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Welcome to Kyoto

This year's lucky four artists for EWAL Artist in Residence in Kyoto 2017 were selected and now arrived in Kyoto safely.

The first photo (from left, Larissa, Lauren, Jan and Paul ) was taken at front of Nijo Castle which is very near to their accommodation.

They will stay in Kyoto and Tokyo for two weeks (or more for option) and look forward to see traditional and modern Japan.

They will send us their diaries together with some photos so we will report here almost live so please visit this site to see what they saw and how they felt in Japan. They expect to attend some workshops in Kyoto as well as visit many traditional places in Kyoto, Nara and Tokyo. 
Profiles of 4 residents
We arrived at Osaka airport late on Friday night and were immediately greeted by a gigantic, building sized Pikachu, which was rather mesmerizing in our jet lagged state! From there we travelled to Kobe to stay at the house of Yuki and her parents, they were wonderfully welcoming and provided us with a great first mpression of Japan, as well as a rather spectacular breakfast.

On Saturday, we travelled to Kyoto where we met up with Larissa and Paul, spending the afternoon strolling around Kyoto and having a lovely dinner with dishes recommended by Yuki, all of which were delicious. Sunday morning began with a trip to the awe inspiring Fushimi Inari, where, with the help of Japanese artist Sachie, we proceeded to meander up the many steps through seemingly endless vermillion gates, enjoying beautiful forest pathways and views along the way.

On our return to the city we visited the gallery space to meet more of the Japanese Artists from EWAAC, which proved to be so much fun that we invited them back to our house to continue on the party after leaving the gallery!

March 24 (Friday)

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Firstly thank you for this amazing opportunity, already it has been an amazing visual feast!

The house in Kyoto is in a really good position, there are so many great things to see just wandering around the local streets. You have to be a little careful along these refreshingly quite roads as the electric cars are very quiet and cyclists abound. The amazing Nijo Castle is just down the road, we are planning to visit one evening when it is all lit up. Next door to the castle is an art gallery , yesterday we saw a really interesting exhibition there of the work of textile artist Nobuko Hiroi, very thoughtful work , beautifully executed. Upstairs she had her amazing textile archive from around the world on display, this was a  wonderful addition to the exhibition. We also had the privilege of meeting her and she is going to join us at  the opening of our exhibition next week. She is a weaver!

After the exhibition -  Yuki, Larrisa , Paul, Lauren and myself enjoyed our first meal together in a traditional Japanese restaurant. we sat at low tables our feet in a foot well,  in a screened booth. The food was delicious, but I did pass on chickens ovaries and various other bits of the chickens anatomy that we are not accustomed to eating !

This evening we had our welcome party at the gallery, we had a very friendly reception from the Japanese artists we will be exhibiting with.Yuki , our lovely facilitator made wonderful sushi, we ate, drank,talked and laughed a lot. We extended our meeting back at our house , it was really good fun. 

The gallery we are exhibiting in is in a traditional Kyoto town house designed during the Edo period. At the back of the gallery  are the traditional living quarters of the family who own the gallery, with tatami mats, screening and hanging scroll, absolutely beautiful. I am really looking forward to seeing all of the artworks, I think the standard is going to be high.

It is now after mid night and definitely bed time, I will sleep well after good food, good company and lots of walking, especially up and down steps at the temple and the rail and subway stations.

March 25 (Saturday)

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My journey to Kyoto began with an astonishing flight across the time zones of Eastern Europe & Asia. Looking down on Moscow by night from 33thousand feet, waking up to see the sun rise over Mongolia & the Gobi desert.

My anxiety of arriving late night in Kyoto calmed by Ken & Yuki organizing my transfer and capsule accommodation which is much better than I expected. TV, Wifi...everything is there in a compact room and cheap.

First morning, sense awakened; the Kyoto soundscape, the little details in high-streets & side-streets, becoming familiar with street etiquette observing a gentler pace, simple courtesy, engaging with shopkeepers, traditional craft artisans with shop front access, house-fronts displaying spring flowers & camellias.

