News

September - July, 2009

2009-09-30

kaisyu

My uncle and aunt went on a trip to Shirahama, Wakayama Prefecture last week. They stayed at a ryokan named [Kaisyu]. As you can see the above picture, the ryokan is located along the coast and looks so beautiful. There are various types of rooms, so you can choose according to the occasion and your budget. Almost all the rooms have an open-air bath, but you can also reserve a bigger bath If you like. Here is the picture of an outdoor bath [Iwato No Yu]

kaisyu

As for dinner, you can choose either beef or seafood. The picture below is the seafood one my uncle and aunt had. Yum… As for breakfast, you are asked which you prefer, Japanese breakfast or western after you finish dinner. Apparently, they both had Japanese breakfast.

kaisyu kaisyu kaisyu

The other feature is the hotel staff never interrupt your stay after you check into your room. They come to lay your futon bedding if you ask, but they usually don’t. So, you can completely relax in your room. I was looking at the website, and I feel like staying there now… Here is the URL; http://www.hotespa.net/hotels/kaisyu/top.html (Japanese only. Sorry!) (Risa)

2009-09-29

kongosanmaiin

This is Kongosanmai-in Temple, built in 1223 by the widowed Hojo Masako, one of the most powerful women in Japanese history. She had it constructed in memory of her husband, Minamoto Yoritomo. He had been the leader of the Genji clan which struggled for supreme power in 12th century with its arch enemies the Heike. In a decisive battle, he had vanquished them and had become Shogun.

tahoto

Tahoto is a two-storied structure, and the ground floor has a square plan and is topped by a dome with a four-sided roof. There are only six tahoto which are national treasures of Japan, and this is one of them.

There are quite a few important cultural properties and natural treasures at the temple, so you should add it to your must-visit list. Rhododendrons are also famous there, so I would love to visit there in spring again.(Risa)

2009-09-28

Kongobuji

We went to Kongobuji after we checked-in at the temple. It is the head temple of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Its name means Temple of the Diamond Mountain. The temple was first built as Saigan-ji Temple in 1593 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi on the death of his mother, rebuilt in 1861, and given its present name in 1869. It has many sliding screen doors by painted by Kano Tanryu and members of Kano School in Kyoto. I believe you will be impressed at the paintings.

Kongobuji

The temple’s modern Banryutei rock garden is the largest one (2,340 square meters) in Japan. It is said that the 140 stones arranged to suggest a pair of dragons emerging from clouds to protect the temple. I’m sorry my picture isn’t so good…

Kongobuji Kongobuji

Look at the huge pots and rice cookers. There are three rice cookers in the kitchen, and you can cook 280kg of rice at once, which is for 2,000 people. That’s amazing.

If you get a chance to visit Koyasan, I definitely recommend you to visit the Kongobuji Temple. I will write a bit more about the temple tomorrow. (Risa)

2009-09-25

syakyo

We did Shakyo (Buddhist sutra writing) after dinner at the temple. You just trace the letters written on the paper, but it’s quite difficult to concentrate and focus on it. The Buddhist who showed us the temple when we checked-in told us it would take about an hour, but I finished it up in 40 minutes or so. I didn’t have enough concentration at that time, and my work was a bit rough compared to my friend’s. I want to try it again when I am not too tired.

Koyasan map

We strolled around the town and visited a few temples. As you can see the map above, the town is small enough to walk around. I will write about where we visited next week. Hope you have a lovely weekend. (Risa)

2009-09-24

Koyasan

How was your weekend? We had a 5-day weekend until yesterday. My friend and I went to Koyasan and stayed at a temple for 1 night there. Check out this site for the details; http://www.shukubo.jp/eng/index.html

Fugen-in

This is the temple [Fugen-in] where we stayed. It was the first time for me to stay at a temple, but I thought it was very comfortable. We both enjoyed the new and different experience so much.

Shojin-ryori

This is our dinner which is called Shojin-ryori at the temple. It is vegetarian in order to keep with the general Buddhist precept of ashima (non-violence). If you are a big eater or love meat, it might not be enough…but, I really liked it. I feel you can keep your good health if you eat such a simple meal every day.

