News

June - April, 2009

June 30th

hydrangeas

How was your weekend? My friend and I went to Mimuroto-ji Temple in Uji-City to see hydrangeas on Sunday. It was a very hot and humid day, but we enjoyed the day trip. Look at the pictures below. They all look very beautiful, donft they? Which one do you like the best?

hydrangeas hydrangeas hydrangeas hydrangeas

When we saw the view below, we thought they were tea plantationscbut, they are azaleas. They must look awesome in spring. I recommended Takashi to go see the hydrangeas, but hefll miss itcmaybe next year! (Risa)

hydrangeas

June 29th

food stalls

I went to Saga with my friend last week. The main purpose of this trip was to see our friend who works in Saga. We stopped at Fukuoka and had a look around. First, we went to Nakasu and Tenjin area where various kinds of stalls can be seen along the river. I took the photo above around 17:00 and everyone was getting ready for the night. As this area is close to the ocean, you can smell the sea breeze.

fukuoka tower

Then we went to the seaside area to see Fukuoka Tower and Fukuoka Dome. While we were walking, cool breeze kept blowing, so it was comfortable to walk around. It was such a hot day that a lot of people were swimming in the sea. Even though the Dome was quiet, it was beautiful in the dark. Also around the Dome, there are hand-shaped-sculptures of famous people such as Michael Jackson, Jon Bon Jovi an etc, so you can have a look around. (Takashi)

June 26th

Takashi is a food blogger. And, I amcwhat? I am completely at a loss what to write about todayc Takashi is off work and heading to Saga Prefecture to catch up with friends for the weekend now. Yesterday, I asked him to look for stories/news for this site, so Ifm sure he will. Hope you have a great weekend! (Risa)

June 25th

shisocola

It seems that food companies as well as convenience stores focus on hShisoh this summer. For your reference, gShisoh is perilla frutescence in English term. These products are on the market this summer. As you can see above, Pepsi Shiso flavor is one of the examples. This drink has a fresh flavor when you have a sip. I think it is suitable for scorching hot summer temperatire.

karaagekun

Another product I found at a convenience store is deep fried chicken Shiso and gPonzuh(=citrus based sauce) flavor. Some people are likely to lose their appetite in the summer season, so fresh Shiso flavor products may be a help of poor appetite. (Takashi)

June 24th

Kyoto City Hall has just opened an eco friendly convenience store in their building. Even if you buy something, you donft get a plastic bag. You can buy food and snack there, but you donft get chopsticks and forks, either. They sell drinks, but you have to bring your own bottles/cups to buy them. Itfs 50yen per 250ml, so I think itfs quite reasonable. They will close the store in September, but they might continue depending on the outcome after that. The store opens for public from 8:45 to 17:00 on weekdays, so why donft go there if you are interested? (Risa)

June 23rd

tantanmen

I had gTan tan noodlesh which served cold in a bowl. Bits of fried meat and vegetables were on the top and add some colours. The name gtan tanh is derived from a carrying pole which was used when a hawker walking around a town. Its sauce is spicy, since it consists of pepper, type of sesame oil, soy sauce and red pepper. However, gTan tan noodlesh for Japanese are milder. The spicy sauce is diluted a little bit by sesame sauce, but it was spicy enough for me. If you would like to have noodles when it is too hot, why donft you try this instead of typical ramen noodles? I think it is really good for the coming summer!! (Takashi)

June 22nd

How was your weekend? Itfs been muggy and wet here in Kyoto, and itfs typical weather in the rainy season. I turned on TV and watched the program without paying much attention last Sunday, but, I was very surprised to see there was someone I knew there. It was my yoga instructor! The program was about her and her boyfriend. Shefs been dating with the man who works in Kamakura (about 3 hours from Osaka) for 7 years, and he suddenly visited Osaka to propose her. She looked astonished but accepted it without any hesitation. I like that kind of story with a happy ending. I went to have her yoga lesson yesterday, and she looked very happy. (Risa)

June 19th

gnocchi

Risa and I went to an Italian restaurant, Salvatore, 2 week ago. We had a pizza, gnocchi and a plate of grilled vegetables. Deep fried eggplant was topped on the pizza. Everything we ordered was really good. Especially, the gnocchi was cooked in tomato sauce and it was creamy. You can see the photo above.

