June - April, 2010


I was watching the World Cup soccer game until 2am last night. Japan battled bravely but went down to Paraguay in PKs. To be honest, I didnft expect the team proceeded to the top 16 even, but they did! They played well under lots of pressure and gave good results. Each player has mingled feelings now, but I think itfs ok they pat themselves on the back today. Take a good rest, boys! (Risa)


I went out for dinner with my friend on Saturday. She lived and worked in Tokyo until last September, but she quit her job and came back to Kyoto. She went about getting a job soon after that and itfs been 9 months. She is stressed out and doesnft know what to do. I understand how concerned she is about her futurecShe makes her effort to be more positive, but itfs very hard to be optimistic under present circumstances. The unemployment rate is 5.2% and still on the rise here in Japanc How much longer do we have to endure this situation? (Risa)


How was your weekend? My parents and I went to Fukui Prefecture to eat fresh seafood yesterday. The restaurant [TAKINOKAWA] is located in Echizen Town and is always chosen as the best Sushi restaurant in Fukui Prefecture. I remember we had lunch at the restaurant when I was a child, but itfs already more than 20 years since thenc Time fliesc The food lived up to their reputation and every dish was very delicious. (Risa)


Squid Sashimi. It was still alive!


wild clams. Very huge!


Grilled [Nodoguro]. Tasty. I love this fish.


Ishidai. A kind of snapper. Much better than we expected.


Sazae (Turban Shell). Itfs in season now. I like the texture.


Tuna Sashimi. Not oily but rich taste.


Deep-fried Okoze (stingfish).

We were so full and sleepy after we finished our lunch, but I was a driver on our way back because my father had beerc If you are interested, here is the official site; (Risa)



My friend and I went to USJ (Universal Studios Japan) earlier this month. The forecast said it was going to rain all day, but it stopped raining in the morning. We got there little after noon and stayed there until 5:30pm. We thought it was more crowded, but it wasnft. Maybe people cancelled their trip plan because it was raining very hard in the morning. Therefore, we could enjoy the rides and the other attractions to the fullest. If you are interested, here is the official site of USJ; We saw many tourists from overseas there and it was much more than I expected. I asked a couple to take a picture for us in Japanese, but they were Chinese. If you like this kind of amusement park, how about adding to your itinerary? (Risa)


When I went to yoga on Tuesday night, I had a little difficulty breathing before the lesson. I sat on the floor and tried to breathe gently and deeply, but I felt a sense of discomfort. Soon after that, the lesson started. The lesson was super hard and I was too busy keeping up with it. The yoga instructor told us to sit and asked how our breath changed compared to before the lesson, and I was surprised to find my breath was really smooth. I had a reluctance to go to the studio on that night, but I was glad I did. According to research by a newspaper company, yoga is the most popular lesson among working women in Japan. What about in your country? (Risa)



My friends and I went to Sanda, Hyogo Prefecture to see hydrangea on Sunday. They were not in full bloom (probably 50% or so) yet, but they were still beautiful. According to the staff at the garden, they started to bloom later than usual due to the low temperature in spring.

Look at this! It looks like a heart, doesnft it?


There were many more kinds of hydrangea in the garden, but here are few pictures I would like to share with you. I would love to visit there again when they are in full bloom. (Risa)

ajisai ajisai ajisai



How was your weekend? I went to my friendfs wedding on Saturday. The weather report on the previous night said it was going to rain, but it wasnft fortunately. The bride and gloom had their wedding ceremony at Shimogamo Shrine in the morning and then held the party at a Japanese restaurant [Tokanso] at Maruyama Park.


