Butoh Dance at the Kyoto Experiment 2016 Fringe Festival

A message from our friend Bridget Scott:

This March sees Kyoto Experiment 2016, the first time to hold this international performing arts festival in spring as well as autumn. From 5th March to 27th March there will be live performances of theatre, music and dance at venues all over Kyoto. For details check the website: www.kyoto-ex.jp.

Here, I’d like to introduce some butoh and butoh related performances that are part of Kyoto Experiment 2016 Fringe Festival hosted by Kyoto’s avant grade performance space, Urbanguild.


Saturday 5th March will be a big night for butoh fans. “Takasago Butoh Cooperation 15th Anniversary Carnival” will present 12 butoh dancers young and old from near and far corners of Japan: Kansai, Hyogo, Gifu, Tohoku and Kyushu. There will be live music including saxophone, shamisen, didjeridoo, sittar, percussion and voice. All the performers have collaborated with Takasago Butoh Cooperation over the last 15 years. Kiyoko Yamamoto, the organizer from Takasago, is a veteran butoh performer active in the anti nuclear movement. The evening will be constructed in the form of a non stop dance relay. It will be a rare chance to see a gathering of butoh dancers from local parts of Japan. What kind of butoh will emerge?

Note, to regular Urbanguild punters:

This performance begins at 18:30, one hour earlier than usual nights.

Tickets are ¥1,800 in advance and ¥2,000 on the door, including one drink.

Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/events/219814695029236/


“BRDG 5th Anniversary” is a celebration of BRGD theatre group on Wednesday 16th March from 19:30. The directors are Keiko Yamaguchi and Kano Kawanabe, Keiko is a butoh dancer and actress who creates theatre pieces about foreigners living in Kyoto. The evening will include a bilingual theatre piece as well as dance, live music, theatre skits and a unique food menu.

Tickets are ¥2,000 in advance and ¥2,500 on the door, including one drink.

Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/events/249755958688848/

The next two nights 17th and 18th March, “Senryusha Mimihime Kitchen” fresh from a successful sellout show in New York. The main performer is Chisato Seino, a senryu(a 17 syllable satirical poem) poet and butoh dancer. The whole evening of butoh is based around Seino’s live writing and reciting of her poems. Butoh dancers appearing are from New York, Beijing, Shanghai and Kyoto’s very own Butoh master, Katsura Kan. Musicians include, Urbanguild’s Ryotaro Sudo on accordion and electronics, Junryo Oishi on synthesizer and Masahiko Todoriki tuva chanting and traditional music and Ryota Tanaka on percussion.

Starts at 19:30

Tickets are ¥2,500 including one drink.

A guaranteed unique evening, not to be missed.

On Friday 25th March “Kan Katsura x Sanae Kuroko What is Dance? The Silence starts to talk—Listen with the body” is a showing as a result of 4 days of workshops exploring the process of making dance.

This workshop is open for anyone with an interest in questioning what is dance and how to make a performance. It is guided by Katsura Kan, Kyoto’s born and bred butoh master, Kuroko Sanae, a contemporary dancer and Keiko Yamaguchi, actor, butoh dancer and theatre director.

The workshop will be in English and Japanese.

For more information on the workshop see the Facebook page


The showing will start at 19:30.

Tickets are ¥2,500 including one drink.

There is one more butoh event I’d like to mention, not held at Urbanguild but at the classic old theatre, Gojo Kabarenjo, on Sunday March 20th at 15:00 and 19:00 and Monday March 21st at 15:00.

Ima Tenko’s Butoh Company Kiraza in “Robe of Dreams”. It is the group’s annual performance held at this old traditional theatre. Always a spectacular event!

For more information: ima_kiraza@yahoo.co.jp

So, this March in Kyoto, stop looking at those screens, get out and enjoy the visceral experience of live, raw performance!

Wacky Racers on Kyoto Station’s Grand Staircase!

Every year on the third Saturday in February a racing event is held at Kyoto Station’s Grand Staircase (or “Daikaidan”). Contestants take part in teams of 4 and attempt to cover the 30 meter 171 step climb with the best time. This event has been held since 1998, shortly after the station building was first opened, and has become a popular local event as well as Kyoto Station’s very own harbinger of spring.


Last Saturday, Mewby and I went to see this event for the first time, and what a lot of fun it was to watch! It was pouring with rain throughout, so teams of cleaners were constantly sweeping water off the steps to help stop the contestants slipping. I’m not sure how many people participated this year, but I think at least 80 teams competed in this event. Running up 171 steps is no small feat and a lot of runners collapsed in a panting heap when they got to the top.


