The Great Fire of Kyoto, 1788: A Forgotten History

July 12, 2024

It was mid-afternoon on the last day of the month when fire broke out just east of the Kamo river and south of the small Donguri Bridge (south of Shijō). By 6pm flames had spread as far as Teramachi, a thoroughfare containing many temples. By midnight it was at the Shimogamo Shrine. At 2am the Dairi (today called the Gosho, or imperial palace) was threatened; shortly thereafter the main walled section of the shogunal compound, Nijō Castle, was alight. Rain fell, but it was not enough, and by morning 201 temples, 37 shrines, 36,797 common dwellings and a total of 1,424 city blocks in 20 separate locations were gone.

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Charcoal-inspired Sumi Artistry

July 12, 2024

The Kyoto-based artist known simply as Hakama uses sumi (charcoal) as his medium in creating innovative artworks with a subtle but impressive aesthetic imbued by direct use of natural materials transformed by fire.

His work was featured in KJ 107, ‘Fire & Kyoto.’

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Kyoto Flame: sparking untold narratives in Kyoto

June 25, 2024

Charles Roche, long-term Kyoto resident, reminisces about The Flame, a unique monthly community-based storytelling event held at his hospitable Papa Jon’s Eatery. As figurative keeper of the flame for three years, Charles sparked a conflagration that lit up the local scene. 

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Kyotographie 2024, “Source”: Wellsprings of Creativity

April 30, 2024

For the past 13 years, co-directors Lucille Reyboz and Nakanishi Yusuke have invited the people of Kyoto –  old, established families to tourists just passing through – to engage in a month-long  jeu d’esprit inspired by their ecumenical embrace of all aspects of the photographic medium, from crude pinhole cameras to high-powered scientific instruments, and everything else in between.

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White Lines

April 12, 2024

Horizontal lines on an earthen wall. Found on the outer walls of temples, some shrines, and the Imperial Palace, these lines indicate close historical ties to the Imperial family. Some temples have three or four lines, but the walls of monzeki jiin, where members of the Imperial family have served, are decorated with five.

Throughout the city of Kyoto, these lines are so ubiquitous as to go unnoticed by visitors and residents alike. For me, they have a mysterious beauty. Amidst all the classic scenes of Kyoto, I have found myself photographing these simple walls again and again. They are images which were literally painted by the weather.

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Photography Without Borders: Kyotographie 2023

April 30, 2023

One of the pleasures of KYOTOGRAPHIE has always been the opportunity to explore Kyoto spaces that are not normally open even to longtime residents, and to appreciate the imaginative ways in which the exhibitions have been staged in them. This year, the number of main venues has expanded to 15, while their geography has contracted, presumably to accommodate the influx of day trippers and international visitors. At the same time, the number of KG+ satellite exhibitions in far-flung locations around town has increased to 92, in addition to the 10 KG+ Select and 9 Special exhibitions. 

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Feeling the trees shivering: endangered environmental knowledge in northern Kyoto

March 13, 2022

For more than 400 years, villagers in the northern mountains of the Yamashiro basin (an area now incorporated to the modern administrative system of Kyoto city) have developed a special relationship with trees—in particular, with one specific type of tree, the cedar or Cryptomeria japonica, called sugi in Japanese.

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Kyoto View 92: a postcard by Tiery Le,..

October 29, 2021

Readers who ordered KJ100 received various selected bonus inserts (as a way of celebrating this centennial issue); among them was a unique, specially-designed postcard by local artist and long-time KJ contributor Tiery Le,.. This view is a quirky contemporary Tiery riff on the rakuchu rakugai zu screen paintings of feudal-era Kyoto, those richly detailed bird’s-eye…

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The Dento Bento

October 3, 2021

This memorable article by one of Kyoto Journal’s earliest regular contributors, Jonah Salz, on how Kyoto presents its living cultural heritage to visitors, appeared in our third issue, in 1987. Remarkably, it has hardly aged at all. Meanwhile, Jonah is still waiting – patiently – to see “dento bento” become a meme. Maybe this time…?…