I will write more about Koyasan tomorrow. (Risa)

2009-09-18

SHIKAKUMAME

What do you think this is? Are you familiar with this? I wasn’t…and, I’m still not. It’s called [Shikaku-mame] in Japanese and winged bean in English. I bought them at a farm shop on my way back from my trip, but I really didn’t know how to cook them. So, I just boiled and ate them with a few kinds of dressing. The taste was ok, but I wonder if I cooked/ate them in the right way…

We have 5-day weekend from tomorrow, so I won’t post any news until next Thursday. Hope you have a lovely weekend! (Risa)

2009-09-17

A special night event to listen to chirping crickets started at the Genkyu-en Garden inside Hikone Castle in Shiga Prefecture. Candles in bamboo lanterns and other lights illuminate the garden, and it’s really so beautiful (I went there a couple of years ago). I remember there was a pond in the middle of garden and the surface of the water looked so fantastic. The night event will be held until September 30th, and it’s from 6:30pm to 8:30pm every day. You can enjoy an outdoor tea ceremony (500yen extra) if you are interested. (Risa)

2009-09-16

Risa and I had dinner last night at KYOCHABANA. Can you imagine an okonomi-yaki with tomato and avocado? You may think it is strange, but believe me, it was really good. These two had something in common, which is a soft texture filled with cabbage. (It is hard to see in the photos though.) After it was put on a hot plate, the sauce was poured on it. The sound when the sauce touched the hot plate stimulated our appetite. As for the tomato okonomiki-yaki, sliced tomatoes, pork and squid added really good flavor. Especially, tomato added sweet and slightly sour flavor, and makes everything in unison with every single ingredient in it. We thought this okonomi-yaki would be really big, but it was not too big.

tomato okonomi

Then, avocado okonomi-yaki was also good. We had no idea what it would look like. I thought avocado would be kneaded in the texture, but same as tomato okonomi-yaki, it was poured on the texture.

avicado okonomi

In addition to these okonomi-yaki, we had an omelet, too. The tomatoes in the omelet tasted different from the ones in okonomi-yaki. I was amazed how tomatoes can taste different in a different way of cooking. I strongly recommend this restaurant to you. So does Risa, I reckon. (Takashi)

tomato omelet

Yes, I do too!!! (Risa)

2009-09-15

birthday

September 12th was my birthday, and I received quite a few birthday messages from family and friends. Ayano, Hisako, Sachiko, Nachi, Hiromi, Yuka, Yukiko, Dai, Hiroko, Jasmin, etc… I want to say thank you here again. Thank you, everyone! (Risa)

2009-09-14

How was your weekend? My friend and I went to Taiza on Tango Peninsula for the weekend. We stayed at a ryokan called [Syorenkan Yoshinoya] and had a wonderful time there. Delicious food, relaxing hot springs, and high level of hospitality – these are the pleasures of staying at a Japanese ryokan, and we were very satisfied with their service. Here are the pictures of our dinner and breakfast below. They look great, don’t they? If you like seafood, I strongly recommend you to stay at the ryokan. We went there by car, but you can also go there by train. The ryokan will pick you up at Amino Station. Check out this site (Japanese only though…); http://www.taiza.jp/

Yoshinoya Yoshinoya Yoshinoya

We stayed awake until 3:30am on Saturday night and kept talking, so I felt exhausted when we got back to Kyoto around 6pm. It really was a nice trip, and we had a lot of fun!!! (Risa)

2009-09-11

I love autumn sky and breeze so much. Autumn is definitely my favorite season, and I like having some hot coffee on a bit chilly morning. We get quite a few inquiries for the foliage season, but the ryokans are already getting fully booked in Kyoto. If you are thinking of visiting Kyoto then, please make your plan and contact me ASAP! (Risa)

2009-09-10

How do you relieve your stress in your everyday life? Everyone has their own way, but my answer is definitely yoga. I feel refreshed in body and spirit after yoga even when I go there (yoga studio) under stress. I’ve been suffering from stiff neck and shoulders for the last couple of days, and I was feeling quite sick yesterday. I thought I would go home right away after work and take a rest, but I changed my mind and went to do yoga. The lesson was so much harder than I thought, and I sweated out. I never sweated like that in ages, but it was really nice and refreshing. I am feeling much better today. Hope you are having a stress-free life! (Risa)

2009-09-09

I got a call from a friend the other night. He started to study English grammar again to sit for an exam. I think it’s not so much fun to study it over from the basics, but I believe it’s very important. I did the same thing when I studied for an exam last year. He’s put in a lot of effort to realize his dream, and I think it’s great. I hope he keeps it up and make it come true in the future.(Risa)

