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

Cherry Blossoms on Shimbashi, Kyoto

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To the south of Shinmonzen, running east to west is Shimbashi-dori Street, probably the prettiest street in all of Gion. This flagstoned strolling area bordered with traditional buildings and willow trees follows the course of the Shirakawa canal. At its best in the cherry blossom season, it is still a delightful area in any season for a daytime stroll or an evening promenade.

– From Walking in Gion, my article for Chris Rowthorn’s Inside Kyoto.

These were some of the cherry blossoms on Shimbashi today.

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The stone monument to poet, Isamu Yoshii

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The Tatsumi Daimyojin Shrine

Read more about these locations at: http://www.insidekyoto.com/walking-in-gion

Daniel Kelly’s Spring Exhibition at Hakuhou-doh Gallery, Kyoto

It’s spring! And time once again for Daniel Kelly’s annual show at Hakuhou-doh in Higashiyama!

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Daniel Kelly: Paintings & Prints

Tuesday, April 7 to Sunday, April 19, 2015
Reception party Friday, April 10, 6.00 – 9.00pm
April 7 – 18, 11.00am – 5.00pm
Closed Monday April 13

art gallery HAKUHOU-DOH / アートギャラリー博宝堂

Located on the east side of Jingumichi, south of Niomon Dori. Here is a MAP.
Address:
〒606-8344 京都市左京区岡崎神宮道東側
TEL: 075-771-9401075-771-9401
URL: http://blog.goo.ne.jp/hakuhou-doh

To find out more about Daniel Kelly’s life and art, read my article here, or take a look at his spiffy website here.

Japanese Classes at Kyoto Prefectural International Center

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Image © Kyoto Prefectural International Center

Kyoto Prefectural International Center at Kyoto Station building holds regular Japanese classes for foreign residents. The classes are aimed at beginners who want to learn practical Japanese they can use in their every day life. Check this link for details: Beginners Japanese Course
Other Japanese classes in Kyoto Prefecture are listed here: Learning Japanese.

‘Introduction to Noh theatre’ begins at Impact Hub Kyoto this Spring

‘Introduction to Noh theatre’ by The International Noh Institute (INI) is a 6-session course at Impact Hub Kyoto, aimed at Kyoto residents, exchange students, or any other English-speaker who would like to take a closer look at Noh theatre’s tradition.

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Details at the LINK!

Gion Walking on Inside Kyoto

Walking in Gion, my latest article for Chris Rowthorn’s Inside Kyoto, is now available online. For this piece I took a daytime tour of Gion’s main sites and historical landmarks, taking in some craft and antique shops and sweet shops on the way. I spent a long time on Hanami-koji, trying to get a decent shot of the Ichiriki Chaya unobscured by face-masked pedestrians and tourists with selfie sticks. This was the final result of my persistence.

The Ichiriki Chaya

The Ichiriki Chaya

My favorite spot though is away from the busy streets and in Kennin-ji, Kyoto’s oldest Zen temple. This temple complex is pretty big, but doesn’t get so crowded, and you get a real sense of peace from the raked stone gardens. Here are a couple of pictures from Kennin-ji that I didn’t have space for in my article.

Kennin-ji... As I passed a monk was chanting sutras in this little sanctuary.

Kennin-ji… As I passed a monk was chanting sutras in this little sanctuary.

The Toyobo tea house (1587) has resided at various locations around Kyoto but now  is situated at the back of Kennin-ji gardens across some stepping stones. You have to put some slippers on to reach it.

The Toyobo tea house (1587) has resided at various locations around Kyoto but now is situated at the back of Kennin-ji gardens across some stepping stones. You have to put some slippers on to reach it.

You can read the article here: Walking in Gion

See also:
Kyoto Samurai
Toka Ebisu

Images from Velvet Moon Vol. 115

What a joy it was to see Sean Roe back in Urbanguild this evening – and for the first time in four years! And so much talent in tonight’s show too! I was particularly impressed this time by two of the dancers: Misuzu and Chian. Watch out for them in the images and videos below.