berry tarte

After having Italian food, we walked to Starbucks to have a piece of Sachertorte. No luck of that, but I had a berry tart. Sweet and sour flavor spreads right after you carry the soft mousse into your mouth. Why donft you go to Starbucks this weekend? (Takashi)

June 18th

Water lilies are blooming one after another in Suisei Shokubutsu Koen Mizunomori, or aquatic plant park of water forest, located in Kusatsu City, Shiga Prefecture. The flowers blossom on their leaves floating over water surface, creating a delightful early-summer atmosphere. Most are said to bloom in the morning and begin to close after noon. The park has held a water lilies exhibition since June 16. The greatest variety of water lilies (There are 140 different varieties of water lilies there!) can be enjoyed during the upcoming season. If you are interested, why donft you go there this weekend?(Risa)

water lilies

June 17th

kyuushoku

This bento is focused on popular menu of school lunch. Curry and rice, spaghetti, deep fried chicken, cream croquette and a few more are things are put together in one bento box. This reminds me of school lunch I had years and years ago. Back then, my favorites were ramen noodles, stew, fried bread, and star shaped half-frozen jelly. I talked about school meal with Risa and found many differences between Kyoto and where I grew up. This bento may attract adultsf interest. (Takashi)

June 16th

My friend and I were planning to go to Korea at the long weekend in July, but the cheap tours and flights are completely booked out. We should have started planning even a little bit earliercThings past canft be recalled, so if you are thinking of coming to Kyoto to see autumn leavers, I strong recommend you to make plans as soon as possible. The ryokans/hotels will be booked up so quickly! (Risa)

June 15th

white curry risotto

I hope you had a good weekend. I had gWhite Curry Risottoh on the other day. One of the convenience stores gam pmh sells this. The origin of white curry is in Hokkaido. Instead of spices such as turmeric, cream sauce is added in white curry, so it is creamier than normal one. The dish looks like a mug of stew is on the risotto. It is topped with black soybeans and large adzuki beans. Please try this if you have a chance. (Takashi)

June 12th

The rainy season has started here in Kyoto. It was announced on Tuesday though it was not raining. You tend to feel dull and gloomy when it rains, but one good thing is that you can enjoy hydrangeas here and there during the season. I will list some famous temples/shrine where you see beautiful hydrangeas; Sanzen-in Temple, Mimurotoji Temple, Yoshiminedera Temple, Fujinomori Shrine, etc. You can enjoy them for about one month from Mid June to Mid July. Hope you have a nice weekend! (Risa)

hydrangeas

June 11th

cold stone

On Sunday, I went to eat Cold Stone ice cream to Namba with my friend. We met up just outside Namba 0101. In front of the ice cream shop, there was a long line of people waiting their turn. While I was waiting in the line, I heard a couple of merry songs staff singing while they were mixing ice cream on a -9C stone board.

cold stone

I chose German Chocolate cake. The chocolate ice cream is mixed with brownie, pecan nuts, coconuts and caramel sauce. I added a waffle cone dipped in chocolate. You can see the photo above. If you have a chance to go to Namba, why donft you go to Cold Stone? (Takashi)

June 10th

I think youfre not interested in my cancer test resultcbut, I got it on Monday. I was supposed to get it last Saturday, but it was delayedcso, I had to spend the whole weekend agonizing about it. There is still a tiny problem, but the cell is getting back to normal. I have to go back to the doctor for a follow-up 3-4 months later, but I feel much lighter now. If you are over 20 years old and have never taken the test before, please go to the clinic and take the test now. (Risa)

June 9th

takenoko

Last week, I wrote an article about gKinoko-no-Yamah. This time, I found yet another new product at a convenience store. (My devotion to new product is enormous now.) gTakenoko-no-Satoh Cheesecake flavor is in a shape of a bamboo shoot, as gTakenokoh means bamboo shoot in Japanese. In my opinion, this chocolate beats Kinoko-noYama Tiramisu flavor. It also tastes pretty much like a real Cheesecake does. In addition to this, I prefer the texture of the cookie of Takenoko-no-Sato to the cookie of Kinoko-no-Yama. (Takashi)

June 8th

How was your weekend? My friend and I went for a drive to Tango Peninsula yesterday. We didnft plan to go that far, but we ended up a long trip. The weather wasnft so nice, but it turned out a good trip. We had a quick stop at Ine Town and saw Funaya, which is a kind of private houses and has a garage for a boat under the building. I canft explain well, so please look at the picture below. If you are a sake lover, I recommend you a nice sake brewery, [Mukai Shuzo] in Ine Town. They have a website, so please check it out; http://kuramoto-mukai.jp/ Hope you also had a lovely weekend. (Risa)

