Posts Tagged ‘ Kyoto ’

_Dancing Over Kyoto_ – A new, just published Ebook.

Friends and followers of this site know that this has been a work-in-progress for some time. A love letter, tribute, homage and tragicomedy.  Link to the Amazon purchase site below.

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Available at Amazon.com.  Dancing Over Kyoto:  A Memoir of Japan, China & India.

Sekka (雪佳神坂) – Ten Years Since Kyoto・L.A.・Bhm

光陰矢のごとし

Time flies like an arrow . . .

Late August 2003  —  Our day started in Birmingham, Alabama.  A flight to Detroit. Then Northwest (back when there was a Northwest) Flight 69 to Kansai International Airport, out in Osaka Bay. Then the Haruka Line:  fifty-five minutes by train from the airport, through Osaka and inland to Kyoto.  That ended our day’s trip.  It was her fourth or fifth visit to Japan, my eighth or ninth (though my first to trips were to live in Japan, years before). We were there on an antiquities buying trip for our business.  We were also there to be on hand at the Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art‘s August 29 opening of the Kamisaka Sekka exhibition.  A retrospective of the artist’s work that would almost mirror the journey we had just made.  In other words, it would begin in Kyoto and wind up in Birmingham.  I was to make a speech at the opening, just some remarks, actually.  On behalf of the Birmingham Museum of Art‘s Asian Art Society, which my then-wife and I served as co-presidents.  I would make my remarks in Japanese.

Sekka Exhibition Poster. Train near Kyoto. 2003.

Sekka Exhibition Poster. Train near Kyoto. 2003.

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After several months in Kyoto the Sekka Exhibition traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and, then it came to Birmingham, where its Asian Art Curator had originated the idea for a comprehensive Sekka Retrospective.

Ticket. Birmingham Museum of Art Sekka Exhibition. 2004.

Ticket. Birmingham Museum of Art Sekka Exhibition. 2004.

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Kamisaka Sekka (1866-1942).  Sekka was a native of Kyoto.  His life spanned four Japanese Eras:  the last couple years of the Edo Period (1603-1867), the Meiji Period (1868-1911), the Taisho Period (1912-1925), and the couple decades of the Showa Period (1926-1989).  The Edo Period was marked by the multi-generational reign of the Tokugawa Shoguns, with a succession of Emperors “ruling” as virtual captives of the Tokugawa Generalissimos.  Japan was almost entirely closed off, isolated from the rest of the exploring and developing world during this 250-plus year period.  But art and artists and artisans thrived.  When the Emperor was “restored” to the throne in 1868 and a new era of Constitutional Monarchy began in Japan, the country exploded with foreign ideas and influences — from political, to technological and industrial, to military, to fashion and design, to social, to artistic.  This was the era, the Meiji Period, Kamisaka Sekka came of age in.  However, he was an artist steeped in 1,000 years of quite Japanese expressive traditions; traditions of form, style, technique, iconography.  Sekka’s was the Kyoto-based Rimpa School (tradition, or style), which flourished during the latter two-thirds of the preceding Edo Period.  Many Rimpa School works define to both Japanese and foreigners alike a great part of the “look” Japanese art.  The Rimpa School often borrowed from both ancient Japanese (Heian Era — 794-1185)  and Chinese styles, then modernized and updated (to the 17th through 19th Centuries) the classic techniques and subjects.  Much of what is considered “classic” Rimpa style is bold, sweeping, dramatic and often near-abstract, though the subject of the painting (whether on screens, sliding doors, fans, or boxes) is never in doubt.

Here’s Korin’s “Irises,” a classic Rimpa work:

Irises. Korin Ogata (1658-1716).

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Working within the general Rimpa style, Sekka took that Rimpa “look” and made it his own, updated it again, often gave it a touch or whimsy, irony or humor that was rarely employed by earlier Rimpa Masters (but, in fact, harkened back to an artistic mindset not uncommon back in the 12th and 13th Centuries — see, for example, the “Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga”).  Whether in painting, woodblock carving, screens, textiles, ceramics, furniture or other media, Sekka took a style that was of  17th and 18th Century Japan and made it accessible to and of the 20th Century.  And that’s what made Sekka so important as a master, perhaps the Master, or at least, as the exhibition called him, “Pioneer,” of modern design in and for Japan.

