Perfect Weekend

A very short recap of a very perfect weekend:

Pumpkin and I had our very first overnight visitor! Because it’s Gion Matsuri and Kyoto is practically booked solid, my friend from Tokyo stayed in our guest room – aka upstairs living room. Pumpkin was not very happy about this; he oscillated between anxiety and curiosity. Both of which meant that he was up all night, keeping me the same…

She came down to finally get to the bottom of my BATI-HOLIC obsession and went to their 20th Anniversary concert with me. Well, let’s just say she isn’t into rock music. Which is fine; I’m happy that she at least tried. The photo of lead singer Nakajima is courtesy of my friend, just before she left to have dinner. I had an absolute blast for more than 2 hours, met some old friends and made some new ones… As I said: PERFECT!

Anyway, I am sure you’re pretty tired of my fangirling here already, so I’ll stop… In case you’re not, I wrote an article about 20 Years of BATI-HOLIC for my WUIK newsletter, which actually made it into a (rock) music magazine in Australia of all places. You can read my article in the Heavy Magazine.

After sleeping in and having a relaxed breakfast, my friend and I went to Shisendo, a nearby temple that is always pretty quiet. The gardens are nice, but not spectacular (outside the azalea season that is), but it is a nice place to sit for a while.

In the afternoon, we went to the Insho Domoto Museum, a favourite of mine; their current exhibition is about monochrome ink paintings, and my favourite painting is exhibited as well. I still can’t describe why it makes me feel the way I feel, but it still moves me to tears every time I see it. My friend was quite put out (and not as impressed about this particular painting I might add.)

Anyway, my friend is back in Tokyo, I’m back at home, Pumpkin is back at ease – and at least I had the perfect weekend! Tomorrow is a holiday to boot, so I can sleep in again. I’m very happy!

Summer Time…

It’s still raining almost every day, but nevertheless, it’s summer time. In other words: cockroach time…

Last week I caught two adults in my livingroom’s oshiire closet, and I thought that would be it for a while. Until a bit earlier tonight I found the huge mother-of-all-roaches and chased her through the kitchen. I need to buy more bug spray, just in case the monster spiders make a re-appearance as well…

In other, work-related news: I am now officially on social media. On X (formerly known as twitter), to be precise. The reason is that many opportunities for writers are not only announced on X, but also require you to “simply dm me for details or to pitch”. Of course, I’ve had an account there for What’s up in Kyoto for years, but I felt it would be a bit weird to use it for unrelated writing work. Thankfully, of all the social media, I find X the least intrusive wrt privacy, so here we’ll go. I already started off with a photo of Pumpkin, who knows where this will end.

Yes, I know what you think – next thing she’ll tell us is that she actually got a mobile phone… Well, I am indeed contemplating that one too…

The Death of the Tea Master

Early this year, I had the opportunity to write an article about Sen-no-Rikyu, Japan’s foremost tea master. Born in 1522, he shaped the Japanese tea ceremony like no other – inventing wabi-sabi on the side. Rikyu rose through the ranks and eventually, he served the country’s leaders Nobunaga and Hideyoshi – until the latter commanded him to commit suicide in 1592.

My article details his life and legacy and was published last month in the 20th issue of EATEN, a print and digital magazine devoted to food history.

The reason I’m sharing this here is because I’m so immensely pleased with the illustrations the editor chose to accompany my piece. They are woodblock prints from 1896 and capture the essence of Rikyu’s tea ceremony perfectly.

As a writer, there is always a bit of apprehension when it comes to images for one’s articles; this is nothing we can influence. When they turn out so wonderfully, it’s cause for extra celebration.

The whole magazine is stunning (a few photos are on the website above) and it’s well worth reading. Other articles in this drink-themed issue center on the connection of NASCAR and bootlegging, how to make the perfect cup of coffee, and it includes a number of recipes enjoyed by Oxford Dons in 1835. Cheers!

Touring Kyoto

This spring, I decided to lean out of my comfort zone and to take people on tours in Kyoto. So far, I have led about 10 groups of people, all German speakers, and the experience was certainly interesting.

First and foremost: all my clients were delightful people. They were curious and interested, some even prepared for their tour. They also wanted to know about life in Japan in general, and I hope I could dispel a myth or two… Overall, I enjoyed myself, which came as a surprise to me.

Ever since I came to Japan, friends of mine had suggested tour guiding to me, but I was always very reluctant. The main reason: I’m an introvert and I feel I’m not good with strangers; and on a tour you have to “function” immediately. But it turns out that this is not an issue at all. I only had small groups of four people max, and the fact that I finally get to talk about Kyoto and its history for hours to an appreciative audience is quite exhilarating.