Day 2

Waiting for blossom. Watching the Sakura forecast. No doubt it will appear.

Take the subway to Ryoanji.
Sakura tumbling from train canopy
Orange trees plenty. Scattered blossom too
Here’s a monk with empty basket
A graceful lady in kimono
The baseball team strike a home run
The hockey players on the winning side

RYOANJI !!

The train driver so smart. Average delay 36 seconds!
I have known Ryoanji in my imagination for so long, the anticipation is palpable & poignant. The reality is all this and more than this.

The tranquility of this morning juxtaposed suddenly with a dash to Inary
Mountain. So many visitors here, we are fortunate to have Socharie who, with good humour and thoughtfulness, made some sense of this ancient place through the swarm of visitors. Climbing towards the summit we are rewarded wit 
magnificent views of the valley beneath us, in the distance Kyoto city and
surrounding hills.
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For the past couple of years, I have wanted to visit Japan and to be selected for this residency is a great opportunity for me to experience eastern culture that is so very different.
 
24th
After arriving at Tokyo airport, I then made the trip to the bus station to meet Miko who kindly helped me to reach the Tokyo house. I slept very well until 2pm next afternoon in a charming Japanese style room. The house is hypnotizing with collected objects that are carefully separated and organized in units by the type of the objects: bowls, crockery, pots, figures and other ornaments. I recognised the connection to my photographic work with the vastness of objects and the purity of soul nourishment.
 
 25th
Today I took the world-renowned bullet train to Kyoto. During the high-speed journey, I was so please to watch the outside world zoom by but did manage to see the landscape with Mount Fuji, tea plantations, bamboo growing in forests. On arriving to Kyoto I was greeted by one of the most fantastic modern piece of architecture in the form of the station building where I met with Yuki, Jan, Laurence and Paul.
The colour, vibrancy and the amount of people have court my attention and their wiliness to help a stranger. The land of the rising sun did not let me down as once we left Kyoto station we were hit by the vast amount of cultural scenery.
 
26th
Today Jan, Lawrence, Paul and I travelled to the Inary station to meet Sachie who would kindly show us all around Fushimi Inary Shrine which are the thousands of vermillion Torii Gates positioned across the narrow pass way that lead all the way up the mountain and the view of the city looks picturesque from the top.
Along the way the pair of kitsune (foxes) statues are seen and some of them hold symbolic object in the mouth. They are considered as messengers of Inary.
The evening came very quickly and we went to have a welcoming party at the gallery and also  introduced to the Japanese artists to us. The evening carried on with drinks and eating Yuki’s delicious cooked food. We exchanged by a mismatch of languages conversations over our works and general location and before you knew it was time to make tracks and head back to the house.

March 24 / 25 / 26

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Another busy day. We went on a coach trip to three temple sites in Nara. The artistry displayed in the woodwork of the temple structures is amazing, the huge Buddha with his warriors in Todaiji Temple were quite awesome. The temple also has its resident deer, they are very friendly as they hope you are going to feed them. Our tour guide was Japanese and we were with a party of Japanese people, we sped through the three temple sites following our leaders flag, by the end of it we were not quite sure what had happened to us! We did not have time to really take in the magnificence  of the sites but definitely got an inkling of life as a Japanese tourist!

On leaving Nara we wandered through a shopping mall, (just have to break off here to say Lauren is having a bath and the bath, with a female Japanese voice has suddenly started talking to her , we can hear this in the living room, we have no idea what is being said!), back to the shopping mall, we stumbled across an amazing shop selling plastic food, it was fantastic. An early start tomorrow so off to bed now

March 27

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Another exciting day started off with a local train trip to Nara, thanks to Yuki who had organised an excursion by bus with a guided tour around Nara. It is perceptible that the city has no tall buildings and this is due to the Five- Story Pagoda, which is a symbol of Nara located on the grounds of Kofukuji Temple and taller buildings are not permitted. 