Funaya

June 5th

I know I write about a lot about food, especially snack, but let me write about this. I was so excited when I found a new chocolate product at a convenience store yesterday. It is gKinoko-no-Yamah Tiramisu flavor. On the box, you can see how much the chocolate looks like a mushroom in some cartoons. Although it is supposed to have Tiramisu flavor, it tastes more like café latte. It is a little bit of disappointment, but I will keep reporting about new products. I will go to a convenience store again today. (Takashi)

kinoko

June 4th

sachertorte

Last Friday before the movie, Risa and I had a quick bite at Starbucks. We had a sandwich and drink. After that, I ordered a chocolate cake called gSachertorteh. It sounds like Germany, but it was actually invented by an Austrian chef at Hotel Sacher. It is said that original Sachertorte is made only in Vienne and Salzburg. So, the cake I had at Starbucks was not an original. But it was good enough. There are tons of food and recipes I have not tried yet. One of them was this Schertorte. (Takashi)

June 3rd

Hi, itfs me again. Takashi is off sick today, so Ifll write something instead. I was watching the news on TV last night, and it was about the survey of Japanese women from late 20s to early 40s. How much would you pay if you could get one hourfs sleep in the morning? Their answer was 1,843yen on average. What do you think of this figure? I guess they are too tired in their everyday lifec (Risa)

June 2nd

How was your weekend. It seems like Takashi had a great weekend. As I wrote last Friday, we went to see [Angels & Demons] after work. [The Da Vinci Code] wasnft very good (I thought), so I was half in doubt if I could fully enjoy it, but actually I did. Takashifs been reading the book after seeing the movie, so hopefully hefll tell me more details of the story. Hurry up, Takashi!!! (RIsa)

June 1st

kurama

I went to Kurama Onsen with my friend on Saturday. The sky was overcast and it was raining on and off when we left home. However, by the time we got in Kurama, it stopped raining. While I walked up to the main hall of the Kurama Temple, my friend took a cable car. Although the path was uphill all the way, I enjoyed the scenery and stopped from time to time to take some photos.

onsen

After the good exercise, we had lunch at one of the soba restaurants near Kurama station. Then, we took a shuttle bus to Kurama Onsen. The bath was outside, surrounded by mountains and you can feel the nature around you; quietness, bird chirping, cool breeze and warm sunshine. If you use only the open-air bath, it costs you 1,100 yen. (2,500 yen if you would like to use all the facility such as indoor bath, sauna and rest area.) I had a good relaxing day in Kurama. Walking, soba and onsen made my day. (Takashi)

May 29th

Takashi and I write about food too much? I hope you still enjoy reading our blog though. Have you seen a movie, [Angels and Demons], yet? Takashi and I are going to see it after work tonight. Wefll let you know how we liked it next week.

Ifve had a real concern for a few months. Maybe you might remember I wrote about uterus cancer before. I took the test in February, and the result was between positive and negative. I wanted to retake it sooner, but the doctor advised me to wait for three monthscso, I did. Tomorrow, I am going back to the clinic to have the exam. Please keep your fingers crossed for me!!! (Risa)

May 28th

grape choco

I went to Family Mart again to get a limited-edition product. Risa wrote about the purple sweet potato tart and cheesecake chocolates yesterday. This time I bought gKinoko-no-Yamah grape flavor. The grapes are harvested in Nagano. To my surprise, Nagano prefecture is the second largest producer of grapes in Japan. I am also surprised that not only the grape flavor matches with chocolate but also the chocolates smell like real grapes do. Purple Kinoko-no-Yama looks like poisonous mushroom, but believe me, these are really good!! (Takashi)

May 27th

Takashi wrote about the new product at Family Mart last Thursday. I will introduce you new chocolate products today. Look at the picture below. The left one is purple sweet potato tart, which is a specialty of Okinawa. The right one is cheesecake, which is a specialty of Hokkaido. Takashi and I tried both of them and thought the left one is more delicious. They will be sold at Family Mart until June 1st, so please try them if you are interested. (Risa)

chocolate

May 26th

energy drink

I have been writing about food or snack a lot lately. This is because I find it fun to look for a new product at a convenience store during my lunch time. Especially limited-edition products are very appealing. This time, I put up a photo of an energy drink gROCKSTARh. It seems that this is famous in the States, as the main distributor is located there and also more flavored drinks are sold over there, but not yet in Japan and other regions. I hope I will be able to find various flavored ROCKSTARs soon. And the price would be less expensive than it is now. (Takashi)

