Monday, March 6, 2017


In the winter of 2007 Junichi Uchiyama and his new wife Mayu Okamoto opened their multipurpose gallery/event space on a quiet street near Doshisha University in the Kamigyo ward of Kyoto.

They chose a wonderfully creative name for the space: be-kyoto.  The Japanese word 美, meaning beauty, is pronounced “bi” the same as the English word “be”.  Playing with meaning and phonetics in two languages the name is a simple affirmation of the existence of this beautiful city, and at the same time it is a gentle nudge to the artist to take on the spirit of Kyoto, become Kyoto.

The building the gallery came to inhabit was also carefully selected.  Rather than a New York-style "white cube" they decided to renovate a 200-year-old machiya (townhouse) in the shadow of Kosho-in Temple.  This decision would unwittingly place them at the heart of the burgeoning historical architecture preservation movement in Kyoto.

Uchiyama-san and Okamoto-san have quietly woven themselves into the cultural fabric of Kyoto over the last 10 years as the hosts of countless exhibitions, performances and workshops.  Yesterday they celebrated that accomplishment with a lovely party.  The international be-kyoto family, young and old, gathered in the washitsu (traditional Japanese room) to sip sake and listen to legendary shamisen musician Gensen Tokuyama.  Floral designer Kuniko Tsuji transformed the gallery into a pre-season hanami (cherry blossom viewing party).

Here's to another 10 years!  Long live be-kyoto!

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