As you see from the pictures above, it was a pure Japanese wedding (except the wedding cake!). The bride and gloom wore Kimono and we were entertained by Maiko during the party. The Maiko performed a few dances in cerebration of their happy wedding and they were so pretty. It was the first time for me to talk with Maiko and it was a very nice experience, too. (Risa)


One of my friends posted some photos of me on her Facebook the other day. They were taken when I was in New Zealand 3-5 years ago and I was surprised to see I look very young in those photos! My appearance has changed in the past few years, but what about the other parts? I hope I age gracefully and grow wiser every day. (Risa)


I went to a yoga class after work yesterday. It was a little harder class, but I really enjoyed it and the time passed so quickly. Although I was feeling a bit dull due to the wet weather, I could refresh myself. The weather forecast was right and itfs sunny and hot today. The temperature is 35 degrees C (86 degrees F) now! (Risa)


The rainy season has finally started in Kansai area, so the weather has been gray and dull these days. According to the forecast, it will be sunny tomorrow, but rains are likely to continue for a week from Fridayc I have a few plans outside this weekend, so I am very disappointed... Hope a miracle happens! (Risa)


As it was raining on Sunday, my friend and I went to see a Japanese movie [KOKUHAKU] after lunch at a cosy café. The film is based on a novel of the same title written by Kanae Minato, which was a big hit in 2008. I didnft have any information about the film (I saw the ad on TV just once), but I knew it was very popular when we arrived at the theater. There was already a long queue although we got there 30 minutes in advance. The story was a bit scary, but I enjoyed it very much. I now understand why itfs so popular. According to an article I read the other day, it was decided the film will be distributed in Ireland, Hong Kong, and Korea. Also, some movie companies in the US want to remake it, so you might be able to see the film in your country in the near future. (Risa)


How was your weekend? My friend and I went to an outlet mall in Mie Prefecture on Saturday. We have been there quite a few times before, but we always go the wrong wayc We really donft know why. We printed out the direction and map before we left, but we did it again. It was already 1pm when we got there so we did shopping in a bit hurry. Even though we got lost, we talked a lot and had a great time together! (Risa)


Kitano Ijinkan is a historical district in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, which contains a number of foreign residences from the late Meiji (1868-1912)and early Taisho (1912-1926) Periods. While some of the houses still serve as residences, many are open to tourists, making this district one of the principal tourist attractions in Kobe.

Yamate Hachibankan

A chair (see the picture above) at Yamate Hachibankan has gotten a lot of attention these days. It is called [Saturn Chair] and featured on TV last month, so people come to sit on the chair and make a wish from all over Japan. The average waiting time in a queue on weekends is about 3 hours, but how about going there if you are interested? Here is the information site of Kobe; (Risa)


Uji River cormorant fishing, which is a summer evening seasonal tradition, will be run upstream of Uji Bridge, along the edge of Tonoshima Island from June 12th to Septembe 26th. The traditional event is said to have aleady been around during the Heian Period (794-1192) as depicted in Kagero Nikki, The Gossamer Years in English, written by the mother of Fujiwara no Michitsuna. The event reception will open at 6pm and ship departures are at 7pm. The fate is 1,800yen for adults and 900yen for children (up to 12 years old). There may be cancellations in the event of heavy rain or river flooding, please call the boat company before you make the reservation. The number is 0774-21-2328 (English language service is available). (Risa)



Daigo-ji Temple is now selling Daigo spring water, which is bottled groundwater pumped from a well in the templefs precincts. The temple has a legend that Rigen-daishi, the templefs founder resolved to spread Buddhism after drinking the delicious water. In 2009, the bottles were first given away as commemorative gifts for invited guests who attended the memorial service of the 1,100th anniversary of Rigen-daishifs death and gained the popularity. As a result, the temple decided to make them available commercially. The water intake from the well is limited at up to 5,000 or 10,000 bottles per month. You can buy at the shop in the temple precincts or by mail order. For more information, call the temple shop at 075-571-0112. (Risa)


