EXPLORE THE KYOTO JOURNAL
- FICTION, POETRY & REVIEWS
- HIDDEN JAPAN
- IN TRANSLATION
- INSIGHTS FROM ASIA
- OUR KYOTO
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.
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.
“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.
The Stone Carver
He walked back to the main street, along the row of stone workshops. Through the open doors of one he saw, through a haze of white dust, a row of squatting carvers working frantically, pounding their chisels into the stone in a clanging chorus.
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.
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.
Noguchi Isao on Heirloom Seeds
“Since ancient times, farmers would carefully select seed from vegetables that grew well and tasted wonderful, in addition to other characteristics including shape and color. By saving such seed season after season, these native seeds became trusted as stable varieties over centuries.”
KJ Summer 2018 Reads: Titles from Tuttle
As part of their 70th-year anniversary celebrations, KJ has teamed up with Tuttle Publishing, the Asia specialist, for this four-part series.
Baisao, The Old Tea Seller: Life and Zen Poetry in 18th-century Kyoto
“I’ve got the whole universe in this tea caddy of mine.”
Into the Hills
Up into the Northern Hills,
up the slender, winding road
to the last bus stop; get out, walk
the narrowing valley to the end,
climb steep stone stairs.
Pause there for a cup of tea.
Mio Heki: Kintsugi Artist and Urushi Master
“I see urushi as a way to connect ourselves and our culture with nature in so many ways. Because urushi and kintsugi art is all natural, it is a good way to remind ourselves that we are all part of nature, being pieces of our universe.”
Kimono Design: An Introduction?
This is an extremely beautiful book. Every page explodes with color and pattern: exquisite embroidery, wonderful hand painting, complex dyeing, evocative renditions of natural motifs. An astonishing variety is presented.
An Apprentice Boatbuilder in Japan
I returned to Japan expressly to interview one of the boatbuilders I met on that first trip. Mr. Koichi Fujii was the last builder of taraibune, or tub boats, and with the help of an interpreter I did my best to begin documenting what he knew.
Distant and Far Apart
Watching painters work was something I’ve always been drawn to. How they licked their lips. How their eyes never seemed to blink. How they paced alone in cluttered rooms, stared at things as if defusing bombs, and every breath was a hiccup from boom…
Koya Abe: Selling Vintage Records in Tokyo
Koya Abe spent most of the six-minute-long 2011 Tōhoku earthquake keeping his 78rpm records from falling off the shelves. The delicate collectibles are stored in open-mouth crates mounted on the wall of his Tokyo record shop.
Chikamichi: The Shortcut
Subsistence farming in the mountains is not usually conducive to amassing any great wealth. But then I looked again at the houses and fields, a whole village created from nothing more than wood, bamboo, stone, clay, vine, straw, grass, and the knowledge of how to use them…
Matsumoto Sachiko: Bringing Japanese Crafts to the World
Matsuyama Sachiko is the founder of monomo, a business linking Japanese craftspeople with an international audience and encouraging cultural inspiration.
“Cut it down. You’ll have a better view of the rhodies,” one neighbor suggested.
But why? I loved seeing the fir’s textured bark arcing across the backyard and then shooting up to the sky.
“This is the most beautiful tree I’ve ever seen, “ my mother said. “It’s a giant bonsai without wires.”