2009-09-08

The 52nd Gion Odori, which is known as an annual autumn highlight in Kyoto, will be held from November 1st to 10th this year. On August 31st, Maiko and Geiko slipped into their new costume for the dance performances and attended a photo session for the brochure. This year’s program entitled [Higashiyama mysterious Legend] is based on the seven wonders of Chion-in Temple and composed of six scenes. Performances will be held twice a day, starting 1:30pm and 4pm. Tickets including tea service cost 4,000yen. They will be sold from October. 27th. If you are interested, don’t miss it. (Risa)

2009-09-07

Do you like Japanese cartoons? On August 22nd, a special exhibition opened in the Kyoto International Manga Museum. There are about 80 exhibits such as Japanese style books with pictures of party tricks using food by the Edo Period Ukiyoe artist, Hokusai Katsushika to magazines and newspapers with the newest Yonkoma Manga (four-panel cartoon) on display. The exhibition will continue until December 13th, so how about adding the museum to your itinerary if you come to Kyoto by then? Here is the URL of the museum; http://www.kyotomm.jp/ (Risa)

2009-09-04

I’m sorry I haven’t written about Japan/Kyoto these days. I guess you had enough of my stories… I will go out and look for topics I can write of this weekend. Hope you have a lovely weekend. (Risa)

2009-09-03

I went out for dinner with a friend last night. We drank quite a lot and came back a bit late. I prefer going out on weekends, but it was a fun night. I will have an early night tonight… (Risa)

2009-09-02

I received a phone call from a friend on Sunday night. He and I aren’t always in touch, so it was a bit surprising. It was not good news. According to him, our mutual acquaintance passed away on Saturday. She wasn’t doing well after her confinement and was in the hospital for a month or so… I still can’t believe she isn’t here any more. She was always cheerful and positive. I vividly remember her beautiful smile. May her soul rest in peace. (Risa)

2009-09-01

I just got a call from a friend from university and was invited to his wedding next month. He lives in Nagoya, Aichi now, but he’ll have the wedding ceremony in his hometown, Kobe. I think I will see the other university friends there, so I look forward to seeing them too. Congratulations again, Takuo! (Risa)

2009-08-31

How was your weekend? I went to renew my driver’s license yesterday morning. I left home quite early, but there were so many people when I got there. I waited for 1.5 hours in a queue, took my vision checked, and sat in a class about traffic rules for 30 minutes. That’s it. If you haven’t driven for years or you’re not good at driving, you can renew it without any problems. You have to take a longer class though if you have made traffic violations. How do you renew a driver’s license in your country? (Risa)

2009-08-28

One of my friends lost her important friend a few months ago. According to her, she didn’t know her friend was suffering from cancer until she got the new of her death from her husband. She was only 37 years old and her untimely death came as shock to her family and friends. Let’s catch up soon – they always said so each other, but it didn’t happen for years. It’s too late now for regret. I often think about this lately….(Risa)

2009-08-27

Everybody says this summer has been weird. The rainy season didn’t end until August, and the weather’s been humid and enervating. Where’s hot and dry summer gone? It’s already a bit chilly in the morning and evening, and I feel autumn is nearly here. (Risa)

2009-08-26

I go to do yoga 3-4 times a week. It’s been more than 3 years since I started it, and I made some friends at the yoga studio. I usually go there after work, so I sometimes feel tired and grumpy a bit. I know I really shouldn’t, but I occasionally let my emotions/feelings flow there. I always regret it and apologize to my friends after yoga. Something wrong with me… I really think I should fix it. (Risa)

2009-08-25

I went to Osaka to catch up with my friend from university on Sunday. She knew a nice café, MARINA DE BOURBON at HERBIS PLAZA. There were only a few customers when we got there little after 13:00, so we thought we found a great secret spot. It’s a tea specialty café, and you can choose from more than 100 varieties of tea. If you are interested, here is the URL of HERBIS PLAZA; http://www.herbis.jp/lang/english/index.html There was a long queue when we left the café around 16:00, so I recommend you to go there a bit earlier than that. (Risa)

2009-08-24

How was your weekend? My friend and I went shopping to an outlet mall, [Jazz Dream Nagashima] in Mie Prefecture on Saturday. I picked up my friend at the station near my place and we headed there. Thanks to a new road, it only takes about an hour to get there from Kyoto, but we were completely wrapped up in our conversation and went the wrong way…so, it took about 2 hours and got there just before noon. The shopping mall is getting bigger and bigger, so it was not easy to have a look-around the entire area in a couple of hours. There are a few factory outlet malls in Kansai, so why don’t you go to one of them if you like shopping? (Risa)