Kobo-ichi at To-ji Temple is becoming internationalized in recent years. You can see not only foreign tourists but also Canadian and Chinese stallholders on the premises. The fair is so vibrant and you can hear various languages such as English, Chinese, French, German, etc. The Kobo-ichi is held to commemorate Kobofaishi Kukai, the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, on the 21st of every month, the date of his death. On a average, there are about 800 stalls lined up every month. According to the stall steering committee, the number of tourists from abroad has increased during the past few years after Singaporean, French, Chinese and other foreign media noted that it was one of the worldfs largest fairs. Depending on the season, foreigners account for nearly 10% of customers. Meanwhile, the number of stalls operated by foreigners has also increased, coming to 20 to 30 stalls every time. If you are interested and will be in Kyoto on the 21st, how about visiting the stall fair? (Risa)



How was your weekend? My mother and I went to a baking class yesterday and made a cheese cake [Kostlucher Kasekuchen]. My mother signed up for the class because she wanted to know the recipe and it came true yesterday.


We tasted the cake our teacher made after the class and we really liked it. We brought back the whole cake, so I called a friend and shared some with her. My mother says she will make it and give it to her mother on her birthday. (Risa)


I got a call from a friend last night and talked with her for a bit. She is getting married this month and busy preparing for the wedding ceremony. The wedding will be held at a Japanese restaurant in Maruyama Park. I have never been to a Japanese style wedding before, so I am looking forward to it. I will upload the pictures after June 19th. (Risa)


Various tours offering hands-on activities at tea fields here are gaining popularity among tourists from abroad. Wazuka, south of Kyoto Prefecture is renowned for the picturesque view of its Uji tea fields. Travel agencies are competing to team up with local tea growers to implement tourist attractions in the fields. Obubu Tea Plantations, a Wazuka-based agricultural venture firm, has been attracting an increasing number of participants to its tea pickng and stone-grounded matcha (green tea) tea-making tours, surging from around 15 in 2008 to about 150 in 2009. The tea growers has also witnessed a remarkable rise in foreign visitors. A tourism professor says that participants expect to refresh themselves in mind and body through tea picking and drinking. Maybe thatfs true. I feel refreshed when I spend time out in nature. If you are interested, please feel free to contact us! (Risa)


Itfs already Juneccan you believe it? The rainy season usually begins around June 5th, but it will start a bit later this year according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. I donft like rainy days, but I look forward to going to see hydrangea flowers. I believe they shine most in the rain. (Risa)


I stayed at a hotel in Tokyo on Saturday night, but I went to Yokohama to catch up with a friend on Sunday. Our purpose was just to talk, so we didnft do anything touristy. We just had a lunch at a café and took a walk along the harbor, but I quite liked the city. I would love to visit there again and stay longer next time. (Risa)



How was your weekend? I went to Tokyo to attend a friendfs wedding ceremony and stayed there on Saturday night. The bride is my best friend from high school and we have kept in touch though we live far away from one another. In the past several years, she kept saying she wanted to get married as soon as possiblecand, she finally met him.


They both looked very happy at the wedding, and more than 100 people were there to celebrate them. They are on their honeymoon in France now and I believe they are having lots of fun! Congratulation on your marriage, Yukako! (Risa)


One of the three big festivals in Japan, Gion Matsuri will take place from July 1st to 31st. Kyotofs downtown area is reserved for pedestrian traffic on the three nights from July 14th (yoiiyoiyoiyama), 15th (yoiyoiyama) and 16th (yoiyama) leading up to the massive parade on 17th. The streets are lined with night stalls selling food, toys, and goldfish, etc, and lots of people visit Kyoto to see the festival from all over the world. Recently, we receive many inquiries and booking requests during the period these days, too. If you are planning to come to Kyoto to join the festival, let me remind you to make your reservation immediately, as the rooms will sell out very soon. (Risa)



One of my co-workers took time off from work yesterday & today and went to Toyama and Ishikawa Prefectures to watch the game of his favorite baseball team. Unfortunately, the game was cancelled on account of rain yesterday and hefs in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture now. According to him, it still rains a bit, but hopefully the game wonft be called off today. Apparently he is having lunch now and sent me the picture above. It looks yummy! You can eat it if you come to Japan! (Risa)