May 25th

wedding cake

How was your weekend? I went to my friendfs wedding on Saturday. The ceremony started at 10 a.m. and lasted for about 4 hours. We were also invited to the after-party from 6:30 p.m. It was held on Michigan, sternwheeler on Lake Biwa. The couple looked very happy and every participant also enjoyed themselves. I hope they share a long and happy life together! Congratulations again! (Risa)

wedding

May 22nd

I get lots of opportunities to eat Takenoko, bamboo shoots in English, this spring. They have a very acrid flavour, so we usually boil them with rice bran to get rid of it (if they are very fresh, you don't have to worry about it) before we start cooking. It takes about one hour to boil them, but itfs worth the time and effort. I like eating vegetables/fruit in season although they are available all year round these days. I feel I can get some kind of energy/power from them. Hope you have a great weekend! (Risa)

takenoko

May 21st

snack

I found a new flavor Potato Chips at Family Mart yesterday. It is gTeba-Saki-Karaageh, which is translated into deep-fried chicken wing. Deep-fried chicken wings are a specialty of Nagoya area. From May 11th to June 1st, Family Mart have various specialties of other areas. Not only this Potato Chips, but also chocolates can be found. When you go to Family Mart, please try something new. Have a nice day!! (Takashi)

May 20th

friedrice

Do you know shallots called gShima-Rakkyouh? Risafs mum gave some of them a while ago. I cooked fried rice on the same evening after peeling so many of them. It took me a while because I had no idea how to do that and it was like experimenting the process. (All the effort of peeling was totally worth though.) Chopped shallot leaves added a good flavor and taste to the fried rice. The shallots are from Okinawa. The name is applied only for the ones harvested there and its northern islands. These are smaller than shallots cropped in Tottori and other areas. I put leaves in the fried rice like I said, and pickled roots with kimchi. The shallots themselves are quite spicy, so after pickled with kimchi, these were spicier!! If I have an opportunity, I would like to have Shima-Rakkyou tempura. It sounds really nice, doesnft it? (Takashi)

May 19th

Ifm sorry I didnft report about the sauce for Tamago Kake Gohan earlier. I tried it for breakfast on Sunday morning and quite liked it. Itfs made of soy sauce, Mirin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirin), white wine, bonito flakes, etc., so itfs very mild in taste. We usually use sake for Japanese cooking, but they use white wine instead. I want to know the reason, so I might ask Takashi because his mother works for the company. Please look at the picture below. Itfs my brotherfs breakfast the other morning. Donft you want to try one? (Risa)

tamago kake gohan

May 18th

choco

I would like to introduce new chocolate products. I think these are limited in the spring season. There are three kinds in one bag; Mitarashi-dango, Sakura-mochi and Uguisu-mochi. Risa likes the Sakura-mochi flavor. I, on the other hand, like the Uguisu-mochi flavor. An gUguisuh is a bird gJapanese Bush-warblerh that is olive green. Actual Uguisu-mochi looks like the bird in color and shape. You can find these chocolates at convenience stores and supermarkets, so if you have a chance, please try them. (Takashi)

May 15th

Do you know what event is on today? The Aoi Festival is celebrated on May 15th and is one of the three main festivals held in Kyoto. During the festival, emissaries leave the Kyoto Imperial Palace(10:30am) and proceed to Shimogamo Shrine (11:40am) and then to Kamigamo Shrine(15:30pm). I know itfs a bit too late to give you this information, but here is the URL of the times and route. If you are already in Kyoto and interested in the festival, go now!!! http://www.kyokanko.or.jp/3dai/aoi_map.html#course (Risa)

May 14th

chiffon

I really like chiffon cakes, especially the one with gyomogih, which is Artemisia vulgaris in an academic name. Risafs mom bakes really nice chiffon cakes and gives them to me. Considering an aspect of health, they are much lighter in calories and healthier in comparison with butter cakes. The reason is that they are cooked with vegetable oil instead of butter. Even though it is often said that butter laden cakes are rich in flavor, I believe chiffon cakes are also rich in flavor and taste. You can add, for example, chocolate, lemon and green tea for flavoring. In addition to this, whipped cream can be added as well. I have just heard about angel cakes in which egg yolk is not used, so they must be lighter than chiffon cakes and have different texture. I would like to try them one day!! (Takashi)

