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.

DancingOverKyoto_Cover___________________________________________________

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.

.               .               .

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.

.

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).

.               .               .

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 .   .   .

sekka9

.

tumblr_m9t9xae7J91qz6yoio1_500

.

Jux2a_TL_159_1269887

.

Sekka_Sparrow&Bamboo

.

Sekka_12

.               .               .

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.

Sekka_PostSekkaOpeningParty.29Aug2003 - Copy

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

.                  .                  .

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.

.

Down the stairs. . .

Down the stairs. . .

.

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

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

.

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. . . .

.

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)

__________________________________________

Yasaka Shrine.

.

Gion.

Gion.

.

Gion Shinhashi. Shirakawa.

.

Gion Shinhashi 2.0.

.

Elvis, Yamamoto & Takayama: Love and Politics.

.

Fence and Pine.

.

Lake Biwa Canal.

.

Dai Torii at Heian Shrine.

.

Gion. 5.0.

.

Kurodani Temple.

.

Kamogawa (The Kamo River).

____________________________

_____________________________

My receipt for the roll of film.

.

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.

_________________________________

Priests at Kurodani Temple. Kyoto. 2005.

.

Fence. Near Okazaki-Marutamachi. Kyoto. 2009.

.

Hang On. Subway handles. Osaka. 2003.

.

Rice Paddies. Between Kyoto and Kameoka. 2004.

.

Fushimi Inari. 2003.

.

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

.

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

.

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

______________________

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.

.               .               .

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.

.

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:

.               .               .

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

The “Silver” Pavilion. May 2010.

______________________

* 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.

.

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. . .

15 random shots, and 2 short vids, from Japan over the years . . .

I was just going through some old photos.  I hope you like these.  Every picture’s got a story, you know.  A few of these go back, way back for me, to 1984 during my first living experience in Japan as a college exchange student at Kansai Gaidai, a foreign language university in Hirakata-shi, about halfway between Osaka and Kyoto.

.

Harvesting Rice. Tsuda (my little town near Hirakata, where I went to school). 1984. I lived with a "homestay family." Mom, Dad and Three Sisters. We stay in touch. Got an email from Yuko, one of my sisters, just last week. She was a just a kid way back then.

.

Graffit on the big rock that tops Katanosan (Mount Katano). Katano, 1984. My little town, Tsuda, abutted Katano, which was home to Mt. Katano. It was more of a big hill than a mountain and a rigorous 30 minute hike would get you to the top. I hiked this many times, often with my friend Lori, from Mystic, Connecticutt, who lived nearby.

.

The Maruyama River floods as typhoon sweeps through Central Japan. 1990. I took this pic in September 1990 when I was living in the community of Nii, town of Asago, in South Central Japan. My house was right near the river, but, fortunately, it didn't quite get to it. Twenty-one people were killed in this typhoon.

.

Senjokaku Hall. Miyajima Island (just of the coast from Hiroshima). 2008. Just a few moments before, or after, I can't remember, I took this pic I made a short vid. You can watch that at the bottom of this post.

.

Himeji Castle, Himeji. 2008. When I lived in Asago in 1990-91, I was only 90 or so minutes from Himeji, by way of the Bantan Line. I've visited Himeji Castle many times. This time, in May 2008, as guide for a group of history students from UAB.

.

In 1986 and the first half of 1987, I worked for JVC Disc America Company in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I left to go to law school. In 1991, while I was again living in Japan I visited Kamakura, not too far from Tokyo, and met my former JVC boss, Mr. Hiramatsu, and Mr. Mochida, one of the Senior Engineers. We spent the day together, just whiling away the time. Wonderful gentlemen. And we visited the Great Buddha of Kamakura. I snapped this picture then.

.

Lantern. Pontocho, Kyoto. 2006.

.

Kinosaki Morning: A mom and baby. 2001. Kinosaki's a Hyogo Prefecture hot springs town up on the Sea of Japan. I used to go there quite often when I lived in Hyogo-ken back in 1990-91. This trip, in late September 2001, was with my then-spouse.

.

Kinkakuji, "The Golden Pavilion." A slightly different view. 2008.

.

Janitorial Workers. Shibuya Intersection. Tokyo. 2005.

.

Old house in Higashi-Ikoma (near Nara). 2003.

.

Shoes off before entering. Kurodani Temple. Kyoto. 2010.

.

On the Eizan Line, nearing Kurama (30 minutes north of Kyoto). 2009.

.

Girls on school field trip, Kiyomizu-dera. Kyoto, 2008.

.

From our window. Hotel New Otania, Osaka. 2002. Osaka Castle, far left.

.               .               .

A couple of very short vids I took in 2008.  I had been hired as “guide” for a Japan History Class trip for the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) for this May trip.

At Gembaku Domu (Atomic Bomb Dome), Hiroshima.  2008.

.

