Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Day Trip to Ohara on Inside Kyoto

My article, A Day Trip to Ohara, is now up on Inside Kyoto…

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Ohara is many things: a rural retreat, a tourist hotspot, an ancient training ground of spiritual music, and the last refuge and resting place of those who were bested by history. Once, Ohara was considered by the people of Kyoto as a remote outpost in its north-eastern hills. Today, you can get there by bus from the city center in an hour – if the traffic is good. And the renowned beauty of its gardens draws much traffic. In spring, the city folk flock to Ohara to see cherry blossoms, hydrangeas and azaleas. In the autumn, the crowds pour in to admire the autumn leaves.

Read more here: A Day Trip to Ohara.

Tour Kyoto by Bicycle with Noru Kyoto


Here’s a message from Ross Mclean of Noru Kyoto,

Kyoto is a city best explored by bicycle. Here at NORU, we took great time to curate a selection of tours that focus on showing visitors the beautiful contours of this ancient capital. We wanted to do more than just visit the busy tourist sites, and luckily our shop’s proximity to the northern foothills of Kyoto provides wonderful exploration of Kyoto’s best-kept secrets.

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Our journeys are crafted on leisure, scenery, and culture, and our new fleet of 8-speed folding bikes makes our excursions suitable for people of all heights and fitness levels.

We begin with stops at World Heritage temples and shrines, and gradually make our way along cozy backstreets to quieter, more intimate Zen garden settings.


Complete custom tours are also available to those who wish to see specific sites and attractions. These can be booked as either a full or half day and can be planned with only a few days notice.


We are avid road cyclists so for those who seek something more performance and distance oriented we also provide tours of incredible routes through Kyoto Prefecture and beyond!


Please contact Noru Kyoto directly about these tours at:
Reviews of Noru Kyoto on TripAdvisor.
All images from Ross Mclean.

Sword Dancing at Samurai Kembu Theater on Inside Kyoto

In case you missed it, my article about the Samurai Kembu Theater is now up on Inside Kyoto


Kembu is a Japanese martial art that combines sword play with dance. At the Samurai Kembu Theater in Kyoto you can watch a performance of this traditional dance and enter the world of the samurai warrior. Our flashing blade, Michael Lambe, reports…

Read more here: Sword Dancing in Kyoto at Samurai Kembu Theater

Walking the Path of Philosophy on Inside Kyoto

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My latest article for Inside Kyoto is a walk up the Path of Philosophy from the peace and tranquility of Eikan-do Temple in the south, to the popular tourist attraction, Ginkaku-ji Temple in the north. Along the way I encounter philosophical cats, colorful flowers, and sites of historical note, stopping off en route to partake of a traditional vegan tofu lunch. I also explore in some depth the life and work of the eponymous philosopher: Nishida Kitaro. Read it all here:

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See also: Articles for Inside Kyoto

Bakumatsu Samurai on Inside Kyoto

My article, Kyoto Samurai, is now up on Chris Rowthorn’s Inside Kyoto website. For this piece I took a tour of sites around Kyoto associated with legendary samurai of the Bakumatsu era, like Sakamoto Ryōma and the Shinsengumi. I must say, once I got into this topic I found it quite fascinating, and I even started watching that old NHK Shinsengumi! drama series!

The Shinsengumi as depicted at the modern day Ikedaya restaurant.

The Shinsengumi as depicted at the modern day Ikedaya restaurant.

The Bakumatsu was a time of profound turmoil and change that saw the end of the old feudal Shogunate, and the start of a new modern era with the Meiji Restoration. During this time, some swordsmen fought for tradition and others for change. Among them Sakamoto Ryōma was a lone wolf figure, working behind the scenes to realise his vision of a modern Japan. When I visited his grave and saw other visitors pray at his tomb I felt profoundly moved by the high esteem in which he is held even now among modern Japanese.

Sakamoto_Ryōma - image Public Domain

A revered figure from Japanese history: Sakamoto_Ryōma – image Public Domain

One major site of interest that isn’t mentioned in the article is the Teradaya in Fushimi. This was the location of Sakamoto Ryōma’s famous escape from a Shinsengumi attack, and today it is a museum dedicated to his memory. It seemed better to include that site though, in a more general article on Fushimi, so look out for that one in the coming months.

Here is the link: Kyoto Samurai!

See also: Toka Ebisu on Inside Kyoto

Happy Christmas from Inari Mountain

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Unfortunately, Mewby has to work on Christmas Day, so left to my own devices I spent the afternoon rambling over Inari Mountain. And what a wonderfully spooky mountain it is! Here are some pictures. Merry Christmas to you all!


Into the mystic…


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Note the mirrors - a moment of self-reflection is required perhaps...

Note the mirrors – a moment of self-reflection is required perhaps…

I'm sorry to say I didn't see a single monkey.

I’m sorry to say I didn’t see a single monkey.


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Back to civilisation.

Back to civilisation.