2009-08-21

It’s been about one month since Takashi left for Alaska. He’s coming back on the 13th next month, but he won’t come to the office for another 2 months. He is going to Quebec, Canada on business this year again. We miss you, Takashi! Hope you have a nice weekend. (Risa)

2009-08-20

The new semester has started at most primary school in Kyoto. I saw quite a few students with tans on my way to work this morning. It’s still hot, but I feel summer is waning a little by little… Autumn is my favourite season, so I can’t wait! (Risa)

2009-08-19

Choshi

A local rail company, Choshi Electric Railway line, has introduced special fortune tickets, in a bid to bring good luck to both customers and itself. The Nobori-Choshi tickets were previously available at just one of the 10 stations, but based on their popularity the company decided to extend the promotion. Each ticket carries a different kind of good luck message. The tickets are available at five manned Choshi Electric Railway stations. The company has undertaken various efforts to recover from slumping business. (Risa)

2009-08-18

fireworks

I didn’t go, but Biwako fireworks display was held on Aug. 7th in Otsu City, Shiga. This year was the 26th show, and about 10,000 fireworks lit up the night sky and 350,000 people visited to see the show. A giant firework exploded high in the night sky to announce the start of the festival at 7:30pm. And then, a variety of other fireworks were fired off one after another, including the water surface Star Mine fireworks and a series of 25 big shell fireworks, creating a tapestry of light which lasted for about an hour. According to my friend who went there, it was awesome. If you are interested, the show will take place on August 6th next year. (Risa)

2009-08-17

daimonji

An iconic summer festival commonly known as Daimonji was held in Kyoto last night. Five bonfires are lit on mountains surrounding the city, and it signifies the moment when the spirits of deceased family, who are said to visit this world during O-bon (around Aug. 15th), are believed to be returning to the spirit world. The most famous and the first to be lit was Dai (see the picture above) on Kyoto Daimonji-yama. The other four fires, Hidari Daimonji, Myoho, Funagata, and Toriigata are lit at five to ten-minute intervals, and by 8:30pm, all the bonfires are seen. It’s completely different to the other summer festivals, but I like it. If you are interested, how about planning to come to Kyoto about this time next year? (Risa)

2009-08-14

I went out for dinner with my old co-worker after work last night. She and I worked together about 8 years ago, and we’ve been good friends since then. She went to Tokyo after she quit the job and I went to New Zealand, but we both are back in Kyoto now. We are planning a big reunion with the other workmates next month, and I’m looking forward it. Hope you have a great weekend. (Risa)

2009-08-13

Tango Ferru

Maizuru Tourist Association and Tango Area Tourism Campaign Council have planned a tour cruise around Tango area in order to utilize a large ferry connecting Maizuru and Otaru, Hokkaido as a tourist resource. On September 23rd, Shin Nihonkai Ferry’s vessel, Hamanasu will set sail from Maejima Pier, Maizuru Port at noon and make a three-hour tour to enjoy the view of the deeply-indented coastline of Maizuru Bay and Amanohashidate, one of the three most scenic spots in Japan. Buffet style lunch featuring Hokkaido specialties are also provided on board. The fare for the cruise only is 4,800yen for the first 450 applicants and the fare including the buffet lunch is 6,800 yen for the first 300 applicants. Reservations can be made through Venus Travel. If you are interested, here is the phone number; +81-6-6348-0571 (Risa)

2009-08-12

My friend and I went to a restaurant called [NOZA] for dinner on Saturday night. I went there after I did yoga, so I was very thirsty. I ordered a chilled white wine before anything else. It was so nice and refreshing. You can order most dishes in half size, so you can enjoy various kinds of food there. We had a great time and would love to go back there soon again. If you are interested, here is the phone number; +81-75-222-0272. (Risa)

2009-08-11

Here is a post from my good friend, Ayano who went to climb Mt. Fuji last weekend.

