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The Hello Japan! mini-challenge for December was a direct consequence of our first Japanese Book Group read: The Old Capital (review pending). The ‘old capital’ of Japan is Kyoto — the Japanese title, Koto, referring to that name.

The task for this month is to choose a temple or shrine in Kyoto and share what you learned about it.

A virtual visit, so to say. I started looking for the temple that could have been described in Ellis Avery’s marvelous book The Teahouse Fire; my favourite read of 2008.

When I was nine, in the city now called Kyoto, I changed my fate. I walked into the shrine through the red arch and struck the bell. I bowed twice. I clapped twice. I whispered to the foreign goddess and bowed again. And then I heard the shouts and the fire. What I asked for? Any life but this one.

I found out there are three main temples or shrines with red arches as entrance: Kiyomizu-dera, Fushimi Inari Shrine and Heian Shrine. Since I wasn’t able to pinpoint the exact spot and tanabata herself had already picked the latter, I was left to choose between Kiyomizu and Fushimi Inari. But what happened? While roaming the web I fell in love with pictures of two other temples! Kōdai-ji 高台寺 京都 and Jizō-in 地藏院.

Photo courtesy of Filmmaker in Japan

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of Realmonkey

Kōdai-ji temple was founded in 1605 by Kita-no-Mandokoro (a title for the wife of a ruler) in memory of her late husband. That’s something else than an ‘In Loving Memory‘ bench along the road, isn’t it? I’m especially curious about the teahouses on the property, designed by the famous master of chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony), Sen Rikyu.

In summer and autumn the temple gardens are illuminated at nighttime by multicoloured spotlights. It must be a wonderful sight! The temple grounds actually interest me more than the buildings of worship… Oops — being a museum employee I shouldn’t have said that out loud! ;)

But looking at the pictures for some time the colours start to resemble Christmas lighting. Of course the bamboo forest by daylight does not loose its magic. But I don’t want to be visiting a fairground attraction when looking for a place of contemplation. And there you have the reason why I haven’t chosen any of the 13 Kyoto temples or 3 shrines that are on the Unesco World Heritage List. So, off to the small and not so popular Jizō-in with its beautiful moss garden!

JIZŌ-INJizo moss garden by Frantisek Staud

Jizō-in is a Zen temple that was founded in the 1367 by the monk and garden designer Musō Kokushi, posthumously renamed to Musō Soseki (no relation to the author of I Am a Cat). It is commonly known as the Bamboo Temple but can also be called the poor man’s Saihō-ji because it is only a few minutes’ walk away from the better-known Saihō-ji temple with its heart-shaped garden that was (really) designed by the before mentioned Musō Kokushi, and that can only be visited after official reservations by mail… The garden at Jizō-in was actually designed by Sokyo Zenji (1291-1374) and attributed to Musō as a founder; probably because of his importance. In it you’ll find the 16 disciples of Buddha ((a)rakan 阿羅漢 羅漢).

The temple of Jizō-in was destroyed by fire during the Ōnin civil war (1467-1477) and restored more than a hundred years later, in the middle of the Edo period (1603 -1868), when Japan was closed to Westerners and Christianity. Saihō-ji and Jizō-in are in the same atmospheric bamboo groves and because of that they remind me of the convent where Chieko’s father retreats in The Old Capital.

I really hope to visit some of the Hello Japan! temples in Kyoto in real life some time soon! Including “Mishima’s” Golden Pavilion at Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺 :)

The Buddha concluding this post can not be found in any of the temple gardens; this statuette appeared before me someday on a Wandelgrrls hike here in Holland.

In just one hour I will be on a real Sunday Salon: a swap meeting of the Boekgrrls where we exchange copies that we no longer need. And talk about books of course. A LOT ;) I’m just bringing a small pile and plan to take home even less ;)

Biggest news of the week: yesterday I was surprised with the kind gift of Cloud Atlas — the music. I was at a loss for words when I got it. Especially since there was no reason to get any presents; my birthday is still a few months away and I am to old for Sinterklaas too ;) Thank you so, SO much dear Else! The music is really beautiful. David Mitchell is one of my all-time favourite authors (if you didn’t know yet ;) I will have to talk about the cd some more another time because otherwise I’ll be late for my meeting.

In the mail this week: The Decorative Art of Japanese Food Carving (Elegant Garnishes for All Occassions) by Hiroshi Nagashima, which I wrote about earlier. I just couldn’t resist ;) Even though I usually refuse to buy cookbooks that are not completely vegetarian.