Sekka’s Puppies and Snail (1920):

Puppies and Snail. 1920. Kamisaka Sekka.

A few more Sekka images .   .   .

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Kyoto Opening, August 29, 2003 —  The exhibition’s first stop was the Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art (京都国立近代美術館). Along with the Birmingham Museum of Art’s Curator, I and my then-wife represented the BMA and City of Birmingham at the opening.  According to my contemporaneous notes, the opening crowd numbered 534 Sekka enthusiasts.  According to this article in ArtDaily.com, the exhibition “opened to record crowds” that night in Kyoto.  I had been asked to offer a few remarks to the crowd during the short opening ceremony, which I did in Japanese, although I’m ashamed to say that it was one of my less-stellar performances.  Still, the crowd was polite and they came for the art, not to test my Japanese speech-making skills.  What was sort of funny was that about nine months later, when the exhibition opened at the Birmingham Museum of Art, my wife and I were just two people in the crowd; our “VIP” status long gone.  Immediately below is a photo featuring several of the six people (myself included) whom the Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art treated to an exceptional dinner follow the August 2003 opening.

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Post- Exhibition Opening Party, Kyoto. August 29, 2003. faces purposefully cropped-out.

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Kamisaka Sekka Exhibition Poster. Yanagi Antiques, Kyoto. 2003.

Kamisaka Sekka Exhibition Poster. Yanagi Antiques, Kyoto. 2003.

Edo-Kyo (江戸京)

Edo-Kyo (江戸・京) is a sushi-sashimi restaurant tucked down at the bottom of some off-street stairs along San-Jo street in Kyoto.  To get to it begin at the several-storied CD & DVD store at the corner of Kawabata and San-jo. Walk down San-jo past The Pig & Whistle. Edo-Kyo just a couple dozen steps further, on the same side of San-Jo as the CD store and Pig & Whistle.  Look for the sign on your left, then go down the stairs, through the split curtains (“noren“) and through the door into the restaurant-proper.

Top of the stairs Edo-Kyo sign and entrance.

Top of the stairs Edo-Kyo sign and entrance.

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Down the stairs. . .

Down the stairs. . .

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Master sushi chef, Jun-san, welcomes all patrons. . .

Master sushi chef, Jun-san, welcomes all patrons. . .

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Featured in a chapter of my upcoming book:

Edo-Kyo combined Tokyo’s old name “Edo” with the first half of “Kyoto”, designating a wide-ranging cuisine of sashimi and sushi and lightly grilled seafood.  It’s a single, white room with one long bar to the left and a with a contemporary calligraphic work spanning the entire, long wall to the patron’s right as they enter, having come down a set of stairs and through a door from the street above.  Cool jazz plays low and all chefs, servers and patrons speak in equally low, reserved voices – because you want to, not because you have to.  It’s a Comfortable Place, friendly and not pretentious.  There’s no fresher sushi in town.  It’s expensive, though.  I always had the vinegared octopus salad.  We both enjoyed the various cuts of tuna sashimi.  The flame-grilled scallop, with sea salt and lemon, is worth a trip to the other side of the world. . . .

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And while, yes, the scene painted in the excerpt set out immediately above was one I shared with my former spouse, I’ve visited EdoKyo many times over the intervening years with Japanese friends, with the Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Texas Christian University, with the Executive Director of the Jackson County (Alabama) Economic Development Authority, the (now retired) President of Nippon Steel & Sumikin-Intercom, and various other friends and acquaintances.  EdoKyo’s simply a favorite spot and I’ll oh-so-lament the day I go and find out it’s no longer there.

One Roll of Black & White Film in Kyoto

The eleven photos below come from one roll of film.  I shot it in Kyoto in mid-February 2003.  As the receipt (see very bottom) shows that I turned the roll in on February 18th, I suspect I shot this roll earlier that same day, beginning very early in the morning, when it was still dark (note that the the pick-up time says 6:00 p.m. the next day, the 19th).  Or I may have shot this roll over the course of two or three days.  I’m not sure.

