March - January, 2009

March 31st

I completely forgot to post the news here yesterday. Sorry about that! How did you spend your weekend? I was quite busy for the last few weeks, so I wanted to relax the whole day on Saturday. I went to have my hair cut and coloured in the morning and went to do yoga in the afternoon. I didnft do anything special, but I had needed that kind of day for ages. I hope you had a great weekend, too. (Risa)

March 27th

I was reading an article about the history of chopsticks on the the other day, and I thought it was interesting. Chopsticks date back to China 5000 years ago. Chinese chopsticks – Kuai-Zi- are rectangular in shape with squatted-off ends. The wooden chopsticks were introduced in Japan for ceremonial events around 500AD but quickly gain popularity. The Japanese ones are shorter by 15mm than Chinese ones and they are shaped like rounded tweezers and tapered to a point. According to the Chinese, the chopstick is said to improve memory, increase finger dexterity and can help you din-tune your calligraphy writing. I never thought about it, but maybe itfs true. I find it difficult to use Chinese and Korean chopsticks (I know I am just not used to them), but what about you? (Risa)

March 26th

An exhibition to introduce art works of Daniel Ost is being held at Kinkakuji- temple until March 27th (tomorrow). Daniel Ost is an artist born in Belgium in 1955. He is well known for his work with plants, CBS News has described him as the worldfs leading flower designer. His clientele includes royal family of several nations, embassies, temples and shrines such as Toji-temple and Ise Shrine, in Japan, etc. If you are already in Japan and interested to visit there tomorrow, you can book on this site; (Sorry, itfs in Japanese only) Enjoy. (Risa)


March 25th


Spring is nearly here! The cherry blossoms have started to bloom in Kyoto, but itfs been chilly for the last couple of days. I thought they would be in full bloom earlier than usual, but I donft know nowc Maybe in two weeks? Ifll try to take as many pictures as possible and put them here! (Risa)

March 24th

The special exhibition of Hana no Tenjo, meaning flower ceiling in English started at Hiraoka Hachimangu in Ukyo Ward, Kyoto on March 12th. You can see paintings of seasonal flowers covering the ceiling of the main sanctuary of the shrine. Floweres such as camellias, wild cherry blossoms, jasmine and grapes are painted on 44 ceiling lattice panels, each measuring 70 cm square. The shrine is said to have been built by Kukai in 809 and the current Hana no Tenjo underwent restoration in the late Edo Period. The special exhibition continues until May 17th, so how about visiting there if you are interested? (Risa)


March 23rd

How was your weekend? My friend and I went to Kinpusenji Temple in Yoshino, Nara on Saturday. The area has been known for the magnificent cherry trees since ancient times, so, millions of people visit there in the season. It was a bit too early to enjoy the cherry blossoms, but I think they will flower in full bloom in two weeks or so. If you have a chance to come to Japan around that time, how about making a little side trip to Nara? We didnft stop talking from 10am to 11pmcWow, 13 hours! Our mouths must have been exhausted!!! (Risa)


March 19th

Ifve had a dull chest pain since Sunday night, so I went to the hospital for some tests. I had an X-ray and electrocardiography, but the doctor didnft find any abnormalities in my heart and lungs. Thatfs good news, but where does the pain come from? I have to wait for a few more days to get the result of blood test, but I now feel a bit better thanks to the painkiller. I try to think positive – It was a good chance to have the medical check-ups this time! Hope you have a great weekend! (I know itfs still Thursday, but we have a long weekend from tomorrow. Yay!) (Risa)

March 18th

My co-worker, Hiroko went to Shigaraki town, Shiga with her family last Saturday. The town is an ancient center for pottery making and works produced in the area are known as Shigaraki-yaki. Especially Raccoon Dog figure is very popular there.


