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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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KYOTOGRAPHIE 2021 “Echo”

Japan’s first truly international art festival was born of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident, while this year’s edition, entitled “Echo,” has gone ahead amid the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Exploring such themes as natural disasters,  the pandemic, and sexual abuse, “Echo” might seem unremittingly dark, but among the 14 main exhibitions a current of profound and non-facile hope pulsates to the surface in unexpected ways.

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The Dento Bento

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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NOTES OF A TRIP TO KYŌTO

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 Kumamoto) 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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EXTRA!

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

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

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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Three Men and a Cat

Oh, Tama! by Mieko Kanai (translated by Tomoko Aoyama and Paul McCarthy). Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press, 152 p., $16.95. Cats have been prominent in Japanese literature since Natsume Soseki made his name with his debut, I am a Cat. Tama, the cat, in Mieko Kanai’s novel Oh, Tama! (translated by Tomoko Aoyama and Paul…

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Viewing the Famous Scenes of Kyōto in Meisho Zue

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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Kyoto Dwelling

KYOTO DWELLING: A YEAR OF BRIEF POEMS by Edith Shiffert, Charles E. Tuttle Company 1987, 115 pages The poet Edith Schiffert resided in Kyoto from 1963 until her death, at the age of 101 in 2017. Her poems appeared often in KJ over the years. This review of her classic Kyoto Dwelling, from KJ7, Summer…

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Identity Crisis

Impossible to Imagine: A film by Felicity Tillack. Bayview Films. 2019 Impossible to Imagine, the title of Kyoto-based Australian filmmaker Felicity Tillack’s debut effort, doesn’t give the viewer much to go on. The film’s poster, with its serene tea house garden backdrop, suggests a romance and plenty of Japanese aesthetic beauty. While love does indeed…

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Mizuno Katsuhiko and Kayu: Father and daughter photographers

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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Neighbors

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

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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A New Generation of Rebel

Unfree Speech: The Threat to Global Democracy and Why We Must Act, Now by Joshua Wong with Jason Ng, Ai Weiwei (Intro.) and Chris Patten (Foreword) London: W. H. Allen, 2020, 268 pp., $11.07 (paper). Joshua Wong is the Hong Kong pro-democracy activist who became famous in 2011, aged just twelve, when he organized a…

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Behind the Scenes of Miyazaki’s Magic

Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man: 15 Years at Studio Ghibli by Steve Alpert. Stone Bridge Press, 296 pp., $19.95. According to some, if you really love something you should never find out how it is made: the object of your admiration might lose its shine, its magic. If I felt that way I…

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Finding Home

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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The News from Seoul

A City of Han: Stories by expat writers in Seoul and other cities of South Korea, edited by Sollee Bae. Seoul: FWS Publishing, 2020. 121 pp., ¥1059 (paper). In this era of extreme global hypersensitivity to race and national narratives, it is arguably a high-risk proposition for a Western expat author in Asia to write…

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A Familiar Environment | Translator Ginny Tapley Takemori

Murata Sayaka’s short novel, Convenience Store Woman, a thematically-propelled distillation of the author’s experience working in konbini, has achieved extraordinary success in English. Kyoto Journal speaks with the novel’s Ibaraki-based translator, Ginny Tapley Takemori.

Before you go, be sure to check out our latest issue:

KJ 98: Ma