May 2004
Interview for web

         Life in Kyoto recently interviewed Mr. Kjeld Duits, a Kansai-based Dutch photographer and journalist who has lived in Japan for over 20 years, documenting the culture through pictures and words and transmitting this information to the West. Mr. Duits recently gave a lecture at the Kyoto International Community House to discuss his popular website and the ways that Japanese culture is transmitted overseas via internet, followed by an on-site photo shoot using models from local Kyoto Universities (The photos can be seen at 20043/contest/). In this interview, Mr. Duits explains his various professional activities in depth.

When and why did you first come to Japan?
I first came to Japan in 1982. I left the Netherlands in 1979 to find a nice country to live in, and spent time living in Germany, Greece and Italy. In Italy I earned a living by playing guitar and singing in restaurants. That was lots of fun because I met new people all the time, not only Italians, but people from all over the world. One couple from Hawaii told me some stories that got me really excited. I read some books about Hawaii and decided that it was exactly the sort of place I wanted to live in: white sandy beaches, blue skies and green ocean. After living there for two years I met and married a Japanese woman. She was homesick for Japan, so I decided to sell everything I had built up and move to Japan with her. Unfortunately we divorced after 7 years, but I decided to stay on in Japan. My beautiful daughter was the main reason I decided to stay, but I grew to love Japan as a country over the years.

You've lived in Japan for over 20 years. What do you enjoy about living in Japan?
I like the way people treat each other with respect and concern. I find that my friends always show a great deal of interest in each other's well being and are always there in times of trouble, no questions asked. I feel safe walking down a dark secluded street, even in the middle of the night. When I go shopping or stay at a ryokan or hotel I usually receive the best possible service. Well, maybe the service isn't always perfect, but it's often much better than the service I get in Europe or the States. I am veryinterested in Japanese history and traditional architecture, but I also love some of the modern structures as well. I am crazy about Japanese street fashion and the art created by young Japanese illustrators and artists. It is full of creative energy. Above all else, I am the most passionate about Japanese matsuri (festivals). Matsuri are a celebration of life in all its forms.

Can you explain a little bit about your website and its various functions?
JAPANESE STREETS introduces Japanese street fashion and street culture to people living outside of Japan. I take and display photographs of the latest street fashion trends in the neighborhoods of Harajuku, Aoyama, and Shibuya in Tokyo, and Amerika Mura and Horie in Osaka. Taking photoEach photo is displayed with some basic information about the clothes and the wearer. I also introduce Japanese fashion designers and young artists, especially undiscovered artists that sell their art on the street. Because fashion doesn't exist in a vacuum I致e also included photographs of typical Japanese clothing like yukata, kimono, school uniforms, work clothes and so on, and some shots of Japanese cities. These photographs aim to show the unconscious influences at work in the daily lives of Japanese people.
To make JAPANESE STREETS a true source of information and inspiration, there are also two link directories, one for sites about Japan, and one for sites about Japanese fashion and pop culture, called FASHION LINKS. FASHION LINKS is so popular that many foreign fashion sites often submit their URLs. You can see how popular this directory has become when you see many times a single site has been accessed. For example, one Japanese hair fashion site listed in FASHION LINKS had over 14,000 hits. Visitors can also upload their own photographs and connect with other fans of Japanese street fashion and pop culture from all over the world. Every month about 70,000 people visit JAPANESE STREETS and quite a few of them upload their own photographs regularly.

WigWhat interests you the most about Japanese Street Fashion?
I love the boundless energy and the creative mixing and matching you see in Japanese street fashion. You can find some extremely original and very daring fashion creations on the streets of big Japanese cities. In other world cities, people would be made fun of if they dressed in such an extreme way. For example, a woman in Holland who had dyed her hair blue told me that people on the street called out "Smurf!" when they saw her walk by. ("The Smurfs" was a popular American children's cartoon in the 1980's, featuring animated blue-skinned elves -ed.) Some people in Japan may not appreciate and understand the street fashion but they wouldn't shout strange words at the people who wear it.