The best fun though, was watching the contestants who chose to race in costume. Here, for example, is a Heian era aristocrat:


And here is a princess:



This next chap is the Cho Hakkai pig character from the popular story Saiyuki or Journey to the West. You can see a clown in the background too.


And this fellow? Well this fellow is a hero.



For the most part the costumed contestants seemed more concerned with having a laugh and putting on a show than in trying to get the best time. They would stop and wave to the crowd, pose for photographs and in the case of the princesses, perform a lot of curtsies, all the way up the steps. When the last members of the hero team was running, his team mates suddenly joined him to cheer him on for the final spurt of the course!




By far the best entertainment was from the samurai team though, who literally performed a series of running battles up the stairs.










Even though the weather was wet and miserable, the good humored runners definitely brought smiles to the faces of the onlookers. We’ll be back to watch again next year!

Charity Auction for NICCO at Kyoto Isetan; February 20th – 22nd

The following message was sent in by Akiko Yoshida of the Kyoto based NGO NICCO and all queries should be addressed to her at the contact address given below.

The 26th Charity Auction for NICCO:
“Exhibition of Finearts” in Kyoto
February 20th – 22nd at JR KYOTO ISETAN
(Open Event)

nicco charity auction

The 26th Charity Auction for NICCO will be held at JR KYOTO ISETAN during the period of February 20th to 22nd, 2016. All of its proceeds will be donated to NICCO, Kyoto-based humanitarian organization, for its projects in and outside of Japan such as support activities for victims of the tsunami in Tohoku and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. By either bidding for or purchasing these works, visitors can contribute to humanitarian projects for people living in developing countries and disaster affected areas.

The Event
To support our overseas projects, we hold an event which is called “Charity Auction for NICCO-Exhibition of Artifacts-” for our fund raising. The exhibition has been held every year in one of the famous department stores in Kyoto City since 1991. This event is supported by a variety of artists such as ceramic artists, Japanese-style painters, masters of tea ceremony and calligraphers. These include Kyoto-based creators like Mr. Brian Williams and Mr. Randy Channell. These supporters contribute by donating their works freely as charity. The total number of works of art will be over 200. People can appreciate and obtain these works at a relatively reasonable price by participating in the auction. All the profits – except for necessary expenses – will be donated to NICCO.

Dates and Time:
February 20th (Fri) to 22nd (Mon), 2016
Venue: JR KYOTO ISETAN, 10th floor (JR Kyoto Station Complex)
Admission: Free
Organizer: “Charity Auction for NICCO” Executive Committee

Charity Auction for NICCO

Nippon International Cooperation for Community Development (NICCO) is a Japanese non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to supporting self-reliance among people in developing countries in Asia, the Middle-East and Africa. Since its establishment in the early days of Japanese NGOs in 1979, NICCO has focused on emergency assistance and human resource development, as well as rural development based on environmentally sustainable agriculture.

Akiko Yoshida, Charity Auction for NICCO Executive Committee
Tel: +81-75-241-0674
E-mail: info[at]nicco-auction.jp
URL: http://www.nicco-auction.jp/en/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/charityauction
Address: 101 Nishi Rokkaku-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, Japan 604-8217

Pictures from Enso Watt & Instant Eternity!

2016-01-24 21.47.59

Enso Watt performed Sanka’s 5th Season Ritual at Urbanguild on Sunday night and as always it was a fantastic show. If you are not familiar with what they do, it is a choreographed multi-media extravaganza, of experimental music, pre-recorded soundscapes, live video, art, poetry, heaps of talent, color, and a whole lot of enthusiasm. All of it conducted by classical composer/conductor Yannick Paget, and inspired by the poetry of Chris Mosdell. Sometimes when they are all playing and the lyrics are bubbling from Chris Mosdell’s mouth, I feel like they are just happily playing, that I don’t need to take it so seriously, just go along for the ride. But by the time we got to the 3rd act on Sunday night, I was thoroughly sucked in by the poet’s words, swept up by the music, and Yannick’s pounding drums… enthralled, enthused, moved and inspired.

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“We are elementary,” said the poet, “awakening from a phantasmagorical sleep… We have lived everywhere…”

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Words and music, light and sound were bringing us back to our first beginnings, and to our essential unity: “We have learnt to dissolve in all directions, to transfer identities.”

