This blog is a documentation of my daily adventures and describable transcendental experiences in Japan. Let it be known that I am an exchange student from Cooper Union studying sculpture at Kyoto Seika University.

Here is a link to my flickr account (currently consists of photos from my trip to Kumano only. I’ll have to wait till next month to add more)

On Friday, I biked over to Entsuji Temple. When you enter you see signs saying something like “Enter with a quiet heart.” So much for a quiet, peaceful place to meditate. I sat and drew Hieizan and read Japanese Aesthetics and Culture until the sounds of jackhammers from nearby construction became too peace-wrecking to bear. Once again the development of suburbia has ruined the day.
Next, I tried to go over to the Shugakuin Imperial Villa. My not being aware that one must first make a reservation months in advance to enter Shugakuin was not an issue because I never found it. Instead, I came upon a shinto shrine, asked the monks a simple, stupid “where am I?” and strolled around the grounds (I’ll have to go back and find out what shrine it is. and take pictures of the countless stone sculptures).
Trying to find my way back, I stopped on a bridge and watched the clouds light up the range in Kurama. “Hello there!” An American woman’s voice. I turned around and saw the same woman who, days earlier, had given me and another exchange student directions to a vegan all-you-can-eat for 850 yen lunch buffet from a kaleidoscope museum. She biked with me through Takaragaike park through a special cherry-blossom viewing path to get back to school and drew me a map of how to bike to Ginkakuji from my dorm.
I went back to the dorm, and after dinner went with a group of exchange students to the greatest bar in Kyoto, Honky Tonk. The owner, Beau Yatani, a country musician himself has made Honky Tonk embody the collective nostalgia that everyone has of some run-down dive bar somewhere in Memphis. Live country and western music almost every night, 500 yen cover charge, and here are just a few of the nights I plan to go this month:
April 15: HONKY TONK JAM! JAM! JAM! (no cover charge)
April 22: BLUE GRASS JAM! (no cover charge)
29: HONKY TONK 40th Anniversary, with Stardust Cowboys, Cabbage Down, and Dallas & Steppers
and possibly 30: HAWAIIAN NIGHT
I asked him if I could play my banjo here, and yes, I will be playing on the 15th or 22nd.

On Sunday, Tajh and I went to Iwakura Shrine, Jisso-in Temple whose garden altogether bewildering, intense and calming (hint: everything is everything), and a few crazy moss-shrines scattered around the grounds of (what we think is) a nearby hospital. Neither of us wanted to go home, so even though it began to rain, we biked over to Miyake Hachiman jinja (these pictures don’t do the early-evening fog filled, cherry-blossom raining water falling shrine justice). There is holy water you can drink that comes down from Mount Hiei, and the pigeon is the shrine’s sacred animal of choice. There are two large stone carved pigeons at the entrance, bronze ones perched on bells, little red and blue painted wooden ones scattered about and imprinted on lanterns and other inconspicuous surfaces, on banners and well…yeah. everywhere.
We sat under the closed entrance of a temple and watched clouds wade across the smaller mountains before us.
Then we ate okonomiyaki. I can’t even describe the anticipation of that dinner. I’ll try. A family sat across from us, across the hibachi grill, ordering every food to make your mouth water (fried and grilled every kind of meat (from the sea and land), grilled asparagus, tofu, omelettes, things we had no idea what they were but looked way too good for how hungry we were, and our food took forever, and the family was very nice and talked to us. The anticipation for our own food with the never-ending parade of delicacies before us made us REALLY appreciate our okonomiyaki when it came.

Today I went to the studio for the first time. I came in early to meet the professor I’ll be working under, Yoshino. I was printing out the image I am now carving from, and another teacher, Takemata, saw my image, looked at it for a while, said “Yes.” And “It’s a man?”, left the room and came back with a DVD of Calder’s Circus. “You Look?” He asked. I was quite flattered. We watched it until we had to go to a funny little morning meeting. I didn’t understand much of it. Just about things that the teachers saw recently (books, articles in the newspaper, shows, movies) that they thought were worth mentioning.
While working, I met a few 4th year students, they showed me their work, they asked me about New York’s punk scene. I said I didn’t know. I was invited to go tomorrow to a festival so I’ll be sure to update about that.

Good night