They had a pottery class there, too. Look at the pictures below. They made the dishes and cups (I think) in about an hour, and they will get the completed products a month later. If you are interested in the town, you can get more information here; (Risa)

raccoon raccoon

March 17th

After I finished my chores on Saturday, I headed to Kobe to see my good friend, Ayano. We had Thai dinner near Sannomiya Station, walked to her place, talked a lot, (I went to sleep quite early), had brunch, and then went to the movies. Thatfs a typical weekend for us when we catch up in Kobe. We didnft do anything special, but I was feeling good on my way back to Kyoto on Sunday evening. I feel lucky I have such a good friend like her for a long time. I canft believe it was almost 12 years I first met hercTime flies! (Risa)

March 16th

How was your weekend? I had another busy weekend. I went to take a breast cancer screening on Saturday morning. The result was negative, but I was feeling really nervous until I heard it was ok. I happened to watch a TV program about a singer and cancer patient the previous night, and I was unspeakably shocked. She got breast cancer when she was 33 years old and underwent a mastectomycbut, it recurred in her breast, lymph nodes, and bones last year. It was too late to have another operation when she found them, so shefs been treated with radiation therapy. I feel so sorry for her and her daughter (shefs a single parent of 8-year-old child)c It is said that breast cancer occurs in one out of every 20 women in Japan and one out of every 8 women in the Western countries. What do you think of the rates? I thought they are quite highc If you have never had the test before, please go to the clinic ASAP! (Risa)

March 13th

The special opening of the Kyoto Imperial Palace will be held from April 23rd to 29th, in commemoration of the 50th wedding anniversary of the emperor and empress. The 4.2-meter ceremonial carriage which the emperor and empress rode on during their wedding parade in 1959 will be displayed for the first time. There will be also an exhibition of dolls reproducing [Sakon no Gi], one part of the wedding ceremony. Therefll be performances of Gagaku, Japanese traditional court music, and Kangen, instrumental music at 10:00 and 11:00 am on April 25th, 26th and 29th in front of Shunkoden. If you are interested, how about visiting the Imperial Palace then? It will be open from 9 am to 3:30 pm. No admission fee needed. (Risa)

March 12th

The cherry blossom season will start in two weeks or so. According to the report by Meteorological Agency, they will come into bloom around March 26th in Kyoto. I didnft have so many chances to go and see the cherry blossoms last spring, but I would love to this year. We receive quite a few inquiry mails for late March/early April, but the ryokans in Kyoto are getting fullcso, please contact us ASAP if you are thing about visiting Kyoto during that time! (Risa)

March 11th

As I wrote about two weeks ago, I went to have a womb cancer exam and got the result today. It was between positive and negative, so I have to take it again three months later. I believe (hope?) that means gprobably negativehcbut, I donft want to spend the couple of months agonizing about it, so, Ifm thinking of having the same test at a different clinic/hospitalc Do you think thatfs better? I realized again how important the regular checkups are this time. Ifm going to have a breast cancer screening this Saturday. I donft want to hear any more bad newscso, I hope itfll be ok! (Risa)

March 10th

I went to see maternal grandmother living in Ayabe with my mum and brother on Sunday. My dad has a severe pollen allergy, so he stayed at home to avoid being exposed to pollen as much as possiblec Originally, we were just planning to visit grandma and spend a couple of hours with her, but we came up with an idea to visit our family graves in Maizuru city on our way, so we changed our plans a bit. Our grandmother usually stays at home 24 hours a day, every day, so I think it was a good change of pace for her, too. As I was feeling exhausted when I got home on that night, I went to sleep around 9pmcbut, it was a nice day. (Risa)

March 9th

How was your weekend? I had quite a busy weekend. Saturday, I went to Fukui Prefecture for a drive with my friend. We had to change some of our plans due to the unsettled weather, but it was a good refreshing change. My family and I used to go to Fukui when I was a kid, so I also felt nostalgic. I would love to visit there again on a sunny and warm day! (Risa)

March 6th

Itfs nearly two months since Takashi left for Alaska, but we still donft know when hefs coming back. We always talk about you and miss you a lot, Takashi!

