curioswitch specializes in design, video production and event organizations. This time, we co-ordinated a bespoke Kyoto trip for the post-COVID world, that will appeal to foreign tourists.
＃1 Yomei Library and Tiger Villa
The Yomei Library is a treasury located west of Ninna Temple. It was established in 1938 by Fumimaro Konoe (1891-1945). It preserves more than 100,000 historical documents and works of art inherited from the Konoe family.
The director of the library, Osamu Nawa, took us on a tour of the storehouse, which is normally closed to the public.
The exhibition room is truly a time capsule.
Up close, the visitors can see the 'Midou Kanpaku Ki', a World Cultural Heritage by Fujiwara no Michinaga (996-1027).
The ink and paper has been well preserved, hence has not deteriorated at all.
The colors and brush strokes convey the buzz of the artist.
Just by looking at the pieces, one can experience the atmosphere of the days back then.
There are paintings that uses vivid colors, such as Kumano Kaishi, a record of a Waka poetry during the Kumano excursion, handwritten by Emperor Go-Toba (1180-1239); Kasuga Gongen Reigenki Emaki, a hand scroll depicting the origins of Kasuga Taisha Shrine, copied by Shiko Watanabe(1683-1755) on the order of Iesaki Konoe(1667-1736); and Kaboku Shinsha, a copy of Iesaki's own plant drawings.
Adjacent to the Yōmei library is the Tora Sansō, a tiger villa building built by Fumimaro Konoe in 1942 as his final residence.
Having tea in a cozy, open guest room.
After a smoke, we had our tour of the various rooms in the Tiger Villa. The villa consists of a main building and a guest room, and inside there are two tea rooms, including a tea ceremony room, the 'Shokuan'. It was the first Japanese-style building designed by Eikichi Hasebe (1885-1960), who studied Western architecture. The building is a blend of Japanese and Western styles.
Works by Fumimaro Konoe(left), founder of the Yomei Bunko, his eldest son Fumitaka, who died an unnatural death after Siberian internment (middle), and Yokoyama Taikan (right), with whom Fumimaro was in contact are hung in the alcoves of each room.
The flowers were arranged by the wife of the head of the Nawa Bunko. As Rikyu said, "Flowers should remain as they are", she uses plants from the garden and arranges them in a neat and humble way without making it too intense.
＃2 Ippodo Tea Shop
We then went to the Ippodo Tea Shop (52 Tokiwangi-village, Teramachi-street, Nijo Kamigami, Nakagyo-ward, Kyoto).
Shoichi Watanabe, President and Representative Director, showed us around the shop.
At the adjoined cafe, Kagi, visitors can enjoy Ippodo tea and a selection of wagashi. Gion Chigo Mochi (bottom side of the plate) is a limited-time-only wagashi to coincide with the Gion Festival. It is a sweet and savoury wagashi with white miso paste inside the rice cake. The less sweet 'shitatari' (brown sugar amber jelly) has a smooth, bouncy texture.
You can choose from 4 types of teas, matcha, gyokuro, sencha and bancha.
The specially selected sencha, available only at Kyoto, is characterized by the soft aroma and bitterness of sencha tea.
＃3 Ryo Shinagawa Atelier
We visited Ryo Shinagawa's painting studio located in Kyoto. His studio is a converted old house in Imakumano Hozo-cho, Higashiyama. One can see the Nakao Mausoleum of Sawako Fujiwara, the mother of Emperor Koko in the early Heian period from the window.
Mr. Shinagawa is an up-and-coming painter whose work is on display at the new Tiger Thermos building under the Tiger Thermos Art Project.
Mr. Shinagawa has been vigorously holding solo exhibitions in recent years, so some may be familiar with his work. Incidentally, the large work he exhibited at Shibuya PARCO in April 2021 was purchased by ZOZO and displayed at its headquarters.
Mr. Shinagawa's theme is to 'redefine Japanese painting'.
Japanese painting has been defined since the Meiji era, but what is it that modern Japanese painting must achieve?
How was Japanese paintings supposed to be connected to the present day?
Mr. Shinagawa says that he continues to redefine Japanese painting styles while pursuing answers to questions above.
While touring the studio, we received a detailed explanation of each production process. The studio uses ink, gold leaf and traditional methods, as well as new techniques such as silk-screening.
We were all intrigued by Mr. Shinagawa's impassioned explanations and numerous conceptual works.
We look forward to seeing more of Mr. Shinagawa's works in the future as he continues to upgrade Japanese-style paintings.
Various collaborative projects are being planned between Mr. Shinagawa and curioswitch's CEO Konoe. Please look forward to new creations from both artists.
As the sun started to set, we visited Kyoto's most prestigious ryotei 'Ichirikutei'.
At Ichiriki-tei, gei-maiko (geisha) and maiko (apprentice geisha) greeted us with gorgeous decorations associated with the Gion Festival.
However, it was a nerve-wracking experience to enjoy Kyoto cuisine surrounded by gei-maiko in a ryotei restaurant where first-time visitors are not allowed. We enjoyed a pleasant chat with the gei-maiko, and had many drinks.
In the alcove is a scroll by the poet Reizei Tamenori (1854-1905), decorations of floats from the Gion Festival and the holly, a flowers from the Gion Festival known to ward off evil spirits.
The seasonal hospitality of the setting was soothing.
And believe it or not, the flat plaque of our Konoe's ancestor, Tadaoki Konoe!
The family name is "Fujiwara". We cannot hide our surprise at this timeless encounter.
Finally, it was time for the long-awaited Kyomai (Kyoto-styled dance).
In fact, the Inoue-style dance that is performed at the Ichiriki-tei is closely interconnected with Inoue Yachiyo (first generation). She served the Konoe family and danced at the Sento Palace and many other locations, and was already in the service of the 24th Tsuneaki Konoe (1761-1799).
On this day, they performed 'Higashiyama', 'Hotarugari' and 'Gion Kouta'.
The luxurious dances and splendid staging of the Inoue-style makes one feel like they time travelled back to the Edo period.
We then continued on to the Ozashiki entertainment. We played rock-paper-scissors 'Toratora', which uses hand gestures, and the rhythm game 'Kompira Funafune'.
And just like that, our night in Kyoto has come to an end.
＃5 Gion Festival
Below is the Yamaboko Junko, the climax of the Gion Festival and known as the 'Gosai'.
Thirty-four units take part in the festival amidst the sounds of Gion music. The atmosphere is as if you have travelled back in time.
The Yamaboko Junko floats features 11 units led by Hashibenkeiyama. The floats of the Gion Festival, aka the "moving museums", are known for its long history. They amaze the viewers, even in the summer heat. In particular, the 'Taka-yama' float, which returned to the parade after 200 years, gave the audience a sense of hope and power.
At the end
The FAM Trip in Kyoto is filled with various aspects of Japanese culture that is deeply rooted in the country's traditions and culture.
We feel that Kyoto is home to innumerable experiences and outlooks. We must continue to spend our time, money, and energy to promote cultural continuity, and preserve traditions.
We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all individuals who have supported us in this project.