Finished reading: The Old Capital by Yasunari Kawabata. And I am definitely going to read more of this acclaimed author! It was really beautiful. I guess both Gail Tsukiyama (The Samurai’s Garden) and Ellis Avery (The Teahouse Fire) were influenced by Kawabata. Next read? I haven’t decided yet!

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

I’m a bit late with posting my bento of Thursday October 22th: Sōkō Bentō.

In Japan certain days have special names to mark the changes in season. Sōkō 霜降, on October 23rd, is one of these 24 sekki: Frost Descent (the descent of temperature and appearance of frost). Well, Thursday was indeed cold. But we’ve actually had some night frost earlier in the month! Of course, I’m situated on the other side of the globe to Japan ;)

teahouseLiving in accordance to the seasons comes so naturally to Japanese / Asian people. I  really wish I had it in me too — which I experienced even more strongly when I read The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery, my favourite read of 2008! Unfortunately I don’t think it is something one could learn :(

Anyway, it’s obvious I got my date wrong… I thought I had read somewhere this year’s Sōkō was on the 22nd but I can’t retrace it. For people who are more well-informed about Japan than I am and believe I also got the name wrong: please let me know what you think Frost Descent is called! I actually came across several names and decided to rely on Wikipedia ;) Others terms include Shousetsu (しょうせつ) and Shimo Ori.

Now, what’s the contents of bento #82?

Upper tier
Salad of different types of lettuce, tomato and meikaas (‘May cheese’ a very young cheese of 1-7 days; it tastes a bit like halloumi), which is vegetarian because of its microbial rennet made of mushrooms. On top a watercress leaf and some parsley. Next to that a roasted orange squash dish with red onion and pepita’s (pumpkin seeds).

Lower tier
Sweet & spicy couscous with cinnamon and cranberries, sprinkled with some more parsley. Two un-sulphuretted apricots with an almond inside for the bite, a container of roasted almonds as couscous topping and some big capers.

Quite a lot of whites because of frost descend :) Pumpkin and apricot being fall products, some red berries heralding winter. Of course the young cheese is quite out of tune here, but it can be conceived as the pureness of cold nights & early frost. Likewise, the texture of couscous reminds me of snow or hoarfrost.

CSA (& organic): lettuce, tomato, pumpkin, parsley.
Organic: watercress, red onion, apricots.

This post is dedicated to elm@, who prefers my bento blogs to the bookish things I write about. I hope she’ll find this one satisfactory ;)

On the threshold of Thursday I would like to write a quick post about the Booking Through Thursday topic of last week: Preferences.

Which do you prefer? (Quick answers–we’ll do more detail at some later date)

Well, I’ll be as brief as possible but I do feel the need to add short explanations to my answers. Why? Because I never like to read plain lists myself either!

  • Reading something frivolous? Or something serious?
    That depends on my mood. Frivolous when I’m tired (busy at work) or on a holiday, but over all I like a serious read.
  • Paperbacks? Or hardcovers?
    Hardcovers look good on my bookshelf ;) And their sustainability is probably better. But paperbacks are often lighter and thus easier to bring along, read in bed etc.
  • Fiction? Or Nonfiction?
    Mostly fiction because it is easier (quicker) to take in and I read for recreation. But I like to alternate with non-fiction when the topic is interesting or (and) the book well-written. Right now I’m reading non-fiction: The Mapmaker’s Wife by Robert Whitaker.
  • Poetry? Or Prose?
    Prose. Prose. And prose.
  • Biographies? Or Autobiographies?
    I like both, as long as they are well-written. Autobiographies are in danger of being badly written (having an interesting personality is no guarantee for being a good writer), and the author might keep his/her secrets hidden in the closet. Or overexagerate ;) Then again, the information is first hand! Biographies can get too sensational or spin a story out of nothing because well… the writer could not really find anything really interesting to talk about. Besides The Mapmaker’s Wife the last biography I read was about Marlene Dietrich, written by her daughter. And it was really b o r i n g — more than 1000 pages long!
  • History? Or Historical Fiction?
    Hm, probably authentic historical fiction ;) Although… The Mapmaker’s Wife seems good ;) My favourite read of 2008 was historical fiction: The Teahouse Fire, by Ellis Avery. I really loved it!
  • Series? Or Stand-alones?
    Again: both. Series to read in a span of several years so that you know what to expect of the characters etc. I wrote about that in my review of What Came Before He Shot Her, the 14th Elizabeth George mysteries I recently read.
  • Classics? Or best-sellers?
    YES! (Wasn’t that the question? ;)
  • Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose?
    I guess I prefer straight-forward, basic.
  • Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness?
    Plots. (What can I say, I am learning to be short here! ;)
  • Long books? Or Short?
    Long or medium so you can really dive into a story. I don’t like ‘m short because then they are over when I am just beginning to enjoy myself.
  • Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated?
    Depends on the book. But if I really have to choose: no illustrations because I like to create my own images.
  • Borrowed? Or Owned?
    Owned if it is so good I would like to keep the book. Borrowed if I don’t (that saves money, doesn’t it? ;)
  • New? Or Used?
    Erm, used is okay if the books are in good condition: not dirty (!) or smelly or falling apart :( New is better :)
  • Adding my own question: Translation? Or original language?
    I’m Dutch but I like to read English books in their original language as much as possible: I believe the author’s style of writing is important to a good book as well. I would like to do so with all languages I can understand (French and German), but my vocabulary is too rusty and don’t feel like training myself when I am actually having time off.

