Mindful Catalyst and Social Entrepreneur Catherine Pawasarat, building on her 12 Jul presentation on the Gion Festival’s spiritual traditions and sustainability.


Beyond the hype, mindfulness and conscious entrepreneurship are coming together to create the future we seek. Awakening/Leadership is a program for Changemakers in startups, non-profits and established businesses that combines transformative practices to bring the change you want to see in the world to your organization. HUB Kyoto member, environmental journalist turned social non-profit founder and CVO (Chief Visionary Officer) Catherine Pawasarat offers this powerful workshop for change, following on its joint offering at HUB Tokyo on 10 July with Tokyo social entrepreneur and philanthropist John Munroe (HUB Tokyo member).

Catherine has studied and practiced “Impact Leadership” for years, in the Brazilian Amazon, traditional Kyoto, and North America, participating in the Social Venture Institute, ALIA and BALLE-related Community Economic Development. Ten years ago she helped found the 310-acre Clear Sky Retreat Center in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, where as Chief Visionary Officer she’s helped develop and implement a social business-based program combining mindfulness and leadership.

Awakening/Leadership offers:
Drawing on leadership skills to bring about the positive future we want to create
Using the wisdom of natural cycles to find opportunities in challenges
A practical approach to changing the world: changing oneself
Using conscious intention to direct the energy of our projects or organizations
Pair and group exercises to support our learning process

Time & Date: 19:00–20:45, Friday July 25th
Participation fee:
Impact HUB Kyoto Members: Special Price! ¥1,000!
Location: Impact HUB Kyoto. Access details and map here:

Some of Catherine’s involvements:

See also John Dougill’s review of Catherine’s Gion Matsuri talk here:

The 2nd Kyoto Bloggers Meeting @ Kyoto’s Impact HUB

Impact Hub Kyoto strives to be a place where people with a strong desire to change society and the world can gather, learn from each other and find new solutions. We believe, however, that in order for sustainable change to come about, we must first embrace change in ourselves…
Impact HUB Kyoto

Last Wednesday (June 18th) we held our second Kyoto Bloggers Meeting at a new location: Kyoto’s Impact HUB. Many thanks to Impact HUB for hosting our event and to their global communications co-ordinator Lisa Allen for arranging it. It turned out to be the perfect venue!

Two of our speakers, Akiko Morita and Hugo Kempeneer chatting by the interior garden.

Two of our speakers, Akiko Morita and Hugo Kempeneer chatting by the interior garden.

Housed in a lovely traditional wooden Kyoto residence, with a gorgeous bamboo thicket in the interior garden, the main hall is very spacious  and they were able to provide us with a computer, projector and screen so we could look at each other’s blogs. The HUB ordered in drinks for us, all at cost price, and Obento Waka provided a sumptuous feast of vegan nourishment at 800 yen a head.

I didn’t take a head count but at a guess I would say about 20 people attended. After mingling, meeting old friends and new, and enjoying some dinner and drinks it was time for our presentations. Each talk was followed by a question and answer session. Lisa Allen spoke first on her role as Global Communications Coordinator for the Kyoto branch of the HUB.

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HUB headerShe spoke about the HUB’s role in fostering local community and of the many upcoming events that would be hosted there. One blogger, Gary Bloom, wrote to me later about how impressed he was by this:

A big thanks for putting the Impact Hub bloggers gathering together this month.  Not only was it a great evening, but it was a great introduction to that space! …I was blown away that that sort of space has been there, right under my nose, without me knowing about it! I just joined, so I’m a member there now and am looking forward to enjoying the space and the people there.

Next up, was Hugo Kempeneer, who introduced us to his blog Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips.
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kndtThrough his blog, Hugo shares his twin interests in photography and Japanese culture. His blogposts on the not so well-known temples, shrines and gardens in our region are very thorough and an excellent introduction to local festivals, ceremonies and traditions. Hugo has been living in Kyoto area for 20 years and so knows the area inside out! He writes: “Here you will find information on popular tourist sites of Nara and Kyoto and also the not-so-popular sites which are often equally rewarding. You can also find information posted on the wall about famous Japanese peoples’ birthdays, famous historical events, and different odd and widely unknown traditions. Discover a side of Japan which you never knew existed, here at Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips!”

Garden photographer, Akiko Morita then introduced us not only to her blog but to her secret recipe for success!