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“We are an ancient race with an essential innocence, with virginity in our veins–”

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Imagine that; a creed underlying culture that celebrated our essential innocence, rather than the dead weight of original sin.

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I was intoxicated by the energy of this performance. My mind was taking the poet’s lyrics and spinning new mythologies, new litanies of healing, multiplying through “dimensions, strata, levels, layers…”  I imagined the Sanka Rites poured into the common consciousness, overwhelming  terror and trauma, washing away tired philosophies of division and denial! How splendid to be “charged with renegade magic”, to celebrate and build rather than fight and destroy!

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Thoughts like these went through my mind at Sanka’s 5th Ritual.

Many thanks to all the participants in Sunday night’s show. There really is nothing else like the raw mix of talent and adventurous spirit that makes up the Enso Watt collective.

2016-01-24 23.11.34
But will they play again, I wonder? After Eternity, what next?

ensō watt are
{soundscape, spatialization}
Samuel André (aka ieva)

{composer, conductor, percussionist}
Yannick Paget

Chris Mosdell

{piano }
江南泰佐 Taisuke Enami

{accordeon synth}

岡田康孝 Okada Yasutaka

{guest : trumpet}
Christopher Fryman

{live video mapping}
Andy Couzens & Masato Tokumaru

Hirisha Metha

noriyuki yoshimura

See also: Images from Sanka’s Winter Ritual

Ensō Watt Return to UrbanGuild for Sanka’s Fifth Ritual!

Oh boy! They are back! This is going to be great!


From Marguerite Paget:

Dear Friends
Ensō Watt is coming back for the Sanka’s Fifth season Ritual !
After completing the “seasonal cycle” (the rites of summer, autumn, winter and spring), honoring the 100th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s revolutionary Rite of Spring, the musical/visual ensemble Ensō Watt will add a fifth season: INSTANT ETERNITY – a journey through the Great Void on “reincarnation runs,” in their mind-feathers and abyss oil, in search of the Lost City of Abstract Hours.
Come along for the ride!

Ensō Watt is an artist collective born in Kyoto from the encounter of artists coming from different countries and raised in entirely different artistic universe, from classical music to electro, improvisation and sound-design.

2016 January 24th (Sunday)
Venue: UrBANGUILD Kyoto

map : https://goo.gl/maps/wHTfPYvzDEN2

On the door: 2800 yen / In advance: 2100 yen
Students: 1600 yen
+1 drink

ensō watt is
{soundscape, spatialization}
Samuel André (aka ieva)

{composer, conductor, percussionist}
Yannick Paget

Chris Mosdell

{piano }
江南泰佐 Taisuke Enami

{accordeon synth}

岡田康孝 Okada Yasutaka  

{guest : trumpet}
Christopher Fryman

{live video mapping}
Andy Couzens & Masato Tokumaru

Hirisha Metha

noriyuki yoshimura

See also: Sanka’s Winter Ritual

Manga in History Exhibition at Kyoto International Manga Museum

2016-01-14 15.49.02

Yesterday, Mewby and I went to see the “Great Manga History Traces from Edo” exhibition at Kyoto International Manga Museum. This is a fascinating exhibition whether you are interested in the early development of manga, or of its role in social history. Manga has a long history as a satirical tool, used broadly to mock social and political trends. The museum displays a great number of original materials to show manga’s development from playful sketches intended purely to amuse, to works of more serious intent, such as the battle scenes that satirized opposing forces during the Boshin War. And happily everything is clearly explained in English as well as Japanese – just as you would expect from this “International” museum!

Here are just two pictures that caught my eye yesterday among the many on show.

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Sequel to “oshinpan moji-e sugata” – Nagahide, 1840s.

Above is an example of moji-e or “letter pictures”, in which hiragana characters are playfully used in pictures. For example the cat or ねこ (neko) in the third picture from the right clearly employs the character ね.

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“Ryuko sannin namayoi” – Three tipsy people nowadays by an unknown artist, 1855.

This picture satirizes society after the Great Ansei Earthquake, a major disaster in Edo (now Tokyo) in 1855. The geisha is grieving over her lost customers. The merchant on the left is an angry drunk because he has lost so much business. However, the construction worker in the middle is laughing at the money to be made in the coming reconstruction. Some things don’t change…

Mewby at the exibition.

Mewby at the exibition.