The Nara Park in the city of Nara is full of tame deer’s walking freely and cheekily nib at the tourist as asking for some food or for a bit of cuddle. Nice to see the human and animal coexist in harmony with each other. The deers are again considered as a messengers of the gods and are protected.  

Totaiji Temple was impactful with the statue of the Great Buddha (Daibutsu) in the main hall which is nearly 15m tall and 28m wide plus  the halo of 27m and covering majority of the space of the wooden temple. A real must see.

As I was walking back from the Kyoto train station I visited Higashi Honganji Temple  which was so interesting and then I found myself in Kyoto gardens where I observed some herring perching on a tree branch.
The time was getting closer to evening and I felt the temperature start to drop with a little chill, but I still managed to visit the Nijo Castle to watch the projection mapping in the inner walls and giving the feeling as if the castles was alive.

Back at the house Jan and Paul prepared tasty stir fry and which we washed down with a glass of wine and a little bit of beer.


March 27 (Monday)

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An exhausting but incredible two days, Monday began with a rather rapid guided tour of Nara, where at Todaiji temple a vast Buddha looked serenely down upon us whilst gangs of greedy deer gobbled up biscuits from our palms. We then visited the stunning Kasuga Taisha, were we saw some of our first sakura nestled amongst the many lanterns. From there we proceeded to Kofukuji Temple, then wandered around Nara’s shopping centre, popping into plastic food and souvenir shops whilst J-pop tinkled from speakers all around, and indulged in a lovely lunch courtesy of Paul.

Today, we visited Ryoanji and Arashiyama, which were both quite simply, stunning. Ryoanji temple and rock garden overawed me with its enchanting tranquility, and the walk through the bunting strewn town in the sunshine was wonderfully pleasant. We visited the vast Tenryu-ji Kyoto, and then got on a train to Arashiyama. At the station we were greeted by a ‘Kimono Forest’ an incredible installation of traditional kimono patterns in trunk like tubes, very inspirational for my work! We had another lovely lunch, this time courtesy of Larissa (what generous folk these residents are!) then wandered through the
town and the incredible bamboo groves, eating Macha ice cream and taking in the views in the beautiful temple gardens. Throughout the day we were accompanied by Maki, who was ever so much fun and made the whole experience wonderful.


March 27 (Monday)

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Today has been a day of constant visual feasts! It started early this morning at Ryoanji Temple, I think this is probably one of my most favourite places ever! It has a simple but amazing Zen rock garden. The clay walls are a wonderful range of earthy tones and look like soft, abstract landscape paintings. They form the backdrop to the fifteen strategically placed rocks and carefully raked gravel of the garden. It is a space enimating  immense peacefulness, even in the presence of a flow of tourists. The main hall flanking the garden has a series of paintings on the screen walls and tatami mats linked by a simply woven braid, just beautiful. The lake and gardens surrounding the main hall are perfectly tended. Moss is cultivated between the trees and forms a dense carpet, rather than it being routed out as is the Western tendency.
 
The second temple we visited was Myoshinji, full of beautiful buildings with tantalising keyhole views into their courtyard gardens. Opposite we chatted with a very enthusiast Japanese gardener, the front of his house festooned with planters of bright coloured flowers. He even showed us his seedlings in his plastic green house. He was very excited to be visiting Edinburgh in June this year. Maki, our really fun companion today, translated for us.
 
Moving on we arrived in Arashiyama Station, this was so, so, so exciting and unexpected. The whole station had become part of a ‘pattern installation’ , Perspex tubes with printed kimono designs in festooned the platforms and walkways, the purple tram we had arrived in, the icing on the cake . I almost burst with excitement !!!!!
 
The bamboo forest was our next port of call, after devouring a bowl of soba with beef, prawn and rolled egg. I have a bit of an obsession with bamboo so again this was very special for me. The colour and size of the bamboo when concentrated together makes a spectacular display. You do have to zone out from the hustle and bustle of all the tourists on the same trail, but still a wonderful experience.
 
