EXPLORE THE KYOTO JOURNAL

Discover quality writing from Asia in our award-winning magazine. Stimulating interviews and profiles; excerpts of works translated from Asian languages; fiction, poetry and book reviews, as well as a fresh look at the city KJ calls home.

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The Thorn Puller (English Edition) Store

Thorns of Suffering

Hiromi Ito’s remarkable work, The Thorn Puller, takes readers on a pilgrimage across time, space, and literary genres. First serialized between 2006 and 2007 in the magazine Gunzō as Thorn Puller: New Tales of the Sugamo Jizō (Toge-nuki Jizō: Shin Sugamo Jizō engi), the work won the Hagiwara Sakutarō Prize in 2007 and the Murasaki Shikibu Prize in 2008 before appearing as a single volume published by Kōdansha in 2011.

KYOTOGRAPHIE international photography festival

Photography Without Borders: Kyotographie 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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The 72 Japanese micro-seasons

Ever since our ancestors gazed skywards or closely observed the wonders of the natural world around them, they saw patterns in cycles and found ways to recall them. Different cultures around the world have developed systems to mark the passage of time, and every calendar reveals something about how the people who created it related to the world around them. The ancient Japanese almanac of 72 micro-seasons provides a map of time that is a fascinating mixture of culture and nature.

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Kyoto’s Suburban Rice-fields

As recently as the early 20th century, verdant and productive rice fields dominated the flat lands on the northern outskirts of Kyoto, squeezing small villages up against surrounding foothills. However, in post-war years this fertile farmland has been encroached on and overwhelmed by waves of suburbanization.

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Thirty-One Views of Japan

This book, unique and extraordinary, is full of captivating accounts written by 31 people from all over the world who are living or have lived in Japan. It’s not about what brought them to the Land of the Rising Sun. It’s about the passions and interests that make them stay. “This is a book about the journey from simply living in Japan to actually calling Japan home.”  

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Resisting Democracy’s Death by a Thousand Cuts

Part memoir and part manifesto, How to Stand Up to a Dictator is Ressa’s look back at her early life in the Philippines and the United States, a chronicle of her personal rise through the news industry as one of the most respected broadcast journalists in Asia, and her forward-looking call to action to save democratic societies from dying by what she calls “a thousand cuts” of intimidation and injustice that add up over time. The dictator in question here is as much Big Tech as it is Big Brother.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.