Itfs been warm but raining in Kyoto. What are you up to this weekend? I hope you have a good one. (Risa)

March 5th

Spring is nearly here! I have a few pot plans in my room as you see from the picture below. I often feel the strength of nature since I started to grow the plants. The other morning I found a couple of jasmine buds and then left for work. When I got back home after work, I found they were already in bloom. It might sound trivial, but I was really happy to see them. Ifm glad I have them and believe they have immense hearing power, too. (Risa)


March 4th

How are you today? Here are the pictures I promised yesterday! (Risa)

Hinanagashi Hinaningyo

March 3rd

Today, March 3rd is Girlsf Day, or Hinamatsuri here in Japan. We usually display a set of ornamental dolls and wish the future happiness of girls on that day. The custom of displaying dolls started during the Heian Period (794-1185), but Hinamatsuri traces its origins to an ancient Japanese custom called hina-nagashi, in which straw hina dolls are set afloat on a boat and sent down a river to the sea, supposedly taking troubles or bad spirits with them. The Shimogamo shrine in Kyoto still celebrates the Nagashibina by floating these dolls on Mitarashi River to pray for the safety of children. Ifll try to get the pictures and show you soon. (Risa)

March 2nd

How was your weekend? Yesterday, my friend and I went for a drive and got to Nagahama, Shiga in the late afternoon. An exhibition of bonsai plum trees is being held at Keiunkan till March 11th, so we went there to have a look. As itfs the biggest exhibition and has the longest history, lots of people (especially bonsai lovers) visit there every year. I canft post all the pictures here, but which one do you like the best? (Risa)

ume ume ume ume ume

February 27th

I canft believe itfs already Fridayc One of my plans for the weekend is to have a uterus cancer screening. Itfs not a pleasant exam at all, but I think I should do. I lost my good friend because of cancer last year. He passed away only six weeks after he went to the hospital for the medical check-ups. I donft want to regret the things I didnftcI think we should be responsible for our health. (Risa)

February 26th

I went to see a movie with a friend after work yesterday. We were going to see gChe; Part Twoh but it was not oncso, we saw gChangelingh instead. It was a good story, but we felt very sad after seeing it. Have you seen it yet? I canft believe it was the event occurred only 70 years agoc (Risa)

February 25th

I went to Osaka to meet one of my best friends last Saturday. We first met when we were junior high-school students, so we have known each other for more than 15 years. I think she has changed a lot in a good way. She is pregnant with the second child and due in July. She brought her son with her on Saturday, and I thought she is a very good mother. I hope shefll have an easy delivery this time, too. (Risa)

February 24th

eHojof, the main building of Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion is now open to the public, and it will be open until March 18th. The full restoration of the building was completed last autumn, and visitors can see the newly-made cedar-board-door paintings and ink paintings on sliding doors by Kano Geki. If you are planning to come to Kyoto before March 18th, how about visiting there? (Risa)


February 23rd

How was your weekend? My Saturday was really busy, but I had a relaxing day yesterday.

Itfs been more than one month since Takashi left for Alaska. We exchange e-mails almost every day, and hefs doing well there. He had a little time to go out last night, so he went to a restaurant called eThe Pump Housef in Fairbanks. He had a specialty of Alaska (look at the picture below) there. Do you know what it is??? (Risa)


February 20th

Itfs been more than five years since I came back to Japan from New Zealand (I stayed there to study travel/tourism for a year) and I feel how difficult it is to keep up my English herec I still keep in touch with friends there, but I donft have many opportunities to speak English in my daily life. To motivate myself, Ifm thinking about taking an English test called IELTS this year. I took TOEIC a couple of times before, but Ifve never done the IELTS. Although I went to a book shop to buy a textbook, I couldnft find anythingc I guess IELTS isnft as popular as TOEICc Ifll try again this weekend. Keep your fingers crossed for me! Have a great weekend. (Risa)

February 19th

When I went to the supermarket the other day, I saw some spring vegetables like Fukinotou, Taranome, Kogomi, etc. on the shelves. I guess they arenft wild ones as itfs still too cold outside, but I felt a little excited to see them. We still have about 1.5 month to go before the cherry blossom season, but I canft wait for spring!!! (Risa)