Students from Ritsumeikan University published an information booklet about Sake (rice wine) in Fushimi. The booklet also introduces tourists spots around the sake brewery district in Fushimi Ward, including Teradaya Inn and Jukkoku-bune, or old-fashioned wooden houseboats, etc and has maps. It includes descriptions of technical terms such as Toji (chief sake brewer), and Sugitama (maturity indicator of Japanese sake), as well as studentsf remarks such as the sake is geasy to drink and it suits womenh and so on. 11 students from the university worked on this as one assignment for an English class. The booklet is being distributed at hotels and tourist information counters throughout the city. Itfs also available through the university web site, so check this out; (Risa)



My mother and I took a baking class earlier this month. We made [Streuselkuchen] and [Zuckerkuchen] this time. I enjoyed the class very much, but unfortunately they were not my favoritec After the class, we had a long walk from Kitayama to Sanjo. We stopped at a café [Limour] on the way and took a rest for a while. Itfs a tiny café and a bit difficult to find, but I guarantee you can kick back and relax there. Financier is their specialty, so donft miss it if you go there! (Risa)


How was your weekend? My friend and I went to Kurama & Kibune area to do some hiking on Saturday. We took a train from Demachiyanagi Station and got off at Kurama Station. We bought our lunch and started our hike around noon. We took a rest at Kurama Temple and headed to Kibune. It was about 4pm when we got back at Demachiyanagi. I like the area and go there for a hike a couple of times a year. If you have spare time in Kyoto, how about going there? (Risa)


I took an English exam, TOEIC in June, 2008 and the score I got will be expired soon (itfs valid for 2 years only). I use English for work, but I donft make particular effort to improve my English skills these days and donft think I can get the similar score to the last onec I think itfs time to study again. According to the TOEIC website, the exam is scheduled in November, so I decided to start to study for it! (Risa)


I was talking with a friend last night and something he said got me thinking. He got scolded by his senior worker and was feeling down. I understand what his work superior tried to say, but I donft think hefs 100% correct. I know my friend has great respect for him, so I think hefs more confusedc I often hear Japanese people tend to get depressed or stressed especially in May and June. There are a few reasons we can think of. 1. Many people start a new life in April and have a difficulty adapting themselves to the changes. 2. People lose their motivation after a long holiday in early May, etc. They are not the case with him, but I think lots of people are suffering from May Depression (we call) like him nowc Hang in there! (Risa)


Kyoto City has updated its online official travel guide to provide city tourism information. Originally released I 1998, the travel guide has information on 6,000 shrines, temples and others. Supporting four languages, Japanese, English, Mandarin and Korean, it has about 320,000 pages views per month. Using the personal tourist map function which was added recently, site visitors can generate and print their own map displaying locations, history of facilities, and event information by selecting facilities and events of interest on the web site. In addition, the site provides a new search function on the map to find the locations and explanations of a total of 472 guide plates, which outline the history of shrines, temples and other sites. Targeting the increase in French tourists, language support has also been expanded to include French. Here is their site; (Risa)


How was your weekend? It was sunny and beautiful on Saturday, and my friend and I went to Shiga for a drive. We didnft have a specific destination and decided to drive round Lake Biwa. We followed the route shown on our car navigation system, but we got lostcand came back to where we were after we drove for 50 minutes. We gave up going around the lake and had a rest at a café. We stayed there for an hour and headed back to Kyoto, but we got stuck in heavy traffic and it was almost 10pm when we got back home. A few unexpected things happened during our trip, but we had much fun. (Risa)


Japanese water irises, designated as a Natural Monument of Japan, are at their peak at Ota Shrine in Kamigamo, Kyoto. Approximately 25,000 wild irises grow in the wetland neat the shrine gate. Fujiwara no Toshinari, a Heian Period poet, wrote a waka poem, describing the carpet of purple flowers. The flowers have attracted many people since ancient times. According to the shrine, the irises can be enjoyed until around May 25th. If you go to see Aoi Festival this Saturday, how about visiting the shrine at the same time?(Risa)


