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.”

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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…

Read More

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.”

Read More

A Cut Above

The samurai is iconic to Japanese history. These two titles provide the reader with engaging depictions of an ancient warrior culture.

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

Shokunin and Devotion

The Japanese word ‘shokunin’ is often translated as ‘artisan’ in English. Although it isn’t incorrect by definition, the translation seems to lose the spirit of what a shokunin does. I’m reminded of this every time I explain the works and lives of shokunin to an overseas audience, which happens to be what I do for a living.

Read More

Comfort

A kotatsu is a low table with a blanket or quilt spread over it and a heating device inside. In old houses like ours, the area under the table is often actually sunk into the floor, so the legs can stretch out and the feet can rest directly on the little heater.

Read More

Butsudan Boys

“Portraits of Eldest Sons” is a series of photographs addressing the relationship between young men and their family homes. Photographer Saito Hiroshi took indvidual portraits of himself and his friends—all young men aged around 20 or 21, and all eldest sons—in the rooms where their family butsudan, in-house Buddhist altars, are displayed.

Read More

Knowing Nature

The pre-modern Japanese were not, of course, innocent of environmental exploitation—they razed many mountainsides and turned many fields after reciting the requisite prayers—but they understood their relationship to the environment in a radically different way than modern Japanese do.

Read More

Honyarado: Losing Kyoto’s Counter-Culture Hub

Opening in 1972, Honyarado became a hub and stronghold of anti-war activities and a symbol of youth counterculture. We campaigned for the release of political prisoners in South Vietnam and South Korea, and supported court cases against obscenity charges.

Read More