Category Archives: Kyoto

From Industry to History on Kyoto’s Muromachi-dōri

Source: deep kyoto

In this special guest post, our friend, Edward J. Taylor continues his Kyoto walking project; exploring both the historical and modern aspects of the city’s famous streets. Today’s walk takes him along Muromachi-dōri; once just a pathway in the old capital of Heian-kyo, and today a busy street of restaurants and kimono shops, the way bears evidence of 1,200 years of cultural traffic.

Old style street design on Muromachi Street

It’s best when doing these walks not to look up. The first-time visitor to Japan is quick to mention the jumble of wires overhead. But the country seems to have recently found a way to safely bury their power lines, in this land of the seismic mambo. This internment has begun in the most heavily touristic spots, and the long-term resident finds it a little jarring when departing a train station in these places, as the mind grasps for what it is that looks a bit off, until realizing finally that what’s wrong is the unadulterated glimpse of sky.

Kyoto has just begun this shift underground, but still lags far behind, and the downtown area still suffers a bit from visual blight. It is far better to look down for that is where you’ll find the unobtrusive landmarks: the stone stelae that denote a moment in history, or the minute perfection of tile and wood.

At least during the middle stretches of Muromachi-dōri, the eye is deliberately forced upward, for this section takes on an unmistakably Christian theme. Little by little I had begun to notice this, as I often use this street for bicycle commutes downtown. The road was one of the first that came to mind when I first envisioned these walks.

But when I arrive at the road’s southern limit below Jujo-dōri, the unattractive industrial neighborhoods make me feel like I …continue reading

    

Otagi: Where Music and Buddhism Collide

otagi nenbutsuji arashiyama kyoto.jpg

Spring has finally sprung in Japan. The season is already in full force as cherry blossoms bloomed much earlier than usual this year. Kyoto’s sudden burst of seasonal greenery is a time to rejoice and begin the seasonal cycle anew. There are a number of celebrations at this time of year, but some are more unique than others…

Last weekend, I headed up into the hills of western Kyoto to attend a small spring festival at Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple in Arashiyama. This is one of my favorite spots in Kyoto, and I’ve previously shared one of their other special events on this blog. This spring gathering was a new one for me, and it proved every bit as eclectic and special as I was expecting.

Officially called the Hana Matsuri (flower festival), this event is a mishmash of spring renewal celebration, music appreciation, and the birthday of Buddha. They’ve been holding this festival at Otagi Nenbutsuji for decades now, as part of the revitalization efforts of former head priest and famous artist Kocho Nishimura since he took over here in 1955. Nishimura …continue reading