Kyoto Journal Digital Issue 85


Toutosha: A House Living with Tea
Okada Torajiro on sitting
Poetry from a Chinese factory
Japanese “proletariat literature”


How do we give ourselves space and time to disengage our mental autopilot, re-awaken our senses, re-enter the present? Personal rituals can lend us focus, ease and grace, and release creativity?

In Kyoto, green tea is not simply a beverage; it’s the essential ingredient in a ceremony that strips away inessentials and sets the scene for deeper resonances. Alexandra Ting interviews younger-generation practitioners at Toutousha, a teahouse “intoxicated with tea, or beauty.” Some prefer formal meditation: Okada Torajiro, profiled by Joshua Shapiro, developed his own form of simply sitting, during the intellectual ferment of the later Meiji era—noting however that if he had been teaching in the West, he might have used dance as his practice. Observing the play of human emotions is hardly new: Dola RC reports that since the 5th century, Indian playwrights, poets and artists have explored rasa, the “juice”—as in essence and energy—inherent in the responsive psyche. Even earlier, the Buddha famously noted the paradox that “form is emptiness, and emptiness is form”: Paula Arai introduces former scientist Iwasaki Tsuneo, who spent his last years inscribing that Heart Sutra illumination into images of the cosmos. As described by Mon Ooyama, Tokyo arts collective #BCTION’s invocation to creativity was a much faster burn— they took over a soon-to-be-demolished 10-story office tower, and within a month, transformed it into a short-lived monument to the quirkily mindful immediacy of street art (meanwhile incorporating a space for tea, and tea-master Matsumura Souryu, in one of the upper levels). Liane Wakabayashi, a self-taught artist, describes creating her Genesis Cards to encourage others to access and exercise their creative powers.

Art and literature of course deal with dark as well as light. Accompanied by haunting photographs from Zhan You Bing, translator Eleanor Goodman introduces young Chinese poet Xu Lizhi, talented enough to have spoken for his generation as a national poet laureate—instead, sadly, he’s remembered as a Foxconn employee who suicided at age 24. In our In Translation feature, Norma Fields champions Japanese “proletariat literature” from a groundbreaking new anthology—with a story by Kobayashi Takiji, who was tortured to death in 1933 by the Tokkō “thought police,” at age 29.

Back on the brighter side, evolutionary biologist Sara Lewis tells of the resurgence of Japan’s fireflies, and Nepali poet Sudeep Adhikari illuminates the psychocosm. George Jisho reflects on the nature of spiritual sustenance, Peter Shireson opens a gateless gate where koans and poetry intersect, and publisher of poetry Paul Rossiter talks about his vocation (preceding a wide-ranging reviews section). John Einarsen focuses his lens on a new photographic genre—Kyoto’s smallest buildings—and Seattle resident Sara Yamasaki recalls her family’s “giant bonsai.” Vinita Ramani tracks endangered elephants in Malaysia; local writer Jesse Efron reveals in a fiction piece the true fact that a US military telecommunications surveillance facility has been quietly established in northern Kyoto Prefecture. Melissa Uchiyama holds her family’s life together on the Ring of Fire, and KJ Rambler-at-large Robert Brady, former surveillancer of Cold War China, surfs the great Eurasian tectonic plate.


A House Living with Tea – Alexandra Ting
The Life and Times of Okada Torajiro – Joshua Shapiro

#Bction: Reclaiming Creativity, Inspiring
Interactivity in Urban ‘Dead Space’ – Mon Ooyama
#bction Chanoyu: Talking with Tokyo – Teamaster Soryou Matsumura

An Exaltation of Rasa – Dola RC
Seeing the Wisdom of Compassion:The Art & Science of the Heart Sutra – Paula Arai

Visualizing Intuition with Genesis Art – Liane Wakabayashi

In Translation:
For Dignity, Justice and Revolution: Comrade Taguchi’s Sorrow – Kobayashi Takiji; Translated by Norma Field

Any Ring is Commitment: Even One Made of Fire – Melissa Uchiyama
Giant Bonsai – Sara Yamasaki

Kyoto Notebook:
Small Buildings of Kyoto – John Einarsen

Through the Gateless Gate – Peter Schireson
Left Behind – Xu Lizhi
Psychocosm Nothingness – Sudeep Adhikari
Poetry, Dharma and Nourishment – George Jisho Robertson

The Unseen Wild: Tracking the Elephants of Belum-Temegor Forest, Malaysia – Vinita Ramani

Hotaru Koi: Come Firefly – Sara Lewis

87 – Jesse Efrom

My Life on the Eurasian Plate – Robert Brady

Paul Rossiter on Isobar and English Poetry in Japan – Interview by Gregory Dunne

Published March 20th, 2016