February 18th

I went to Shiga and had a coffee with a friend last Saturday. She usually lives in Osaka, but she went back to her hometown to visit her grandmother in the hospital at the weekend. Although she temporarily fell critically ill, she was stabilized when my friend visited her... But, I got a text from my friend saying she passed away last nightc She was 94 (I think), so I want to believe she lived a full life. I feel my grandmothers are getting older year by year, but I want them to live a long time. (Risa)

February 17th

In complete contrast, itfs so cold and snowing in Kyoto todayc The plum blossoms in temples/shrines busted out at the weekend, but the severe cold came back again. The abnormal weather confuses not only human beings but also animals and plantsc Whatfs happening to the earth? (Risa)

February 16th

How was your weekend? We had a nice warm weekend in Kansai area. According to the news, the temperature went up to 26.8 degrees in Shimizu, Shizuoka and 26.1 degrees in Odawara, Kanagawa on Saturday. Theyfre like early summer temperatures, arenft they? Itfs still FebruarycCan you believe that? I so much like the warm weather, but I feel itfs a bit too abnormal at the same timec Hope you had a lovely weekend! (Risa)

February 13th

I received a sorry gift from a friend earlier this week. Look at the picture below. She didnft do anything bad/wrongcShefs just so considerate. She had rough/bitter experiences in her past, but she seems to really enjoy her life now. Shefs the similar age to my mother, but she is incredibly young. gYoufve got to enjoy lifeh is her line. Itfs absolutely true although itfs sometimes difficult to think that wayc Hope you have a happy Valentinefs Day tomorrow. (Risa)


February 12th

My old workmates and I get together and catch up with each other on a regular basis. Yesterday was the National Foundation Day in Japan, so we got together for dinner on Tuesday night. We started the dinner around 8 p.m. and chatted until 2 a.m. We were so full (we ate too much) and cosy snuggling under the kotatsu that we just couldnft movec I felt a bit tired yesterday, but I stirred myself and went to do yoga in the afternoon. I was glad I made the decision. I felt so refreshed after the classes. (Risa)

February 10th

I didn't have any plans for Sunday, so I was going to do yoga, but, I got a miserable e-mail from my friend on Saturday afternoon. She sounded so down and depressed, so I wanted to spend time with her on that night, but I couldn', I went to see her on Sunday instead. She tends to look on black side of things (she has good reasons to be pessimistic though) these days and she is tired out. I understand it's too hard for her to be optimistic, so all I can do is to stay with her and listen to her. I hope she's feeling a bit better today. (Risa)

February 9th

How was your weekend? My yoga friends and I went to have a manicure on Saturday afternoon and then went to a Korean restaurant for dinner together. It was really a nice restaurant, and all the dishes were delicious. That night was a lot of fun. It's been about three years since I started yoga, and I made quite a few good friends at the studio. I always look forward to seeing them, and that motivates me to go to the studio even when I feel a bit tired. I feel so lucky to have met them. (Risa)

February 6th

Ifll introduce you an unique public bath, sento in Japanese, today. Its name is Fukaoka Onsen located in Kita-ku, Kyoto. The public bath started as a part of ryokan named Funaokaro in 1923, and it was very popular among wealthy men back then. Itfs already more than 80 years since it was built, but it still maintains its original beauty. Also, itfs designated as tangible cultural property, so itfs definitely worth seeing it. It would be a nice option to visit there and enjoy a hot bath during the cold season. Have a great weekend.(Risa)


February 5th

Sapporo Snow Festival, one of the largest winter events, will start at 18:30 today. The festival attracts a number of visitors from Japan and abroad every year, and 2,159.000 people visited the site last year. If you are interested in the festival, here is the more information; (Risa)


