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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fudo-no-taki

Japanese Religion Through the Lens of Water

From KJ 101: As water is essential to all life, both its presence and its absence, its sufficiency, its excess, as well as its paucity, have fundamentally affected, profoundly influenced, and indeed guided the lives of Kyoto people in countless ways… In this article, I address Japanese religion through the lens of water within the context of Kyoto’s geography of surrounding mountains, waterfalls, and rivers, its long history, and its especially high concentration of shrines, temples, and tucked-away religious sites.

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Nanzen-ji

As a special online preview to our ‘Water in Kyoto’ issue, Paul Rossiter’s poem ‘Nanzen-ji’ reveals an example of how vitally water is intertwined with Kyoto’s rich cultural legacy.

Sam Francis

Ink Dreams and the Space of Effusion

Ma is a favorite topic of Kyoto Journal contributors. The two books under review, companions to site-specific exhibitions presented by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), are overflowing with ma in reproductions of 20th-21st artworks created by artists from East Asia and beyond in a variety of media. The two beautifully printed, these large-format full-color volumes include essays by art historians, curators and other scholars, as well as in-depth artists’ biographies and a sense of the  dynamic cross-cultural milieux in which they lived.

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Feeling the trees shivering: endangered environmental knowledge in northern Kyoto

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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Lost in Tokyo

William Olsson’s adaptation of Catherine Hanrahan’s semi-autobiographical novel Lost Girls & Love Hotels (September 2020) is a visceral inquiry into trauma, survival and the people who help us see the light at the end of the tunnel.
    Although the main character, Margaret’s (Alexandra Daddario) background remains elusive, cinematographer Kenji Katori conveys the duality of her frame of mind through shifting surroundings, offering a riveting sensory experience.

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An Addict’s Memories

The city Robert Whiting stepped into in 1962 bore little resemblance to the urban utopias of its ambitious future architects and town planners. The capital’s long-suffering residents stoically put up with contaminated rivers, suspect tap water, the extraction of night soil by suction trucks, and legions of rats. In the short interim between the end of the war and the author’s arrival, Tokyo’s hastily created, prefabricated structures were already in an advanced state of decomposition. Surveying the broken, odiferous city, ravenous crime groups, known as yakuza, closed in like hyenas…

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Finding Her Inner Jewish Soul in Japan

It has been common for several decades for Westerners in Japan to seek enlightenment and spiritual comfort in Buddhism and other Asian religions. It’s a well-traveled road, but Liane Wakabayashi’s path to spirituality in Japan, as depicted in this book, is unique. A native New Yorker and a not-strictly-observant conservative Jew, Liane Grunberg (later Wakabayashi) first came to Japan to cover blockbuster art exhibitions held in department stores for a Conde Nast magazine in 1985 and then again in 1987. She lost her return ticket the second time and ended up staying…

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The Possibly Enlightened Aplomb of John Solt

Best known as a “Japanologist” (a term he might reject) for his critical study Shredding the Tapestry of Meaning: The Life and Poetics of Kitasono Katue, John Solt is less known for his poetry. This collection, Poems for the Unborn, lovingly, methodically, assembled and presented here bilingually in hardcover, a coup of book design by Tetsuo Haketa, is drawn from the contributions Solt has made over 30 years to the private coterie organ, gui, an ongoing journal based in Tokyo.

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Required Reading

Editor Barbara Summerhawk explains in her useful introduction to the “Gender / Queer / Here” issue of the Tokyo Poetry Journal that in selecting the poets whose work appears in this volume she was taking a big tent approach: “ . . . there are no divisions in this book between lesbian/gay/bi/trans/intersex/asexual/ally; some poets have chosen to identify themselves a certain way in their bios, others have not.”

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A Silent Sage on the State of the World

Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet takes many of the greatest hits of Nhat Hanh and presents them as a single, running discourse on the perilous state of the world and how the Vietnamese Zen sect of Buddhism with which Nhat Hanh is affiliated — especially the socially active brand of “engaged Buddhism” he made popular in both the East and West — offers a viable road out of this human-created morass.

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A Cut Above

The samurai is iconic to Japanese history. These two titles provide the reader with engaging depictions of an ancient warrior culture. Strokes of Brush and Blade: Tales of the Samurai is a collection of historical short fiction by modern Japanese authors. Forty-seven Samurai: A Tale of Vengeance and Death in Haiku and Letters was written in English by Hiroaki Sato, prolific Japanese author and translator.

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“What Becomes a Legend Most?”[i] Medieval Hobbies, Gift Giving and Grizzly Power Grabs

Spectacular Accumulation: Material Culture, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and Samurai Sociability by Morgan Pitelka. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 240 pp., $60.00 (cloth). Spectacular Accumulation: Material Culture, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and Samurai Sociability is, like a thought-filled offering, at the same time scholarly and accessible.                         In this fascinating analysis of ego-satisfaction among the leading influencers during…

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!