At the end of the bamboo forest we came to the Tenryu-ji Temple ( a world cultural heritage site). This again had the most beautiful gardens with a huge lake. By this stage I felt almost over-whelmed by all the beauty I had encountered through the day, I was feeling speechless, which for me is quite an unusual condition!
 
Its now time to think about what we can have for a rather late dinner!



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Day 4

Thinking about how differently living is organized in UK, this revelation came to my mind when our tour-guide, to the shrines & temple sites in Nara, explained that no new buildings could be raised above the 50metre height of ancient Imperial Pagoda. In this way the old traditions & environments sit comfortably together with the modern city and its digital technologies. This concept and feeling is often absent in UK where too often the old is lost, to be replaced by something new that quickly becomes obsolete.

The town of Arashiyama provides the setting for a perfect day. Into the ‘Forest of Kimonos’: a brilliant public art installation comprising illuminated kimono printed fabric within polycarbonate tubes. Next experiencing the ‘Bamboo Forest’, followed by the exquisite stroll gardens of Tenryu-ji Temple, in the company of Maki our generous and vivacious guide.

In summary, our experience in Japan during these last four days has been astonishing & delightful, particularly meeting with our kind, helpful and attentive hosts, the family of ‘Be- Kyoto’ Gallery and the artists from the region of Kyoto.

Footnote:

Monday evening we cooked our first authentic Japanese supper with ingredients sourced from the local supermarket. Soon we will be ready to start ‘Pop –Up’ restaurant service!


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Today we went to the Kyoto Handicraft centre to try our hand at Japanese
woodblock printing. Despite my attempt being rather atrocious it was great fun, and really interesting to learn about the processes and techniques, definitely something I’d like to try more of! Before hand mum and I strolled down to a beautiful paper shop we had previously spotted on our wanderings through Kyoto, buying a few gifts and exploring the large variety of delicately patterned papers and prints. We then headed down to Higashi-Hongan- ji temple, right on the doorstep of Kyoto station.

After our woodblock class we walked back to the house through the gardens of the Imperial palace through the sun set, seeing the Heian shrine, which we had just printed as one our woodblock designs, along the way!




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28th
 
Today we met Maki at the Ryoan-Ji entrance.  We walked through the path leading to the temple and observed moss growth with tiny flowers buds that are just beginning to open. 
The dry landscaped garden that is based on zen philosophy has stones that are placed in groups with a mossy mats on the gravel which is carefully raked and the clay wall  surrounds the garden. This sets the atmosphere of peacefulness and tranquillity. As I was sitting observing lines in the gravel, my eye followed the lines through to the temple geometrical shapes of walls, ceiling, floor mats and simple old line drawing. 
Observation of lines continued to the Myoshinji Temples, Kimono Forest and the Bamboo Forest.

March 28 (Tuesday)

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My first goal for today was to send a post card to England and get more yen. After posting a card I tried to withdraw yen from a cash point, the machine would not accept my PIN number. The lady at the post office said that this machine accepts six digits pin numbers, she was surprised that my card had only four.  So I then proceeded to bank and the checkout lady said that the bank is only for Japanese cards and pointed out to go to convenience store 7-eleven that excepts European cards. At long last I got my yen! 
I decided to walk today and see the city, as going by train all the scenery is hidden.
Walking through the streets of Kyoto in a slow pace , I was looking at  the  street architecture and perspective. There were modern buildings that are contrasting with the old traditional ones along the way and they seem to be in harmony.
 
Stopping for a break with Sakura tee for lunch and as I sipped tea I had a gentle taste of meadows with honey. This was accompanied with the waffle that came with bean paste little droplets, sweet beans and green tee ice-cream.
 
Time was on my hands, so I decided to explore the philosopher’s path and then I headed to the wood block printing workshop. I learnt that the carved wood plates were made of cherry tree and were inked with two brushes after which the paper was laid and pressed and image appeared.  Even though the result was not perfect I am pleased I have learnt this technique.
 
On way back I walked through the Kyoto gardens and popped in for noodle soup located not far from the house.  

March 29 (Wednesday)

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