While photography is generally not permitted inside the Manga Museum, it is permitted in some sections of this exhibition.

Great Manga History Traces from Edo continues until February 7th (Sunday).

The International Manga Museum is open 10:00 – 18:00 (Last entry at 17:50). It is located a 5 minute walk from Karasuma Oike Subway Station. Here is a map.

Entry for adults is 800 yen, for middle school students (12-15) 300 yen and elementary school students (under 12) 100 yen. Entry entitles you to view all the exhibits in the museum. Visit the website to find out more: http://www.kyotomm.jp/english/

See also:
Introduction to Kyoto International Manga Museum
Seika University Manga Faculty Article in Morning Calm Magazine

Toka Ebisu Festival Schedule – January 8th – 12th 2016

#20 Maiko from the Miyagawa district

Maiko from the Miyagawa district at Toka Ebisu Fesitval

The first big event of the year in Kyoto is the Toka Ebisu Festival which starts this week.

Knocking for Ebisu

Knocking for Ebisu

Ebisu is the god of good fortune and prosperity in business, so thousands of local people will descend on Ebisu Shrine this week to pray for success in this year’s work and business endeavors. The streets leading to the shrine will be packed with food stalls selling typical festival foods like taco-yaki, kara-age, ringo-ame and the like… Meanwhile the shrine itself does a roaring trade in good luck charms and lucky bamboo grass! Among the events listed in the schedule below are ancient purification rites, ancient mystical dances, traditional rice-cake pounding, tuna-fish blessing and the chance to meet some local maiko, or apprentice geisha.

A shooting range among the stalls. Can you see the maiko?

A shooting range among the stalls. Can you see the maiko?

Below is a handy schedule of the main events to see during the 5 day festival from January 8th – 12th. For a more detailed account of the festival with lots of pictures, take a look at my account of last year’s Toka Ebisu festivities on the Inside Kyoto website: http://www.insidekyoto.com/toka-ebisu

A full account of last year's festivities is up on Inside Kyoto.

A full account of last year’s festivities is up on Inside Kyoto.

January 8thShōfuku-sai (招福祭) – Fortune Beckoning Festival
9:00: Ebisu Shrine opens
10:00: Hoekago Parade (宝恵かご社参)
Actresses from Eiga-mura are borne in litters to Ebisu Shrine. Later they will distribute branches of lucky bamboo grass to local businesses.
14:00: Yudate Kagura Ritual
A purification rite in which bamboo grass is dipped in boiling water to sprinkle it over the crowd.
14.30: Mochi-tsuki Kamiwaza
A rice pounding ritual with priests and shrine maidens in attendance.
23:00 Shrine closes

January 9th – Yoi Ebisu-sai (宵ゑびす祭) – “Ebisu Eve”

9:00: Ebisu Shrine opens
9:00: Shōfuku Maguro Hōnō (招福まぐろ奉納) – Dedication of lucky maguro tuna
10:00: Hoekago Parade (宝恵かご社参)
14:00: The festival continues with regular kagura dance performances
The shrine will be open until late.

shrine 3January 10th – Toka Ebisu Taisai (十日ゑびす大祭) – The Grand Toka Ebisu Festival
11:00 – 12:00: Toei Actresses give out branches of lucky bamboo grass.
1300 – 14:00: Toei Actresses give out branches of lucky bamboo grass.
14:00: The festival continues with regular kagura dance performances
The shrine will be open until late.

January 11th – Nokori Fuku-sai (残り福祭) – “Remaining Fortune Festival” 
14:00 – 16:00: Maiko from the Gion district will give out lucky rice cakes and branches of lucky bamboo grass.
shrine 420:00 – 22:00: Maiko from the Miyagawa district will give out lucky rice cakes and branches of lucky bamboo grass.
Midnight: The Shrine closes.

January 12th – Tetsu Fuku-sai (撤福祭) – “Retreating Fortune Festival”
9:00: Ebisu Shrine opens
20:00: Final kagura ceremonies
22:00: Ebisu Shrine Closes

Directions: Ebisu Shrine is on the west side of Yamato- Ooji Street, south of Shijo. Here is a map.

Myoshin-ji Article on Inside Kyoto

A few weeks ago I spent two pleasant days exploring the Zen temple complex of Myoshin-ji in north-western Kyoto. The results are now up on Chris Rowthorn’s Inside Kyoto website. This is my last article of 2015.