Mangrove Kipling
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Cozy (Colin Garvey & Yozy)
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みすず + 山崎昭典
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amallsのskcaj & Chian

Andy Couzens

Andy Couzens

Sean Roe

Sean Roe

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Chian…

 

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And finally… Michael Jackson’s Llama?

Velvet Moon: Live Music & Dance @ Urbanguild, Kyoto; March 25th 2015

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amallsのskcaj are Andy Couzens & Sseeaann Rrooee performing an improvised tribute of video and sound to the memory of Mr. Michael Jackson

I’m very happy to report that our old friend Sean Roe will be returning to Urbanguild on March 25th as one half of the sound and video improvisation unit amallsのskcaj!

VELVET MOON Vol. 115
DATE: Wednesday March 25th

DOORS OPEN: 19:00 / SHOW STARTS: 19:30

ADVANCE TICKETS: 2000 yen with 1 drink / TICKETS ON THE DOOR: 2300 yen with 1 drink

Here is the full line up for a night of Velvet Moon!

amallsのskcaj (Sseeaann Rrooee and Andy Couzens)

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amalls の skcaj

みすず(dance) + 山崎昭典(guitar)

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Originally a ballerina but influenced by Butoh since her university days, みすず has performed with various musicians and many styles of music. A regular at Urbanguild, every shapeshifting performance tells a unique story of its own.

Cozy

Colin Garvey + Yozy = Cozy

Colin Garvey + Yozy (dance)

Colin Garvey is a self-taught Canadian indie/folk singer and songwriter who blends the strumming and singing of catchy tunes with live beats produced on the spot by the looping of beat-boxing and the pounding and battering of one of the world’s ugliest guitars. Each song is based on a story or feeling acquired from the life of a troubadour; as he travels the globe taking in any and all experiences that present themselves. It all comes together to produce a lively, quirky and entertaining atmosphere that can be summed up as, ‘enjoyable’. He will be accompanied by Chinese dancer, Yozy.

Mangrove Kipling
ukiyo
Mangrove Kipling (Laurent Lavol?) is a french experimental musician living and working in Berlin, Germany. Exploring new regions of sounds and always expanding his range of action, he has worked internationally with artists of all categories, mainly dancers, video artists and numerous other musicians. For the first time in Japan, he developed an augmented guitar that allows him to play his wide range of tunes through a portable device.
www.mangrovekipling.com

Top image by Andy Couzens. Text and other images courtesy of the artists and Urbanguild.

Directions: To get to Urbanguild from Sanjo Dori, go down Kiyamachi Dori (This is the narrow street running alongside the Takase stream). Urbanguild is on the east side (the left hand side as you walk down from Sanjo) about 150 metres. It’s on the 3rd floor of the New Kyoto Building – access by elevator or stairs. Here is a map.

KYOTOGRAPHIE 2015

With thanks to Christie Petrakopoulou, here are some details of this year’s Kyotographie festival of photography (with a little bit of jazz thrown in for good measure)…

KYOTOGRAPHIE is a high-end photographic event that runs annually in Kyoto (Japan), for over three weeks during the height of the spring tourist season. With a unique approach in Asia to traditional exhibition, KYOTOGRAPHIE presents world-class photography with original scenography in Kyoto City’s unique traditional and contemporary architecture.

KYOTOGRAPHIE 2015 – 3rd EDITION, April 18th – May 10th, 2015. Exhibiting widely recognized and celebrated Japanese and international photography from 9 countries in 14 iconic venues.

