- Kyoto Arcade
You would not believe it. I was riding my bike through one of the arcades and I ran into Toshie Kusamoto, a photographer I had met the week before in Beppu! So lucky!
We both were very surprised and very excited, so we made a plan to have tea and hang out before my train left for Osaka that night. In fact Toshie only lived a block away from my hotel!
- Toshie at Home
We enjoyed tea and special sweets. Toshie was kind enough to show me her work. She had recently documented the hot springs of Beppu; communicating the essence of the place: mysterious scaleless landscapes that materialise through the steam.
And then suddenly it was time to go! Taxi…Shinkansen…Osaka…plane! I was sad to leave Japan especially all of the gifted people I had shared time with.
- Time to fly…
…next stop China!
- Kyoto Skyline from JR Station
What happens when you’re in a city like Kyoto where there is so much to see and the topography is fairly even… you get on a bike!
- On My Bike
Bundaberg, where I grew up, is very flat. It has one hill, The Hummock, an extinct volcano. Its so flat that as children we would lie on our backs in the field, and looking back towards the horizon, see the curve in the earth. Kyoto central (whilst surrounded by mountains) is fairly flat, so perfect for biking it.
Having visited Kyoto before, I was aware that moving experiences surface when you least expect them; when you are between origin and destination. Biking offered the best way to be open to these in-between discoveries.
- The in-between
- Shinhiyoshi Jingu Shrine
- Markets at Shinhiyoshi Jingu Shrine
I was headed to Sanjūsangen-dō, a Buddhist Temple known locally as Rengeō-in or Hall of the Lotus King. The interior of the Temple is divided into thirty-three bays by sets of columns. The hall houses 1000 statues of the Bodhisattva Kannon. Each may manifest into thirty-three forms to take flight and ward off evil.
- View of perimeter of Sanjūsangen-dō adjacent to Yogen-in gateway
- Sanjūsangen-dō special entry with courtyard and Hall beyond
- Sanjūsangen-dō Hall exterior
- Sanjusangendo-Hall of 33 Bay (1995) by Sugimoto
Photography inside the temple was prohibited. Japanese Photographic Artist, Sugimoto Hiroshi, was permitted to photograph the interior for his work Sanjusangendo – Hall of 33 Bays. I still remember the first time I saw this work, first hand, while working at The Queensland Art Gallery. It echoed the experience of the place: a calmness; an eternal drawing out of time and space that you can almost hear rising out of the dark.
- I left Sanjūsangen-dō, visited Yogen-in again, then rode until dusk heading in the direction of home.
A Great Day in Kyoto!
See Sanjūsangen-dō official website for Interior views.
It is very important to experience Karakami within space and time through the sequence of arriving and discovering the work, and experiencing the change of light in its surface. Toto and Aiko directed me to places that feature ancient Karacho Karakami with later editions of the Karacho patterns, as well more recent commissions of their artwork. One important example sits within Yogen-in (very near Sanjusangen-do officially called Rengeo-in, Kyoto).
- Yogen-in gate
- Path leading from gate to Temple
- Entry to Main Temple
- The mon or Family Crest of the Tokugawa shoguns – Maruni Mitsu Aoi (Mitsuba api) or three holly hock leaves inside a circle
Unfortunately photography is forbidden inside the temple. It was beautiful to see the very very old Karakami Fusami featuring the Dragon (protector of Buddhism). Karacho had recently installed new panels of the same pattern to sit next to the historical screens. One has to imagine being in the space by candlelight and seeing the glimmer of the golden dragon as it clutches the pearl.
Visit design boom to see photos of another example of Karacho’s karakami within Katsura Imperial Villa (Katsura Rikyu). Beautiful!
Karacho’s Saruyama Salon with Hyotan (gourd pattern) on the entry Fusami
On arriving at Karacho’s Saruyama Salon I was greeted by my special interpreter for the day (Karacho staff member) Mayo Ishii. Ishii modestly introduced Toto and Aiko, the twelfth generation of Karacho Karakami artists.
Toto first presented the Karacho Fusami screen samples. The patterns were very spatial and present in time; especially the white on white Kado Tsunagi (connecting angles). It was like a spider’s web at night catching the smallest amount of light with its silvery thread; a shimmering transient moment.
The hangi (wood blocks) are a particular size to match the largest size of washi produced in the early times. On the Fusami screens the patterns are set out to form a continuous pattern. Many of the patterns that looked contemporary were in fact the very oldest.
There is a special ritual that Toto performs to prepare for Karakami. This is personal and spiritual. Toto selected a wood block with the pattern of a wispy cloud (or for me like the moment when the sun glows on the lining of a cloud). It was very soothing to watch Toto work. In Karakami the colour is applied with a furui. This application is gentler on the woodblock than a brush and ensures the hangi’s longevity.
