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

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

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

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

Magical picture books from 19th century Yokohama

CamelliasForeigners in Yokohama at the end of the nineteen century lived an enviable life. They inhabited large mansions up on the hills overlooking the bay with spacious grounds and plenty of servants so they had time to turn their attention to gardening, versifying and keeping the kids entertained. Which is where Japanese publisher Takejiro Hasegawa spotted an opportunity. Continue reading

Autumn reading – Tokyo Hearts

Tokyo HeartsThe second of my three autumn reading books is Tokyo Hearts, a romantic novel set in Tokyo by new writer Renae Lucas-Hall, published in June this year.

It features star-crossed lovers Haruka and Takashi. Like many Japanese girls who love fashion, Haruka is a brand addict and Vuitton, Hermès and Louboutin loom large in her life. She seems well matched with Tokyo style devotee Takashi but the attractions of her rich boyfriend in Kyoto threaten to destroy the romance. It takes an earthquake to make her realise where her true affections lie. Continue reading