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Focusing on ‘TRIBE,’ the 3rd Edition of KYOTOGRAPHIE International Photography Festival presents another fascinating array of exhibitions and events in Kyoto.
Dates: 2015. 4.18 Sat – 5.10 Sun
Exhibitions: 14 Exhibitions. Artists from 9 countries 15 venues

TRIBE – What’s Your Story?
The tribe is a source of fascination in a world where globalization and population displacement pose crucial questions concerning roots and belonging. Since inclusion is vital to our happiness, the tribe naturally attracts. Now, as in times past,the tribe provides ways of connecting and sharing important information and ideologies. Through shared heritage, collective conscience, or common values the tribe embraces us and becomes a significant identifying factor in our social fabric. Crossing the globe in search of places where people meet, engage and form special relationships, KYOTOGRAPHIE’s 2015 exhibitions look back at the past to explore indigenous cultures and history, and investigate contemporary popular culture and the fringes of society. TRIBE seeks to question what it means to belong, both by choice and as a matter of circumstance.

Highlights

Marc Riboud, Alaska, 1958 / © Marc Riboud

Marc Riboud, Alaska, 1958 / © Marc Riboud

●Marc Riboud’s exhibition “Alaska” presented by CHANEL NEXUS HALL goes on tour. Touring from CHANEL NEXUS HALL, this exhibition features unpublished and unseen works shot in Alaska in 1958 by Marc Riboud, one of the 20th century’s leading photographers.

National Photographic Collections of MNAA– Guimet, Apollinaire Le Bas, Japanese Warrior, 1864, albumen print / © Guimet National Museum of Asian Arts

National Photographic Collections of MNAA– Guimet, Apollinaire Le Bas, Japanese Warrior, 1864, albumen print / © Guimet National Museum of Asian Arts

●“Last Samurai” images from the photographic collections of the Guimet National M useum of Asian Arts World premiere! KYOTOGRAPHIE begins a collaboration with the Guimet museum (France), presenting never before seen
albums and images. This first exhibition will provide an in-depth and valuable look into samurai culture. It will include rare portraits of Japan’s warrior class from the height of the samurai era and photographs that were produced for foreign consumption in the Meiji period.

Francis Wolff, BLUE TRAIN

Francis Wolff, BLUE TRAIN (Album of John Coltrane) , 1577 / © Francis Wolff/Mosaic Images

●Francis Wolff, a vision of jazz Japan premiere! This special Blue Note Records exhibition features Francis Wolff and other important archived works from Reid Miles. It traces the legacy of jazz and explores the intimate moments Wolff captured in his lengthy career.

Roger Ballen, Mimicry, 2005 / © Roger Ballen

Roger Ballen, Mimicry, 2005 / © Roger Ballen

●Roger Ballen first solo exhibition in Japan
Roger Ballen is a South Africa-based artist who brings a unique perspective to themes of racial discrimination and poverty. His fascinating work has gained enormous global attention. This much-awaited exhibition will take place
at Horikawa Oike Gallery, where a retrospective supported by COMME des GARÇONS will provide insight into his photographic career. Roger Ballen’s new movie Outland will also be shown at COMME des GARÇONS Kyoto store.
In addition, KYOTOGRAPHIE will launch a new edition of his controversial photobook Outland complete with 45 new images. Outland is the culmination of Ballen’s twenty years of work and is one of the most extraordinary photographic
documents of the late 20th century.

●Evening Events
To coincide with the Blue Note Records exhibition, KYOTOGRAPHIE will present a series of special musical events. They will take place throughout the festival calendar and offer entertainment for all ages, tastes and interests (Jazz dinner, Jazz lounge, live performances, etc…) The festival will feature Shuya Okino, who formed “KYOTO JAZZ MASSIVE” as a DJ unit (they recently celebrated their 20th anniversary). Okino is arguably Japan’s leading export in the crossover Jazz scene with a successful career as a composer, international performer and chart-topping artist. As a DJ, Shuya Okino regularly tours Japan and worldwide.

Text and images courtesy of Kyotographie. To learn more about KYOTOGRAPHIE 2015 visit the official website here: http://www.kyotographie.jp

Or check out some of the other photographers they have lined up on their crowdfunding page: https://motion-gallery.net/projects/KYOTOGRAPHIE2015

RELATED: Kyotographie 2015 Crowdfunding Campaign Now Open!

Fire Ceremony & Kyōgen Performance at Seiryō-ji on March 15th

Seiryō-ji temple grounds with festival stalls & giant torches ready to be lit!