Note that it was rainy and overcast.  Kyoto’s beautiful like that, too. (click pic for larger image)

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Yasaka Shrine.

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Gion.

Gion.

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Gion Shinhashi. Shirakawa.

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Gion Shinhashi 2.0.

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Elvis, Yamamoto & Takayama: Love and Politics.

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Fence and Pine.

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Lake Biwa Canal.

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Dai Torii at Heian Shrine.

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Gion. 5.0.

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Kurodani Temple.

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Kamogawa (The Kamo River).

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My receipt for the roll of film.

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Black & White, and reflective all over . . .

Going through old and recent Japan photos lately.  This “gallery” has no theme, other than these are black and white photos that I’m fond of, or which remind me of places or times (usually both) that I’m fond of.  Enjoy.

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Priests at Kurodani Temple. Kyoto. 2005.

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Fence. Near Okazaki-Marutamachi. Kyoto. 2009.

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Hang On. Subway handles. Osaka. 2003.

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Rice Paddies. Between Kyoto and Kameoka. 2004.

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Fushimi Inari. 2003.

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Old Pine Limb Support. Near Kiyomizudera. Kyoto. 2008.

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Kura (old storehouse). Between Maruyama & Ninenzaka. Kyoto. 2003.

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From the Sagano (train) Line. Heading west from Kyoto. 2004.

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B o n u s  .  .  .

In May of 2002 Celia and I walked down Kawabata-dori in Kyoto looking for a Korean barbeque place the proprietress of our inn had told us about.  We had just crossed Shi-jo — which, to our left, lead to the heart of the Gion District and to our right crossed over the Kamo River — and were walking down the sidewalk alongside side of the large, almost daunting, Minamiza Kabuki Theater when we looked up and saw a sort of blue-green light coming from the corner window of the top floor of a nondescript office building, which stood next to the kabuki theater.  It looked like a bar.  We walked on past and, sure enough, there was the restaurant we were looking for.  We went in an were immediately disappointed:  it was a huge, industrial-size, bright, cacophonous, jam-packed place.  It was not the intimate little spot we were hoping to find.  We walked right out again and back up in the direction from which we came.

As we passed back in front of the office building we glanced at the sign showing the various businesses and their corresponding floors housed there.  The bar we had spotted was called “Motown.”  We decided to check it out.  We rode the elevator up to the fourth, fifth?, floor and went it.  There may have been one or two people at the bar.  Otherwise, we were the only ones there.  The bartender was young and greeted us warmly.  The place interior was painted black, but not morosely so, more in a Gatsby-esque way.  Some Motown song, I forget what, was playing.  From the entrance you could see past the bar on your left and out the long, continuous window that faced west, looking out towards and across the Kamo River, and wrapped around the right side, giving you a view north, upriver, too.  And just outside the side window, but not obstructing the river view, was the hipped and gabled tile roof of the Minamiza Theater.  We decided to hang out there a while, have another drink, enjoy the view of Old Kyoto, watch the people below, have listen to The Temptations, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Smokey Robinson, and the like (you know, the way people do in Kyoto).

We ordered a couple very dirty vodka martinis and sat on tall stools that looked out the wrap-around part of the windows, looking down at the cars and pedestrians at the intersection of Kawabata and Shi-jo, and just past, up and down the Kamo River, and just past that, into Kyoto-proper the yuka restaurant decks that lined the west side of the river.

We visited Motown several times over the next couple years.  The photo below is from 2003 and shows the reflection of the Theater in the window that we first looked out a year before.  Motown’s not there anymore.  At least it wasn’t there last year, in august 2011, and I haven’t seen that strange but inviting light there over recent years and recent visits to Kyoto.  But I always look.

View & Reflection from Motown. Kyoto. 2003.

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Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto ・京都の哲学の道.

Philosopher’s Path —  (Tetsugaku no Michi ・哲学の道), Kyoto.