May 13th

I met guests who stayed at Yuzuya Ryokan about two weeks ago. I exchanged a couple of e-mails with them before they came to Japan, but it was the first time to see them. We talked in their room for a few hours, and it was fun. I donft know why, but I had the feeling I had met them beforec They spent 2 days in Kyoto and 1 day in Himeji/Kobe, and it seems like they had a great time during their trip. They left a gift for me at the front desk at Yuzuya Ryokan, so I went to pick it up later. Please look at the picture below. Looks beautiful, doesnft it?(Risa)

cognac

May 12th

superlemon

It is hot here in Kyoto again. If you need a refreshment on such a hot day, please try this; Super Lemon Soda. This soda was released on April 27th, so it is quite new. There are really sour candies called Super Lemon which I often bought to play a trick on my friends and family, and this soda is derived from the candies. Although the label says gPowerful Sodah, it is not too sour. Different from candies, it is fizzy and refreshing. I wanted to drink Coke, but Super Lemon Soda has got Vitamin C in it, so I chose this for my health. If you have a chance, please try this. (Takashi)

May 11th

Yamane

How was your weekend? We had summer weather during the weekend, and the temperature went up to 30 degrees (86 degrees F) on Saturday. My family and I went to a Japanese restaurant [Yamane] for lunch in Miyazu City. Every dish had delicate taste and flavour, and we degusted the food and sake (I didnft have it as I was a driver though) with satisfaction. If you get a chance to go to the northern part of Kyoto Prefecture, how about stopping there for lunch/dinner? I highly recommend it to you. Here is the more information about the restaurant (Japanese onlycsorry!); http://yamane.tyanoyu.net/index.html (Risa)

Yamane

May 8th

soysauce

I will introduce you a product made in my hometown. It is soy sauce for Tamago kake Gohan called Marutan. Tamago kake Gohan consists of a bowl of boiled rice mixed with raw egg and soy sauce. It is considered as a breakfast dish and easy to cook. First, you break an egg into a small bowl and mix it with a bit of soy sauce. Then, pour it onto boiled rice. At this stage, you can make a well in the middle of the rice and pour egg into it. It is up to you which way you do. At the end, you just stir the rice and egg together. This is very easy as you can guess, and the soy sauce makes it more delicious!! Risa has the soy sauce and she will post a report about Tamago kake Gohan soon. I hope you have a good weekend!! (Takashi)

May 7th

We are back at work after a long weekend. We had 5 days off including Saturday and Sunday. My friend and I went to Wadayama, Hyogo Prefecture to see Japanese wisteria flowers on Sunday. We thought it would take longer, but it was much closer than we thought. The flowers were just in full bloom and they looked amazing. Look at the pictures below. Which colour do you like the best? (Risa)

Fuji Pink Fuji White Fuji

May 1st

tortelli

The photo above is a typical cuisine of Cremona and Mantua. Pumpkin paste is in the pasta and Parmesan cheese is applied. Itfs called totrelli di zucca. And an orange fruit is pickled in mustard sauce. As I did not know that, I felt my tongue burning when I took a bite.

risotto

This is a typical rice meal in Italy and the essential Italian dish which I really would like to eat. I liked this risotto so much that I would like to learn how to cook. The risotto is rich and creamy. Plus, parmesan cheese can be sprinkled if you wish.

pizza

You cannot leave Italy without eating pizza. Pizzerias stand along streets and you cannot stand the temptation. In Italy, if you order a whole pizza, usually it is not cut in pieces. You cut with knife and fork. At first, I was looking for a pizza cutter, but I learned that I do not have it. Writing about all about food, I began to feel like going to an Italian restaurant or even pizzeria. Maybe during the coming Golden Week? (Takashi)

April 30th

cremona

I went to a city called Cremona. It is famous not only for the place producing talented musicians, but also musical instrument manufacturers such as Amati and Stradivari. Even today, the reputation of these violin makers at Cremona is renowned. Especially, Stradivarius is the most renowned work. According to one article, one of the Stradivarius was bought for over $3.5 million.