So much for my preferences. I am afraid I will get excommunicated by btt for being too verbose… But really, this is quick for me! ;)

BAFAB book: La petite fille de Monsieur Linh

Books I’ve read this year… (2008)
Een plaats voor wilde bessen (Jagodnye mesta / Wild Berries), Jevgeni Jevtoesjenko (ring)
The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing (challenge book) reading along with online experiment!
De jacht op het verloren schaap (Hitsuji o meguru bōken / A Wild Sheep Chase), Haruki Murakami
Obasan, Joy Kogawa
Isaac Israels in het ziekenhuis, Merel van den Nieuwenhof
Meneer Pip (Mister Pip), Lloyd Jones (ring)
Let Them Call It Jazz, Jean Rhys
Het kleine meisje van meneer Linh (La petite fille de monsieur Linh), Philippe Claudel
The Teahouse Fire, Ellis Avery
De liefde tussen mens en kat, W.F. Hermans
Na de aardbeving (Kami no kodomotachi wa mina odoru / After the Quake), Haruki Murakami (re-reading)
Ik heet Karmozijn (Benim adim kirmizi / My name is red), Orhan Pamuk
Met de kat naar bed (Travels with my cat), Mike Resnick
Jennie, Paul Gallico
Anna Boom, Judith Koelemeijer
Possession, A.S. Byatt (challenge book)
The gathering, Anne Enright
The amazing adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (challenge book)
Het vergeten seizoen, Peter Delpeut
Kermis van koophandel: de Amsterdamse wereldtentoonstelling van 1883, Ileen Montijn (non-fiction)
I haven’t dreamed of flying for a while, Taichi Yamada
The truth about food, Jill Fullerton-Smith (non-fiction)
Pnin, Vladimir Nabokov (challenge book)
New York Trilogy, Paul Auster (challenge book)
Migraine voor Dummies (non-fiction)
The bone vault, Linda Fairstein
In Patagonië, Bruce Chatwin (challenge book)
De thuiskomst, Anna Enquist
Dagboek van een poes, Remco Campert
On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan

I sent one of this year’s favourites to my dear friend Loes for BAFAB week = Buy A Friend A Book. It’s Phillippe Claudel’s Het kleine meisje van meneer Linh (La petite fille de monsieur Linh), shown in the picture above. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to — now!

Personal challenges for 2008
ETA: prolonged into 2009, 2010
Read 12 books of 13 of the longlist of the Dutch election for Best Foreign Book that were already on my wishlist:

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
✔ The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon
Possession by A.S. Byatt
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
✔ New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
The Sea, the sea by Iris Murdoch
In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
✔ Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Chosen by Chaim Potok

With 6 books read in 2008 I’m right on track :)

I also had my own Bookcrossing museum challenge: I visiting 6 exhibits in 2008/2009 and releasing appropriate books. Those exhibitions were not random but followed a lecture course I took. I posted about them in Gnoe’s Museumlog (sorry, it’s in Dutch).

Special rings and challenges I participated in this year…
Special rings & rays
De Aziatische boekendoos

The SIY (Set It Yourself) Challenge, 3rd edition. Ibis3 made us a nice challenge page on which you can see that I completed my mission in time!
The SIY (Set It Yourself) Challenge, 6th edition. The challenge page will tell you that I succeeded again!

Bookcrossing Four Seasons Release Challenge with a total of 14 books:

  • 3 books in spring
  • 3 books in summer
  • 2 books in autumn
  • 6 books in winter

Last but not least…

Find my releases on Gnoe’s Bookcrossing Releases map!

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!


Currently grazing

Gnoe herding…

Jap Literature Challenge 13 button

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My current fav spot to graze

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