Sonic Japan: Sounds of Kyoto

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Latest sounds

Ohara Temple Nightinggale Floor
This temple's hallway utilises pre modern sonic security systems to alert residents to intruders (2019/05/17)
Old Style Bakery
The sounds of a working bakery in Kyoto. This shop serves 'Showa' style food in a nostalgic setting; the clamour of baking tins behind the counter intermingle with customers' murmuring about the delicious freshly baked bread. (2018/2/22)
Water features and conversation
One of the other famous features of the Ryoanji Temple is this stone water basin. The sound of water running is thought to be soothing to the mind of soul. How does this sound to you? (2019/05/16)

Latest posts

Premodern Sonic Security Systems: the Nightingale Floor

Wed Nov 13 2019 by Carolyn Stevens

This a recording of a temple located in Ohara, just outside Kyoto, named Sanzenin. An important site for the Tendai school of Buddhism, this large complex houses many artistic and religious treasures. One of the compound buildings featured a uguisubari (translated as ‘nightingale floor’). This kind of flooring was...>>

Kyoto Jazz Club

Wed Jul 10 2019 by Carolyn Stevens

Last May I travelled to Japan to participate in Professor Hosokawa's 'Otomimikai' (sound and listening research group) at Nichibunken, and as luck would have it, I was there at same time as Professor Merry I White from Boston University. Many know her work Coffee Life in Japan and Perfectly...>>

Nishijin, Kyoto

Fri Dec 07 2018 by Carolyn Stevens

One of the pleasures of academia is working with doctoral students whose projects extend their supervisors' knowledge about their area of expertise. Dr. Jenny Hall introduced me to the sensory experiences of traditional textile making and design as per her dissertation thesis, Tradition and Innovation in Textile Production and Design...>>

Week Day Park

Wed Feb 07 2018 by Carolyn Stevens

Public space is notable for its sounds as well as its silences, and this shifts over temporal and seasonal changes. We would expect that this small park in the heart of Kyoto would sound differently at night than during the day, but the differences between week days and week ends...>>

Arashiyama Wedding

Mon Jul 24 2017 by Tamara Kohn

What a sight in the midst of the splendid bamboo forest walk at Arashiyama: A young couple posing for wedding photos in a stream of light on the wide path. The bride’s long white dress glowed with a brilliant light that appeared to emanate from the bodies of the...>>

Green Tea Cakes and Yobikomi

Fri Jul 21 2017 by Carolyn Stevens

In my recent article ‘Irasshai! Sonic Practice as Commercial Enterprise in Urban Japan’ (Journal of Musicological Research, link here, I observe that recorded versions of yobikomi (calling in customers) are increasing, likely due to cost cutting measure – it’s cheaper to record the company jingle and play it on...>>

Genkoan and the bloody footprints

Tue Jan 31 2017 by Tamara Kohn

This temple, founded in the 14th century, sits high in the hills in northwest Kyoto. Since the late 17th century it has belonged to the Sōtō School of Zen. It is famous for its main hall (hondo) where there are two windows – one perfectly round and another...>>

Sonic Cosmopolitanism and Hotel Lobbies

Fri Jul 15 2016 by Carolyn Stevens

Feeling, belonging and listening to sound:

Recordings by C. Stevens, text by C Stevens and R. Chenhall

Five star hotels are interesting places. For the elite 1% of the population, this kind of place may seem mundane, but for the rest of us, luxury hotels present us with a rarified encounter with...>>

Sound, sight and taste

Fri Jun 03 2016 by Carolyn Stevens

One of our main themes in this sonic repository is food: the sound of food is often one of the main indicators we use to describe the experience of eating; the crunch of a vegetable or fruit speaks to its freshness, for example. In Japan, the slurping of noodles...>>

龍安寺の静かさとは How Quiet is 'Quiet'?! The Garden at Ryoan-ji, Kyoto

Wed Jun 18 2014 by Thomas Baudinette
Forming part of the UNESCO world heritage site "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)," Ryoan-ji Temple in Western Kyoto is particularly famous for its Zen gardens. Indeed Nitschke (1999: 88-9) argues that the karesansui (dry landscape) rock garden at Ryoan-ji temple, which is pictured above, represents the finest extant example of the Zen rock gardens of the 15th century. >>

清水寺 Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto

Mon Jun 02 2014 by Thomas Baudinette
Kiyomizu Temple, officially known as Otowa-san Kiyomizu Temple, is a Buddhist temple and popular tourist spot in Eastern Kyoto. A practicing Buddhist temple, Kiyomizu Temple forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)".>>

トイレの音 The sound of Japanese toilet technology

Fri May 30 2014 by Carolyn Stevens
One of the most surprising but mostly pleasing experiences for foreigners visiting Japan is the level of technological comfort built in to many of the toilets in Japanese homes and public restrooms. Toilets are primarily divided into two categories:  和式 (washiki, or Japanese style) and 洋式 (yōshiki, or Western style).>>

京都での木剣稽古 Bokken training in Kyoto

Fri May 30 2014 by Tamara Kohn
This is a recording made in Yoko Okamoto Sensei’s aikido dojo in Kyoto during a morning ‘weapons’ class taught by Yoko’s American husband, Chris (pictured above). The dojo is in Kamigyo-ku, in an area of tiny residential streets and laneways.>>

溝前町の合気道所 Aikido Kyoto in Mizomae-cho

Fri May 30 2014 by Tamara Kohn
Here you hear the rigorous training sounds of aikido in a class taught by Yoko Okamoto Sensei, the chief instructor at Aikido Kyoto. You can hear the sound of the uke (receiving partner) hitting the mat to break a fall after being thrown by tori (the person practicing the throwing technique).>>

新幹線2 Shinkansen bullet trains part 2

Wed Apr 02 2014 by Carolyn Stevens
In the picture below, we find some examples of "sound management" on the shinkansen: this picture depicts the information given to all passengers when they sit down in their seats. In front of them they will immediately see the rules and regulations of riding the shinkansen.>>

そば Soba noodles

Wed Apr 02 2014 by Thomas Baudinette and Carolyn Stevens
Soba (buckwheat) noodles are a popular dish in Japan. Served either hot or cold, soba noodles are made from buckwheat and are typically eaten with a broth.>>

京都の寺町通り Teramachi Street in Kyoto

Wed Mar 26 2014 by Thomas Baudinette
The following recording was made on Teramachi Street in Kyoto. Teramachi Street contains one of the main shopping arcades (shotengai) in Kyoto, and after the arcade can be found a street filled with temples (o-tera) from which the street gets its name.>>

京都の伊勢丹デパート Isetan Department Store, Kyoto

Fri Aug 16 2013 by Richard Chenhall
Isetan is one of Japan's ubiquitous department stores. With its flagship store in Shinjuku, Isetan has branches throughout Japan and also Asia (including China, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand) and former branches in London and Vienna.>>

下駄の音 Geta no Oto (The Sound of Geta)

Mon Aug 12 2013 by Tamara Kohn and Richard Chenhall
Gion is the part of Kyoto famous for its association with the traditional arts, dress and music of Japan, as embodied by the geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha).  This recording was taken in July 2013, and captures the sound of maiko walking through the historic streets of Gion.>>