The Aoi Festival takes place this Saturday as the first of Kyotofs three major festivals. This yearfs Saio-dai (heroine of the festival), Maya Kawasaki is the first person born in the Heisei Period to play the leading female role in the festival. Her mother and aunt also served as a Saio-dai, and this is the first time in history where a mother, a daughter and her aunt have played the same role. If you are interested in the festival, here is more information; According to the weather forecast, itfll be a perfect day for the festival! (Risa)


Are you looking for a nice place to stay in Kyoto? Yuzuya Ryokan offers a special plan for you. You can stay at the luxury for 27,500yen/person on weekdays & Sundays and 30,800yen/person on Saturdays including dinner and breakfast. This discount is a substantial saving! This plan applies until Aug. 31st, so donft miss it! Here is their site; (Risa)


[Noryo Yuka], one of Kyotofs summer attractions has started on May 1st. According to the cooperative for Noryo Yuka (dining terraces/decks), 98 restaurants, the largest number in the last couple years, open terraces/decks this year. The wooden decks are built on a 2.5 kilometer section of the right river back between Nijo Ohashi Bridge and Gojo Ohashi Bridge. Dining terraces/decks in May are very popular, especially during the daytime hours. You can see Higashiyamafs fresh greenery from the terraces and itfs so lovely. You can also enjoy dinner on the decks, but donft forget to bring a topcoat or something as it still gets chilly in the nighttime in May. If you stay at Ikumatsu or Tazuru on our website, you can have dinner on their dining terrace. Please contact us if you are interested! (Risa)


Chikubu Island Chikubu Island

During the Golden Week, my friend and I went to Chikubu Island on Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture.The national government has designated it a special historic site.

People have believed a god lives on the island and itfs been worshiped since ancient times. In the southern part of the island, there is Hogon-ji founded by Gyoki after he received an imperial edict delivered by the imperial messenger. The Imperial edict was issued in 724, after the Emperor Shomu received a divine message from Amaterasu O Mikami, the Sun Goddness.

Chikubu Island Chikubu Island

There is the Tsukubushuma Shrine just next to the Hongo-ji Temple. It is said to have been established in 420, so itfs about 1600 years old! The shrine ranks as one of Japanfs Three Great Benzaiten (The God of music, wealth and eloquence) Shrines. There is Miyazaki Torii facing the Lake Biwa and you can enjoy the magnificent view as above. You can buy small plates and write your name and wishes on them and throw them toward the Torii. It is said that your wish comes true if they pass through the Torii. Me? I didnft succeedc

It was the first time for me to visit the island, but I really enjoyed it. If you are interested, the regular liners depart from Hikone, Nagahama and Oumi Imazu. (Risa)



After the berry farm, we headed to Hase-dera Temple in Sakurai City. The temple was first built in 686 and dedicated to Emperor Temmu, who was suffering from a disease. Later in 727, the temple was further expanded by order of Emperor Shomu, placing the eleven-faced Kannon near the original temple enshringing the bronze plaque. The temple has flourished as one of the centers of Shingon Buddhism, particularly after the arrival of priest Senyo from Nagoro-ji in 1588.


The temple is also famous for seasonal flowers. You can enjoy peony flowers from late April to early May, and they were blooming beautifully when we went there. It was favored by aristocracts such as the author of the Tale of Genji and the author of The Pillow Book, etc during the Heian Period. I think it is definitely one of my favorite temples. (Risa)




Hello! We were closed during Golden Week (I believe I wrote about it before, so please check my past news if you are interested) from May 1st to 5th and we are back today. My friends and I took a day trip to Nara on Tuesday and had a great time there. Our first stop was a berry farm at Asuka Village. We did strawberry picking for the first time in 25 years or so. I remember it was an outdoor activity when I was little, but it was in the plastic greenhouse this time. It was too hot to stay in the greenhouse, so we couldnft eat as much as we thought, but we enjoyed it very much. I will write about Hase-dera Temple tomorrow, so check it out. (Risa)



