I used to have this idea that I hadn’t really settled into a new area until I’d found my najimina bar, my friendly local, the kind of small hole-in-the-wall type place where everyone knows each other and your drink arrives before you even order. It took me a while to find my najimina bar in Kyoto, but when I did, it opened all kinds of doors to me. I met a group of like-minded music-loving weirdos who became my first real Kyoto friends. And through them I discovered other places of interest: bars, cafes and restaurants, and I started writing about them. It was in that bar that I first heard the words “deep Kyoto” and it gave me the idea for a website, a website that led me to yet more friendships and encounters…
– Excerpt from “Up & Down the Ki’” in the e-book anthology Deep Kyoto: Walks.
Ten years ago today I wrote my very first post for Deep Kyoto in which I laid out my intention to introduce independent shops, cafes, bars and restaurants of character and “to venture a little deeper into the Japanese community… meet more good people and find more good places.” Well, from a simple idea born in a Kiyamachi bar, this website has grown and evolved to cover a much wider field than dining and drinking. Indeed in some ways Deep Kyoto seems to have taken on a life of its own and become much more than just my blog (take a look at the lively Deep Kyoto Group on Facebook for example). For me personally, writing this website has also been a life-changing experience. I think I ought to be grateful for that, so here on Deep Kyoto’s tenth anniversary are ten good reasons why I am deeply grateful to the city that I love.
1. Bar & Cafe culture. It was, after all, the rich variety of independent bars and cafes (and the 2007 edition of 京都音楽空間) that got this blog rolling. These are the places that bring people together, create a sense of community, and give the modern town its character. A shout out to my friends Taisho, Tadg, and Phillipe in particular here. Long may they prosper.
2. Friendship. Whether it be Japanese and expat friends here in Kyoto, or online friends around the world, Deep Kyoto has brought me in touch with many fine people. If I were to single out two in particular they would be the irrepressible Ted Taylor, who not only shares my stupid sense of humour, but who helped to make our book a reality, and of course my dear wife, Mewby, who is the very best friend I have ever had. To quote the words of another good brother: kansha always.
3. Community. In all kinds of ways, people support each other in this town and oftentimes quite selflessly. Perhaps the finest example of this is in the work of the local disaster relief group: IDRO Japan. Many thanks for the lessons you have taught me and kudos in particular to Rob Mangold.
4. Poetry. One of the reasons I first came to Japan was out of an interest in Japanese poetry. My life has been enriched here by meeting several fine poets, and in particular by joining the activities of the Hailstone Haiku Circle. My thanks to its members for many happy memories. Respect is due in particular here to the ever-inspiring Stephen Gill.
5. Nature. Here in Kyoto we have instant access to the natural world, with the Kamo River flowing through the city center and the green mountains that surround it. Here I would like to say a special thank you to People Together for Mount Ogura. Joining in their conservation activities is one of the best ways I know to get to know green Kyoto.
6. Arts and crafts. People flock to Kyoto from all over the world to study its living tradition of arts and crafts and this is a source of constant stimulation. My thanks to Joel Stewart, Sarah Brayer, Daniel Kelly, and Brian Williams for sharing their work, and to the eloquent Robert Yellin for introducing me to the soulful craft of Japanese pottery.
8. The international scene. Kyoto has been a lively cosmopolitan city since the days of the Silk Road and these days this is reflected best in the work of the good folk at Kyoto Journal. Their Silk Road issue is probably my favorite issue too. I encourage you to check it out.
9. Fulfilling work. As a direct result of my work on this blog and on our e-book, I was fortunate enough to be employed as a full-time writer for the Japan Station project. My eternal thanks to the company Netmobius for this fantastic opportunity. Gratitude also to my friend and writing mentor Chris Rowthorn who has always offered well-timed encouragement and advice.
10. Peace of mind. Before moving to Kyoto I lived in Tokyo, where I always felt busy, even when I wasn’t. In contrast I have always felt a deep sense of peace in this city. Despite having every convenience of a major city, Kyoto has a delightful small town atmosphere. Take a walk through the center of town and you are bound to bump into someone you know. I’m not sure why the atmosphere is so special here. More spiritual friends might suggest it is the protective energy of the many temples and shrines providing a mystical defence against negative occult influences. Those of a scientific bent might credit the ionic influence of the many calming waters that flow through the city. I don’t know why, but I have found a small measure of peace here, and as a wise man once told me, there is no greater treasure.
My apologies to the many good friends, comrades, allies and supporters I have not mentioned here. I have much to be thankful for, not all of which can be expressed in one blog post.
Both today and tomorrow, as a special 10th anniversary celebratory gift, our Deep Kyoto: Walks e-book is free to download from Amazon and you only need to download a Kindle Reading app to access it on any device. Best wishes to all our readers and here’s to the next 10 years!