The other thing I was worried about was my hip problem: One tour means six hours of walking, a good part of it uphill… However, since I lost so much weight last year, it was less of an issue than I had feared – provided I can take breaks or at least lean against something especially towards the end of the tour. And there are always painkillers, of course.

However, there is one unexpected negative as well: The day after a six hour tour, I’m wiped out. I feel more mentally drained than physically tired, and this might be because of my introversion – having to interact a whole day with people I don’t know seems to deplete my batteries pretty fast. Therefore, I try not to schedule mentally challenging tasks – or, heavens forbid: appointments – the day after a tour.

For that reason, the whole tour guiding thing will probably remain a side job for the high seasons in spring and autumn. While it’s always good to test one’s boundaries, it’s just as good to know where they lie.

150th Miyako Odori

All the way back in February this year, I was invited to a press conference of Gion Kobu, one of Kyoto’s five kagai – geiko/maiko districts. This year, they celebrated the 150th Miyako Odori, a public dance performance with geiko and maiko held every April that was established in 1872. I have written a piece about its history on my medium page, have a look at Geiko and Maiko Celebrate 150th Miyako Odori.

The press conference featured talks by a professor of Doshisha university about the history of the Miyako Odori and a talk by the dance master Yachiko Inoue, whose school is exclusively responsible for the choreography – and that for 150 performances.

Afterwards, we were introduced to the painter who designed this year’s poster and to two of the three maiko who made their debut on stage this year were presented and we were allowed to have a few questions. They were shy and a bit uncomfortable, and no matter how mature they may seem thanks to their makeup and dress, at the end of the day, they are just some giggling teenagers after all.

A few days later, we were invited back to take promotional photographs of the kimono and the stage setting, again with a Q&A of maiko as well as of the dance master. I found it very interesting how unabashedly the photographers directed the girls to “turn that way, look here” etc. To me, who has always heard the maiko referred to respectfully as maiko-san, it was quite a new experience.

So was watching how the main promotional photo was taken of the two maiko in full dress on stage. The dance master sat at the end of the stage directing them how to smile and hold the props etc. This part alone – one photo for each of the eight scenes – took several hours; sadly I was busy in the afternoon and had to leave at noon.

Finally, as the highlight of the entire backstage experience, I received an invitation to the final dress rehearsal of the Miyako Odori on March 31st. Once again, there were interviews with this year’s first performers and the dance master. The entire theater was filled with invited people, and while the press had to sit at the very back, we were the ones allowed to take photos. Here are a few that I took during the 150th Miyako Odori.

Rediscovered Painting by Jakuchu

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity – thanks to What’s up in Kyoto – to be among the first people to lay eyes on a recently discovered painting by Jakuchu. It was a press-only-reveal of a colorful scroll and it was done with all the ceremony that such an event required.

You can read all about this important discovery, and a little bit about Jakuchu, on the Japonica Medium page in my article
Rediscovered Painting by Kyoto Master Returns Home – Jakuchu scroll found in Europe causes stir in Japanese art scene.

It was a nice diversion from the things I usually do, and a friend of mine even recorded evidence of me trying to be a serious photographer. (She calls the photo “kakkoi” – cool.)

I love my job.


Just a short heads-up that I’m fine, just busy.

Yesterday, I was out almost all day, for no less than three press-previews of a large exhibition that started today. It’s really fun to get to see exhibitions before they are open, plus a guided tour and plenty of other information. Sometimes, there are other goodies too…

But at the same time, it means that I’ll have to move other work around, and then I’m extra busy on the days leading up to and after such an event. But overall, it’s worth it!

New Beginnings…

Isn’t it interesting how many reasons for a fresh start you get if you just keep looking diligently? My reason is the new fiscal year that has just started for my company, and so I have decided to do a few things differently at work.

Most importantly, I will shift my focus towards writing even more. I have done more writing (mostly for a number of so-called content mills) in the last two years, ever since Corona has more or less killed my tourist site. I will keep working on and for What’s up in Kyoto, of course because there’s so much to learn about Kyoto and so much I get to do and see because of it – which gives me plenty of stuff to write about as well.

As you know, I had an essay published last August about Sada Abe, a notorious Japanese murderer. (Hint: I also have another piece accepted in the same book series, coming out later this year…) I also started a Medium account for writing that doesn’t really fit on this blog, but it fell a bit by the wayside when I bought the house (many other things have, too). The plan is to write more on Medium, and try to find other outlets for my creative energies, preferably paid ones. Those will probably be non-fiction, just in case you’re wondering, I’m still too much of a scientist and no-nonsense kinda girl to make things up in a way that is interesting to read.