How's you day going? Did you have too much sleep? For those of you who love to speep too much, but still looking for place to visit in Kyoto from afternoon, let me introduce you 'Fushimi Inari Taisha.' It is located in Fushimi-ku. It is only a few stations away from Kyoto station by using JR Nara Line; only 5-10 min by train. The Shrine is right across from JR Inari station. You will see a lot of 'Torii' there, and I am sure you will feel like you are 'Alice in Wonderland' while you are visiting there! Just let you know that the Shrine sits at the base of mountain called 'Inari.' Please prepare for camera, casual wear, and hiking shoes for a great adventure! (Akira)



Let's get to know more about Nara. Within a day trip from Kyoto, you can probably visit a few temples in Nara. My recommendation to you after visiting 'Horyu-ji' is 'Yakushi-ji.' Yakushi-ji is the most famous imperial and ancient Buddhist temples in Japan. It was built in Asuka period in 680 by Emperor Temmu to pray for revovery from illness for his consort. Yakushi-jiYakushi-ji

Yakushi-ji's layout is symmetrical with two main halls and two three-story pagodas. People usually call them 'five' story pagodas, 'Gojyu-no Tou' in Japanese, because there are five roofs. However, it is not right. The number of story depends on number of floors. Sometimes it is not easy to find out how many floors in each pagodas; the easiest way to find out number of story is to count number of doors from outside. In addition, there are two pagodas in Yakushi-ji. East pagoda is the only original 8th-centurystructure at Yakushi-ji. Please compare those two towers and find differences! Also, if you really want to see Buddhist monks while you are visiting Japan, they are available at Yakushi-ji all the time; not many temples offer monks to be there all the time for you. (Akira) Yakushi-jiYakushi-ji



Are you having a wonderful GW(Golden Week)?Let me introduce another day trip from Kyoto for you. Today's place is called 'Horyu-ji' in Nara Prefecture. Nara is very popular place to visit among tourists. There are famous temples with great nature. The most famous temple is 'Horyu-ji'; it is widely acknowledged to be the oldest wooden buildings existing in the world today. The temple was originally commissioned by Prince Shotoku in 607; he is very famous, but also known as the most mysterious guy in the history. You can learn about temples and Prince Shotoku by visiting there. Nara is only less than one hour by local JR train, called Nara line, from Kyoto, and Horyu-ji is about 15 mins away from JR Nara Station by using another JR line. Please visit there if you have time! (Akira)




My family and I went out for dinner the other night and we left the restaurant with a sense of satiety. But, we found a wine bar [WINE CRAZY] on our way to the station and were drawn into the bar. The wine shop and bar was opened about 20 years ago, but the building looks much older than that. According to the bar staff, the building (originally private residence) was moved from Ishikawa Prefecture and rebuilt at the present location. There are not so many seats (maybe less than 10), but I recommend you to go there if you have a chance. I found it very unique and interesting. (Risa)


How was your weekend? My friend and I went on a hike on Sunday. We set off at 9:30 a.m. and headed to Mt. Daimonji. We started our day trip at Sanjo, downtown Kyoto and walked to Imadegawa along Kamo River.

Kamo River

After we arrived at Kawabata Imadegawa, we turned right and headed to Ginkaku-ji Temple. We saw Mt. Daimonji on our way.


There is a starting point of a trail up to Mt. Daimonji just behind Ginkaku-ji. I canft remember exactly what time we got there, but I think it was probably 10:30-ish. We kept walking silently and arrived at the stop-off point at 11:15. We still had to walk a little more to the top of the mountain and reached the summit at 11:45-ish. This is the view from the mountain top.


