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Kyoto Report 2023 – 3

This Tuesday report will provide some insights into life for a westerner (me) who is working for several months at Kyoto University in Japan.

When you live in a foreign country for an extended period you start to observe the seasonal patterns not just in the weather but in the social practices and customs.

But it sometimes takes a while to understand what one is observing.

Yesterday, I was out running early down to the – Kamo River – then along its paths (see picture from this morning’s run in the early morning mist over the mountains) then back along the canals that come down from the mountains.

While it was early, it was deadly quiet.

It took me a while to work out that it was a public holiday – no school kids, no cars, no people.

I discovered it was the annual スポーツの日 (Sports Day) holiday (second Monday in October) and it began in 1966 as a commemoration of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

The aim is to ‘promote sports and an active lifestyle’.

All sorts of activities occur – athletics carnivals, tug-of-war contests, obstacle course races, and the like.

So I was actually getting into the swing of things, without really knowing it.

The only problem was that it rained a lot in the morning here in Kyoto, so I didn’t see to many tug-of-war contests or any sporting activities for that matter going on.

The River

As the previous photo demonstrates, the Kamo River and its tributary, the Takano, which forks just further North of where that photo was taken (at Konoe-dori Bridge) is one of the wonders of the world.

It runs down the East side of Kyoto.

During the – Heian Period – when Kyoto was the Imperial Capital, the ruler diverted the river.

The Map below shows approximately where the diversion began – just past the Misono Bridge in the north and the red line traces approximately what was the Horikawa river, which is now a canal to the west of the Imperial Palace and Gardens (that big green rectangle on the map).

Apparently, the Emperor, as you do, wanted his palace in its present position and thought a major river going down the centre of the capital territory would be divisive.

And you don’t have to know much about Japanese history to understand that the rulers were always worried about assailants planning to usurp their power base.

The – Nijō Castle -just near the Palace actually was built with squeaky floor boards and decking so that those sleeping inside could hear any intruders in the dark of the night.

While out this running this morning I stopped further up the river to the North of where the last photo as taken – at the Kuramaguchi-dori Bridge and took this photo of the mist hanging over the magnificent Mt Hiei to the East.

There is an observation deck up in the Mountain directly to the East from where that photo was taken – the Yumenigaoka Deck – which offers unbelievable views to the west across Kyoto and to the East over the range to Lake Biwa.

As the Autumn deepens, the colours of nature are on show all across the city and Mt Hiei is a great place to see them.

I would have avoided it had I known!

Last Saturday, it was a glorious day in Kyoto and I rode my bike down to Okazaki Park, which is south of where I live.

There is often events going on down there and sometimes I watch the baseball at the field adjacent to the Park.

It is not to watch the baseball, but rather the way the teams convey their respect for themselves, their opponents, the officials, and the crowd at the end of each game – a collective celebration with bowing, clapping and vocalised chants.

When I go to the football (AFL) in Melbourne I never witness such displays.

Okazaki Park also has vegan food stalls open some Saturdays and you can enjoy the food prepared in the Zen tradition while staying outside in the park (Covid safe).

And they often have music there down on the plaza.

This time, it seems, the local Christians were out in force, which is a rarity in Kyoto, and full of enthusiasm.

An old guy in front of me was really getting with it.

I only lasted one chorus!!

I was trying to understand what they were singing in Japanese and couldn’t identify any words until I realised they were singing in English – the Jesus bit gave it away.

I took a video but it is too big to upload here.

Just imagine.

Getting the band back together

Last year, I was a guest artist with a local rock band – Kyoto band Kazuchika Misawa – which has some of the best local players as members – at one of the premier music establishments in Kyoto.

We played rock and roll (or ‘lock and loll’ as the locals say) at one of the oldest and best live music venues – ‘live houses’ – in Kyoto last Saturday – the famous – Jittoku – in the Kamigyo Ward (not far West from the Imperial Garden and Palace complex).

It was an old sake brewery and the tables and chairs are recycled sake barrels.

Here is the view of the room from the stage (noting that since Covid they have erected plastic screens on all the tables and they restrict the number of people who can come in to a show).

I wrote about it in this blog post – Kyoto Report No 5 (November 8, 2022).

Well I must have done something right because they invited me to play with them again on October 31, 2023.

Anyway, I now have a loan Fender Telecaster and we will turn up to 11 and go for it.

Here is the October schedule (well the last bit of it) advertising the gig.

I will report back afterwards if I can still hear anything!

It is worth the trip to Kyoto in itself.

Another week in Kyoto.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2023 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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