Seiryō-ji temple grounds with festival stalls & giant torches ready to be lit!

Many temples hold special ceremonies on March 15th to commemorate the Buddha’s death, or passing into Nirvana (Nehan 涅槃 in Japanese). One of the more spectacular and eventful commemorations is at Seiryō-ji temple in Saga. There are a number of reasons why you might want to attend this particular event.

  • On this day only, entry to the temple interior is free.
  • It has a real local festival feel with food stalls set up all about the temple grounds.
  • Traditional Kyōgen comedy performances are held throughout the day.
  • There is a huge fire festival in the evening.

Mewby and I visited Seiryō-ji for last year’s Nehan-e (涅槃会), so here are some pictures from our visit.

Seiryō-ji Temple

Naturally we took advantage of the free entry to the temple interior and gardens. Normally this would cost us 400 yen each, but on this day alone there is no charge!

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Many Buddhist artworks of incredible detail are on display inside the temple. In contrast the gardens provide space for peaceful reverie.

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Take a look around yourself!

Click on this image for a 360 degree rotational view.

Click on this image for a 360 degree rotational view.

Kyōgen Comedies

Two monks carry in a "living" statue of the Buddha.

Actors portray two monks carrying in a “living” statue of the Buddha.

Saga Kyōgen is a form of medieval mummer’s play, performed completely without words and so very easy to understand, even for non-Japanese. Accompanied by drum and gong, the masked performers, use exaggerated miming to convey very simple plots. The play we saw, concerned a visit to Seiryō-ji temple by a beautiful mother and her less than beautiful daughter.

The "homely" daughter is on the left and the mother on the right.

The “homely” daughter is on the left and the mother on the right.

So beautiful is the mother that monks become overly excited in her presence and welcome her warmly. Naturally, the plainer daughter gets a colder reception. Not very subtle I know, but the play does contain some religious satire. Seiryō-ji is famous for its rarely displayed sandalwood statue of the Buddha. This statue is held to be so sacred it is termed a “living Buddha”. In the Kyōgen comedy, the Buddha literally comes to life, turning away from the plain-faced daughter, and actually running off with her mother instead!

The Buddha statue running off with a beautiful lady as a temple monk tries to stop him.

The Buddha statue running off with a beautiful lady as a temple monk tries to stop him.

Naturally, both the daughter and the monks are very upset by this, but not to worry. There is a Japanese expression, 蓼食う虫も好き好き, or “some prefer nettles”, which means that beauty is very much in the eye of each beholder – and so the homely daughter also finds true love in the end!

All's well that ends well for the homely daughter...

All’s well that ends well for the homely daughter…

The Fire Ceremony

Saga no hashira taimatsu, (嵯峨の柱松明) is part of a religious ceremony commemorating Buddha’s passing from this world into Nirvana. The ceremony begins around 8pm and the two giant torches are set alight at 8.30. You need to get there early though, if you want a decent view.

The pine torches quickly catch fire...

The pine torches quickly catch fire…

I’ve read that the condition of the fire can be used to divine the fortunes of the coming year.

Fire fighters are on hand to prevent the fire from getting out of hand...

Fire fighters are on hand to prevent the fire from getting out of hand…

As the fires blaze, monks from the temple parade around bearing lanterns and chanting sutras.

A blazing inferno!

The fires really do reach quite high and send their sparks up to the heavens.

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A blazing inferno!

My pictures don’t really do the experience justice, so take a look for yourself!

Click on this image for 360 degree rotational view.

Click on this image for 360 degree rotational view.

Details and directions:

Kyōgen performances are held in the afternoon at 15.30, 17.00 and 18.30. The temple interior and gardens are open from 9:00 until 16:00. The fires are lit between 20.00 and 20.30. To get there, take Kyoto Bus #71, or #72, and get off at Saga Shakado-mae. The temple can also be reached by taking a 15 minute walk from JR Saga-Arashiyam Station. Here is a MAP.

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