Myoshin-ji, or “Sublime Heart Temple,” is a massive Zen temple complex in the north west of Kyoto. In addition to its main buildings the grounds contain 46 sub-temples, all connected by beautifully preserved stroll paths. The grounds of the compound are so extensive that walking them you feel very much like you have entered another world, a kind of Buddhist village. In fact, most of the sub-temples are family homes as well as places of worship, and are not open to the public. Nevertheless, one can still enjoy the unique atmosphere here, walking the lanes between the temples, and peeking into the gates. LINK

Special thanks are due to Reverend Takafumi Kawakami for the wonderful meditation and tour he hosted at his Shunko-in Temple. You can read the full article here: http://www.insidekyoto.com/finding-zen-in-myoshin-ji

A Night of Sake & Cuisine – Sponsored by Takara Shuzo

UPDATE! December 9th 2015: A message from Takara Shuzo:

We regret to inform you that this event is now full. We have received an overwhelming response and wish to sincerely thank everyone who has taken the time to apply. We do currently plan to run this event again in the near future and look forward to welcoming more participants at that time.

sake night 1

I attended the first of these events in October and found it fun, instructive and extremely tasty! Here’s Chris Malcolm with the details of the next event. All queries should be directed to the email address given below.

A Night of Japanese Sake and Cuisine


Takara Shuzo, based in Kyoto and one of Japan’s leading sake and shochu producers, is looking for non-Japanese participants for a fun and informative night of Japanese food and sake at a beautiful Kyoto-style town home in Higashiyama, Kyoto. This cultural event will be hosted in English by international staff from Takara Shuzo, and attendees will have a chance to taste and learn about 9 premium sake, including several daiginjo varieties, while enjoying a full meal*. During dinner, the staff will give a short seminar on sake, Japanese food, and sake pairings. In addition to the meal, participants will receive a bottle of Mio Sparkling Sake at the end in exchange for their cooperation in filling out a couple of short surveys.

*Please inform us of any dietary concerns at the time of your application.


500 yen. This includes a full meal, and sampling of 9 premium sake.


Friday, Dec. 18 from 6:30 (doors open at 6:15). The event will end around 8:30pm.


The event is limited to 15 non-Japanese guests.

Application Method:

・Simply send a message with your name in an Email titled ‘Sake Tasting’ to international@takara.co.jp. If you wish to invite friends, please include their names in the Email as well.
・Application deadline: Wed. December 16, 2015 at 5:00pm.
・All applicants will be notified by email with the result of their application.
・Participants will be determined via their applications on a first come, first serve basis.
・If we have reached capacity at the time of your application, we will add you to a waitlist and contact you if there are any cancellations.


5 min from Higashiyama Station on Kyoto’s Tozai subway line. Participants will be given specific location details, and event and contact information via email once their participation is confirmed. .

* We ask that participants do not drive to the event by car, motorcycle or bicycle, as alcoholic beverages will be served and we do not have available parking facilities.


・Any information collected via Email from attendees will be used solely for the organization of this event or future editions of the same event for applicants unable to attend due to overcapacity.
・Takara Shuzo does not sell, trade, or rent your personal information to others.
・All guests must be at least 20 years old.

We look forward to seeing you there!

sake night 2

Exploring Daitoku-ji on Inside Kyoto

Last month I spent a couple of days exploring the Zen gardens of the Daitoku-ji Temple complex, and the results are now up on Chris Rowthorn’s Inside Kyoto website.

daitokuji inside

Daitoku-ji was originally built as a small Zen temple in 1319. Like many historical sites in Kyoto, it was repeatedly destroyed by war and fire before being rebuilt on a grander scale by Zen master Ikkyu Sojun in the late 15th century. The temple’s political importance was sealed in 1582 when the great warlord Hideyoshi Toyotomi held a funeral ceremony here for his predecessor Oda Nobunaga. Over time, political patronage and the money of a rich merchant class, led to a great flowering of the Japanese aesthetic here, expressed through architecture, painting, calligraphy, tea ceremony and of course those famous Zen gardens. All of this means that for you the visitor, there’s a whole lot of beautiful things for you to look at. LINK

In addition to the temples and gardens in this article, you can also read about ancient sweet shops, guardian shrines, a hot spring bath, a cafe in a renovated bath house, Buddhist vegetarian cuisine, the grave of the world’s first novelist and a unique savory relish called Daitoku-ji natto!

Read more here:  http://www.insidekyoto.com/exploring-daitoku-ji