cremona

The photo above is the view from the top of the bell tower. I really like the red-roofed houses and the green field spreads beyond the city. If I have a chance, I will show you one of the typical cuisines in Cremona later. (Takashi)

April 28th

murano

As I wrote down yesterday, I will write about Murano Island in Venice. When Venetian Republic prospered, glass makers were forced to move to Murano Island because wars and natural disaster might destroy all the valuable glass products. Since then, the island became the center of glass making.

murano

Over the centuries, glass makers developed new techniques to make various types of glass; crystal clear glass, enameled glass, milk glass and such. Even there are wine stoppers made in Murano, and small objects like you can see in the photo above. This is my dream island since I saw about a glass making on TV. My dream came true!!! (Takashi)

April 27th

venice

How was your weekend? I went shopping and bought a speaker system for my laptop and also bought a small table. I will write about Venice today. Venice is full of amazement. For instance, colorful glassworks of Murano Island, exotic masks for masquerade, churches made of marble stone. The best example should be S. Markfs Basilica in Venice, which is the photo above. Have you ever wondered how many years it took to build such a big church on the isolated island? Only transportation are ferries, boats and gondolas.

venice

Now you can see what Venice looks like. This is the view from S. Giorgio Maggiore which is 10 mintues boat ride from S. Marco Square. The islands consist of city of Venice. Next time, I will focus on Murano glasswork. Have a nice day!! (Takashi)

April 24th

como

This time, I will write about my day trip to Como, which is about 30 minute away from Milan. Como is famous for its beautiful lake view and silk products. There are a number of stores that sell silk product such as ties, handkerchief and etc. The lake is split into three ends, and Como is located at one of the ends. After seeing around Como township, my friends took me to another city (or rather town) called gBellagioh. This city is located at the place where two ends meet. I went there on Easter, so it was so crowded that parking lots were full. It took us half an hour to get one near the lake front. I really enjoyed the lake view and amazed how close Switzerland is. Have a nice weekend!!! (Takashi)

April 23rd

A seated stature of Fudo Myo-o Zazo made in the Muromachi Period and a standing statue of Gundari Myo-o Ritsuzo, and an Important Cultural Property, made in the Kamakura Period have been returned to Daikaku-ji Temple. This completes a set of Godai Myo-o or Five Gurdian Kings who banish evil with their wrathful expressions, for the first time in 57 years. Each colorfully painted wooden statue is about two meters high, Daitoku Myo-o Zazo, an Important Cultural Property, made in the Kamakura Period was retained by the temple, but the other four had been loaned to Kyoto National Museum since 1952. Gozanze Myo-o Ritsuzo and Kongo Yasha Myo-o Ritsuzo, both of which were made in the Muromachi Period, were returned to the temple two years ago which the remaining two statues were being restored. The Godai Myo-o statues will be on display in the treasure house until June 8th as part of a special exhibition. If you want to know more about Daikaku-ji, here is their official site; http://www.daikakuji.or.jp/english/index.html (Risa)

Daikaku-ji

April 22nd

milan

Hello, how are you? It is such nice weather here in Kyoto. This time, I will write about my trip to Italy. The photo above is of the Duomo (=cathedral) in Milan, which was built over a period of 500 years. During the World War II, it was damaged by aerial bombing. However, as soon as the war ended, the wooden front doors were replaced with bronze doors along with the restoration process.

milan

The next photo is one of the stained glasses inside the Duomo. According to the tour guide, each stained glass has its own story. For example, one stained glass has a story of Jesus, the other has a story of a king or something. It would be much more interesting if I had known more about Christianity. (Takashi)

April 21st

I wrote about the weekend trip Hiroko had on March 18th. She got completed products last weekend. Here is the picture. They look good, donft they? (Risa)

Shigaraki

April 20th

Hello everyone. Itfs been quite a while since I last posted an article here. I was in Alaska almost for 3 months and I came back to Japan on April 3rd. Straight after that, I was away on holiday in Italy, as I have friends over there. Ifll write about my trip to Italy later. It was cold enough in Alaska, but as the time went by, I could see the signs of spring. I donft know how to explain, but I could sense the spring scent in breeze. Also the sunlight was getting warmer as the hours of sunlight was getting longer. I didnft expect it would get that warm in Alaska, but they surely have spring!!! I heard that puddles would be everywhere, but it would be nice to see how the city turns out. (Takashi)

