Past News (March 2007)

March 30th

I read an article about a housewife in Japan. Her kitchen table is cluttered with tools not usually associated with cooking; a pair of tweezers, a razor knife and a digital camera. Her culinary style is just as unique. She sculpts rice coloured with egg yolks into the shape of a dinosaur, fashions its eye with sliced cheese and strips of seaweed, Star-shaped pieces of okra adorn the belly. She said she just wants her son to have fun when he goes to day care centre on Saturdayscand she added she never makes the same thing twice. Lots of mothers have their blog and they provide a forum for to exchange esoteric tips such as how to dye egg white blue etc etc. The trend has truck a chord with stay-at-home mothers, many of whom retire early when they have children, but still have plenty of creative energy to spare. I have found millions of lunch-box blogscand I was so surprised at their workscI donft think I have the skill as they doc (Risa)


March 29th

I guess you might know the fiction writer, Haruki Murakami. His [Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman], a sometimes surreal collection of short stories is one of this yearfs winner of the 11th annual Kiriyama Prize. The $30,000 award, to be divided between the three winners, Mr. Murakami, Mr. Mortenson and Mr. Relin, was announced Tuesday by Pacific Rim Voices, a nonprofit organization. Murakami, the fiction winner, is known for such novels as [The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle] and [Kafka On the Shore], but I havenft read lots of his booksc I will try to read the prize-winning book this time. (Risa)

March 28th

I will give you an excursion trip idea today. Miyama, by car 90 minutes north of the centre of Kyoto is a nostalgic old village. Rice paddies surrounded the village and thatched-roof houses dot the nearby mountains. It is a quiet and very peaceful village and resembles images depicted in tales of old Japan. Unlike elsewhere, Miyama is not crowded with guesthouses and restaurants. There are only a couple of each and only a limited number of thatched houses are open to the public. Why not visit this quiet village in the mountains to sample Japan as it used to be? Spring is coming here soon, so it will be a good chance to get out of the bustling town. (Risa)

March 27th

Famous kabuki actors Ichikawa Danjuro, Ichikawa Ebizo and other performers were given a warm reception at the Palais Garnier opera house in Paris on Friday as they launched a five-day show of kabuki in the French capital. The troupe performed the play [Kanjincho], and the audience applauded as they watched the bold gestures and stage exit of the character Benkei, while shouts of [Naritaya!!!] the name of the guild of actors to which Ichikawa Danjuro and Ichikawa Ebizo belong, rang out in the hall decorated with paintings by French artist Marc Chagall. During the performance, subtitles were displayed in French on an electronic screen above the stage, and a special platform was placed on the stage for the actors. In the stage greeting, Ichikawa Danjuro and eight other actors introduced themselves in French. Danjuro also glared at the audience in a performance accompanied with the explanation in French that people who were glaed at wouldnft catch a cold for a year. According to the news article, the French audiences enjoyed the performance very much. I hope more people will get an interest in Japanese cultures! (Risa)

March 26th

Did you have a lovely weekend? According to the Kyoto Local Meteorological Observatory, the cherry blossoms finally started to bloom yesterday. I guess it will take about a week to see beautiful cherry blossoms here and there, but I was very happy to hear the news. I canft believe one year has already passed since I went to see the cherry blossoms at Maruyama Park last yearc I am looking forward to going there this year again. (Risa) (Risa)


March 23rd

When I went to a restaurant near my place the other night, the chef talked about the Hozugawa River boat ride. The opening ceremony, which announces the arrial of spring in the Hozukyo Gorge, took place on March 10th in Kameoka city. A gorgeously decorated boat, packed with tourists left the port for the first time in three months. The boat normally operates during the winter season. However, the tour had been fully suspended since mid December of last year while safety measures were being implemented after falling stones caused an accident last August. Tourists, who were eagerly awaiting the cruise, boarded the boat one after another. The boat set out on a 16-kilometer river trio to Arashiyama. The gorge was filled with the cheers and smiles of the tourists as the boat splashed down the river. According to the Hozugawa River tour boat business union, for the time being, watchmen are being placed around the site where the rock-fall accident occurred to secure the safety of tourists. The number of cruises has returned to seven per day on weekdays, which was the number before the accident happened. If you are interested in this adventure trip, have a try! (Risa)


March 22nd

It was a national holiday, Spring Equinox Day in Japan yesterday. As it was a beautiful spring day, I went for a walk in Kurama/Kibune area with a friend. I thought it might be a bit chilly on the hill, but it wasnft. Actually the temperature was perfect for a hike. After we had a quick rest at a café at Kibune, we headed back to the town. Since I wanted to enjoy the lovely sunshine, we sat and chatted by the Kamo River. There were lots of kids playing in the river too. They looked they had a wonderful time. Shall we take a train or walk back? Of course, we walked back to the main area. It was indeed a healthy day for me yesterday. I hope you also had a great day! (Risa)


