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  • Kyoto Arts

    Kyoto Arts

    May 31 – June 12, 2025 Join Asian Studies professor Livia Kohn on a wonderful study tour of Kyoto, completing a pilgrimage to the Seven Lucky Gods while exploring various forms of art as found in theater, architecture (temples, villas), lakes and rivers, gardens, antiques, statues, paintings, and more. Enjoy beautiful scenery, spectacular greenery, delicious […]

  • Zen and Nichiren

    Zen and Nichiren

    The blissful time of Heian came to an end with the eruption of major civil wars between ruling aristocrats—the emperor had increasingly lost power to noble in-laws and was now forced to appoint a shogun or grand general as his representative. Without dethroning the emperor and leaving Kyoto intact as a ritual center, the new […]

  • Japanese Buddhism

    Japanese Buddhism

    Buddhism entered Japan in its Mahayana form from Korea in the 6th century, the official date being 552. This time saw the unification of different local tribes under the still ruling imperial house of Japan, the Yamato clan from central Honshu. Especially the administration of Prince Shotoku (573-621), a senior official of the Soga clan, […]

  • Buddhism Overview

    Buddhism Overview

    Buddhism goes back to the Buddha, who lived in Northern India in the 6th c. BCE. Originally called Shakyamuni (tribe) Gautama (clan) Siddharta (personal name), he obtained the title buddha, which means “the enlightened one” and derives from the word bodhi (enlightenment), after an exhaustive search for salvation. Born as a prince and protected from […]

  • Shinto Gods

    Shinto Gods

    Seven Lucky Gods 1. Benzai ten (Sarasvati), Hindu goddess of music, wisdom, wealth; associated with ancient Indian river, thus often near spring or creek; depicted as court lady with flowing robes, holding a lute. Giver of wisdom and wealth. 2. Daikoku ten (Mahakala), the great black one, ancient Indian god of wealth; depicted as squat […]

  • Forms of Shinto

    Forms of Shinto

    Shinto comes in three forms: Shrine Shinto, State Shinto, and Sect Shinto. Shrine Shinto is most common. It worships kami or Shinto gods, invisible spirit forces that are superior to human beings in both knowledge and power and dwell in a heavenly realm known as the High Plain of Heaven. The first two gods Izanagi […]

  • Food and Money

    Food and Money

    Japanese food is tasty and highly varied. It is a lot more than fish and rice, although those are important basic ingredients, joined by many forms of seaweed, vegetables often pickled in creative ways, and soybean products, such as tofu and miso. Most people nowadays eat western-style breakfast, with coffee and tea, cereal and milk, […]

  • The Transit System

    The Transit System

    Like many Japanese cities, Kyoto has an excellent and rather intricate public transportation system. There are multiple companies that run trains and buses, but you can take any of them these days with the IC card, which also works for all other means of transportation throughout the entire country. There are six train lines in […]

  • Kyoto Orientation

    Kyoto Orientation

    Kyoto was founded in 794 and built in close imitation of Chang’an, the Chinese imperial capital at the time (modern Xi’an). Its streets are laid on in a grid, running straight north-south or east-west. The east-west streets, moreover, are numbered from one to nine, giving a good sense of orientation and structure. Before I describe […]

  • Kyoto Hike

    Kyoto Hike

    1-13 November 2024 Day 1-2: Air to Japan, flying into Osaka, either Kansai (international) or Itami (domestic). Day 3-4: Shrine Shinto and key Zen temples and gardens, walking through neighborhoods and exploring the magnificent fox mountain. Day 5-6: An excursion to Mount Hiei northeast of the city and vigorous hike down plus a temple market, […]