Going down was quite easy and it didnft take so long to descend from the mountain. We walked back to Sanjo via Philosopherfs Path and Nanzen-ji and took a coffee break at Starbuck there. After our break, we went to Gion to do some shopping and then we said good bye at 3:30 p.m. It was a perfect day for hiking and we enjoyed our trip a lot! (Risa)



Hello everyone! This is Akira! Today, I like to introduce some advantages of staying Kyoto with us. As you know, Kyoto is the best way to see Japanese culture; the best sightseeing spot in Japan. I totally recommend to visit Kyoto and stay with us if you have never visited Japan before. However, if you are repeated customer and looking for a day activities beside Kyoto area, I recommend to visit 'OSAKA' or 'NARA.' Let's talk about OSAKA. OSAKA is very unique place. People are so emotional and funny all the time. There are so many gourmet food too. I went a place called 'Tsu-ten-kaku' on last Saturday. There is a cute tower and there are some gourmet food stores around the tower. Take a look all pictures. Can you see what is on hotdog bun? This is a dessert, so there is no sausage, but a soft ice cream is there! This is called 'Ice-Dog.' Enjoy the taste of hot deep flied bun and cold ice cream! Another famous food in this area is called 'Kushikatsu.' I don't have any picture of Kushikatsu, however, I got a picture of 'Daruma,' the most famous Kushikatsu shop in Japan. My favorite food in Osaka is 'Takoyaki.' It's very yummy~~~! Try them all! Just let you know, Osaka is only 15 min by Shinkansen (*You need connection rail from Shin-Osaka to Osaka.) (Akira)> OSAKAOSAKAOSAKAOSAKAOSAKA



Our last stop was Kyoto Imperial Palace. The Palace lost much of its function at the time of the Meiji Restoration, when the capital was moved to Tokyo in 1869 and the Emperor has resided at Tokyo Imperial Palace since then, but the Taisho and Syowa Emperors still had their coronation ceremonies at the Palace. Today the grounds are open to the public, and the Imperial Household Agency hosts public tours of the buildings several times a day. If you are interested, here is their office site; (Risa)



Our third stop was Ninna-ji. The temple was founded in the early Heian Period (794-1185). In 886, Emperor Koto ordered the consctruction of the NisjiyamaGohanji Temple to bless the nation and propagate Buddhism teaching, but he didnft live to see its completion. Emperor Uda saw the construction to its completion in 888 and named it Ninna-ji after the regnal year of of the late Emperor Kotofs reign. From 888 to 1869, it was traditional for reigning Emperors to send a son to the temple to take over as head priest when a vacancy arose. It is also part of the Historic Monument of Ancient Kyoto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ninna-ji Ninna-ji Ninna-ji

The temple is also famous for cherry blossoms. There is a garden in the precincts and itfs filled with various kinds of cherry blossoms. People visit the temple especially to see [Omuro Zakura] from all over Japan every year. They start to bloom a bit later than the other kinds, so if you canft come to Kyoto from late March to early April, do visit Ninna-ji instead! (Risa)



Our next stop was Ryoan-ji. It is also a Zen temple and one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple is especially famous for their Karesansui (dry garden style) rock garden. The garden consists of raked gravel and 15 moss-covered boulders, which are place so that, when looking at the garden from any angle only 14 of the boulders are visible at one time. Actually, I tried a couple of times, but I couldnft count 15 bouldersc This style of garden is typically seen in Zen temples, and itfs completely different from the gorgeous gardens of court nobles constructed in the Middle Ages. Itfs definitely one of the masterpieces of Japanese culture (I think), so I recommend you to visit there while you are in Kyoto. (Risa)


Ifm sorry I didnft post the news yesterday as I was out of the office all day. One of our clients from Alaska visited Kyoto, so I showed her around the city. We went to Kinkaku-ji, Ryoan-ji, Ninna-ji, and Kyoto Imperial Palace. I will write a bit about Kinkaku-ji today. Kinkaku-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple and one of the constructions that represents the Kitayama Culture of Muromachi period (1333-1573).The original temple was built in 1397 to serve as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and then his son, Ashikaga Yoshimochi covered the building into a Zen temple of the Rinzai school.