March 20th

Do you know what it is? One of my good friends went on a business trip to Fukuoka last week, and he brought me back the souvenir. How sweet he was!!! Thank you!!! This is [Hiyoko], meaning baby chick in English. It was originally born in a coal-mining town, Iizuka, and then it became popular in Fukuoka city after 1957. Now, it is one of Fukuokafs most popular souvenirs. They expanded their business to Tokyo in the Olympic year 1964. Lots of Tokyoites believe itfs originally from Tokyo and choose it as a souvenir when they visit Fukuoka. I went to Tokyo on business yesterday and bought the Tokyo Hiyoko. I will give it to my friend who gave me the Fukuoka Hiyokocmaybe this weekend. I hope he loves it!!! (Risa)


March 16th

Foreign visitors are welcome to experience cultural program at Okitsu-an. The course lasts for about 2 hours and included various items. Although the 2 hour experience is always slightly different, the basic activities are generally the same. Here is an example plan. 10:00 welcome drink, 10:20 kimono dressing or calligraphy, 10:40 incense ceremony 11:00 tea ceremony 11:30 tea ceremony serving experience or learn about classic Japanese toys 12:00 relax and enjoy the atmosphere of the Okitsu-an. This plan is priced at 18,000yen/person. The plan is available in the afternoon. All instructions are in English. Tel for inquiry ; 81-75-411-8585 (Risa)

March 15th

A few minutes walk north of Keifuku Arashiyama Station, there is an area where some small shops are gathered together. Towards the back stands [Kyouzan]. Though the shop is small, the owner, Mr. Yamaguchi, has a big heart for cuisine and flavours. He has been working as a good industry consultant for many years and is a cook himself. [I wanted to make something delicious and healthy]. Using 100% of domestic organic soy beans, he created an original ice cream unlike any other. The results is ice cream thatfs sweet and elastic. Tofu ice cream (250yen), Tofu and black bean ice cream (350yen) etc. Please visit the shop if you have a chance to do your sightseeing in Arashiyama area. (Risa)

Mach 14th

Kyoto Higashiyama Hana Touro 2007 has just started on March 10th,, and it goes till 21st. About 2400 pathway lamps line the walking route that connects to the Higashiyama foothills from Shoren-in in the north and continues through Maruyama Park and Yasaka Shrine 4.6 kilometers into the south, ending at Kiyomizu Temple Higashiyama is a retro-flavored area, and it is very popular among tourists all year round. But, I recommend you to visit this event and enjoy the fantastic scenery. The lamps at night create a magical atmosphere throughout the area. There are so many nice little shops and restaurants on you way, so you can rest your tired legs from a long walk. The air on a spring evening might be a bit chilly butcit will refresh you up! Letfs go!!!!!!!!!!@(Risa)

March 13th

I have found an interesting article. Shinich Yano, head of a Stratedy research institute proclaims the biggest difference is the attitude toward money beterrn Tokyoites and Osakans. The former put priority on money for appearancefs sake, whereas the latter regard it is terms of material gain. Osakans have often been called stingy, but actually their mindset refrects the seriousness toward which they view money. Mr. Yano points out that Osakans may drive a hard bargain in business, but it they enjoy a windfall by winning the lottery, they will generously treat their friends. [Suppose you and a few friends went to buy lottery tickets together but only your ticket wins 100,000yen (US$850.00). What would you do?] – 19% of Tokyoites replied [Keep the whole amount myself], Among Osakans, the response was 11.7%. Another 71% of Tokyoites replied they whould share a little bit and keep the rest. For those big-hearted Osakans, the figure was 76.7%. In terms of social niceties, Osakans showed a more enlightened attitude toward public courtesy, saying they would be willing to scoot over to let another person sit down beside them on a train. ( 6.3%, as opposed to only 3.7% for Tokyoites). The characteristic differences between the two cities were already well pronounced even as far back as the Edo period, when Tokyo was the traditional center of government authority and the bureaucracy whereas Osaka was an entrepreneurial society. Kyoto is located next to Osaka, so I guess Kyoto people are more similar to Osakanscbut I guess we are pretty different. Which city are you interested in? (Risa)

