Kyoto rainbow

Greetings to the WiK community! Please allow me to introduce myself as yet another member of the group who has fallen head over heels in love with the beautiful city of Kyoto. I joined the Writers in Kyoto group because of my passion for writing, as well as my eagerness for networking with others who inspire me deeply, while feverishly trying to balance all of my interests as a full-time working mother.

★karenprofile300A U.S.-born resident of Japan since 1999, I had previously experienced an extended period as a global nomad in India, Kenya, and Israel. However, my journey to this inevitable destination began with a book that my mother picked up for twenty-five cents at a local consignment shop when I was about five years old. Within the covers of Children of Many Lands (authored by Dana Bruce and Elizabeth F. McCrady) were stories of the everyday lives of children in traditional settings around the globe, but I had a particular affinity for little Matsu, who eagerly awaited her “Honorable Father and Mother” to take her to the shop for a new doll for the Girls’ Festival, and also described the “Festival of Flags” for her younger brother, Taro. Little did I know that at this point in my life, I would be going to the shop to buy koi-nobori (carp banners) for my own Japanese son. Now, more than ever, I have a strong belief that life flows on in its own rhythm, carving a distinct path for each of us. I feel a sure sense of destiny, especially when walking in Kyoto’s open spaces such as Kamogawa Park, being surrounded by mountains and hearing the rushing of the waterfalls along the way, and watching the long grasses on the banks of the river waving in the breeze on a sunny day.

Perhaps, thanks to Children of Many Lands, I am a cultural anthropologist at heart. My subsequent experiences as a childhood actress developed my love for stepping into the shoes of another and examining the world and “ways of being” from other perspectives through the required embodiment of various characters. It is in this spirit that my love continues for speaking with others and learning what makes them tick. To find commonalities as well as differences, and in my current setting to learn more about what constitutes the Japanese mind and lifestyle. I’m naturally drawn to talking to people, sharing stories, and either finding common points that bind us together, or variations that create a deeper, more sympathetic understanding of the diversity of human nature.

Book cover, Children of Many Lands

My current memoir in progress is a book not only meant to synthesize my profound experiences in various countries and explore the path from small-town Pennsylvania to Kyoto, but as an Intercultural Educator by profession, I’m also fascinated by the critical moments one encounters over time which develop intercultural competencies.

I’m also in the process of launching a new website, Kyoto Faces ( which aims to bring those who live abroad closer to the people of the city. In my spare time, I enjoy speaking with international visitors (and introducing them to my son!). Many of them comment excitedly about the beautiful historic sites, the famous Japanese punctuality, the cleanliness, the uniquely “Kyoto” cuisine, and the kindness and politeness of the Japanese residents they come into contact with. However, many of those residents are working specifically in professions that deal with visitors (i.e. hotel staff, tour guides, etc.) While many Kyoto residents are able to use English, their shyness makes them a little less accessible. And those that speak only Japanese are not likely to have any deep conversations or true heart-to-heart communication with short-term visitors who do not yet have skills in the local language.

Kyoto Faces aims to share the stories, the whims, the dreams, the everyday lives, and the recommendations of the city’s residents to those abroad, in English, for the purpose of creating a greater understanding of “people in the neighborhood”. I encourage you to follow the website as it develops and hopefully grows to serve as a bridge between Kyoto and the world. At this point, only an introduction to the site, my profile, and a blog post has been added, but there is more to come soon! (The other day I spoke with a wonderful 80-year-old man while enjoying my morning coffee.) I would be delighted to receive your comments and feedback as time goes on.


Karen Tawarayana with students