My friends and I left Kobe/Osaka and headed to Mt. Fuji by bus on Friday night. We arrived at the fifth station of Mt. Fuji around 10am on Saturday morning and started climbing from there. I got high-altitude sickness before anyone else got it, so the way up to the mountain lodge was pretty tough and exhausting. We got to the hut at 4pm and left our bags and headed to the top. There are a post office and shrine around the summit (see the below picture) and an observation deck at the very top of the mountain (3775.6m). The beautiful sunset from there left a deep impression in my mind. And then, we went back to the hut, had dinner, and took a nap until 3am. We headed to the top again in order to see the early-morning sunlight. As you can see the picture, there were so many climbers on the way. We got to the top and waited for the sunrise in the freezing cold. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the glittering rising sun, but it looked very fantastic and impressive. The way down was very easy. We enjoyed a relaxing soak in the hot spring after we came down. There are four routes to climb Mt. Fuji, and every route has unique features. I would love to challenge the other route if I get a chance. Climbing Mt. Fuji is now booming, so quite a few people visit and climb there every weekend, and the number of climbers has been increasing year by year. To be designated as a world heritage site, there have been various cleanup activities these days.

Mt. Fuji Mt. Fuji

Ayano’s posting made you feel climb Mt. Fuji? I was just reading a travel magazine this morning, and it was about a tour to Mt. Fuji targeting for foreign tourists. It’s been 6 years since its introduction in 2003 and it’s built a solid reputation. It’s 28,800yen for 2-day trip. If you are interested, please let me know! I will give you more details about the tour. (Risa)

2009-08-10

How was your weekend? I caught up with a high-school friend who usually works and lives in Tokyo on Saturday. She studied veterinary science at university and got a job at a pharmaceutical company for animals. It’s been about 5 years after she started to work there, but she’s not sure if she wants to continue her career there. “Do I want to work at a veterinary clinic not a pharmaceutical company? Yes? No?” She said she keeps asking herself. I understand it’s very difficult to make the decision… I think lots of people around the age of 30 have the similar worries/troubles. (Risa)

2009-08-07

denali

I was behind the sub pilot seat on the other day. Can you guess to where I flew? A hint is the highest mountain in the Northern American Continent. I think you already know what the answer is. Yes, I took a flight seeing tour to Mt. McKinley (or Denali in Athabaskan language) whose height is 6,194m at the south peak. As for the north peak, its height is 5,934m, slightly lower than the south. The view of glaciers flow around McKinley was just amazing. At the same time, it was unbelievable to see how steep the mountain is, and it is hard to understand why people try to climb it. The pilot mentioned about the probability of climbing. Surprisingly, 50% of tries have been succeeded. On the other hand, the success rate of climbing Mt. Foraker, 5,304m, is less than 10%. Anyway, I was able to have a look at McKinley, and I felt as if I climbed it. (Takashi)

wasabi candy

2009-08-06

denali

How are you today? This is Takashi and I am in Denali, Alaska. You may think it is cold here, but it is not. The weather has been so good that I only wear a T-shirt at the moment. However, it is not as hot as it is in Japan, and it is far less humid here. The photo above was taken around midnight. Can you believe that? The sun was going down, but it was still bright enough to roam around without flashlight. In fact, I have a difficulty in having a sleep because of this phenomenon. I hope I will get used to it soon. (Takashi)

2009-08-05

I saw quite a few pilgrims called o-henro-san when I visited Kochi and Kagawa Prefectures. The Shikoku Pilgrimage is a pilgrimage of 88 temples on the island of Shikoku, and it is believed the famous Buddhist, Kukai, founder of the Shingon school, visited all the temples. The pilgrimage is traditionally completed on foot, but modern pilgrims use cars, trains, buses, motorcycles, and so on. The walking course is about 1,200km long and can take 30-60 days to complete. The pilgrims usually wear white clothing and sedge hats and have walking sticks, so they are recognized very easily. Many of them usually begin and complete the journey by visiting Mount Koya in Wakayama, which was settled by Kukai and remains the headquarters of the Shingon school. Here is the picture of one of the 88 temples, Kongofuku-ji temple in Kochi. If you visit Shikoku, I believe you have chances to see the pilgrims. (Risa)

Kongofuku-ji

2009-08-04

Seimei Shrine

My friend and I went to Seimei Shrine, which is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the onmyoji, Abe no Seimei. The shine was founded in 1007 by Emperor Ichijo in memory of Abe no Seimei after his death in 1005.