What inspired you to create the Japanese Streets web site?
I started the site in November 2002 after I noticed as a photographer that there was a growing of interest in Japanese popular culture overseas. There's a stereotype that the Japanese boring unoriginal imitators. That is totally untrue. Of course there are boring unoriginal imitators here, just like anywhere on the world. But there is also a lot of uniqueness and originality. BoyEvery Japanese person is a unique individual, just like any other human being in the world. I believe JAPANESE STREETS creates a very realistic window on modern Japanese society so that many of the stereotypes can be deconstructed. Hopefully I won't inadvertently create any new stereotypes in the process! I really want to showcase the creative energy of the young Japanese to people abroad and make a forum where young Japanese and people from other countries can connect and talk about the things that interest them.

CosplayWhat's your favorite kind of street fashion style?
I love the cosplayers that meet at Meiji Jingu Bashi in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo. ("Cosplay" aka costume play, is a style of street fashion where people wear elaborate costumes to imitate their favorite anime characters or musicians. -ed). I think they are absolutely wild. I feel inspired when I see what they do with their clothes, especially because a lot of it is handmade. There's been a growing trend of kids who wear clothes made by the Japanese brand F-TUS and UK brand Cyberdog. These are very futuristic clothes with bright colors made of modern materials. The people who wear these clothes look like they stepped right out of an anime movie a few seconds before you met them, and I like that style a lot. My favorite Japanese designer is Takuya Angel, without a doubt. I love how he combines traditional Japanese designs from hundreds of years ago, such as clothes worn by samurai, with modern influences from manga and anime. He is a true genius in how he combines East and West, old and new ideas, and traditional and modern materials.

What types of professional activities are you involved in outside of
I work as a journalist writing about Japanese society and economy for newspapers and magazines worldwide, as well as documenting Japan through photographs for the news media and publishers. I have also written books about Japanese society, produced TV programs about its culture and reported on the radio about recent trends and news events. I give speeches on occasion and sometimes become involved in large-scale events. I was the Olympic Attache for the Netherlands Olympic Committee during the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. In my free time I also serve as the chairman of the Netherlands Society in West Japan.

You sound like a very busy person! What are your plans for the future?
Professionally, I'd like to help spark an interest in Japan for people living overseas in order to create a dialogue between Japan and other cultures. Privately, I'd like to do more traveling abroad. Over the past 22 years I have traveled mostly in Japan. I have always dreamed of driving straight across the USA or crossing a desert in China or in an Arabian country. I would like to make that dream come true! Most importantly, I love Hawaii! I would like to have a second house there and spend part of the year in Japan and the rest of my time living on those wonderful islands.

- Interview by B. Jarvis

You can view Kjeld Duit's photographs at and

Flover of the season in Kyoto

Flavor of the Season in Kyoto: Spring and Summer
         As you may already know, the Japanese are highly aware of the seasonality (shun, 旬) of foods, and this sensibility is particularly keen when it comes to vegetables and seafood. The taste of certain vegetables and fish improves dramatically during a particular season, and Kyotoites are generally very sensitive to such differences and enjoy eating fresh food "in season.Eggplant
As the cherry blossoms begin falling away in the springtime, our minds envision the fragrant sweetness of simmered fresh bamboo shoots (takenoko, 竹の子), traditionally garnished with green Japanese pepper buds (kinome, 木の芽). The hot sunshine of Kyoto summer tempts us to taste the fleshy round kamo-nasu eggplant (賀茂茄子), fried and served with spicy miso paste or dipped in tempura sauce(てんつゆ). Some other vegetables that taste best according to season include rape blossoms (nanohana, 菜の花) in March, butterbur (fuki, 蕗) in March-April, udo, the white stalk of an asparagus-like plant (うど) in April-June, and Japanese ginger (myoga, みょうが) in June-July.
Seasonality for seafood follows a strict schedule and traditionally we eat a particular kind of fish in a certain month to enjoy the freshest flavor. Throughout the spring and summer, we eat scomber fish (sawara, 鰆) in March, sea bream (madai, 真鯛) in April, bonito (katsuo, 鰹) in May, trout ayu (ayu, 鮎) in June-July, pike-conger (hamo, 鱧) in July, and eel (unagi, 鰻) and conger-eel (anago, 穴子) in August.
         To appreciate the "taste of the season" easily and cheaply, I'd like to present some simple recipes for cooking with shun ingredients.

