The COMPASS: Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto JP

Kyoto JP
Check out the full COMPASS series here!

By Marihiko Hara

I love how time flows in Kyoto, not too rapidly and not too slowly. A five minute walk will lead me through streets, temples, and gardens, where I can feel that I am in ancient spaces. To know where I stand, all I have to do is find out which direction points north. Only in Kyoto can I truly focus on my composition.


Kyoto has so many musical places — clubs, record shops, cafes, and bars. Among my favorite places to discover new music are Club Metro and the fine record shop and bar Japonica. But today I would like to show you some of my inspirations.

tadasu no mori forest KYO

The Tadasu no Mori Forest is located in the Shimogamo-jinja shrine which was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a sacred, primeval forest that has never been burned or cut down, so the sounds you hear are ancient. One may also capture field recordings here, but it is best to focus on listening with your entire body. It is one of my favorite soundscapes in the world.

Night Cruising is an event company and record label run by Tatsuya Shimada. He holds sporadic events which provide opportunities to enjoy electronic/acoustic music and visuals. His events are not only in clubs, but also in beautiful Japanese temples around Kyoto. One of my albums “Flora” was released on this label.

+ Read more on Flypaper: Plan a tour through the Pacific Northwest with Briana Marela’s “The Compass: Seattle”

This is not actually in Kyoto, but please let me introduce the Sonihouse speakers.  This unique product is made by Manpei Tsurubayashi in Nara, which used to be a capital of Japan before Kyoto and Tokyo, in the 8th century. “Scenery,” one of the leading products at Sonihouse, is a non-parametric speaker. I will never forget my first sound experience with Scenery speakers when I played at Honen-In Temple, surrounded by the sounds of the music and nature. These speakers can be found in several cafes and venues in Japan, and were famously used for the installation piece “Forest Symphony” by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

ato_no_matsuri KYO

Ato no Matsuri is an event following the main festival of Gion Matsuri, one of the most famous traditional festivals in Japan. It takes place annually in July in Kyoto. “Ato no Matsuri” was revived recently after about 50-year absence. There are parades, food stalls, music, and dancing. And because it is a smaller parade than the pre-festival version, “Saki no Matsuri,” the Ato no Matsuri event is always very intimate, special, and exciting.

+ Read more on Flypaper: “The Musicians Guide to Touring Japan”

Good food is 100% necessary to making good music, I believe. Beautiful and delicious dishes are always an essential inspiration, especially in Kyoto. Megumi Shishikura, the owner of Volver, offers incredible dishes with organic vegetables, and her presentation is very original.

Visit her website and you will see beautiful pictures, which will inspire your creativity, even without tasting them. Now she is too busy for catering, but hopefully she will open “Restaurant Volver” in 2016.

Interested in hearing more about the sounds of cities from the artists who love them? Catch up on the full COMPASS series here.

Photo by Shizuka Higa
Photo by Shizuka Higa

Marihiko Hara is a musician and composer residing in Kyoto, Japan. A graduate from Kyoto University, his main interest as a composer is to use serene silence in music and to pursue his own texture of sounds. He  recently composed music for Shiro Takatani’s performance “ST/LL” with Ryuichi Sakamoto.






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