Seimei Shrine

This is a well called Seimei-I located on the shrine grounds, and the water drawn from it is considered somewhat magical. Tea master, Sen no Rikyu was known to have brewed tea with the water from the well. The pentacle on the top of the well is an important symbol found on many parts of the shrine. How many stars can you find there? (Risa)

2009-08-03

How was your weekend? I hope you had a good one. My co-workers and I went to Osaka for a meeting today. I don’t know the difference of temperatures between Osaka and Kyoto, but I felt it was much hotter there… Maybe it’s because there are more and taller buildings there? I will write more tomorrow…I promise! (Risa)

2009-07-31

My family eat lots of vegetables every day. I counted how many kinds of vegetables were on the table the other night. Onions, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, sweet corns, pumpkins, green peppers, egg plants, celery, tsurumurasaki (basella alba), myoga, shiso, etc… I feel they give me lots of energy and strong power, and I especially love summer vegetables! (Risa)

2009-07-30

We have had weird weather these days. The rainy season usually ends in the middle of July, but it hasn’t yet… I miss beautiful sunshine and blue skies!!!

Our dog had the second operation last Sunday, and my mother went to see her on Tuesday. She couldn’t walk until then, but she shows a dramatic recovery and might be able to come back home on Sunday. Can’t wait! (Risa)

2009-07-29

Seto Ohashi

Do you know what bridge this is? The Seto-Ohashi Bridge is a series of bridges connecting Okayama and Kagawa Prefectures. It was built over the period 1978 to 1988, and I remember the news was splashed on the front of the paper and on TV when it was completed. It was the first time for me to cross the bridge, but I much prefer it to Akashi Ohashi Bright. You can see lots of small islands through the car windows, and the view is so beautiful. I will attach a few more photos below. (Risa)

Seto Ohashi Seto Ohashi

2009-07-28

We did some sightseeing on our trip to Kagawa, too. We visited Ritsurin Park which is one of the most famous and most beautiful historical parks in Japan. The park is located in Takamatsu City, and it’s probably a main attraction there. The history dates back to the early 17th century. In 1625, the feudal lord of Sanuki, Ikoma Takatoshi, began constraction of Ritsurin, specially the building of a garden around the South Pond using the beautiful greenery of Mt. Shuun as a backdrop. Beginning in 1642, Matsudaida Yorishige took over the area and continued its contraction. The work was completed by the 5th Lord Yoritaka in 1745 after 100 years of improvements and extensions made by the successive lords. There are a tea house, folk art and art exhibits, various bridges, etc in the park, so you won’t get bored there. It takes about 1-2 hours to walk around the park. If you have a chance to visit Kagawa, you must visit the park, too! (Risa)

ritsurin koen ritsurin koen

2009-7-27

How was your weekend? My friends and I went to Kagawa Prefecture to eat Sanuki (Old name for Kagawa) Udon on Saturday. We left Kyoto around 7:30a.m., but we arrived there just after 13:30 due to heavy traffic on our way. We visited two udon restaurants in Sakaide City, and the first one was Hikoe Seimeinsyo. It’s actually a noodle making company not a restaurant, but you can eat udon at the corner of the factory. The noodle was quite chewy, and I liked it very much.

udon udon

The second one was Nagata in Kanoka. We had Kama-age Udon there. It was nice too, but I preferred the first one. I thought the noodle there was a bit too soft… I don’t know exactly how many udon restaurants in Kagawa, but there are soooooooooo many! I would love to go there again and try the other restaurants. (Risa)

udon udon

July 24th

yoiyama

I know I should have written about this earlier…sorry about that. My friends and I went to Gion Festival (I wrote about the festival on July 13th, so please read it first) on the night of the 16th. One of us had invitation tickets to go up on the top of the float, Minamikannon Yama, which parades at the tail at Yamaboko Junko on the 17th, so we headed there. It was the first time for me to go up to the top of float in ages, so it was a good opportunity. We ate the food out on the street from the stalls on our way, and it was fun too.

yamaboko

My brother took this picture of Naginata Boko on the 17th. It parades at the head every year, and the Chigo is on there. The boy must cut a sacred rope, Shimenawa with a single stroke to begin the festival. If you get an interest in the festival, how about planning to visit Kyoto around this time next year? Hope you have a nice weekend. (Risa)

July 23rd

Last weekend, we had 3-day weekend. My friend and I went on a trip to Kochi Prefecture located on the south coast of Shikoku. The weather forecast said it would rain, but it wasn’t as bad as we expected. We visited Kochi Castle and then headed to the ryokan on the first day. We had Katsuo-no-Tataki (Slightly roasted bonito Shashimi) which is a famous local specialty of Kochi for dinner. It was delicious. We left the ryokan quite early next morning and went to Cape Ashizuri. I often heard the name when I was studying geography at a primary school, but it was the first time to visit there. I liked the grand view of Pacific Ocean and thought I wanted to come back here on a sunny day. Hope it will come true one day in the future.(Risa)

