Kyoto 19-20 April

Kyoto. 19-20 April
So far Kyoto has been one of my favourite places. It seemed to have so much to see and i only feel I scratched the surface. However I saw lots of the temples and shrines and also some Zen gardens.

Kinkaku-Ji Temple (The Golden Pavilion)
This is totally amazing, truly inspirational. I think it no exaggeration to say that this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. The lake that the Golden Pavilion is set in almost doesn’t look real and the gilding on the Pavilion makes me want to gild everything I make! The mix of the old roof, similar to thatch, on the Pavilion (which was originally built in the 1300s) and the verandas etc combined with all the gold just makes it seem unreal.

Whilst visiting the Silver Pavillion (Ginkaku-Ji), which confusingly has no silver gilding and is just very old, I spotted a gardener carefully hand picking loose and dead moss with the tips of his fingers from one bit of the garden. It was tiny amounts and emphasised the care that goes into the upkeep of the pavilions, shrines and temples. This is similar to when I first arrived and a fleet of cleaners immediately started cleaning the trains. Definitely Japan is the cleanest place I’ve ever been.

I then travelled across Kyoto to the Gion district. I passed a Big Boy restaurant on the way which emphasised how much America has influenced Japan. The roads here are also far bigger and more like America in my opinion. The Gion district was really fascinating as this is where the Geisha women were. However I felt rather awkward about taking photographs as they were so immaculately dressed and after seeing how polite all the Japanese have been it just seemed totally disrespectful. I liked just seeing them with the amazing clothes, all against the very old streets with the lanterns.

Whilst in Kyoto I stayed in a traditional Ryokan. I wanted to do this since finding out I had won my place on the residency. Whilst in the Ryokan you are encouraged to wear the slippers, as well as toilet slippers and the kimonos. Also as I arrived I was given green tea in very different china cups to home.







Ueno Park

In my presentation that I gave to Tokyo Wonder Site staff and some of the residents I showed a slide of red gates like a shrine but in a walkway. Ueno park has what I believe is a copy of the large Kyoto, one that I hope to see on Friday. I found it really interesting seeing the red gates as they are very striking in their colour choice and I believe these colours will begin to work into my sculptures, as I have been struggling to decide how to paint works like my Nodding Donkey and Water Tower at home. The gates are also built in a very simple manner with just one peg holding them together on either side.




Noh Theatre

Review of CHIKUBU-SHIMA By Zenchiku.

National Noh Theatre 5pm 17 April

Having never seen anything like this form of theatre before I was really interested to see this…

Very slow graceful movements. Chanting and most careful precision in the placing of the props which include boats and small pagodas. The masks that some of the performers were wearing are very creepy and the costumes seem very opulent and make strange shapes. For instance the trousers almost become square. All Noh performances Peter said are performed in front of a tree. We sat in the very front row and some of the performers even detach and attach different parts of the costumes mid way through the performance. I found it very different to western theatre as well in that lots of the audience, the ladies, were dressed in Kimono type wear and meticulously smart too. The theatre features a stage with a full size pagoda morphing into the wall, totally different to our theatres. Also the way performers ‘slide’ out from a curtain to the left of the pagoda reminds me of the walkways that I’ve noticed connect lots of the temples and shrines to the other bits of the buildings, maybe living quarters? Also, so far all the performers have been men, again very different to our theatre and most probably more contemporary Japanese theatre. The main ‘characters’ seem young ‘actors’.

Architecturally I find the theatre odd as the outside is very new looking and almost brutalist in its construction and aesthetic. I was expecting the theatre to look very old and traditional. Inside it is a modern pagoda surrounded by stones and similar maybe to the Royal Festival Hall or Southbank Centre but smaller. The theatre is filled too, with very few empty seats.

The flute playing and drumming as well as the hanging starts to reach a climax and then hidden behind a curtain an emperor type person is unveiled. He or she was hidden when they were carried on to the stage earlier in the performance. Minutes after this from the left hand side a tall vivid red haired, rather threatening performer dashes onto the stage. It makes a juxtaposition to the rest of the play to suddenly see forceful and fast movements. The skull type mask he wears is also rather eerie, almost like a witch or dragon? This was the climax as the play reached a sort of crescendo in both action and sounds; ready for the next play.

Japanese food

We found a restaurant that sold beef steak and after ordering them we realised that we sat at ‘Tatami’ mats. I wanted to try this way of eating as I never have done or seen it before and it was really good fun. It felt very typically Japanese. I was surprised when the waiter brought my food as he knelt down on his knees. This also happened in two shops where I bought some lacquered wood trays for a possible sculpture; the shop assistant carefully wrapped and boxed the item behind the desk on their knees. I’ve never seen anything like this, not even on TV.



Tokyo Tower – Architectural

The architecture of Tokyo Tower was an area I detailed in my application for Tokyo Wonder Site as it reminded me of Zeppelin Mooring masts. Weirdly as we walked to the Tokyo Tower via the ceramics museum called Musee Tomo I saw a Zeppelin balloon quite low in the sky. The criss crossing architecture of the Tokyo tower was similar to the Eiffel Tower but the buildings underneath and the middle observation deck seemed more ‘oversized’ than the tower itself. The bright red distinguished the Tokyo tower apart from the electrical pylons, but at the same time it very much reminded me of one!




Tokyo Hands

Tokyo Hands, I explored this famous shop for materials and model kits as I read it sells virtually everything. Certain motorised ‘kits’ drew my eye as I had never seen them in the UK before and intend to use these in sculptures (and possibly for my Final Show at Chelsea). They looked very complicated but also clever in their mechanics…



Water wheel model

In Takayama today I saw some shrines and a water wheel and was examining how they were put together. I had read that they were put together without any screws or nails and could see this first hand as special pegs had been carved holding the elements together. The water wheel was attached to someone’s house and seemed like a great model that could be reproduced. I purchased some wooden postcards that they sold and intend to use these with chopsticks to create a model.