Kyoto Report 2023 – 9

This is my last Report from Kyoto for 2023. I will be returning to my work there in 2024 and there are still lots of things to report on. I seem to discover more as I learn more, which is always a good thing. Anyway, our bikes are back in storage, our cases packed and by the time this comes out I will be back down South with mixed feelings about that. Life goes on though. Stay tuned for the Kyoto Report 2024 series – starting sometime next year.

Shosei-en garden

The other day, I was riding my bike after work down here the main station in Kyoto and decided to call in to visit the famous – Shosei-en Garden – which dates back to the – Edo Period (1603 to 1868).

The garden was created from land ceded by the Higashi Hongan-ji Temple in 1653, upon the retirement of the temple’s head abbot.

It is a magical place.

When one walks through the gate a large rather strange but beautiful wall, which is made of all sorts of rocks including old mill stones.

It immediately sets the expectation that this is a special place to visit.

The garden is superb.

This wooden bridge takes the stroller across a pond and the woodwork is really interesting.

Here is the profile of the roof, which layers of birch forming the main cover.

Amazing from my eyes anyway.

It was late afternoon and the dappled light through the trees as the sun was going down was a sight to behold.

All sorts of shades.

Afterwards, I rode down to the Kamo River via a shop that makes brass tea caddies, which are exceptional.

The long ride North back home along the River finished off a great expedition.

A special Obento lunch

Last week, I also was able to have a nice lunch with a friend in Kyoto and she went to so much trouble to produce a Special Vegan >オベント (Obento or lunch) in a beautiful old おベントー箱 (obento-bako or obento lunch box) that came from her grandmother.

Just the appearance of it is a work of art and that was before we sampled the food.

Rice is a necessity and she mixed some purple Japanese basil into the rice balls which were – oishi (delicious).

There was a spinach bowl, some fried lotus root with eggplant and plenty of tofu.

Last came the persimmon.

It was a great lunch and we talked MMT, progressive politics in Japan and the state of the educational system and more.

A really nice day.

Autumn leaves

The leaves are falling now in Kyoto – very late in the season though because of the record heat that Japan has endured over the last few months.

It was only in the last week that the cold is setting in and we went from shorts to coats and scarfs and gloves overnight.

Here is the entrance to the building at the University where I have meetings and attend/give seminars (Research Building 19).

Unfortunately, I am leaving before all the colour in the mountains with the foliage is revealed.

On the lookout for gardens

Yes, I often stop on my bike and peer into gardens to get inspiration for a little – Tsubo-niwa – courtyard garden we are working on at our house in Victoria.

There are so many variations and beautiful ideas around the suburbs of Kyoto.

The other day, I rode across town to store my bike in a university store room for next year and came across this.


Then came Tokyo.

I spent a few days in Tokyo where last Friday we launched my latest book – Fiscal Policy in the Age of Inflation – co-authored with Professor Satoshi Fujii.

There was a large audience at the event in central Tokyo and afterwards we signed copies for seemingly everyone (around 185 people).

The signature started to resemble a straight horizontal line with some dots on top after a while.

Anyway, that was a nice event.

Over the weekend, I went to the famous – Shinjuku Gyo-en – which is a large park and traditional Japanese garden just before you get to the Shinjuku City area.

The contrast between the park and the – Shinjuku City – area is massive.

There was the annual Chrysanthemum Festival in the garden which was fantastic.

All sort of different types and arrangements.

Each arrangement had an explanatory board – detailing how the gardeners coaxed the plants and stems in this way and that.

Here are just a few of the arrangements.

And, I love traditional Japanese lanterns and this grand example caught my eye guarding or illuminating the south pond in the garden.

Afterwards, I walked to the Shinjuku City shopping district, only because I wanted to visit the – Omoide Yokochō (Memory Lane) – area which is a few very narrow lanes full of food shops.

I went there because the fabulous Japanese TV series – Midnight Diner – was based on this area although filmed in a studio.

Not a place for vegans though!

Even the ‘vegetarian’ Ramen is suspicious because they tend to use meat-based stocks or put bonito in the broth.

I have acute antennas for this sort of thing.

If you are vegetarian then to be safe in Japan you should always choose the vegan options – if you can find them.

In Kyoto you have more chance of such a discovery than elsewhere because of their Buddhist traditions there.

My favourite vegan cafe, by the way, is called Ren Horikawa, just west of the Imperial Gardens (Address: 京都市上京区桝屋町1 堀川下長者通り下る).

We often ride our bikes over there for lunch (it closes at 19:00).

Anyway, a long walk on my last day in Tokyo after a long run earlier in the morning and a really chilled out time in the garden.

And, central Tokyo is a great place to run in the mornings believe it or not.

The loop around the Imperial Palace is about 5kms in distance and has a long uphill stretch around the back of the Palace that tests how you are feeling.

From my accommodation I can easily turn it into a 10 km run and the surface is great as are the views.

There is a real sense of a community of runners there.

At one point, as you reach the city side (Marunouchi business district), you run across the moat and through two really large gates which are a feature in themselves.

Every time I am in Tokyo, this is where I head with my running shoes on.

That’s it for 2023.

Each year I learn more about Japanese history and culture, which helps me understand all sorts of things that I might have normally missed, not the least being their economic policy choices.

Unfortunately, they are heavily influenced by American economists to their detriment.

But having said that they still come up with a unique blend that defies the logic deployed by the rest of the world.

My Japanese is improving and I hope to be able read fluently by next year.

Which will come around sooner than I can say Ōkini, which is local dialect to express gratitude.

The fact that I am now picking up and using Kansai-ben (Kansai dialect) in addition to standard Japanese makes me happy.

For example, I started to use Honma instead of Hontou for very much.

And, Ee instead of Ii for good.

And more – almost a local.

That is enough for today!

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

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