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.
- FICTION, POETRY & REVIEWS
- HIDDEN JAPAN
- IN TRANSLATION
- INSIGHTS FROM ASIA
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Invitation to contribute – KJ 107 (Fire & Kyoto)
Fire transforms, renews and purifies. It is deeply embedded in the culture of Kyoto as a powerful destructive force, sacred agent and essential component of everyday life. The Repeated disastrous conflagrations over its long history have left an indelible mark on the psyche of the city, even today. Fire remains an integral part of spiritual and cultural practices in Kyoto, and the prevention of fire is an ever-present concern.
Invitation to contribute – Kyoto Journal 106: Cultural Fluidity
Cultures are sometimes imagined as definable commodities with clear edges and centers. This tendency to essentialize is especially common when it comes to Japan, famous for its geographical and historical isolation. However, deeper exploration into almost any subject reveals the nature of culture to be one of movement, change, and flow. In KJ 106, we will examine the blended edges of cultures, how they are interpreted and then reinterpreted, how they are viewed from within and from without.
Trigger of Light
I live in the spare, high desert of the American Southwest, a land of apparent and often illusory emptiness, a blinding bowl of light that triggers one to write with an economy of words. The eye follows winding arroyos, mouse tracks, and blowing seed. The breath gathers momentum along ridges, faults, and prehistoric waterlines. Fossils scatter at the feet, clay shards glisten after a sudden rain.
A Zen Life: D.T. Suzuki
As a Nowhere Man, Suzuki was the perfect catalyst for an emerging Western strata of neo-transcendentalists, heirs to Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, yet burdened with a psychological stigma as America gazed West across the Pacific and envisioned an Asia in ruins.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.