The latest Kyoto Journal update, from managing editor Ken Rodgers

Kyoto Journal’s 88th issue, to be released in February, is another eclectic feast; I’d like to share a few highlights with Writers in Kyoto, as an appetizer.

An extraordinary set of “cadenzas” by a notable British poet, calling himself John Gohorry, celebrates the real-life exploits (leavened with some literary licence and wicked dystopian insight) of a gang of ostriches on the lam in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone, post-disaster:

14 June, 2011

The Great Japanese Dictionary wants

the best word for a cohort of ostriches.

A flock, suggests Alban, while Bounder


proposes a pride. Groupie suggests

an adventure, Einstein an exploration.

No ostrich tolerates a containment,


none favours a rapture. Cloak wants

a concealment, Fantail a reinforcement

but Dagger is Major Bird and it’s his call.


An endurance? a disaffection? They bury

their heads in semantics; from now on

two or more ostriches are a survival.


An outstanding and rather spooky fiction piece, “An Incident on the Hokuwan Line” by Shaun O’Dwyer, also considers the aftermath and impact of the earthquake:

A Buddhist priest had been called and a ceremony held at the disaster site to console the spirits of the dead. It had not gone well, much to the anguish of bereaved families who took part. “The dead are restless and angry,” the priest was quoted as saying. “They cannot be appeased.”

As part of our recent focus on aspects of Noh, John Oglevee of Tokyo’s Theatre Nohgaku introduces one of their recent contemporary Noh productions, Blue Moon over Kentucky — featuring the wandering spirit of none other than, yes, Elvis. And Bob Brady takes us on a ramble through “The Forest of the Accountants”…

Looking back over our 30 years of publishing KJ, we also decided to take the opportunity to reprint an intriguing essay by Dan Furst, on Kyogen, from our very first issue. It’s accompanied by Dan’s own original Kyogen, The Salaryman and the Office Lady, an update based on Busu, one of the plays in the classic medieval farce repertoire.

Last year an extremely talented Tokyo photographer, Irwin Wong, originally from Melbourne, Australia, contacted KJ with an as-yet-undecided joint project in mind. We introduced him to one of our Kyoto volunteers, Elle Murrell, coincidentally a Melbournian fresh from an extended stint as a reporter and editor in Amman, Jordan, and they collaborated to produce a remarkable set of portraits of creative Kyoto women, which we look forward to sharing.

Of course the issue also features sparkling poetry, scintillating reviews, and more offerings in our In Translation series: a short story by Koda Rohan, titled “Wind in the Reeds,” translated by Nagata Tsutomu; a vale for Soseki translator Valdo Viglielmo; plus some non-standard Occupation-era haiku from Suzuki Shizuko, via Mariko Nagai:

Ashes gently fall

atop an ant as I tap

my lit cigarette


Lastly, I don’t know why I’m even mentioning this, but we have a travel piece by some pseudo-Buddhist loony who just can’t restrain himself from sharing his recent experiences in India:

In Rajgir,

on the rocky outcrop of Gridhakuta, Vulture Peak, it’s said the Buddha once taught by holding up a flower. Just one disciple smiled, receiving the transmission.

Two and a half thousand years on, there’s a Japanese post-Hiroshima World Peace Stupa on the ridgeline above, with a long line waiting to ride its effortless ropeway; down here dedicated pilgrims chant, pray, take photos, apply fine gold leaf to disciple’s cave walls, rocks, vihara bricks.

A wildflower-scented breeze surges over the site, snatches a flimsy scrap of foil, whirls it aloft; a freshly-minted bright gold butterfly.

Amid a pile of freshly-offered flowers, ceremonial scarves, worn banknotes. A sculpted golden Buddha, his wry smile.

Vulture Peak Buddha