Sunday evening’s dinner talk by Judith Clancy proved a convivial literary evening as the author of Exploring Kyoto walked us through her several publications on the city. (Residents of Kyoto will surely have used Judith’s books at one time or another to guide them through the city, but for those unfamiliar with her publications please take a look at her amazon page.) She first came to Kyoto in 1970, and threw herself into Japanese life, working for Kanebo and then teaching at Otani University as well as acting as guide to foreign visitors. Her first ever book was about her ikebana teacher, a self-publication with gorgeous colour photographs held by Judith in the picture to the right. Judith’s subsequent involvement with Weatherhill, Stonebridge and Tuttle was to some extent built on the familiarity with Japanese aesthetics which she learnt through her ikebana book. It’s an indication of how self-publishing can work to a writer’s advantage, even if it involves a loss financially. The talk covered her different experiences with Japan specialist publishers, as well as her work on an update of the Kyoto section of the Fodor guidebook. But perhaps her most fascinating stories came in association with a book published last year in Japanese about maiko and geiko (see here). It took her deep into the rarefied world of Kyoto’s geisha districts and the people employed there. The publisher Tankosha had sufficient clout to organise a huge launch party studded with Kyoto’s finest, including the mayor and the cream of the city’s geisha, at which Judith was the sole foreigner. Afterwards, in response to questions, Judith talked more of the background that brought her to Japan, with tales of Woodstock, Korean shamanism and restoring a machiya in the heart of the Nishijin weaving district. The evening went on far longer than intended, as anecdotes led one to another, and by the end those attending were deeply impressed by the intrepid enterprise of this trailblazing author. Thanks very much to Judith Clancy, and to her contemporary Charles Roche of Papa Jons for catering for such a wonderful evening.