Kochi Castle Ashizuri

July 22nd

wasabi

Do you know what these plants are? This is a “Wasabi” (=Japanese horse radish) farm in Azumino in Nagano. I could not believe how magnificent the farm is. I guess lines of black sheets above the plants prevent birds from pecking and damaging the plants. Underneath the black sheets, Wasabi is lined very neatly like you can see in the photo above.

wasabi candy

Believe it or not, there are a lot of wasabi products not only as a spice but also ice cream, candy and snacks. Although I did not buy the candy, it looks good. To be honest, I do not eat wasabi that much, since I am allergic to raw fish. By the way, I am away to Alaska for a while from tomorrow. I will post an article when I get back in Kyoto. See you!! (Takashi)

July 21st

louvre

I went to the exhibition of Louvre on Saturday. This exhibition takes place at Kyoto City Museum and holds a wide range of collection from religious paintings, portraits to still-life paintings. One of the most popular art works of this exhibition is “The Lacemaker” by Johannes Vermeer’s. People crowded around this painting, and they prevented me from walking passed them. The exhibition takes place till the end of September, so if you will be in Kyoto during this period, this is a good place to visit.

the final judgement

On Sunday, I went out with my friends to Shimogamo Shrine and Garden of Fine Art at Kitayama. This art gallery is structured by concrete and has unique atmosphere. You can see some famous painting such as “Water Lillies” by Claude Monnet and “The Last Judgment” by Michelangelo. If you rent a bike, you can explore Kyoto quite easily. (Takashi)

July 17th

SUZU

Our dog has been suffering from a hernia of intervertebral disk, and she had an operation about 10 days ago. My parents considered the surgery but there was no way to fix the problem without it. The operation was a success and the pain was gone. but she still can’t walk. According to the doctor, it might take a while to recover as she’s not young… She’s been having rehabilitation training but she may have to take another surgery depending on the outcome of rehab. I hope she’ll get well and come out of the hospital soon. (Risa)

July 16th

hanabi

One of the signature summer events in Japan is firework. When I went to Mt. Fuji with my friends, we happened to see the fireworks at Lake Kawaguchi. The fireworks started with small ones, then big ones came later.

hanabi

This fireworks display was to celebrate the opening of Mt. Fuji. I had not seen fireworks for a long time, so it was really great to see them on a very special occasion. There are summer festivals and displays of fireworks during summer season, so I hope you will be able to go and enjoy them. (Takashi)

July 15th

soba

This is the last noodle I had on my trip to Yamanashi/Nagano. I tend to choose Udon when I go to a noodle restaurant in Kyoto, but I thought I should try Soba in Nagano. A friend of mine said the other day Soba is famous everywhere, and I think it’s true. Soba in Nagano is one of them. We went to a soba restaurant [Kusabue] and ordered Morisoba – the simplest one on the menu. I fully enjoyed and liked it very much.

soba soba

If you are interested in the process of soba making, you can see it at the restaurant. I strongly recommend you to visit there if you get a chance to go to Nagano. Here is the link of the restaurant; http://www.kusabue.co.jp/ (Risa)

July 14th

fuji

I went to see Mt. Fuji with my friends. When we got at the altitude of 2,400m by car, the top of the mountain was in the deep clouds which looked like mist. However, the clouds were blown away after a while. Then we could see the top which is 3,776m above the sea level and even the sunshine.

unkai

Once the top became clear, then we could see the sea of clouds spread below where we were. This scenery was really beautiful and it is hard to put my feelings in words. First of all, I felt it strange that I looked down the white clouds, since I usually look them up. In addition to this, it was such an amazing feeling that I walked in the cloud. One day, I would like to climb Mt. Fuji. But maybe I will get altitude sickness. (Takashi)

July 13th

How was your weekend? When you walk around Kyoto downtown now, you can feel the atmosphere of Gion Festival here and there. It is the most popular festival in Kyoto, and millions of people come to see it from all over Japan. Kyoto’s downtown area is reserved for pedestrian traffic on the 3 nights leading up to the massive parade. These nights are known as yoiyama on July 16th, yoiyoiyama on July 15th, and yoiyoiyoiyama on July 14th. My friends and I are planning to go there on the 16th, so I will try to take some pictures and put here.

