Last Saturday, I took a trip down to Takeda, south of Kyoto station. It takes quite a while to get there from my place, and it’s not really the nicest part of town to visit, so I waited for the perfect timing to go to three events and not just one.

First, I visited Jonan-gu Shrine. It has a beautiful garden in two parts, and last weekend was the Nagoshi-no-Harae summer purification. Usually, this ancient event takes place only on June 30th, but Jonan-gu is one of the few shrines where they have a hitogata ceremony the week before. The ceremony is easy and DIY: you take one piece of paper in human shape, touch your body with it (left shoulder, right shoulder, then blow on it) and then you set it afloat in the shrine’s stream. The idea is that all your illnesses of the previous six months will be taken down to the sea together with the paper.

So I went there for the purification ceremony and it was easy and fun to watch the paper dolls float down the stream. They would never make it to the ocean though since they were fished out at the end of the garden. The paper will then be dried again and ritually burned, so there is some ceremony involved in their disposal. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of this. Although I brought my camera, I had a scatterbrained moment and didn’t load the SD card…

flyer of picasso exhibitionAt the next stop, photos were not allowed anyway. I went to the Kyocera gallery were they had an exhibition of their Picasso collection. In summer 1968, Picasso made 347 prints featuring women and sex, and the Kyocera gallery owns a full set (the second printing out of 50). Even though at this time there was only the second half on display (Japanese museums often change their exhibits midway through an exhibition), I found the images very interesting. They were numbered chronologically and you could see the shifting interest of Picasso throughout these months.

In the second floor of the Kyocera building there is the Kyocera Museum of Fine Ceramics, but you will not find many vases and tea bowls there. Fine ceramics are industrial type ceramics used for example in cars, rockets, solar panels etc. Making them requires high precision and more knowledge of chemistry than the regular potter will ever need. Since I am a science nerd, I loved the exhibition. There was so much to see – including a full-time line of Kyocera – that I was overwhelmed quickly and had to leave. I will come back though, promised!

My last stop was at the Kyoto Antique Fair. I love browsing through the many different stalls and looking at (if not for) things. I have been there several times, and it seems that there are some sort of waves as to what is for sale there. This time, I found a huge number of cloisonné items, something I only now recognise after I did the piece on the Namikawa Cloisonné Museum for What’s Up in Kyoto. And, wouldn’t you believe it, there was even one booth selling pieces made by Namikawa Yasuyuki!

Seeing them up close in all their glory was mind-boggling! How did he manage so much fine detail 100 years ago? The seller said that they didn’t really know, and that even nowadays, his art is unmatched. Of couse, since Namikawa Yasuyuki was the Japanese cloisonné artist, his pieces were completely out of my price range. Just to give you an idea: the smallest vase they had, about 5 cm in height, went for 1.6 million yen. Not just pocket money, is it…

Well, I did not come home empty-handed after all. There were a few things that tempted me and that were still within my price range. And I went for something unusual. For me, at least. But, I mentioned it before somewhere, I am fascinated by shakuhachi, traditional Japanese bamboo flutes. And, so I bought a very cheap second-hand one for just 7000 yen.

My shakuhachi.I have heard that playing the shakuhachi is extremely difficult, and indeed, I am trying to get a sound of this thing since last Saturday. Sometimes it works, and then I try to cover a single hole and then I have to start again. Fun fact: I am not a very musical person, the only thing I am good at playing is CDs. Also, one of my friends once called me tone-deaf. Which is not going to make things easier. But hey, what is life without a good challenge every now and then. So, let’s try this and see what happens!

2 thoughts on “Impulse”

  1. Good luck! If I remember correctly Shakuhachi is taught by mimicking your teacher (so basically by playing by ear) rather than through sheet music as you usually do with piano, violin etc.
    I already struggled with just hearing if my violin was in tune and my fingers in the right position… XD

    1. Thank you, Julia!

      The “mimicking your teacher” part seems to be a standard way of teaching arts in Japan. In martial arts (Aikido) too, the teacher doesn’t explain much. It’s mostly “do as I do, one day you’ll understand”. Yeah right…

      For now, I’m still trying to get some sound of the thing. There is a shakuhachi concert on Saturday, it’s probably a good idea to have a listen there 😉

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