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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? logoSince I didn’t get to write my Sunday Salon post yesterday due to Sinterklaas baking (apple pie with almond paste), cooking (Bisschopswijn, similar to mulled wine) & other festivities (cheese fondue), I decided to join in again with Book Journey’s It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? meme. You can read more about Saint Nicholas in the Virtual Advent Tour blogposts of Leeswammes and Iris on Books by the way. And join their giveaways!

Today I’m halfway The (Temple of the) Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima, a Japanese Literature Book Group read. The discussion post is already up, if you’d care to take a look. I’ve put part of the book title in brackets because in Dutch the novel is just called Het Gouden Paviljoen, without the temple-part. The translator, C. Ouwehand, argues that the Japanese name Kinkakuji is used for both the temple of the Golden Pavilion and the entire building.

Currently reading: The Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) by Yukio MishimaNow you know how I like to use an appropriate bookmark when I’m reading? This time I have the perfect one! It shows a picture of the Golden Pavilion and is part of a series of 6 Kyoto temples. It was a prize in last year’s Hello Japan! challenge about Kyoto temples.

So far the novel seems like a ‘tidal’ read: pulling me in and pushing me away. The story about a stuttering (or does he have a stammer?), troubled youngster training to be a buddhist priest at Kinkaku-ji, keeps you at a distance as the protagonist is not really someone to relate to. Still, several times I found that I was thinking about the story and its characters when I was nowhere near the book. As if it has taken possession of me. So I definitely want to read on and finish it, no matter how long this will take me.

But I do want to hurry up a little. There are several other books on my agenda for this month!

Two weeks ago I held a poll about what book to read next. Nadeem Aslam’s novel The Wasted Vigil is a clear winner and I’d really love to pick it up soon and buddy read it with my friend MaaikeB. She’s already started!

Also, my Dutch online book group the Boekgrrls is reading Caos calmo this month, for which author Sandro Veronesi won the prestigious Strega Prize. Next weekend I’ll be able to borrow a copy from Mr Gnoe’s aunty C.

And last but not least I have something put aside especially for the holidays: The Christmas Quilt, by Thomas J. Davies, which I won earlier this year in Velvet’s giveaway. I’m determined to beat my reading slump and get at least some of these books done this month!

Other bookish things

Signed book: Leugens en lotgenotenI received a surprise book from Ailantus publishers. When I got the parcel I thought for a minute I had won their contest for a signed translation of David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: De onverhoorde gebeden van Jacob de Zoet. Of course we have our own signed English copy, but we’d like to own a Dutch translation as well because of the link with Holland.

Alas, it wasn’t exactly what I hoped for. BUT. It is a very appropriate gift! Leugens en lotgenoten (‘Lies and Fellow Sufferers‘), signed by Jan Willem Smeets, is about two brothers that have been detained in WWII Japanese prison camps as children. That has my interest because so was my dad! One of the boys in the book goes back to Indonesia as an adult; something I would like to do someday too: visit my father’s birth land.

And then there’s a new What’s in a Name challenge (#4) about to start! I finished reading all entries for #3 but I still need to write up a wrap-up post reviewing most of them. Will get to that — I hope. Next year’s categories are:

    What's in a Name Challenge #4 button (2011) 

  1. A book with a number in the title (Pinball 1973 or 1Q84 or The 19th Wife or 2666)
  2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title (The Moonstone)
  3. A book with a size in the title (Vernon God Little)
  4. A book with travel or movement in the title (I’ll Steal You Away or The Elephant Vanishes or…)
  5. A book with evil in the title (Savage Detectives or Crime School or Lies and Fellow Sufferers or PROBABLY Poelie de Verschrikkelijke (‘Poelie the Terrible‘))
  6. A book with a life stage in the title (Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America)

As you can see I have some titles from Mt TBR lined up already, but I definitely need to go have a look at my shelf and compose a complete list and admission post. Mr Gnoe and I are having a discussion about ‘savage’: he would not label that as something evil… What do you think?

So much to do & read — good thing we’ll be having a few days of at the end of this month!


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.

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!


Currently grazing

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Gnoe herding...