Category Archives: Kyoto

Writers in Kyoto Heritage and Tourism Symposium, November 8th 2019

Source: deep kyoto

The big event from Writers in Kyoto (WiK) this autumn will be a Heritage and Tourism Symposium held at Ryukoku University’s Omiya Campus. This event includes individual presentations and a panel discussion. The featured speakers include the authors Alex Kerr, Amy Chavez and John Dougill together with Akie Hoshino (from the Agency for Cultural Affairs). This event will take place on November 8th, from 18.30 in Room 302 of the East Building, in the Omiya campus of Ryukoku University. The campus is located on Shichijo/Omiya and is a 12 minute walk JR Kyoto Station. The fee for the symposium is 500 yen or free for WiK members. For further information and details, please check the Writers in Kyoto website at:

The image above is of Nishonganji Temple and is by John Einarsen. All rights reserved.

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Twilight Garden Party & Autumn Foliage Illuminations at Murin-an

Source: deep kyoto

Many thanks to Mayumi Sasaki of Ueyakato Landscape for contacting us about the following event.

The celebrated garden of Murin-an will be having a special evening opening this fall for a twilight garden party. While admiring the illuminated autumn foliage guests can listen to a talk by the garden concierge and enjoy drinks from a special bar counter serving both soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.

Dates: 22nd – 24th November
Time: 17.30 – 20.30 (Last entry at 20.00)
Fee: 800 yen (not including drinks)

The concierge will give a 15 minute talk (in Japanese) at 18.30 and 19.30
No reservation is required!

Location: Murin-an is located on the southern side of Niomon Dori across the road from Kyoto Zoo. Here is a MAP of the location. For more details, please visit the official website.

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Joshua Breakstone & Roni Ben-Hur at Bonds Rosary, Kyoto – September 6th 2019

Source: deep kyoto

Here’s the latest news direct from our friend Joshua Breakstone about his next big gig at Bonds Rosary:

“On September 6 it’s going to be a really special night at Bonds Rosary, “First Fridays” for 2 reasons:

1) The special guest coming to play with my trio that night is the great NY guitarist, Roni Ben-Hur who, believe it or not, will be making his first Japan tour. Roni’s played and recorded with the likes of Barry Harris, Lewis Nash, Charles McPherson, Diane Schuur, Jimmy Heath, Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, and many other jazz greats over the course of his career. It will be be a burning 2 guitar kind of night and a lot of fun too.

2) September 6 will also be a bit of a soubetsukai (going away party) for me as I’ll be leaving Kyoto and going back to the US in mid-September for an 8 week tour for the October release of my new recording. I’ll return to Kyoto in March of next year- and our “First Fridays” jazz series will resume in April.

I’d encourage you to reserve for this one by calling Bonds Rosary during their regular evening operating hours at (075)285-2859.”

Bonds Rosary is a 4 minute walk from Exit 1A of Hankyu Kawaramachi Station and a 30 second walk from Exit 7 of Gion-Shijo Station. Here is a MAP of the location.

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Brocade & Octopi: From Nishikikoji to Takoyakushi

Source: deep kyoto
Zezekan Pocchiri references old Shanghai

The restaurants too have a uniformity of style. I think that if I were looking for a traditional Japanese meal, I would choose one of these old machiya. An interesting and beautiful exception is Zezekan Pocchiri, where a Meiji period façade has been grafted onto an older machiya structure. The traditional Chinese furniture within gives a hint of what Shanghai would have looked like in the 1920s. The scent in the air here is sesame oil and soy sauce. A good place, I think, to discuss the philosophies expounded by Edo period Confucian scholar Kinoshita Jun’an, who was born close by.

Further west, the overall look falls away into the usual visual cacophony that defines the modern city. On this muggy day, I’m tempted by the hammock stretched across the faux-tropical garden of Re:CENO furniture and interior. Bistro Nakano has a prime corner location not far off, set just below street level, in a way that is structurally similar to the French cafes that give this unique ‘French Ramen’ joint its inspiration. There is also the familiar little enclave of stand-up bars and compact izakaya that prove lively on any given night. Eventually I get to Nishikikōji’s western end, and Thilaga, a tidy little curry restaurant where the friendly trio in charge is as smiley in real life as they are on the poster out front. (Their new sign also shows they have apparently discovered spell-check.)

Old cistern

It’s too early for lunch, and despite the humidity, there is no rain. So I diagonal along Ōmiya, then turn right onto the parallel Takoyakushi-dōri. A mere street away, it feels miles from the more traditional Nishikikōji, as nearly all along here are modern concrete homes. These flank a few modest temples, hemming in upon what had once been spacious grounds.

