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News from
February 2007

February 1st
What do you think of the photo? Disgusting? YeahcI agree with you. [Hadaka Odori], which literally means naked dance, was held on the evening of January 14th at Hokai-ji Temple in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto. Men wearing loincloths pushed and shoved each other in the traditional event. Local men and childrenfs energetic cries of [Chorai, Chorai!] echoed through the temple precincts. Actually I didnft know about the event until nowc Maybe I will never join the event in the future, eighterc(Risa)
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February 2nd
In Japan,there are many kinds of gDonburih. Donburi is rice served in a bowl, and you can put anything on rice. Unagi-Donburi (a bowl of eel and rice), Ten-Don (a bowl of Tenpura and rice), Gyu-Don (beef and rice), and so oncToday, I had Kaisen-Don (a bowl of seafood and rice ? please see the picture). Donburi is simple stuff,but a word hDonburih has another meaning. Yes, I should tell you a Japanese word hDonburi-Kanjyoh which means ga rough estimateh. So you have to watch out when you pay fot Donburi. (Kohei)

February 5th
I hope you had a nice weekend. I went to Suzumushi-ji temple with a good friend of mine on Saturday. It is a very popular temple located in Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto, and so many people come and pray for a wish to come true from all over Japan. Once you enter the temple, you will be shown to a big room. And, you will listen to a sermon by a monk while having green tea and Japanese little sweets. As the stories are quite interesting, you will never get bored during the sermon. Also, the temple has gained wide renown because your wish is granted easily after you visit there. Itfs not a big temple, but I guess itfs worth visiting. What was my wish? Of course, itfs secret!(Risa)

February 6th
Ceiling paintings of freehand Yuzen dyeing for the main hall of Horinji Temple, the Kyoto branch of Houonji Temple which follows Nichiren Buddhism, were completed and introduced to selected guests on January 24 prior to public showing. Painted with delicate lines in a variety of colors, seasonal flowers and trees are depicted in the 38 ceiling paintings. The paintings are now on public display so that visitors can fully appreciate the traditional beauty of Kyoto.

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Fujii, who created ceiling paintings for the first time, contentedly said, [Paintings at temples remain for generations to come. I worked very hard to show the beauty of freehand Yuzen art in a field different from kimono]. The Yuzen technique is usually used in decorating the cloth for kimono. Itfs different but Ifm sure you will enjoy the paintings. (Risa)

February 7th
Early Japanese apricot blossoms are now blooming at Ishiyama-ji temple, which is known as the temple of flowers in Otsu-city, Shiga. There are three Japanese apricot orchards in the precincts. Four hundred Japanese apricot trees of approximately 50 varieties, including white-flowers [Natsuka] and red-flowered [Kogoshimabeni] have been planted there.

February 8th
McDonaldfs Japan has been forced to limit sales of its new Mega Mac hamburger to counter low stocks resulting from its huge popularity. Customers who have been unable to buy the 350 yen hamburgers due to a shortage of stocks are being handed coupons enabling them to buy them next time for 190yen. The company had planned to sell them until February 4th, but it has extended the sales period because of their popularity. The Mega Mac hamburger went on sale in Japan on January 12th. It contains four meat patties ? twice the number of a regular Big Mac.

It the first four days after it on sake, about 3.32 million of the burgers were sold, doubling the companyfs expectations. The McDonaldfs Japan has just released new products, Mega Teriyaki, Mega fish and Mega chicken in limited areas. Youfre lucky if you have a chance to eat them!!! (Risa)

February 9th
Today, Ifll give you a Kyoto winter food idea, which keeps you warm and happy. Deep lemon yellow-skinned yuzu were introduced from China in the 8th century. The fruits is used for everything from cooking to bathing. In particular, the aroma of yuzu is considered to have strong calming qualities. Taking a yuzu bath is good for your skin and overall health, as well as being able to increase your chances of getting wealthy (or so the belief goes!). Many people continue to follow the ancient tradition of taking a yuzu bath on the shortest day of the year. The village of Mizuo, located on the terraced far side of Mt. Atago, which is the Kyotofs highest mountain on the west side, is full of yuzu trees and treats. Check it out by either hiking up Mt. Atago from Kiyotaki to Mizuto, and then down to Hozukyo. I think it will be a different but wonderful experience for you!!!! (Risa)

February 19th
i went to a cafe [Cafe Doji] in Kita Ward, Kyoto the other day. Cafe Doji is always popular ? night or day. It was probably Kyotofs first ethnic cafe, and it is elegant today as it was nearly 30 years ago. Many of Cafe Dojifs menu items are made with fresh fruits. You will notice there is a big fruit basket on the bar. The lassi, a sweet Indian yoghurt drink, and the freshly squeezed fruit juices are outstanding ? 1200yen per glass though!!! On the dessert side, try the fruits tarts (mango and strawberry) served with tea or coffee. Cafe Doji also offers excellent lunch/dinner choices: thick vegetable curry, beet and fruit cheese salad, pizzas, set menu (seasonally changed), avocado or salmon sandwich. Natually, they also serve good coffee. Itfs not located in the downtowncso maybe itfs a bit hard for tourists to go therecbut if you live in Kyoto, please try! (Risa)

As a result of the relatively warm weather, the blossoms started to bloom around January 10th, about 10 days ealier than in an average yaer. The flowers are expected to be at their best from early February to mid Marchcso this is the time we should visit the temple. Letfs go!!! (Risa)