It’s a walking path, a pedestrian trail, that runs about along a small canal (part of the Lake Biwa Aqueduct system) at the base of Kyoto’s East Mountain (Higashiyama ・東山).

Looking south along Philosopher’s Path. Autumn 2003.

Professor Kitaro Nishida (1870-1945) taught philosophy at Kyoto University from 1910 until 1928.  He famously strolled this Higashiyama canal path during his daily commute to the university and as he meditated reconciling Japanese and Western religious and philosophical tenants.  His most famous, and original, work was An Inquiry into the Good.*

Philosopher’s Path. Autumn 2003.

I enjoy all seasons, but autumn’s my favorite.  That said, with so many cherry trees lining Philosopher’s Path springtime and cherry blossom-viewing is perhaps most other people’s favorite time to walk the Path.  On some summer nights you can find yourself in virtual clouds of fireflies (hotaru・ホタル).  I haven’t walked Philosopher’s Path in the snow, yet, but can imagine the sublime beauty (and having it mostly to myself).

Philosopher’s Path on a warm May day, 2010.

Also along the path (especially as you get closer to Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion), you’ll find more than a few tea houses, coffee shops, souvenir shops, small boutiques and galleries.  On the southern end (right-hand side as you’re facing the eastern mountain) there’s Eikan-do temple, a beautiful place.  Philosopher’s Path also runs through some of Kyoto’s most expensive properties.  The photo below shows a garden entrance to one of the Houses of the Wealthy.  The view, though, is free . . .

Home. Along Philosopher’s Path. May 2010.

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Map of Philosopher’s Path (and views of / links to nearby sites)

Just below this map click on “View Larger Map” and you’ll see it all much more clearly.  As you walk, this takes you from the east end of Marutamachi Street (丸田町道), across Shirakawa Street (白川道), up to Philosopher’s Path.  Note the other nearby sites, and some photos (click on the icon) to help you get your bearings:

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Coming next:  Ginkaku-ji (銀閣寺), a/k/a  “The Silver Pavilion” (that’s not really silver):

The “Silver” Pavilion. May 2010.

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* Excerpt from an Amazon.com review of  An Inquiry into the Good:

“Nishida’s approach to metaphysics, however, is unique.  Nishida was personally influenced profoundly by zen.  Zen is often suspicious of abstract, rational conceptions of reality and instead favors a method of “direct seeing” in approaching reality.  This is in direct contrast to the Western method of approach to questions about the nature of reality which rely primarily on logic and rational argument in attempting to determine or uncover the nature of reality. Nishitani Keiji summarizes these different approaches well in his book on Nishida. Nishitani writes, ‘The sense of quest…as it appears in Plato’s dialogues entails a spirit of inquiry aimed at the gradual discovery through dialogue of something new, something not yet known to the participants.  This spirit appears as the standpoint of pure reason that seeks to uncover something new and completely unknown, to discover according to the laws of logic.'”

Two Views from the Westin Miyako, Kyoto

The two photos below were snapped with a little “smartphone.”  The first on July 31 and the one below it on August 3, 2011.  They were both taken from my little balcony, attached to my room at the Westin Miyako Hotel in Kyoto.  I’ve posted them, or versions of them, before, last year near the times I took them.  I offer them again because they’re somewhat peaceful and calm-making, I think.

Looking towards Nanzen-ji Temple, Kyoto. 31 July 2011.

Looking east, towards Nanzen-ji Temple, Kyoto. 31 July 2011.

I took this in the afternoon, after arriving at the hotel.  The sun’s behind where the camera’s pointing, beginning to go down in the west.  You can see large main gate (yes, that’s a “gate” — the Sanmon, completed in 1628) of Nanzen-ji Temple on the left.

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Looking north towards Okazaki District. Kyoto, 3 August 11.

I took this in the morning.  The sun’s to my right.  The green roof on the left, towards the foreground, is the International Community House.  Lots of memories there.  In the background, against the last green hills, you can see several of Kurodani-dera’s buildings (Kurodani Temple).

I hope you like these photos. . .