Love is in the air – Tanabata on the South Bank

Tanabata decorations, South BankDown on the South Bank they’re having a festival of love that’s going on all through July and August, with free events, themed weekends, performances, poetry, talks, pop-ups, installations and artworks. Including, courtesy of the Embassy of Japan and the Japan Society, a celebration of Tanabata, the Japanese festival of love, which falls on the seventh day of the seventh month, and a display of fukinagashi decorations. I’ve been down to the Festival Hall to take a look. Continue reading

Two Cultures United by Tea

Two Cultures United by TeaToday I’m going to write about Peter Paul Rubens, King James I and Britain’s favourite beverage. Along the way there’ll be a telescope, a daruma doll and some scones. What links all these things? An event I went to on Sunday called Two Cultures United by Tea, held at the Banqueting House in Whitehall to mark the four hundredth anniversary of the landing of the first English ship, the Clove, in Japan in 1613.  Continue reading

Finding God in Vegetables – Shojin Cuisine

shojin cuisineFor someone who has been through three years of strict training in the art of shojin cuisine at a Zen Buddhist temple in Otsu, near Kyoto, Toshio Tanahashi is surprisingly warm and twinkly. And a bit of a showman too, if the lecture and demonstration on shojin cuisine I went to, organised by the Japan Society, is anything to go by. Continue reading

A Lesson in Bonsai

Bonsai at Kew GardensOnce again the Japan Society came up trumps with a great trip to Kew Gardens to learn about bonsai. And again I have to make a confession – though I’ve been to Kew a lot and was sure I’d seen all the Japanese stuff there (Chokushi Mon, Minka House, Japanese Landscape Garden – done!) I’ve never been to look at the bonsai.  Continue reading

A Victorian landscape painter in Japan

Japan Scene - Sir Alfred EastIf you’re free tomorrow evening (18th March) at 6:45, I suggest you head down to the Swedenborg Society in Bloomsbury where Paul Johnson is giving a talk for the Japan Society about Sir Alfred East, a Victorian artist who was sent to Japan in 1888 by the Fine Art Society to paint scenes of Japanese life. Continue reading

The Japan Society takes me on the Narrow Road to the Deep North

Japan Society Book Club booksTranslations – don’t they drive you up the wall? They’re either accurate or readable but somehow never both. You’re always having to settle for one or the other.

So what’s got me so bothered about them just now?

Continue reading

Take a trip to see these entrancing textiles at the Ashmolean

Threads of silk and goldThe Ashmolean Museum’s exhibition of Meiji textiles, Threads of Silk and Gold, opened last week and I expect you’re wondering whether you need to go all the way to Oxford (an hour on the train! From Paddington!) to see it or if you can get by with just reading the reviews and looking at photos. The answer is, you absolutely have to go. I’ll tell you why. Continue reading

I try my hand at Japanese calligraphy

Yume by Yoko TakenamiLast week I had a go at Japanese calligraphy, courtesy of the Japan Society who arranged a fascinating introductory workshop led by Yoko Takenami. It’s a difficult art, and I don’t just mean it’s hard to master the technique (though it’s that too). It’s all the other stuff that goes along with it that makes it complicated. Continue reading

A Japanese autumn at Kew Gardens

Japanese stone lantern at KewKew Gardens! It’s been years since I last went there. In fact it’s so long ago it might even have been back in the days when you put a penny in the turnstile to get in, (on second thoughts, it wasn’t THAT long ago), days which are unfortunately a distant memory as nowadays Kew has to turn more than a penny to fund its work as an internationally recognised research and education institution with the worlds largest collection of living plants.

What drew me there? Well, once again it’s thanks to the Japan Society which arranged a brilliant tour of the herbarium which I’ll tell you about in my next post.

For the moment I’m going to focus on the Gardens themselves as autumn is a lovely time of year to visit; the trees with their red and gold leaves are picture-perfect – as you can see: Continue reading