April 17th

Ifve been unwell for the last few weeks. Hay fever, canker sore, lack of sleep, stress, etcc I can think of many reasons. I was sick and dull yesterday, but I went to do yoga for a change after work. Surprisingly, I felt much better and refreshed after the lesson. I have a few plans this weekend, but I want to kick back and relaxcjust relaxc I have got good news for you. Takashi will be back next Monday. Yay! Hope you have a great weekend!!! (Risa)

April 16th

An exhibition featuring the armor, helmets and weapons of military commanders in the late Kamakura Period which are used in Nanko Joraku-retu, or Masashige Kusunokifs propocession to Kyoto, of Jidai Matsuri started at the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts on April 4th. Jidai Matsuri is also known as Festival of Ages and it is held in October every year. Visitors can closely examine the details of Masashigefs valiant helmet and his Hitatare or typical Samurai military wear, with its colorful Kikusui-mon, or pattern of floating flowers on a stream, as well as other items that have been carefully re-created based on historical research. The free exhibition continues daily until May 10th, so how about visiting there if you have free time in Kyoto? (Risa)

JidaiMatsuri

April 15th

The 60th Kyo-Odori, or Kyoto Dance in English started on April 4th. The program is Miyako Furyu Kiyo no Hanazono, or expressing Kyotofs elegance in English, and all of its seven scenes quickly unfold. In the second scene, four Geiko represented young ladies fitting around a rape blossoms field in Sagano, with the graceful carriage of the Wakayagi school. The third scene is arranged with images from the satirical picture scrolls of the National Treasure [Cho-ju Jinbutsu Giga] or cartoons describing animals which imitate human being behavior. The Geiko and Maiko acting frogs and rabbits excite the audience with their comical gestures. The sixth scene depicts the Yoiyama of the Gion Festival with eight Maiko showing the smoothness of the group dancing. During one scene of the performance, Geiko, attired in formal kimono, delivers a respectful message in commemoration of the 60th anniversary. Finally, a total of 40 Geiko and Maiko appear onstage in the Miyagawa-ondo dance. The performance will be held three times daily until 19th. (Risa)

Kyo-Odori

April 14th

The special exhibiton at Reihokan, Daigo-ji Temple began on March 25th. It commemorates the 1,100th anniversary of the death of Shobo, also called Reigenn Daishi, 832-909, founder of the temple. There are 85 items on display, including 11 National Treasures. On display for the first time at Reihokan is the Important Cultural Property, wooden standing stature of Thousand Armed Avalokiteshrawa, which is considered to have been the principal image in the 10th century when the kannon-do Hall in Kami-Daigo was built. The statue is places in the vestibule area, providing visitors the opportunity to see the back of the statue, which is rarely shown at other times. The exhibition is open daily until May 6th, so why donft you visit there if you are interested? (Risa)

Daigo-ji

April 13th

My good friend, Emi was back in Kyoto (she usually lives in California, USA) on her vacation, so I caught up with her the other day. We went to Kitano Tenmangu Shrine and Hirano Shrine to see the cherry blossoms. And then, we headed to a restaurant [Vertigo] for lunch and spent a couple of hours there. The food was good, and we liked the cosy atmosphere, too. We still wanted to talk more, so we went to a nearby café [Hidamari] for a cup of coffee. The both restaurant and café are located in an old area called Nishijin, and you can still see old town houses here and there. If you have a few days to stay in Kyoto, I recommend you to visit the area and walk around.

Kitanotenmangu Hirano Shrine

As I promised, here are the pictures of cherry blossoms I took this spring so far. Enjoy. (Risa)

Hirano Shrine Hirano Shrine Hirano Shrine Hirano Shrine Hirano Shrine Hirano Shrine Hirano Shrine

April 10th

I went to my friendfs place and had dinner with her last Friday. She and I worked at the same company about 6 years ago, so I have known her for quite a long time. She is always strong and tough, but she was totally different that night. I was very surprised and shocked to see that she looked tired and completely stressed out. We talked until 4am that night, and she called me again last night. Shefs been suffering from a stress-related stomach problem these days, tooc I really feel so sorry for her, but all I can do is just listen to her. I hope the things will get better and she will get well soon again. (Risa)

April 9th

Ifll write more about Myoshin-ji today.

