Monday, December 10, 2012

Edo Protocol

These photographs do not do justice to the dazzling autumn colours and evening  lighting at the Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera (音羽山清水寺)  in Kyoto. Many years ago I had made a daytime visit to this temple complex. I knew very little of Japanese culture then. As I know a little bit more now, this visit was a lot more enjoyable. 

My only regret was that I did not have a tripod to enable me to take better nighttime photographs. So please excuse a bit shaky handheld photographs!

Kiyomizu-dera is an UNESCO World Heritage site and was founded in 798 during the Heian period 平安時代  while the current temple was constructed in 1633 which is early Edo period 江戸時代. 

Edo period saw 250 years of peace, prosperity, flowering of arts and culture and economic growth. Surprisingly despite isolationist policies and strictly enforced environmental protection there was economic growth. Perhaps we and the climate negotiators to the Kyoto Protocol successor need to re-visit this period to see how this was achieved and learn from them.

Image: Night time scenery and autumn colours at Kiyomizu dera, Kyoto. (November 2012)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tea & Books At Jimbocho 神保町


In this age of smart phones and dumb TV programs it is always nice to see people actually reading books. Many years ago one always saw immaculately and elegantly dressed people reading books, manga or newspapers while riding the Tokyo Metro. These days that scene is rare with most people, still elegantly dressed, exercising their fingers on smart phones.

Fortunately at Jimbocho 神保町 one still sees people reading in the numerous second hand book stores, tea houses and cafes. The famous Tea House Takano is also located here. After the hustle and bustle of Ginza and Omotesando, this area of Jimbocho is serenely peaceful.

Just buy a book, maybe a second hand one, and read and watch the world go by from a window of a tea house while sipping delicious tea. Possibly from Jun Chiyabari. Ah bliss!

Images: Books shops cum tea houses / cafe on the street leading to Tea House Takano in Jimbocho 神保町, Tokyo. (November 2012)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cosmos At Miho

Only by wine one's heart is lit,
only a poem calms a soul that's torn.
You'd understand me, Tao Qian.
I wish a little sooner I was born!

- Du Fu  杜甫 (712-770)

After emerging from the womb of Mother Earth and crossing the Peach Blossom Valley one is transported into the Cosmos of Dogu, Buddha and other Asian arts and sculpture at Miho Museum in Shiga Prefecture 滋賀県. 

Masterpieces from the private collection of Mihoko Koyama are housed in a beautifully designed I.M Pei's outstanding work of creative architecture. Almost the entire building is underground having been carved deep into the mountainside.

Unlike the Peach Blossom Valley 桃花源 of Tao Qian 陶潜 which was the inspiration for this museum and its setting, one can visit this Shangri-la as many times as one likes.

Images: Miho Museum Shiga Ken, Japan (November 2012)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fishy Business at Kappabashi 合羽橋

Japanese knives from Sakai 堺市 are famous worldwide for their fine quality. After all they have been at it for hundreds of years. 

Some weeks ago I really struggled trying to cut slices of Salmon from Iceland with bad knives and almost cut myself in the process. I was determined to get a pair of good knives for fish and luck would have it that I was headed to Japan soon after that fishy ordeal. 

In Tokyo you need to head to Kappabashi 合羽橋 to care of such needs. At Kamaasa I was taken care of by the friendly and knowledgeable staff. As a nice finishing touch the shop offers to put some Japanese words or a name on the blade of knife. 

As a tea person Sakai 堺市 is interesting because Sen no Rikyu 千利休 was merchant in the prosperous town of Sakai. So in purchasing Sakai knives I paid my tribute to the great tea master in a roundabout way.      

Images: knife craftsman at Kamaasa puts on a nice finishing touch to a recently bought knife. (November 2012)