Hopefully, I can turn this into a sustainable business. Mostly because I have more plans for the house than I have money. And not all of these can be DIYed. While simply saving the money I formerly paid for rent will get me quite far, I’d also like to increase my income substantially over the next few years to speed things up. And a little more spending money is nice too. Even though things got better somewhat, and even though I live quite frugally, money can still get a bit tight every now and then.

So yes, that’s my plans for business at this point. Hopefully, I can tell – or even better: show – you more about my writing endeavours soon.

Finished/Furnished: Office

Finally, my office has received its finishing touches today! I’m happy to announce that it is done now – have a look at the renovation diary to see how far we’ve come.

If you remember my old office, you will see that the furniture and the rug are the same. I still like them, they are perfectly functional, so I saw no need to replace anything. Unfortunately, I had to compromise a little on the layout. My idea was to have both desks next to each other along the wall with the window. But with the turquoise shelf opposite the entrance door, even put upright, this didn’t leave enough clearance behind the computer desk to get in and out of the office chair comfortably – or into the oshiire. Switching the desk and the shelf did wonders, and it doesn’t look as awful as I thought.

The oshiire is now closed with a door. I had to compromise quite a bit here as well: I had the idea with a folding door too late for the top/bottom rails to be installed properly. And the French doors I wanted originally to match the design of the entrance door were almost three times as expensive as the standard flat ones that are there now. Sometimes I really wish I were made of money… (Or that I could make up my mind a bit faster.)

There will be no additional lamps, the LED tracks/spots that my architect suggested – I would have never thought of that – are sufficient and give just the right amount of light. The old lamps will go upstairs into the library/reading room. The blinds were put up today, they come from another room of my old apartment and fit perfectly. The cat cushion is new, and Pumpkin is sleeping there right now. He’s not so appreciative of it in the mornings, but things will be easier when it’s getting warmer, and I can just keep the door open, so he can roam freely.

Things that still need to be done: Get the myriad of cables on and underneath the desk in order, or at least out of the way. Even though Pumpkin is not super interested in cables, he is curious, so I don’t want to tempt him too much.

There is no wall clock (the old one will go into the kitchen) and I haven’t put up any art yet either. Instead of damaging my beautiful walls with random holes, I have opted for picture rails on the very top. They were rather expensive, but this way, I can be flexible and exchange my art as I like. For now, I have no clear image of what I want to put there, but I have taken a number of great Kyoto photos that might just be the thing for the office…

That’s it for my official renovations with my architect and the contractor/carpenter, all of whom are saints with their patience and all. From now on, it’ll be a string of (hopefully successful) DIY operations. Unfortunately, I have more ideas than time or money… But then again, it’s not as if all this needs to be finished immediately. I have no plans for moving any time soon, anyway.

The next step is the bathroom. After more than 2 months, I’m still brushing my teeth in the kitchen sink for crying out loud.

I Love My Job!

At work, things aren’t easy during Corona times and it won’t get back to “normal” soon either, if ever again. However, every now and then there’s a great day between all the drab, and it makes me feel very positive for now and the future.

One of these days was last Friday, when I was invited to a press review of two exhibitions and one 5* hotel in Arashiyama.

The Saga Arashiyama Museum for Arts and Culture as well as the Fukuda Art Museum started their new exhibition on August 1. The first exhibition is all about animals, with a focus on the 12 zodiac animals as well as images of cats. Cats are suspiciously absent from the Chinese zodiac, but given all the paintings and stories and youtube videos about them, they probably got the better ending long-term.

The second exhibition was about the Tokyo painters Taikan and Shunso, friends from the Meiji and Taisho era. Taikan is regarded as a ‘gold medalist’ of Japanese painting, famous for his depictions of Mt. Fuji. I know nothing about painting, so I can’t really say much about the art, but there was a quote from Taikan that I found excellent:

Once a person is formed, painting is possible. First, you have to form the person.

I enjoyed both exhibitions and the nice things about these two museums are is that they let you take photos of most of the exhibits. The photos above are mine.

The last place I went to was the new Muni Hotel. It’s a fantastic 5* hotel with only 21 rooms but with a lovely view over the river in Arashiyama. It also has all the amenities necessary for a 5* hotel including a very exclusive French (of course) restaurant. Again, I was allowed to take pictures everywhere – except for the restaurant. Why? Because on the wall opposite the entrance hangs a huge painting by Marc Chagall. I tried to find a photo online to show it here, but no luck. If you have 30000 yen to splurge on dinner, I would recommend it though!

I returned home after spending several hours in Arashiyama, with a goodie bag from the hotel’s “boutique” where they sell just perfect little sweets. So yes, I had a wonderful Friday! I hope things will keep getting more interesting. 😉