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Deep Kyoto in The Simple Things Magazine

cover simple thingsTurn to the “My City” section of this month’s Simple Things magazine and you will find my article on Kyoto. My photographs are also used exclusively in the article.

The Simple Things is a lifestyle magazine from Britain with a monthly My City feature in which “one person – clearly in love with their city” is asked “to tell us what makes it so special.”

Here are some excerpts to give you a taste:

simple things my city image“In Kyoto we’re blessed with plentiful access to nature. We’re surrounded by forested mountains, rivers and tree-lined canals. My personal favourite is the Kamo river, a beautiful nature reserve and bird-watcher’s paradise that cuts right through the city centre. Arashiyama (literally Storm Mountain) is another famed beauty spot, where you can take a boat cruise through the Hozu River Gorge or visit the monkey park. Gosho (the Imperial Palace Park), and the Kyoto Botanical Gardens are also popular picnicking spots.”

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“Kyoto has everything I need from a city with a ready access to natural beauty immediately at hand. The seasonal traditions, festivals and ceremonies of the city are a constant source of stimulation and the historical atmosphere and the rich culture of arts, crafts, music and performance are inspiring.”

To order, subscribe or download The Simple Things please visit their website here:
You can download a digital issue to your i-phone or i-pad here.

Introducing Takaokaya — Handcrafted Cushions and Bedding from Kyoto

Today we have a guest post from Michael Baxter of KyotoFoodie and Open Kyoto on behalf of Takaokaya: the only traditional cushion shop in Kyoto that still makes their products by hand…

Takaokaya: Handcrafted Contemporary & Traditional Zabuton Cushions and Futon Bedding from Kyoto Since 1919


Brand Story
Takaokaya is a producer of handmade zabuton cushions and futon bedding in the ancient capital of Kyoto.

Our stylish, high quality range of furnishings are designed to harmonize any living space and bring the relaxing Japanese art of ‘Kutsurogi’ to your life.

 Koichiro Takaoka, Takaokaya’s third generation proprietor, says “People in Japan, are re-evaluating their lifestyles and what matters most to them. While mass production has brought benefits, something is missing. That is heart and soul. If we use products with heart and soul, then our lives will be made much, much richer and more meaningful!”

Takaokaya’s Popular Ojami Cushion Collections — A stylish, harmonious blend of old and new
Takaokaya products bring the Art of Kutsurogi and authentic Japanese living into your home. Our products are lovingly handcrafted in Kyoto by our team of meticulous artisans. The ojami is an original cushion developed by Takaokaya over the last decade. The unique shape is inspired by the ancient Japanese beanbag toy called ‘tedama’, or ‘ojami’ in Kyoto dialect.

The ojami cushion is a funky, modern take on the tedama, a traditional Japanese beanbag toy that was filled with azuki beans. Handcrafted by our skilled Kyoto artisans, ojami come in a rich variety of colors, fabric coverings, fillings, sizes and shapes to suit your taste and lifestyle. Amazingly comfortable and of a unique geometrical shape, functionally these cushions are designed for posture support and correction, and to be a beautiful decorative object suitable to any living or working space. See all Ojami Cushion Collections here.

Takaokaya Collection — Our Product Range
Takaokaya’s range of cushions and bedding includes zabuton and ojami cushions in a rich variety of sizes, shapes, colors, fabric coverings and fillings. Continue reading

Deep Kyoto: Walks ~ Release Party Cancelled

My apologies to all, but various complications have arisen that have made it impossible for me to adequately prepare and plan for the release party on June 15th. I have therefore decided to cancel.

Hopefully we will be able to hold a party for the release of the print copy of the book later this year.


Put this in your diary!

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We will have a party to celebrate the release of Deep Kyoto: Walks on Sunday June 15th from 6pm, at Papa Jon’s Eatery.

There will be readings from the book, a chance to talk to us about the walks, and some music.

Papa John’s Eatery is on the 3rd floor of the Shimpukan Building, just south of Oike, on the east side of Karasuma.

All welcome!

Further details to be announced!

Ten Years in Kyoto

Ten years ago this morning I rolled into Kyoto in a removal van after an all night drive from Tokyo. The cherry blossom was blooming then too. Many thanks to my JET sempai, Duncan Flett, who helped me to find a new place to live and who handed me the key to my new apartment on my arrival in the early hours of the morning. He also handed me a banana – rather kindly thinking I might be hungry after my trip. I will never forget that banana! Many thanks also to Mario Leto who did the driving that night! I have never regretted moving to this wonderful city.

To celebrate, here are two of my favorite Kyoto views, photographed today.

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The view from Gojo bridge this morning – a short walk from where I live now.


And the view from the Imadegawa bridge at Demachiyanagi this evening. When I first moved to Kyoto I passed this view every day on my way to and from Japanese language school. After living and working in Shinjuku, this view of mountains, rivers and sky was really special. I think this is still my favorite area in Kyoto.