The Cycle of Life

  • Foreword by His Imperial Highness Prince Takamado
  • Introduction by C. W. Nicol
  • John Bester, Juliet Winters Carpenter, Dian Durston, Patricia Massy, Margaret Price, Mark Oshima and Patricia Fister

Size: 305×237 mm, 2010 g
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 296
more than 250 color photos
ISBN10: 4-7700-2088-0
ISBN13: 978-4-7700-2088-8
Release date: April 18, 1997

List price: $70.00

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An ancient cherry tree trails its blossoms in a stream running through Kyoto’s historic pleasure quarters. The glow of a charcoal fire in a sunken hearth enhances the simple serenity of the tea ceremony. The blaze of autumn's maple leaves hangs above the velvet green of a moss garden.

These classic images only hint at the story of the seasons in Japan. Nature is not just admired; it is incorporated into every aspect of life, from festivals and the fine arts to the design of homes and the arrangement of seasonal delicacies at the table. The splendors of the landscape have shaped the ancient culture and ongoing traditions of modern Japan.

Here, gathered in one opulent volume, are more than 250 full-color photographs carefully culled from thousands of choices. An eloquent foreword by His Imperial Highness Prince Takamado, a connoisseur of the arts. opens this volume and is followed by a series of insightful essays by some of the most respected British and American experts on Japan, including C. W. Nicol, Diane Durston. and John Bester In Japan, the appreciation of beauty is often a matter of the careful observation of those things that “simply lie before one’s eyes.” Sojourners to Japan and armchair travelers alike will find new aspects of this beauty to appreciate in the lush photographs and thoughtful commentary that fill these pages. Genuinely informative and visually stunning, Japan: The Cycle of Life is not only a feast for the eyes but a well-placed window on a different way of life.


“... an inspiring collection of thoughts and images portraying some of what is best about Japan.”—Rachel Stewart, The Japan Society

“All [essays in the book] serve as excellent introductions to their subjects; all are stunningly illustrated.”—The Japan Times

“... the book overflows with scenes that inspire, surprise and fascinate.”—Patrick J. Mahany, The Daily Yomiuri

“This lush collection of photographs of landscapes, festivals and scenes of daily life is a treasure.”—Francis J. Bosha, Asahi Evening News

“... the stunning photography and informative text succeeds in presenting an insight into Japan’s relationship with nature, rituals and daily life, and culture and tradition.”
Victor France

“... a photographic extravaganza...”—Mabel Dodge, Asahi Evening News

About The Author

HIS IMPERIAL HIGHNESS PRINCE TAKAMADO was born in 1954. He is the third son of Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Mikasa and is a first cousin to His Majesty the Emperor. He graduated from Gakushuin University in Tokyo in 1978 and studied at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, from 1978 until 1981. In 1984, he married Hisako Tottori. They have three daughters, Princess Tsuguko, Princess Noriko, and Princess Ayako. Prince Takamado has been a special advisor to the Japan Foundation since 1981, and, together with Princess Takamado, he devotes much of his time and energy to the patronage of the arts, sports, and numerous cultural and charitable activities on an international scale.

C. W. NICOL is the author of Harpoon, Moving Zen, and some seventy books in Japanese, and has translated the Kojiki and works by Kenji Miyazawa. Born in Wales, he has made fifteen expeditions to the Arctic and served as a game warden in Ethiopia. Nicol now has Japanese citizenship and is vice principal of a college that trains environmental field workers. An interest in martial arts initially brought him to Japan, and Nicol now holds a fifth dan in karate from the Japan Karate Association.

With the exception of ten years lecturing at the University of Tokyo, JOHN BESTER, a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies of London University, has devoted most of his time in Japan to translation. His many literary and other translations include works by Yukio Mishima, Kenzaburo Oe, Kenji Miyazawa, and Masuji lbuse. In 1990, he received the Noma Award for the Translation of Japanese Literature in acknowledgment of his achievements in the field.

JULIET CARPENTER studied Japanese literature at the University of Michigan and has lived in Japan since 1975. Her award-winning work as a translator includes fiction, essays, and poetry by modern writers Kobo Abe, Fumiko Enchi, Machi Tawara, and Ryotaro Shiba, as well as books and articles on various aspects of Japanese life and culture. A devotee of traditional Japanese music, she is a licensed teacher of the koto and shamisen. Now a professor at Doshisha Women’s College in Kyoto, she lives in Nara with her husband Bruce and their three sons.

DIANE DURSTON lived in Kyoto for eighteen years, during which time she wrote Old Kyoto: A Guide to Traditional Shops, Restaurants, and Inns; The Living Traditions of Old Kyoto; and Kyoto: Seven Paths to the Heart of the City. She now resides in Portland, Oregon, where she continues to write and lecture on crafts and Japanese culture and is the Director of Asian Cultural Affairs for the International Forum.

Having arrived in Japan in 1965 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina Greensboro, PATRICIA MASSY pursued her interest in the arts of Japan. which led to a column on traditional crafts in the Japan Times that ran for sixteen years. Her research took her throughout the country, and gave her the opportunity to develop an extensive knowledge of Japanese cuisine. When arranging tours to introduce regional crafts and culture, she spotlights the local food because “the culinary creativity of the Japanese makes each region a gourmet's delight.”

After earning a master’s degree in literary studies in Japanese translation and interpretation from the University of Queensland in Australia, MARGARET PRICE moved to Japan, where she worked as a writer and translator for a number of years before becoming a features editor at the Mainichi Daily News, focusing on culture. crafts, and food. Involved in the world of tea for over twenty years, Price co-founded the Little Tea Society in Tokyo and built a tea house for personal use in her native Australia.

MARK OSHIMA was born in 1960 in Fort Collins, Colorado. A specialist in the history and Iiterature of the Edo period, he came to Japan in 1987 to study Kabuki and has since taken professional names both in Japanese classical dance and Kiyomoto narrative music, singing on the Kabuki stage under the name Kiyomoto Shimatayu. Oshima has written extensively on Kabuki and other forms of Japanese theater and is the translator of Kabuki Backstage, Onstage: An Actor's Life by Matazo Nakamura.

PATRICIA FISTER received a doctorate in Japanese art history from the University of Kansas. She is currently a Visiting Associate Professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto, where she has been employed since 1991. A specialist in Edo period painting, her most recent book is Kinsei no josei gakatachi: bijutsu to jendaa (Japanese Women Artists of the Kinsei Era: Art and Gender), published by Shibunkaku.