Shun Cooking for May/June:

===Katsuo no Tataki, かつおのたたき (Seared Rare Bonito)===
Buy 1/2 of a katsuo fish with the skin intact and roast it very lightly over a gas range using a wire rack, or in a broiler oven. Make sure not to overcook it- the red color of the inside meat must be kept intact, while the outside will turn a pale color. After soaking the cooked bonito in ice water for several minutes, take it out and wipe it. Let it sit in the refrigerator for a while and slice it into 7-8mm thickness. Garnish with thinly-sliced onions or green onions, sliced-garlic, or grated ginger. Serve with ponzu shoyu dipping sauce (ポン酢しょうゆ, soy-sauce mixed with juice of citrus fruit, such as yuzu, sudachi, or kabosu).

===Udo no Sumono うどの酢の物 (Vinegared Udo)===
Cut the udo stalks into 4-5cm pieces and peel off the thick skin. Immediately soak the pieces in 2 cups water mixed with 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Thinly slice the udo and serve with a mixture of soysauce, vinegar, water and salt for sunomono, or with mayonnaise or French dressing for a salad.

Shun Cooking for July/August:

===Yaki Anago Donburi 焼き穴子丼 (Grilled Conger Eel Over Rice)===
Buy a grilled conger-eel and eel kabayaki tare sauce. Slice the eel, warm the slices in an oven toaster, then lay them over hot steamed rice in a big bowl and serve topped with tare sauce and sliced nori (black seaweed).

===Nasu Agedashi 茄子揚げ出し(Fried Eggplant in Tempura Sauce )===
Cut the stem off of an eggplant and slice it into two halves. Cut notches in the eggplant at one cm. intervals. Immediately deep-fry the eggplant in vegetable oil. Pour warmed tentsuyu sauce (available at the super-market) over the fried eggplant. Add grated ginger and grated daikon to taste.

-T. Fujii

Hiking presented by Eizan Train Line Sun
Free for all courses, but please cover any entrance and transportation fees. No reservation required. Please wear clothes and shoes suitable for walking (such as hiking boots), and bring your own lunch and rain gear if necessary.
Inquiries: 075-702-8111

Shizuhara and Hyotan-kuzureyama
19 May (Wed), 22 May (Sat)
Meeting Time: 9:30-10:00
Meeting Place: Kurama Station (30 min. from Demachiyanagi by Eizan Train)
Course Length: about 11km

Kamigamo Shrine and Yonaki-toge
26 May (Wed), 29 May (Sat)
Meeting Time: 9:30-10:00
Meeting Place: Takaragaike Station (9 minutes from Demachiyanagi Station by Eizan Train)
Course Length: about 10km

Bakumatsu and Shinsengumi Remains
8 June (Tue)
Meeting Time: 9:30-10:00
Meeting Place: Kyoto Seikadaimae Station (17 Minutes from Demachiyanagi Station by Eizan Train)
Course Length: about 8km

Minoragatake and Shizuhara
16 June (Wed), 19 June (Sat)
Meeting Time: 9:30-10:00
Meeting Place: Iwakura Station (15 min. from Demachiyanagi by Eizan Train)
Course Length: about 10km, you can also go to the Kurama Onsen Hot Springs at a reduced price

Hiking presented by Keihan Train Line
No reservations needed. Wear clothes and shoes suitable for walking. Bring lunch, and rain gear if necessary
Inquiries: 06-6947-3702

Kiyotaki and Sawanoike
16 May (Sun) Meeting Time: 9:30-10:00 Sunflower
Meeting Place: Sanjo Keihan Station (City Subway/Keihan Line)
Fee: \500 , plus transportation expenses and an entrance fee when required
Course Length: about 12km

Seryo-toge and Ninose-yuri
13 June (Sun)
Meeting Time: 9:30-10:00
Meeting Place: Kifuneguchi Station (Eizan Train)
Fee: Free, please pay transportation expenses and an entrance fee when required
Course Length: about 12km

-Compiled by Y. Murase

Designed by A. Kitagawa (HP Volunteer)