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In her blog, EdenWalkers, Akiko photographs and writes about the most beautiful gardens of Japan and the U.K. She writes,

edenI love gardens and photography! When eyes meet at a garden, people smile at each other for no reason and start talking. Do you know why…? We experience love within, not necessarily love to someone or something, but deep within. A specialness of visiting gardens is to experience beauty. Beauty is something which connects us to a deeper part of ourselves. Knowing beauty is instantaneous because it is beyond words and more than the mind’s understanding. When mind meets beauty, our mental activities are highly reduced. We feel connected, centred and fulfilled.

Akiko told us how her love of gardens led her to photography and how she became a professional photographer just 18 months after first picked up a camera. Her secret was simply to live in the present moment and put herself forward as a professional photographer right from the word go – even when she only had one lens! The difference she told us between an amateur photographer and a pro, is simply that the amateur always says they will have the perfect pictures ready later on, when their skills have improved. But a professional has the photos ready right away. She told us the difference is simply one of attitude, so if you have the right attitude you can achieve anything and be exactly what you want to be!

After that inspiring talk, I got up and talked to the gathering about our ebook Deep Kyoto: Walks. In some ways this book could be seen as a model for future collaborations between local bloggers, as several of our Kyoto Bloggers are also contributors to the book.

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Mostly though I spoke about how the motivation for the book evolved from simply wishing to write something with my old pal Ted Taylor, to an idea for an anthology of meditative walks.

DeepKyoto-cover-0423-finalLast spring I was practicing a kind of walking meditation – which is simply walking around your neighborhood and paying more attention to the details around you: to the quality of the air, the wind on your face, the sounds, and the smells and the people; to look down and notice the things at your feet and also to look up at the roof-tops. At the same time though, you are also paying attention to your own mind. For just as your body wanders, so does your mind. And when you know a neighborhood well, walking around it brings up all kinds of associations and memories. And I thought it would be interesting to combine this kind of external and internal wandering into one narrative. That would make for a very unique guidebook. Not a typical guidebook of directions and simple nuggets of historical and architectural information, but a book that actually gives you a taste of life in this city when it is lived in. When it is your home.

I spoke of how I had envisaged a book of meditative strolls, but how everybody involved interpreted the original idea in different ways. Some walks were more meditative, and some less so, and in addition to strolls, the book now contains meditative hikes, meditative bar crawls and even a meditative protest march! And I spoke of how our list of contributors expanded beyond my initial list of people I knew to writers like Judith Clancy and Pico Iyer – who were both amazingly, very keen to take part! The lesson learned: if you have a good idea and follow it through, it will grow – and often into something beyond what you originally imagined.

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Finally Ted Taylor introduced his own walk from the book with a preamble about how the idea for it developed and then gave a fine reading from it. There is a video of that reading, which I have previously posted here: Across Purple Fields – A Reading by Ted Taylor from Deep Kyoto: Walks.

Each of these talks was followed up by lively question and answer sessions and all in all it was a fun, entertaining and often inspiring night. We will have our next meeting sometime in the autumn and no doubt we will continue to use the fine Kyoto Impact HUB venue.

If you would like to join our Kyoto Bloggers group then please drop me a line in the comments with your email address and I will send you an invite to the Google Group.

If you are interested in learning more about Kyoto Impact HUB and their various community orientated activities then please check out their site here:

You can find out more about hiring the HUB for your own events here: KIH SPACE.

And here is a list of upcoming Impact HUB events:

July 2nd: 11:30am – 1:30pm – Sexy Salad:
Members: Free+ favorite salad ingredient
Non-members: 500 yen + favorite salad ingredient
July 4th: 6-9pm – HUB Drinks
Members and non-members FREE/Donations of drink & food
July 12th: A special talk on Gion Festival by Catherine Pawasarat
Part 1 – 5-6:30pm Talk
Part 2 8-9.30pm Festival Tour
More details here: LINK
July 16th: Sexy Salad
(time and details as above)
July 26th: Community Gathering
An event exclusively for members to connect, network and make a delicious dinner together.

Kyoto Impact HUB is located a short walk south of Kuramaguchi Station (JR Subway) on the east side of Karasuma Street. Here is a MAP.

See also: Introducing the Kyoto Bloggers Support Group for Information Exchange, Community & Collaboration