February 4th

Itfs a bit too late to post this newsletterc February 3rd is the day called [Setsubun] in Japan. In its associate with the Lunar New Year, setsubun was previously thought of as a New Yearfs Eve, and so was accompanied by a special ritual to cleanse away all the evil of the former year and drive away disease-bringing evil spirits for the year to come. This special ritual is called mamemaki, which mean bean scattering. I often heard [Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!] (The words roughly translate to Demon Out! Luck In!) from neighboring houses when I was younger, but not these daysc I didnft see any beans on the street this morning, eitherc I hope we can stop the tradition from disappearing somehow. (Risa)

February 3rd


Amanohashidate, one of the three most scenic sports in Japan, was beautifully covered with the heavy snow due to the cold wave on January 24th. It started snowing from the night before, and the white sand and green pine trees were blanket by snow next morning. The landscape from the south side, called Hi-ryu-kan, as it looks like a dragon rising up the heavens, appeared to be a white dragon. Itfs cool, isnft it? Here is a bit more information of Amanohashidate; (Risa)

February 2nd

How was your weekend? I spent all day cooking/baking yesterday. More specifically, I started on Saturday nightcThis might sound crazy, but I just love it!

I saw a Japanese white eye (Mejiro in Japanese) in our garden when I got back from shopping yesterday. The bird has been depicted in Japanese art on numerous occasions, and it was historically kept as a card bird. It reminds me of early spring, so, I was a little excited to see it. P.S. The photo was taken in Atami, Shizuokacnot our garden! (Risa)


January 30th

Time flies! Can you believe itfs already January 30th? I still feel like 2009 has just started, but one months has nearly gone!!! Itfs pretty scary, isnft it? How is your 2009 going so far? I hope youfve got off to the best start! (Risa)

January 29th


Looks freezing cold! The monks are having a special training at Koya-san. Ifve always wanted to go to Koya-san, so hopefully sometime soon! (Risa)

January 28th

O Ushi-sama or Netsuke charms of the Ox (see the picture below), this yearfs zodiac sign, are gaining popularity at Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine (I wrote about the shrine on Jan. 6th, so please read it if youfre interested). Sugawara no Michizane, the deity of the shrine, was born in the year of the Ox, and oxen have an important significance for the shrine itself. There are also more than 20 stone ox statues in the precincts, and it is said that youfll get smarter/wiser when you pat them gently. Lots of students visit the shrine before their exam, but if they canft make it, their parents visit there and buy the charm for their children. (Risa)


January 27th


Look at the picture above. Where do you think it is? Alpha Resort Tomanu in Hokkaido has just opened the Ice hotel on their property. The rate is 40,000yen/person including dinner & breakfast. If you are interested, contact them right away. Itfll close on Feb. 16th, so you only have 3 more weeks! (Risa)

January 26th

How was your weekend? I went to Kobe and stayed with my friend on Saturday night. Kansai area was hit by a cold wave during the weekend, so it was freezing cold on that day. We headed to her place in a hurry and had NABE ( for dinner. It was very nice and warmed us up. We enjoyed typical girl talk until late night. We went to see movies on Sunday, and I came back home in the evening. Hope you had a good weekend! (Risa)

January 23rd

Ifm feeling a bit dull and sick today. I havenft caught a cold for years, but I donft know what this one isc Influenza is now raging throughout Japan, so I have to be careful not to catch the flu. Hope you have a great weekend! (Risa)

January 22nd

I love food. I majored in law at university, but if I had a chance to study again, I would definitely choose sitology. As I wrote here before, I love cooking/baking, toocbut, I am more interested in food and nutrition at the moment. For me, one part of the appeal of travelling overseas is to enjoy a different food culture. My brother went to Spain and Morocco during his New Years holidays, and he sent me the picture below. Very tempting, isnft it? (Risa)


January 21st

Sorry I completely forgot to post the news yesterdayc I found an interesting site when I was gooling during the lunch break. If you are interested in Haiku, you might enjoy this site - I remembered lots of Haiku (of course, Japanese ones) when I went to kindergarten, but I have forgot almost all of themc I guess itfs a good chance to learn about it again.(Risa)