Senjokoku (1,000 Mat Hall) & its 5-story pagoda, Miyajima Island.  2008.

End-of-September Reprise(s)

.

Kinosaki, or thereabouts. October 2001.

Here are 5 Front Page favorites from the past few months I want to highlight for the next several days.  Then I plan to get on with our “October Schedule.”  That will include a re-post of an Autumn favorite, an homage to all sorts of Food, ducking into a small Shinto Shrine I happened upon in Kyoto about 6 or 7 weeks ago (one that I’d passed by hundreds of times over the years; one that, to my shame, I never took the time to notice before), a trip to Kodai-ji Temple at night, and, of course, an updated Halloween-in-Japan Extravaganza.

But first, as our teachers used to say, let’s review:

1.  SIGNS.  Upon returning from Japan (business trip) last month I very much updated a post from last year.

2. KYOTO. WHERE THE RIVERS MEET.  The Kamo & the Takano. . .

Han-Eri Stencil for Kimono. Meiji or Taisho Era. A friend's gift. August 2011.

3.  KURAMA.  A pretty, quiet and historic little mountain town, just north of Kyoto.

4.  ZEN & SHINGON BUDDHISM AS PHOTO TECHNIQUE TOUCHSTONES.  That pretty much says it.

Inn entrance near Yasaka Shrine. Kyoto. Autumn 2003.

5.  ICHI-GO ICHI-E  ・ 一期一会.  One moment, One meeting.  Savoring what will not come again.

Priests at Kurodani Temple. November 2009.

______________________________

Additional:  I updated the photo gallery / essay “Shapes & Shadows,” too.

Where the Rivers Meet. . . The Kamo & Takano.

Several rivers flow through Kyoto.  The most famous is the Kamo River (or Kamogawa — “gawa” or “kawa” means river in Japanese).  In English that would be the “Duck River.”  The Kamogawa flows north-to-south through Kyoto.  In the spring, summer and fall restaurants along the Kamogawa’s west bank — mostly from about Ni-jo Street down to Shi-jo Street, and a little below that — put up platforms, “yuka,” for patrons to dine on and watch the river and people down on the riverbanks.  I posted just about that here:  Yuka Season.

This is about where the Kamo and Takano Rivers meet, though.  They meet several city blocks north of Ni-jo street, just above Imadegawa Street.  Check out this map, from a Keihan Line train, you can see where the “Y” where the Kamogawa (flowing from the upper left, meets the Takanogawa, flowing from the upper right, becoming just the Kamogawa after that):

Where the Kamagawa & the Takanogawa Meet.  Kyoto.

Exactly where they meet, that road there, is Imadegawa Street and the Imadegawa bridge that crosses over the Kamagawa.  If you took a right at Imadegawa and followed it to its end you’d wind up at “The Silver Pavilion” (Ginkaku-ji ・銀閣寺).  If you took a right and crossed the bridge you’d go right in front of Shokoku-ji Zen Temple.   And right between the two rivers, there smack in the center of the “Y,” is Shimogamo Shinto Shrine.  So, on Saturday, August 13, before taking an afternoon trip to Kurama, a small and incredibly historical town just north of Kyoto, I went an noodle around an antique book fair at Shimogamo Shrine.  Here are a few photos from the Shimogamo Antique Book Festival (it’s official name):

“Old Book Festival” — Japanese style flag outside of the Shrine.

.

The used & antique book festival. Shimogamo Shrine. Kyoto.

.

Bargain hunting. Old book festival. Shimogamo Shrine. Kyoto.

.

Old maps. Cheap. Shimogamo Shrine. Kyoto.

.

Friends taking a break, cooling off. Shimogamo Book Fest. Kyoto.

.

I spent about forty-five minutes at the book festival.  Picked up a few bargains.  Then I walked south out of Shimogamo Shrine and within five minutes was making my way along the bank of the Takanogawa, heading towards its meeting point with the Takano River. . .

Three generations (I asked) of ladies along the Takano. August 13.

.

Mom and Daughter. Shallows of the Takano. August 13.

.

Young fellow reading. Takano bank. August 13.

.

Takano (left) & Kamo (right) Rivers come together. Kyoto. August 13.

.

“Here’s the ball, Rags! Here’s the ball!” Takanogawa. August 13.

.

Stepping stones across the Kamogawa/Takanogawa. August 13.

.

Summer Afternoon Sketching. The Kamogawa. Kyoto. August 13.

.

River Turtles. Kyoto. August 13.

I used to live near Kyoto.  During college student days.  If I ever live there again, if I ever live in Kyoto, and especially if I have kids, this is a place we’ll go to and enjoy often, on many an afternoon  .   .   .

.          .          .

Bonus Shot.  I took this later that evening, while standing on the Ni-jo Bridge, looking back up the Kamogawa .  .  .

Sunset on the Kamogawa. August 13, 2011.

.