The WiK Competition Organiser, Karen Lee Tawarayama, has set up a blog called Kyoto Faces with the ambitious aim of giving a picture of the ordinary lives of Kyoto residents. For a city famed for its tourist sights and imperial history, it’s a valuable project for while the opinions of foreign observers are often bandied about in the English-language media, there is little feedback from the citizens who actually live and work in the city. Over time Karen may build up a valuable resource that acts as a profile of the city at large. As an example of these trailblazing interviews, here is an example of a young mother with an interest in architecture. Her research on trash cans and her views on Kyoto Station may come as a surprise…
“Tell me about a significant memory from your past.”
When I was a university student, I really enjoyed going around to visit Kyoto’s temples. I really loved Kiyomizu Temple. And because I was studying architecture, through a connection with my professor, I had the opportunity to guide some visiting high school students there. At that time, a temple preservation and restoration expert taught us about the high level techniques of the carpenters who built the Japanese temples (which remain until this day), and I was deeply moved. I explained this to the high school students, and they were also extremely impressed by this information. So that experience of temples in Kyoto remains in my memory. To explain the architectural technique, it’s a little detailed, but they constructed the buildings without a single nail. The carpenter arranged the beams like a puzzle. And the fact that someone so long ago was able to use a technique that remains extremely complicated until this day is really amazing to me. This technique would be extremely expensive so can’t be used to build a regular house. Most homes are built using very easy and inexpensive techniques, so a temple is the only place where we are able to view this kind of architecture these days.
I studied architecture in university because I had a dream to be an interior designer. I was particularly interested in modern design, like the design of chairs. And it’s kind of a different topic, but for a report in school, we had to look into design techniques to not break the Kyoto scenery, so I did a report on trash cans around Kyoto. For example, I looked into their color, their shape and how they are made to blend in, for example trash cans at temples and other places around town. Most trash cans around Kyoto aren’t brightly colored, but are brown so they blend in with the environment. And trash cans at temples are rarely painted in bright colors, but might have a woven pattern, for example. This is a rather old story of mine though… My professor had mentioned that Kyoto is currently making an effort to do away with public trash cans. When Japanese people have trash, they usually carry it home with them.
“What is your dream for the future?”
At this time, I have a one-year-old child, so it’s not possible to go on a long trip. But my husband and I both love to travel, and so do my parents, so it is my dream to go on a trip with my entire family when my child gets a little older. I especially want to go abroad. My husband and I went to the Czech Republic for our honeymoon, and it was so pretty, so we would like to visit once more with our child. As far as for my own personal future, there are so many foreign visitors in Kyoto these days. Of course there are many Japanese students who come on school trips as well, but since I was born in this beautiful city which draws so many tourists, I would love to do some tourism-related work. Like actually guiding them or having some contact with them, like working at the station or at a hotel. That type of work sounds good to me. Even if we can’t communicate perfectly because of a language gap, I think it’s important to figure out what those travelers want from their trip. It shouldn’t be only what Japanese people want to show them. People’s interests are different depending on their nationality, and what moves each individual person is different, so I think it would be great to provide guidance based on each person’s specific needs.
“What is your “Kyoto #1”?”
I’ve always loved Kyoto Station. I’m from Kameoka, which is outside of the city, but when I was an elementary student, the new Kyoto Station had just been built. I loved the design. It’s was a huge, very modern building filled with people which also has Japanese sweets shops and other Japanese products. I liked it so much, I chose to attend a high school in Kyoto city just so I could always pass through the station every day. So I hope that tourists in the city will make Kyoto Station one of their stops. Most of all, I want them to take a look at the architecture. There are many unique concepts, like the stairs and other places, but it’s like a maze, so if you take time to explore, you’re sure to find your favorite spot. If you go all the way to the top, you can have a fantastic view of the city. Of course, the view from Kyoto Tower is good too, but this way you can have a view of the city with Kyoto Tower in it. So, that is my recommendation.