January 19th

How was your weekend? I spent most of the day cooking and baking yesterday. I have a few hobbies, but I get an urge to cook/bake something especially when I feel tired or stressed. I think everybody has that kind of hobbycwhatfs yours? (Risa)

January 16th

I canft believe itfs Friday already! Takashi left for Alaska on Wednesday, so I am in charge of writing news every day until he gets back. Wefre not sure when he comes back yet, but I will try my best. Hope hefs doing well in Alaska. Have a great weekend! (Risa)

January 15th

Itfs been very cold in Kyoto for a week or so. According to the news, it has been snowing a lot in the northern part of Kansai area. I received a few nice photos from my friend (Apparently she went back to her hometown last weekend and took the pictures), so I want to share them with you. Arenft they cute? (Risa)

yukidaruma usagi yuki

January 14th


I drew sacred lots when I went to Konda Hachimangu last Sunday. The fortune said I will have an excellent year in 2009. Hope lots of good things are coming this year! (Risa)

January 13th


How was your weekend? Yesterday was a public holiday called Coming-of-Age Day in Japan, so we had a long weekend. On Sunday, my friends and I went to Konda Hachimangu in Osaka to break the jinx. It was the first time for me to go through a Shinto ritual to the best of my recollection. I am usually not a religious person, but I felt so good an purified after the ritual. Hope I can lead happy and healthy lives in 2009! (Risa)

January 9th


How are you today? I would like to show you the photo I took on the way back to my hometown on New Yearfs Day. When the train arrived at Kyoto Station, I was surprised to see some snow on its roof. The train came from eKinosakif, so that means it was snowing harder near my hometown. As I was got closer to my home, I saw more and more white snow outside. That is the photo you can see above. Although it was cold, I ended up going out for snowboarding with my friends, so everything was alright, I think. I hope you all have a great weekend!! (Takashi)

January 8th


Risa and I went to have Okinawa cuisine on New Yearfs Eve after work. It was the first time for me to have a bitter gourd and eMozukuf which is one type of seaweed. On the menu, there were a lot of unfamiliar words, since Okinawa has its particular languages apart from the Standard Japanese. I needed to turn the pages to find out what a word meant.


Here you can see eMozukuf. It may be hard to see, but these black seaweed was cooked in the type of pancake. I would like to other dishes next time when I go to an Okinawa restaurant. (Takashi)

January 7th


Belated Happy New Year!! I had a relaxing holiday back at home with my family. We did not have New Yearfs decorations such as eShimenawa Kazarif(=braided straw ropes which are related to the Shinto religion) at the front door, but we put some at our household Shinto altar. When I walked passed eShinpuh-kanf on New Yearfs Eve, there was an ornament that said eGeishunf (=welcoming the New Year) on it. You can see it in the photo above. I hope all of you will have a lot of fun this year. (Takashi)

January 6th

Early flowering Kankobai, a breed of Japanese plum trees, have started to bloom at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. It was built in 947, to appease the angry spirit of politician, poet and scholar Sugawara no Michizane, who had been exiled as a result of political maneuvers of his enemies in Fujiwara Clan. The grounds are filled with his favourite tree, red and white plum blossom called Ume in Japanese. Kitano Tenmangu is also popular with students praying for success in exams because the deity (Sugawara no Michizane) was a man of literature and knowledge. The shrine was very crowded and fully alive with people when our workmate, Hiroko drove past on January 2nd. The national university entrance exam will be held on January 17th and 18th, so I guess lots of students visited there and prayed for success. Hope they will do their best! (Risa)

January 5th

Belated Happy New Year! I hope you had a great one with your family and friends.

I took a day trip to Ise Shrine for Hatsumode ( with my friend on January 3rd. It was less crowded than I expected, but 667,000 people visited the shrine during the first three days of the New Year according to the news release. I tried to take pictures there, but I had to give up because of too many people! Believe it or not, more than 3 million people visit Meiji Shrine in Tokyo every yearc. It has ranked first for 30 years from 1979 to 2009c If you donft mind the crowds of people, why donft you come to Japan at this time of year and visit a shrine? (Risa)

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