INSIGHTS FROM ASIA

Kyoto Journal is an award-winning,
quarterly magazine founded in Kyoto, Japan,
presenting cultural and historical insights from
all of Asia since 1987.

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The-Art-of-Persistence

Meeting the Challenges of One’s Times

Toshi (1901-1995) is perhaps most famous for her anti-war activism and The Hiroshima Panels, a series of artworks on the aftermath of the atomic bombing, both of which she carried out in conjunction with her husband Maruki Iri. Given this legacy, it is all the more salient that in a late interview she called herself “a war criminal.” Toshi explained that during WWII she took commissions for children’s picture books glorifying the war. Though she did so to prevent from starving, she felt that this did not absolve her of her guilt. The Art of Persistence is about this tension between moral imperative and survival, not only during this particular time but throughout the whole of Toshi’s life.

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Insights from Sixteen Creative Japanese Ceramicists

There are, for those with the requisite sense, currents, energy flows, and dialogues to be discerned in the Japanese garden. Shunmyo Masuno contends that when arranging rocks, for example, one must “converse” with the stone, waiting “until it seems to speak and say where it wants to be put.” According to some of the subjects of Listening to Clay, a similar collaboration, or consulting, takes place between potters and their material. Artist Michiko Ogawa, for example, is very specific on this point, stating that she attempts to, “listen to what the material has to say,” posing the question, “What does the clay want to be?”

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Poetic Eyes

This anthology, VOU,presents striking visual-poetry (often called “vispo,” by practitioners). Visual-poetry combines visual art and poetic sensibility by manipulating images and letterforms. It’s sassy, cheeky, and sometimes three-dimensional. Vispo is fluid, non-semantic expression that’s beyond the poetic conventions of renga, tanka, waka, haiku, or chōka. The VOU anthology show-cases some of Japan’s finest avant-garde artists. Artists in this anthology have earned international reputations, showing and publishing their creations world-wide.

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Shopping for Children’s Books in Asia

For a few years before the pandemic I was lucky enough to travel to Asia a few times—for work, for pleasure and as a translator of Chinese children’s books. Along the way, I developed a habit of doing quick surveys of the children’s books on sale in international airports, cities, and museums. …I was interested to see the situation in countries where there are generally more translated children’s books available than in the UK.

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An Activist for Translated Children’s Literature

As Curator of East Asian Money at the British Museum, Helen Wang might seem an unlikely activist for global children’s literature. But September 2021 found her tweeting daily for World Kid Lit Month (@WorldKidLit), an initiative to promote picture books through young adult novels in English translation. She also collaborates with the China Fiction Book Club, Paper Republic, Translated World, the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative, and the Bai Megui Translation Competition, and she co-founded the blog Chinese Books for Young Readers.

Eroshenko

Portrait of Eroshenko

Eroshenko’s experiences tell us of another era in which Japan was emerging as a cosmopolitan hub and in which Europeans might come to Japan to learn, rather than to teach. It was also an era in which contact and exchange were spreading across Asia, with ideas, people and objects all being coming to Japan from across the continent. However, the story also reveals that, whilst to some a life of travel and reliance upon friendship and the goodwill of others was an inspiration, in the eyes of the Japanese state it came to be seen as a threat.

Narita tower

My Father-in-Law the Japanese Radical

The origins of the Narita struggle date back to 1966, when the government announced it would build Japan’s new international gateway in Chiba, 60km from the capital—without consulting the 360 mostly impoverished local people who farmed the land around the Sanrizuka and Shibayama hamlets. The plan, with its whiff of official arrogance and highhandedness, became a lightning rod for discontent in the economic miracle years. Many farmers resisted and supporters poured into the area, fueling a conflict that quickly escalated.

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Haenyeo – The Sea Women of South Korea

My first encounter with the Haenyeo was through their song. I was hiking in the Seongsan crater on Jeju, an island off the southern coast of South Korea, when I wandered down a winding cliff path to the waterfront. On the rocky beach, an empty seaside restaurant offered seafood to absent crowds. It was obvious that Covid had taken a toll on the local tourism industry. Then the sound of singing came from a shack next to the restaurant, and filled the bay. A few minutes later five women emerged, probably in their late 50s and 60s, wearing brightly-coloured woolen underwear, wetsuit pants, and rubber moccasins. They continued to sing, dance, and laugh while simultaneously helping each other into their remaining diving gear.

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Dogen in a Hammock

Robert Aitken, the late Zen priest of Honolulu’s Diamond Sangha, once wrote that “Drowsy contentment may be a condition close to realization. It is a kind of emptiness, of nondifferentiation, where the ten directions melt: inside and outside become one.”

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Nowhere To Go

She rested her arms, thick and fleshy, on the top of the half-wall, and cupped her face in her hands. Marilou often stood in the balcony at night to gather her thoughts. To take in the breeze, survey the expanse of the property, with its sprawling gardens, tennis courts, and playgrounds. Her room behind the kitchen was a square box with cream-coloured walls. It had barely enough space for a single bed and a cupboard. Twelve years in Singapore as a helper, and she had never really gotten used to the fact that her room here did not have any windows.

no-mountain

No Plan B Dream Villanelle

Whether for a single poem, or a single-author collection of poems, inspiration is offered by different muses. It can come from a place and the history of that place; from a disease and all that living with a disease entails; from travel and the changing vistas that moving from place to place, history to history, presents; from poetic form: the shape that words and lines are given. Recent collections by four Japan-based poets are examples of books that grow from just these seeds.

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Kyoto Thrills

An academic out of a job getting by as a translator in Kyoto is approached by a mysterious woman in a kimono who offers her a remunerative job translating a novel, chapter by chapter, as it is written. The ostensible author of the novel, long thought to be dead, is the disowned scion of a family that has been in the kimono business for generations; the novel describes a crime: the murder of a woman with a full-body tattoo designed to look like a kimono.

on the blog

Bringing the delights of hojicha tea to the West

Torontoites and hojicha lovers Danielle Geva and Francois Mathieu wanted to make freshest, most authentic roasted Japanese green tea available outside Japan.

Take a Gourmet Journey through Japan with Kokoro Care Packages

We filmed our unboxing of the monthly themed box of quality Japanese ingredients and treats from Kokoro Care Packages. Find out more and subscribe to receive next month's package straight from Japan!