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September 28, 2021

On the back cover of KJ 100 is a short quote from the celebrated Meiji-era writer Lafcadio Hearn, describing lantern decorations he saw when visiting Kyoto (from his home in Kobe) for its 1100th anniversary celebrations in 1895. He recorded his impressions of Kyoto in a multi-part essay anthologized in his 1897 book Gleanings in…

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September 14, 2021

KJ100: EXTRA! On this page we present additional views, impressions and visions of Kyoto, as an ongoing project complementing our print edition, KJ100: ‘100 Views of Kyoto – a Tribute.’ Kyoto View 18: Finding Home – Lauren W. DeutschWhen I passed a huge statue of Kannon, standing guard 24/7 by the door of one of…

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Kyoto-tomason: the Hunt for Hidden Hyperart

September 11, 2021

I had been taking pictures of these strange silhouettes encountered in Kyoto for a long time without knowing what to name them. Later, I learned that what I was photographing was “hyperart-tomasons” (chôgeijutsu-tomason), and that Akasegawa Genpei (1937-2014) had been the facetious inventor of this concept that encompasses a panoply of types — some of…

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Structures of Kyoto, Interrogated

September 10, 2021

Structures Of Kyoto: Writers in Kyoto Anthology 4. Edited by Rebecca Otowa & Karen Lee Tawarayama, 2021, Writers in Kyoto, 172pp., ¥1207. Structures Of Kyoto: Writers in Kyoto Anthology 4, edited by Rebecca Otowa and Karen Lee Tawarayama, features contributions from twenty-four writers. As was the case with WiK’s previous anthologies, it is an eclectic…

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Viewing the Famous Scenes of Kyōto in Meisho Zue

September 9, 2021

While physical entry to Japan by non-residents is currently prohibited, our latest issue, 100 Views of Kyoto – A Tribute, is a convenient alternative way for overseas readers to visit (or revisit) Kyoto. Cutting edge post-Covid tourism? Not really. Kyoto has in fact been a popular destination for virtual travel since way back in 1780…

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Mizuno Katsuhiko and Kayu: Father and daughter photographers

September 5, 2021

Millions have experienced Kyoto through the eyes of photographer Mizuno Katsuhiko. His grand vision is of an idealized Kyoto, one without the modern clutter — natural landscapes, the seasons, gardens, and temples in their purest, most beautiful state. With some 140 published books over four decades, countless calendars and exhibitions, Mizuno has arguably been one…

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September 4, 2021

Two poems by Robert MacLean appear in KJ100, ‘Sweeping,’ excerpted from his new book Waking to Snow (Isobar Press, 2021) and a haiku from I Wish, a recent anthology from the Hailstone Haiku Circle. The cover of I Wish also appears—designed by wood-block artist Richard Steiner.  Robert and Richard were published together in KJ 5,…

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Kyoto Organic, by Kobayashi Mai

September 4, 2021

If Japan is considered a super-aged society, the agricultural population could be described as hyper-aged. However, a small but definite intergenerational shift is cause for optimism. Throughout Japan, a new wave of people from non-farming backgrounds are choosing to get their hands deep into the soil, many practicing organic agriculture. “Organic” is a legal term;…

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Finding Home

September 3, 2021

Lauren Deutsch finally found her long-lost slide of the shopfront she describes in Kyoto View 18, ‘Finding Home’ — after KJ100 went to the printer. So, we’re posting her reminiscence again here, together with the photo. The MIPPW—Most Important Piece of Paper in the World—was a hand-drawn map of a neighborhood in north-east quadrant of…

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Shared “Vision”: KYOTOGRAPHIE 2020 in Review

October 14, 2020

“Vision,” the theme of this year’s KYOTOGRAPHIE International Photography Festival, seeks to highlight photography’s power to overcome barriers and satisfy (in the words of New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield) “that terrible desire to establish contact.”

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NOTICE: Kyoto Journal is going digital til 2021

August 11, 2020

We have made the difficult decision to suspend our printing operation and sales of our subscriptions, until further notice. Back issues are still available and will be shipped to you if we can ship them to you!

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Behind the Mask

May 23, 2020

In 1960, noh actor and mask carver Udaka Michishige was the last to be taken as an uchi-deshi, or live-in apprentice, into the home of Kongō Iwao II, the head of the Kongō School.

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