March 12th

How was your weekend? I had a neat time with good friends on Saturday and Sunday. One of my close friends, Ayano came to stay at my place from Kobe on Saturday night. It was a nice relaxing night. When we woke up in the morning, we thought it was a beautiful warm day!!! It was indeed beautifulcbut the air was freezing coldc We went to a café for brunch at Demachiyanagi, and we were planning to walk back to the main Sanjo/Shijo areacbut we gave up because it started to snow. We took a train back instead. Ayanofs friend, Mari joined us later on, and we headed to Kiyomizu-ji temple. We have visited the temple many times, but we wanted to have a stroll. As you see the photo below, the Ume (Japanese apricot) trees are still in full bloom. We walked through the Maruyama Park which is famous for the cherry blossoms on our way back. The cherry trees are getting ready to bloom beautifullycI thought. We had dinner at a nice restaurant in Kiyamachi area, which is also popular for the cherry blossoms. The food and drink was really beautiful there, and we enjoyed our dinner so much. If you want me to plan your one-day trip plan in Kyoto, please let me know. I am willing to be your tour planner!!! (Risa)


March 9th

Spring is coming soon!!! The Mereorogical Agency announced the expected cherry blossom date for cherry trees on Wednesday this week. Cherry trees are expected to bloom in Shizuoka as early as March 13, and in Takamatsu and Matsuyama four days later, the earliest dates on record. Agency officials said that an unusually warm winter has led to the early blossoming of Yoshino cherry trees in western and eastern Japan. They expect the cherry trees to come into blossom in Kyoto March 28, a couple of days earlier than average. However, officials added that the expected blossoming datescould be delayed if temperatures are lower than forecasts. The temperature is set to drop across Japan next week again, with rain and even snow expected in some area. If you are lucky to see the lovely cherry blossoms in Kyoto, please fully enjoy the beauty!!! (Risa)

March 8th

Godairiki-san or Festival of the Five Powerful Deities, took place on February 23rd at Daigo-ji Temple in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto. 63 men and women aged between 18 and 67 participated in [Mochiage-chinakara Hono], an annual contest in which people compete for how long they hold up huge rice cakes called Kagami mochi. It is a memorial service in which participants pray to the five great kings. The service is said to have a history of about 1100 years. People reportedly began the contest soon after the end of the World War 2, believing that they could receive blessings, such as health, by offering their strength to the five kings. Upon the conch-shell horn signal, the contest started at noo. Participants on a special stage in front of the main hall, bent down deeply and, with clenched teeth, tried to lift up the huge rice cakes, weighing 90 kg for women and 150 kg for men. Onlookers gave the participants loud cheers and applause. Maybe, you would like to try next year??? (Risa)


March 7th

Sankyu-en is a top tea seller in Kyoto since 1743. They have been growing tea in Uji ( a little southeast of Kyoto) for 250 years. Uji tea has been regarded as the finest in the land. To compliment their fine teas they recently came up with a line of unique sweets which can be enjoyed in a big old building with a great garden. Some people stay in this shop for hours. It is a magical old-style space worth experiencing. Sankyu-enfs recommended dessert is macha pudding with a bowl of fine maccha tea. Eat the sweet pudding and then chase it with the slightly bitter tea. Thatfs a great combination. The Sankyu-en is located on the south side of Ayakoji, west of Shinmachi. Itfs not hard to find the shop in the downtown area. (Risa)

March 6th

Crème de la Crème is a popular sweet shop in Kyoto. It is a part of a family-run sweet business that dates back to 1872. Their old specialty was and still is baked sweets made from soba buckwheat flour. In 1999, they decided to try something new and opened Crème de la Crème as a choux cream puff specialty shop. In 2005 they went a step further and started offering choux cream puffs made with seasonal Kyoto vegetables. Their spring specialty choux cream puffs are flavoured with Kyoto bamboo shoots, or black beans or Kyoto yams. Please have a try if you have a chance to come to Kyoto this spring. (Risa)

March 5th

Did you have a neat weekend? I had a good rest after a very busy week. Do you know what day it was yesterday? Yes? Hina Matsuri is annual ritual devoted to protecting the health and happiness of young girls in the year to come. I was born as the first child in my family and my grandparents presented me with a grand –story Hina ningyo doll set for Hina Matsuri when I was only 6 months old. Every year, I looked forward to see the doll set around Hina Matsuri as a child. Sadly, now that I am 28 years old, I donft remember when I saw my doll set. It has been sleeping in a box in the attic for many years. I donft know when I will get married or when I will have a child...but I hope I can show the beautiful doll set to my daughter in the future. (Risa)

March 1st

I went to Tokyo on a business trip yesterday. I was surprised that there were soooooooooo many people walking on a streetcI was such a country hick. As you know, there arenft very tall buildings in Kyoto because of the regulation lawcso I was a little stressed in the middle of soaring skyscrapers. When I arrived back in Kyoto, I was kinda relieved. I guess itfs interesting for you to visit the new capital city TOKYO and the old one KYOTO and compare the differences. Spring is nearly herecI hope lots of people come to Kyoto in the lovely season!!! (Risa)