Preparation: combining the pigments to the desired colour mixed with mica; then applied to furui (fine circular sieve) with the natural brush; a selection of prepared hangi
Toto gently transfers the colour to the prepared hangi
Gentle touch as washi meets hangi through pattern
Checking, then adding colour
Gently the washi is lifted from the hangi and karakami placed face up
Toto informed me that it was now my turn! I was a little reserved as it was such an honour to experience the making of Karakami. Toto guided me through the process and told me that watching someone make Karakami gave an insight into a person’s nature…
The hangi Toto selected for me was asanoha (hemp leaves). This was a block that had been carved anew as the original was very often used.
…Come close and let me whisper something. There is a moment when the furui meets the hangi for the first time, that is like breathing. Delicate and fleeting and very personal.
The feeling took my breath away.
- Pattern of carapace seen on a tortoise sculpture at the Entry to The Forbidden City, Beijing
kikkō is used extensively throughout Japanese and Chinese crafts. It draws its origin from the carapace of a tortoise. The carapace is the upper part of the shell and has a distinctive hexagonal pattern. The tortoise symbolises longevity because they are known to live a long life.
- Kikkō: The hexagon can appear singularly or concentrically repeated (R)
This pattern is also practically used for Kikkō armour. The armour is made up of small hexagonal plates of steel or hardened leather connected to each other by chain armor or kusari and sewn to a cloth backing. Because it is flexible and folding it is sometimes known as Kikkō tatami dou.
There are many beautiful variations of the Kikkō pattern. These include:
- kasane kikkō ni wa (kasane = repeated: kikkō = tortoise carapace: ni = and: wa = ring)
- kumi kikkō (braided/plaited hexagons)
- hanairi kikkō (a flower placed inside a hexagon)
- My Favourite: Bishamon kikkō (Bishamon the name of Buddhist god) Bishamon is a protector of Bhuddist law bringing good fortune to the poor and is the patron of doctors priests, and soldiers
- Beppu Streets
Before I left for Kyoto, I spent the morning walking through Beppu’s inner city streets. I visited Platform 04 (Select Beppu) the Beppu Project shop.
- Select Beppu – Platform 04
- QAG Staff install Lin’s work
Upstairs was a permanent installation by the artist Michael Lin. It was the same floral pattern used for his installation that I had managed for APT 2002 (the Asia Pacific Triennial of 2002) at the Queensland Art Gallery. He had completed this new work for the Beppu Project in 2010. An amazing coincidence!
I walked to Platform 07 and then to Platform 02 where I met Japanese artist in residence, Miyuki Kido.
- Platform 02 with Miyuki Kido working
She was working on her project, Beppu Memorial Garden, that maps the pattern of Beppu through the food she enjoyed during her stay. She collects the seeds from the food she has eaten each day; then washes and prepares the seed for planting. The day I met Kido the seeds from the watermelon she had eaten a week before were just starting to germinate.
- Kido and her seedlings
- The germinating watermelon seeds
All of her plants were to be installed in the Platform 02 studio where she had been based during her residency. More time in Beppu would let the garden be more advanced and diverse. After the opening visitors would be able to take the plants home and so the garden would continue to grow.
“Her works are universal symbols and they function where language stops in communication. Ever so gently they exist as a tiny powerline between her heart and everyone else’s.” CAThornton at ctphonehome.blogspot.com
Her process and project Kido likens to mapping the ‘Synapses of Streets’. She photographs each stage; the food; the seed from the foods; the stages of growth of the plants; the presentation then dispersal to new owners. And so the garden will be a map of Kido’s time in Beppu; of the local limes and fruits and foods she has enjoyed. Her gift is to give back and nourish our minds and bodies with her beautiful Beppu garden.
View Kido’s earlier works including Paper Architecture series at Kido’s website.
- We enjoy a traditional meal
On my last evening in Beppu I had a beautiful dinner with one of my interpreters Ayako. We enjoyed a local dish called Dango Jira (very thick large Udon noodle with soup: more like Cannelloni than noodle). The onset of Typhoon 12 meant it was raining outside so the Dango Jira was very comforting.
After dinner Ayako took me to Hyotan Onsen, a very respected Onsen in Beppu. She taught me the traditional process of washing and preparing and then we enjoyed the Onsen. This was not an ultra hot Onsen, so it was a good place for me to start. There were many different types of baths; inside and outside baths; steam baths or Japanese saunas; sand baths and water fall baths.
To feel the water, the steam and scent of the spring was both grounding and uplifting. While you are aware of the extents of your body through the water, your stress rises off you with the heat and the steam. And then imagine the feeling of the water jets falling onto you; 100 little horses running across your back; the beating sound and the sensation; a completely grounding experience.
Beppu’s hot springs are its life force; they run through its streets, form an integral part of everyday Beppu life: connecting one to this place.