Category Archives: Websites

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

Inside Kyoto – An Excellent Resource for All Kyoto Lovers!

insideLast year Chris Rowthorn, of Lonely Planet fame, gave his personal website, Inside Kyoto a complete revamp. And what a transformation! Inside Kyoto has become an indispensable resource for anyone, whether visiting Kyoto or resident here. If you are looking for places to stay, places to eat, transport information or touring itineraries – it is all there! Basically, Chris has created a free online guidebook to the city. Need help finding your way around? Check the Inside Kyoto map. Wondering when to book your trip? Inside Kyoto has the answers. A long term resident of Kyoto himself, Chris, knows this city inside out, and now he has given all that knowledge away – for free. Check out the blog also, for the latest news from Kyoto, including the excellent monthly events listings. I recommend signing up for the Inside Kyoto newsletter (at the bottom of the homepage) so you don’t miss out on this. You can also follow Inside Kyoto on Twitter and Facebook.
OK. Now go visit the website and see what you can find:
See also:
Kyoto & Poetry on Japan Navigator
Cycle Kyoto
Other Recommended Kyoto Sites

Kyoto & Poetry on Japan Navigator

A miniture replica of the Rashomon Gate - picture source Wikipedia

Ad Blankestijn, the writer of the Japan Navigator site, is an incredibly prolific blogger on all kinds of subjects, among them travel, history, art, literature, film, music, Japanese cuisine and sake. So many subjects in fact, it is quite hard to keep track. Readers of this blog will certainly be interested in his ongoing (and ambitious) Kyoto Guide. This post for example, on the site of the legendary Rashomon Gate, is fascinating.

The Rashomon Gate was 32 meters wide and 8 high. It had red pillars and double green roofs, a bit like the present Heian Shrine. On the top floor of the gate originally a stern statue of Tobatsu Bishamon was placed, looking like a soldier standing guard. Tobatsu Bishamon originated in Central Asia and acted as a protector of cities. I imagine him glaring at the lands beyond, to protect Heiankyo from evil… LINK

Recently though, I have also discovered his “Walking Waka Tracks”; verses from the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu with a brief guide to their respective locations. Today the writer introduced the one verse in the collection that includes our beloved Mount Ogura. Two days ago he introduced the poetry of famed Heian scholar and statesman Sugawara no Michizane, who was later deified as the God of Learning Kita no Tenjin. Here he is introducing the first poem of the anthology, Dew in the Hut:

The Hyakunin Isshu anthology of waka poetry, collected by Fujiwara Teika, opens with a poem by the Emperor Tenji (626-671), who ruled from Otsu (then briefly Japan’s capital)…  …Although the poem resembles a simple folk song about thwarted love (and surely is one, the attribution to the emperor is contested), the traditional interpretation is that the poem expresses Tenji’s compassion for the lot of the peasants. That is why it was considered suitable as the starting piece of the anthology… LINK

The translations of the poems and the unfolding of their meaning and intent are both clear and precise. I wonder if Mr. Blankestijn plans to continue this series until he has finished all 100 waka. I sincerely hope so. I am enjoying them a lot.

Here are two more entries in the Walking Waka Tracks series:

The Ausaka Barrier – Semimaru
Nakoso Falls – Kinto

See also:
Cycle Kyoto
Other Recommended Kyoto Sites

A Change of Tack

The March issue of Kyoto Visitor’s Guide is now available and with it my piece recommending other useful websites for online information on our great city. One of the sites I recommend in the article is the new Kyoto Journal site, whose ever shifting deadline for release has now moved from “the end of January” to “spring” (so I’m thinking maybe August). Though the new site isn’t available as yet, I have had a sneak preview, and can tell you that it will be something really quite special (hence the endless faffing around by the web designers as they try to get it absolutely perfect). Ken Rodgers has, however been good enough to construct a page on the old site where he collates a lot of very good general information on Kyoto and Kyoto museums.You can find that here:

This will be my final piece for Kyoto Visitor’s Guide, as I have decided to focus more on working and writing for Kyoto Journal in the near future. My first mission on their behalf is to write a fresh article on our local disaster relief volunteer group IDRO Japan. After interviewing Rob Mangold for that purpose, it became apparent to me that I can’t really do the article justice unless I go up to Tohoku and do a spot of volunteering myself. So, I’ll be taking the night bus north this evening and heading off to Ishinomaki for a ten day stretch. I’m looking forward to meeting and working with some of the local heroes and dedicated volunteers that I have been hearing so much about.

For more insight into my departure from KVG, please refer to Harlan Ellison.

Cycle Kyoto

Kyoto is the spiritual, artistic, and cultural center of Japan. It is also the home to a thriving tourist industry, attracting nearly five million visitors in 2009. It is the city that all visitors to Japan go to. Its 17 World Heritage Sites are spread throughout the city, easily accessible.

The city was laid out in checkerboard fashion, some 1200 years ago, following the example of the ancient Chinese imperial capital Xian. With mountains on three sides of the city, the inhabited areas of Kyoto tend to be flat but sloping slightly as you travel north – all of which means it is a wonderful city to cycle in.
From Cycle Kyoto

I suppose I’m shooting myself in the foot a bit by sending you all over to the competition, but I really do feel impelled to recommend Sanborn Brown’s very excellent website Cycle Kyoto. Here you will find everything you need to know about cycling in the ancient city with information on where to rent a bicycle and suggested itineraries for cycle routes. Even if cycling is not your thing, there is also a wealth of information on hiking routes, temples, shrines, cafes and museums. Sanborn has obviously put a lot of work into his website and it shows. His alternative cycle tours especially look fascinating. Check out his Literary Kyoto, Creepy Kyoto and City of Tea cycling routes. And for those overwhelmed by the huge number of shrines and temples in Kyoto, Cycle Kyoto offers an inspired solution: 88 temples in a half hour hike! I’m very impressed by this website.  Highly recommended!

Images used courtesy of Sanborn Brown.