Kyoto: Life, Light, and Space

1 June 2013
Author: Matt Castro – Urban Environmental Systems Management

In terms of my project (researching busking (public performance) in public spaces) it was an excellent day. More so than my research topic, today encapsulated a wealth of amazing experiences and life changing moments that I most certainly couldn’t find if I were not here in Kyoto.


Kyoto: buildings overlooking Kamo River. Matt Castro, 1 June 2013.

The two areas that I would reference to help support these feelings would be the visit to Tadao Ando’s Times building and our bike ride along the river in Kyoto. Funny enough, the visit to the Times building plays along with the feeling of a river. When first entering the building on the outer most side, I couldn’t help but feel that I was a part of the river next to me. Moving like the river, the flow of the building keeps you moving as the current does on your left.


Tadao Ando’s Times Building. Matt Castro, 1 June 2013.

Walking up a small staircase, passing the “Jour” hair salon, I approached another set of steps. Across from me on the wall, slat-like cut outs allowed light to enter with the reminder that the street lay below. Even doing so, it didn’t seem as if you were a part of the bustling streetscape from where you came. The walking never ended. I never tired of wanting to know what may come around the corner – the curiosity kept building. Even when I found a dead end there was an internal surprise as if there must be some button or lever that would open another passage. The rises and dips created a feeling inside that acknowledges that even though the river was hidden, you were connected to it, with changing heights depicting water levels in seasons. In one section in particular, I was reminded of the essay “In Praise of Shadows” by Donald Richie. Looking towards the door that led to the back of the building, filled with light, preventing your vision from deciphering what may be occurring past that threshold, your eyes were drawn to the beams up above, keeping the shadows and darkness trapped for that moment in time. Below, the light passed through. Illuminating every corner and edge that made up the hall leading to the outside. Turning around and passing the corner, the situation was reversed. The floor stole the shadows from the ceiling in its corners; it was so dark in some spots that even the most finicky of Japanese maintenance staff wouldn’t be able to notice the dust.


Tadao Ando’s Times Building. Matt Castro, 1 June 2013.

Along the large river in Kyoto we sped along a dirt bike bath on the riverbank, with some of us racing (for no reason), possibly because of the sense that there was no end to the path- there was no building to see or gracious architect waiting to show us around. The sounds of voices, children playing and an assortment of instruments blessed our eardrums, each fading as a new sound took hold. The river appeared to be a watering hole for all walks of life. Hawks flew overhead, cranes waded, teenagers and adults sat along side the riverbank, all partaking in the greatest spectacle of nature near their homes. In this area, all found a haven to partake in activities that must have varied greatly from the life they were used to. In certain moments I thought of where I grew up on Long Island; we too had cranes and egrets that could be seen but in much smaller quantity. There were rivers and lakes where I spent time but these magnificent birds rarely showed their faces. It’s a mystery to me right now to understand how in highly urbanized areas these creatures have remained – even amongst high volumes of people. Of course some research could solve this issue, but for now, I’ll leave it as a mystery. The lure that I have felt to Kyoto while here would certainly make me stay, just as those cranes have decided to thrive amongst all the other inhabitants.


Kamo River. Matt Castro, 1 June 2013.

The river’s magnet
Water flows as we play near
Here is piece of mind


One thought on “Kyoto: Life, Light, and Space

  1. Matthew, I really loved your blog. The way you describe your journey, in such detail, allows me to imagine that I am right along side of you and enjoying the sights. This is truly a great lifetime experience for you.

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