Displayed works include Bokuseki calligraphies of Myocho, Egen and ordained Emperor Hanazono, partition paintings of Motonobu Kano, Tohaku Hasegawa and Yusho Kaiho and portraiture of warlords who supported the temple. Another impressiove display is the toy ship and miniature weapons and armors of Sutemaru, Toyotomi Hideyoshifs son who died at the age of three. Distinctive Zen paintings of Hakuin, who enlighted commoners with his intimate paintings in the mid-Edo Period, are on dispay as well, providing visitors with a general overview of the history and culture of Myoshinji Temple. The exhibition will be held until May 10th, so why donft you go there if you are interested? (Risa)

April 8th

The special exhibition Myoshinji started on March 24th at Kyoto National Museum. The exhibition is being held in commemoration of the 650th anniversary of the death of Kanzan Egen, founder of Myoshinji Temple. A total of 167 calligraphic works and artifacts possessed by headquarters and subsidiary temples of the Myoshinji School of the Rinzai Sect across the county, including 4 National Treasures and 48 Important Cultural Properties, are being displayed. Egen was disciple of Shuho Myocho, founder of Daitoku-ji Temple. Upon acceptance of Myochofs recommendation to ordained Emperor Hanazono, Egen was allowed to establish Myosjin-ji Temple in 1337. The temple has cultivated a unique style independent from Gozan or the Five Mountain System of state-sponsored Zen Buddist temples. (Itfs getting long, so to be continued tomorrow) (Risa)

April 7th

As I promised, Ifll write about Hamani I went with my yoga friends last Saturday. We got together at an Izakaya (Japanese bar/restaurant) and had dinner there, and then we went to see the lit-up cherry blossoms by Gion Shirakawa and at Maruyama Park. They were looking awesome (I think now is the best time to view them), and there were lots of people enjoying the beauty of the flowers.

Maruyama

I forgot to take my camera, so I took the picture by my mobile phonecso, itfs not very good, but I hope youfll enjoy it even a little. After we fully enjoyed the cherry blossoms, we went to a nearby café to warm up our body and had a chat there. It was fun! (Risa)

April 6th

How was your weekend? I had two Hanami (I thin you might no know what Hanami isc Here is the explanation - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanami) on Saturday. The weather was cloudy/rainy, but my friend and I went to a botanical garden in Kitayama and had lunch there. About 60-70% of the cherry blossoms were in bloom and they were looking so beautiful. We walked back to Kitaoji Station by Kamo River, and the path was pretty, too. Here is the picture I took at the botanical garden. I will write about another Hanami tomorrow. (Risa)

Botanical Garden

April 3rd

The special spring opening of Shokoku-ji Temple, the head temple of the Shokoku-ji branch of Rinzai Zen (the other two are Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji), started on March 24th. Important Cultural Assets including Hatto or Dharma Hall, and Hojo or Abbotfs Quarters, were opened to the public, and many visitors came to see them on the first day. The exhibition is held every spring and autumn, which are tourist seasons in Kyoto. Visitors can see the Abbotfs Quarters with their beautiful garden and Japanfs oldest Dharma Hall which was endowed by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. The main attraction is Banryu-zu or Dragon painting, painted by Matsunobu Kano on the ceiling of the Dharma Hall. Also called Naki-ryu or howling dragon, because of the echo when one claps their hands under it, the powerful painting, which is 11 meters in diameter, overwhelms visitors. The exhibition will continue until June 4th. Hope you have a nice weekend. (Risa)

Shokoku-ji

April 2nd

Do you enjoy your life? Yes? I can say gyesh even if itfs not perfect. I asked the same question of my friend the other day, and his answer was gNo, not reallyh. I thought it was really sadc According to the survey about the level of happiness conducted by NSF in 2008, the top three countries are Denmark, Puerto Rico, and Colombia. Incidentally, the US is ranked 16th and Japan 43rd among 97 countries. Is the result as you expected? Do you feel you are satisfied with your life? (Risa)

April 1st

The colourful spring illumination of Nijo Castle started on March 20th. Cherry blossoms and the majestic castle emerge against the night sky under the delicate lighting. This event is held by Kyoto City every year during the cherry blossom season. The approximately 220 cherry trees and the Seiryu-en garden are illuminated, and a special exhibition of Ninomaru Place Kitchen, which is registered as an important cultural property, is also being held. It is illuminated from 6pm to 9:30pm until April 12th, and until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The cherry blossoms at the castle are expected to be in full bloom this weekend, so why donft you go there if you are in Kyoto then? (Risa)

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