I’ve passed few people today, but suddenly a long line of high school students stroll by, one of the girls surprising me by wearing the same uniform as the boys. Living in Japan, one grows accustomed to the ‘sailor suits’ worn by schoolgirls, based upon the look of the old English navy, and the uniform of the boys, modeled after Prussian army uniforms. Initially intended to neutralize the workings of teenage hormones, the former has instead become a fetish object for some. Over the decades, the girls have taken it upon themselves to modify the look to counter this, or sometimes to enhance it. Recently inspired by LGBT issues, some schools have begun to allow their students a choice of which uniform to wear, and this is what caught my attention, being the first time I’ve seen the gender-neutral option.

This nod to changing mores has older precedents. Nanban-ji temple once stood a few blocks west of Karasuma, created by Oda Nobunaga in 1561 as a place for Christian worship. It quickly became a center of European culture, and all the trappings that it brought with it. As the number of followers swelled to a few hundred, the name of the temple was changed in 1576 from Nanban (Southern Barbarian) to St. Mary’s, however it was razed a decade later with Hideyoshi’s Christian Expulsion edicts.

Gion Festival Floats

Today it is traffic that has been expelled, as the neighborhood guilds prepare their yamaboko floats for the Gion festival next week. The streets running north-south have had their overhead wires pulled back, revealing the sky, a sight that almost startles. In a similar vein, I stop briefly to admire the old Muranishi residence, a fine example of what preservation non-profits can be capable of.

Many of the shops have decorated their frontages in honor of the festival, or have opened them up completely. Where the corresponding stretch of Nishikikōji had mainly been restaurants, here it is all mostly shops, tending to traditions old and new. There is an Owl Café (with no owls) and a Dog Café (whose policy is strictly BYOD). Then there are the nods to ‘70’s music: Italian trattoria Divo Diva standing beside Spice Dining Biji. (How Deep is Kyoto?)

Just outside the opening to Teramachi arcade is a huddle of Italian, French, Crepe, and Dolce shops. And then Bubble Market Kyoto, which has been selling the drink for a decade, possibly a pioneer of Japan’s current bubble tea craze.

Altar of Takoyakushi-dō

Finally, I come to Eifuku-ji or more colloquially Takoyakushi-dō, and hence the origins of the name of the street I’ve just walked. This Zen temple has roots going back to 1181, when it became a center of worship for Yakushi-nyōrai, the deity of healing. But a legend a half-century later gives the temple its name. Apparently a temple monk was caught by locals buying an octopus at the fish market for his sick mother, who loved the food. They were shocked to see the octopus suddenly transform itself into eight scrolls of Buddhist sutras. Transforming into an octopus yet again, the animal escaped into the temple pond, from which a strong light began to shine, thereby relieving the mother of her illness. As such the temple has become a place of healing, and small ceramic octopi can be seen throughout the grounds, each a prayer to get well.

One of the wonders of Japan is the enduring presence of folk customs, in the face of ever-changing modern bustle. My guess is that the temple’s name has some connection with Buddhism’s eight-fold path, but old tales prove much more charming. And what harm is there in giving the wooden Nade-Yakushi octopus on the altar a good rub, with a corresponding prayer for good health? But only with the left hand. Save the right one to eat takoyaki, at one of the many stands that have miraculously popped up nearby.

Ema Votive Tablet

Here is the latest installment from Edward J. Taylor‘s ongoing exploration of Kyoto’s streets.

The well at Nishiki Tenman-gū Shrine

The air rings with the chimey clang of the ubiquitous ‘theme song’ for the Gion festival, supplanting the rains that had taken center stage for the previous six weeks. At least, that’s how it usually works. Rainy season this year continues to linger, and a peek at the weather forecast shows a parade of blue umbrellas, at a time when the resident of Kyoto is thinking more of festival floats.

At a time when water proves a constant, it seems fitting that this month’s walk begins at the well at Nishiki Tenman-gū Shrine. The shrine serves as the spiritual heart of the renowned Nishiki market, which was built adjacent to the shrine due to the quality of the water from this very well. This is a surprise since matters of commerce are usually affiliated with the Inari fox gods, but here, just beside the well, rests the telltale ox that designates a Tenjin shrine, dedicated to the god of learning. The supine bovine honors the animal that, in 903, pulled the funeral cart of scholar Sugawara no Michizane along the roads of Kyushu, where the man had been banished. At one point the ox stubbornly lay down, and no amount of coaxing could get him moving again. Taken as an auspicious sign, a shrine was built on the spot: Dazaifu Tenmangū, of which all Tenmangū shrines serve as satellites.

Michizane’s ox

And for a shrine whose origins are in immobility, this one proves to be a bit of a journeyman. Initially founded in 1003, it was moved to the city center by Toyotomi Hideyoshi during …continue reading