February 13th
I will introduce you a famous Chocolatier, Hirofumi Nakanishi today. His story starts in New York and ends in Kyoto. He worked as a master chef of French cuisine in the private residence of the Japanese ambassador in New York. In creating French haute cuisine for so many dignitaries, he felt that something was missing. He wanted to create a simple, yet elegant sweet to serve as a dessert or with coffee. After many trials, he succeeded in creating a fresh, light chocolate, blended with an herb liqueur. The result is perfectly wonderful in every way. A year ago, he opened an organic tea house in a beautiful 100 year old machiya house surrounded by gardens. He serves cakes, tarts and light lunches and his famous chocolate there. Like a truffle, the chocolate is a rich exquisite taste to savour at the end of a meal or as a sweet on its own. STANDARD chocolate is slightly sweet, ORGANIC is a little bitter, and MIX gets you a missed assortment of standard, organic and green tea chocolate. If you havenft bought anything for the Valentinefs Day, how about his chocolate? (Risa)

February 14th
Great news for beer and milk lovers!!! A liquor shop owner in Hokkaido, Japanfs largest dairy farming region has stopped crying about local spilt milk and started making beer from it instead. Milk consumption has been declining steadily in Japan, and Hokkaido disposed of nearly 900 tonnes of milk last March due to over-production, according to the Japan Dairy Association. The liquor shop owner, Nakaharafs new brew, [Bilk] ? a combination of miik and beer ? is about 30% milk. It also contains hops, and the production process does not differ much from that of regular beer, he said. His shop started selling Bilk, which apart from a slight milky scent looks and tastes like ordinary beer, on February 1st after spending about 6 months developing the product with a local brewer. Bilk is only available at six local shops or by mail order, but Mr. Nakahara is currently out of stock due to heavy media attention. Donft worry if you canft get hold any, though. He also sells beer brewed from another major Hokkaido product ? potatoes!!! (Risa)

February 15th
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is one of the most dignified shrines in Kyoto. The shrine deity is Sugawara no Michizane known for his poetry and general scholarly genius. He is the only human being deified at a Japanese shrine. Every year on February 25th, a grand festival to commemorate Sugawarafs spirit is held at the shrine. The festival is called Baika-sai as he especially loved the Japanese apricot. In the precinct of the shrine, there is a huge Japanese apricot orchard with about 2000 apricot trees of 50 different kinds. On the day of the festival, a ritual is held at the main hall and a grand tea ceremony is held outdoors. Tea is served by real Maiko and Geiko from Kamishichiken Flower Town. Tickets (1500yen/person) are sold to the first 3000 people. If you are interested in the festival, be careful not to sleep in! (Risa)

February 16th
I will recommend Japanese apricot blossom viewing spots in my hometown, Yamashina today. 1) Zuishin-in temple is one of the most famous in Kyoto for its Japanese apricot trees. It also has a particularly fine garden featuring a wide expanse of moss, a pond and a stunning arrangement of rocks. 2) Kanshu-ji temple is also famous for the old Japanese apricot tree transplanted from the Imperial Palace in the Edo Period (1603-1868). Its garden has a wide perspective much like a small park ? the pond alone is 200 metres long ? in the background looms Mt. Daigo. If you have time on the weekend, how about visiting the temples? (Risa)

February 20th
Yes, I will talk about Japanese apricot again! Ancient poets wrote lots of poems about Japanese apricot. Ono no Komachi is one of them. She is known for her beauty, poetry and madness, lived in the middle of the 9th century and served as a lady ?in-waiting in the Heian court. Despite her legendary beauty and obvious passions, she never married. But her poems more than make up for whatever she may have missed in the way of martial bliss. In mid life she was sent out of the capital to Yamashina, where she supposedly resided for some years at Zuishin-in Temple. She is said to have gone mad there and the temple now honors her every year on March 25th with the Hanezu Odori. Children dressed in faint pink kimono will perform dance and song. She probably wrote this poem during her stay at the temple. [The colour of the apricot blossoms have faded vainly, I age through the rains of the world watching in melancholy]. What do you think of this poem? Is it beautiful? I will introduce one more poet tomorrow. (Risa

February 21st
Izumi Shikibu, another great woman writer of the Heian period, also wrote lasting poetry. She got her name from her marriage to the governor of the province of Izumi. She divorced him after their first child and returned to the court in Kyoto, where she had been raised. Soon she was having an affair with a prince, who died, and then his brother, who also died. She recorded both of these affairs in her diary, including a number of passages and poems that clearly indicate how much she loved and how much she had lost. Her final years were spent on Mount Yoshiya in Toboku-in. And for hundreds of years, Seishin-in, a sub-temple of Toboku-in, has been celebrating her life. The temple moved its location to the east side of Shinkyogoku, a little south of Rokkaku in the Momoyama period. If you have a chance to come to Kyoto, please try to find the temple. Her famous poem is [Seeing the apricot blossoms I wait for the song of the warbler. Spring has come veiled in mist]. Which do you prefer, Ono no Komachi or Izumi Shikibu? (Risa

February 27th
Hello I am back!!! I am sorry I was away for a while. Itfs like a spring day here in Kyoto today. The temperature went up to 18 degrees. When I went out at lunch time, it was indeed like spring. I canft wait to see lovely cherry blossoms to bloom here and there. I guess they will be earlier in blooming this year. Maybe at the end of March??? (Risa)

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