Gion Matsuri

This is the picture taken by my bother today. [Syasan-no-Gi] took place and Chigo children (young boys chosen from among the Kyoto merchant families as the deity’s sacred pages) of Ayagasahoko visited Yasaka Shrine and prayed for the success of the festival. Hope the weather won’t be so bad during the festival. (Risa)

July 10th

chanpon

One of the famous food in Saga is “Champon”, which is actually originated in neighboring prefecture Nagasaki. It is a noodle dish with fried pork, vegetables and seafood in pig-bone based white soup called “Tonkotsu”. Some say that a word “champon” means to mix up things together. And others say it comes from Chinese language to ask whether you have already had meal. What makes champon different from other noodle dishes is that noodles are cooked in the soup, which means only one pan is needed from the beginning to the end. For example, ramen noodles are boiled in hot water and put in the soup which cooked in a different container. I would like to find a champon restaurant in Kyoto area. I hope you have a nice weekend. (Takashi)

July 9th

hoto

I had three kinds of noodles during my trip to Yamanashi/Nagano. The first one was Yoshida Udon and the second was Hoto. It is like a stew with flatter udon noodles and vegetables and a specialty of Yamanashi. I had eaten it before, but it was the first time for me to have it at a restaurant specializing in Hoto. I ordered Kinoko (mushrooms) Hoto and liked it very much. Here is the URL of the restaurant we went; http://www.kosaku.co.jp/ Check it out. (Risa)

July 8th

tonkotsu

A week before the last, I went to Fukuoka with my friend. Although you may have read the article about my trip to Fukuoka, I have not written about Tonkotsu Ramen (=noodles in pig-bone broth) yet. Fukuoka is famous for its various kinds of food, but especially the Ramen. There are so many noodle restaurants and also stalls everywhere. It seems that Tonkotsu Ramen is one of essential food for people in Fukuoka. If you have a chance to go there, I recommend you to go to Ramen Stadium and eat real Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen. (Takashi)

July 7th

udon

How was your weekend? I went on a trip to Yamanashi/Nagano with my friends this weekend. Our first stop was at an udon restaurant in Fuji-yoshida City, Yamanashi. There are so many udon restaurants in the area, so we couldn’t choose where to go even though we had a good map. We called Fuji-yoshida visitor center and asked which one is the best. They told us two options, and we decided to go to one of them, [Musashi]. The noodle was quite thick and chewy (very different to the one in Osaka/Kyoto), but it was really delicious. One more feature of the noodle was cabbage topping. It was new to me but nice. I want to have it again if I get a chance to visit there. (Risa)

udon

July 6th

golden gai

Friday night after work, I went out to eat and drink with Risa and her friend Guy. We went to a small teppan-yaki restaurant where 5 or 6 people can have seats, and we had really good dinner together.

meal

We had various dishes and I really liked fried bean sprouts and pork steak. Basically, everything was just great. While eating, we ordered some drinks. We tried sake, “Denki-Bran”, which is one type of brandy and much stronger “Denki-wari”. The alcohol was so strong that I felt my inside was burning. It is said that the word “Denki” is derived from the popular expression of the time when this alcohol was invented in Meiji Era which is also the time electricity (=denki) began to be used. I had a really fun night. Thank you Guy!! (Takashi)

July 2nd

When we went to Uji on Sunday, we stopped at a Japanese café, Tokichi Café, and took a rest on our way back. The history of the café goes back to 1859. Tokichi Nakamura opened a teashop, Nakamura Tokichi back then, and the shop has won numerous awards since the foundation. It’s been in business for 150 years now. My friend had green tea jelly and ice cream and I had a bowl of shaved ice with roasted tea syrup…I can’t explain well, so please look at the picture below. They both were really delicious and made us refreshed. Byodo-in, which is one of World Heritage Sites, is located only 5 minutes away from the café, so I recommend you to visit Uji if you have a spare day in Kyoto. Here is the URL of the café; http://www.tokichi.jp/cafe/index.php (Risa)

uji

July 1st

gate

I went to Saga castle which is very flat compared to other castles such as in Osaka and Himeji. It is surrounded by embankment and trees are planted on it. When you see the castle through the trees, it looks that the castle is sinking. The main enclosure of the castle was burned down in the Edo period, but it was restored years and years later. Now the castle holds a museum where you can get to know about how it was restored.

aisle

The main building is very spacious and decorated with very simple but impressive paper sliding doors called “Shoji”. This castle is located in Saga and very far from Kyoto. If you would like to visit a castle, there is Nijo Castle in Kyoto. You can see the famous nightingale floor and hear it chirp when you walk on it. (Takashi)

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