The pavilion was burned down by a monk named Hayashi Yoken, who then attempted suicide on the Daimon-ji hill behind the building. He survived, and was subsequently taken into custody. During the investigation after the monkfs arrest, his mother was called in to talk with the police, on her way home, she committed suicide by jumping from her train into a river valley. The monk was sentenced to 7 years in prison, but was released because of mental illness in 1955. During the fire, the original stature of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu was lost to the flames (now restored). A fictionalized version of these events is at the center of Yukio Mishimafs book, [The Temple of the Golden Pavillion], so I recommend you to read the book if you want to know more about the events. I will write about the other temples tomorrow. (Risa)


I went to a supermarket near my place earlier this week and found the prices of vegetables were rising due to the low temperatures and little sunlight these days. I went there to buy a cabbage, but I nearly had a stroke when I found out the pricec How much do you think it was? 880yen!!! Itfs more than US$9.00!!! Do you still buy it? Me? Of course, I didnft. (Risa)



Letfs continue where I left off yesterdayc Their dinner is served in a private room with a view of the East China Sea.


My uncle and aunt sent me more pictures, but I just picked two of them. Their cuisine is made with seasonal ingredients from the mountain and the sea of Amakusa.


People say they can eat breakfast at a ryokan even if they donft have a habit of eating it and they feel it tastes better. I am a breakfast person, but I understand what they say. Look at the above pictures. They look very healthy and delicious, donft they? I would love to visit Amakusa and stay at the ryokan one dayc (Risa)



My uncle and aunt went on a trip to Kumamoto in Kyushu and sent me a few pictures, so I would like to share them with you. They went to Kumamoto by train, rented a car there, and headed to a ryokan in Amakusa. It took about 7.5 hours from Kyoto as they took a train, but I recommend you to fly there if you are not afraid of flying. Itfs much quicker! They stayed at a ryokan called [Ishiyama Rikyu, Gosoku-no-kutsu] for two nights and just relaxed there.


The ryokan is located on a hillside at the west end of Kyushu, looking down at the East China Sea. Each room (villa) has indoor bath and outdoor bath, and the view from the outdoor is fabulous. Look at the picture above. There are Villa A/B opened in 2002 and Villa C opened in 2005, and these two zones are quite different from each other, in views, room atmosphere, cuisine, and the air itself. If you are interested, here is their official site (only Japanese available); I will write about their food tomorrow. (Risa)


river cruise

River cruises along the Fushimi waterside, which once flourished as a port town, started on April 1 along both the Uji River canal and the Hori River. Enveloped by the fragrance of spring, visitors enjoy cruises on the wooden houseboats redolent with the flavor of the past. The cruises are operated by Fushimi Yumekobo Co. Ltd., a town management organization, in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto. They connect the boarding area behind Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum with the "Misu-komon" water gate in "Fushimi Minato Hiroba," or the waterside area of Fushimi, in an approximately five kilometer long, 55-minute round-trip. Passengers savored their peaceful time as they cruised along the waterway between the white walls of sake breweries colored by willows. The cruises are operated daily, except Mondays, until November 30. The fare is 1,000 yen for adults and 500 yen for elementary school students and younger. For more information, contact Fushimi Yumekobo Co. Ltd. at 075-623-1030. (Risa)


botanical garden

How was your weekend? I went to [Kyoto Botanical Garden] located in Kitayama area with my grandmother yesterday. The weather wasnft so nice, but we bought lunch and headed there. After we strolled around the garden for a while, we sat on the bench and ate lunch in a shower of cherry blossoms. Yesterday was the first time I went out with my grandmother (I mean only two of us) in ages, and it brought back some memories with her. She turned 83 years old today, but I hope she will keep her good health and live a long time. (Risa)



My friend and I went to Maruyama Park to see the lit-up cherry blossoms on our way back from Shuhaku. We took a table near the tree and stayed there for a while. One more friend joined us and moved to a bar in the downtown. We couldnft stay there any longer as it was very cold that night. Maruyama Park is the main center for cherry blossoms viewing in Kyoto and can get extremely crowded at that time of year. We got there after 9pm, but there were still so many people having a party in the park. I saw quite a few tourists from overseas, and they were having a good fun! (Risa)


Last night, my friend and I went to a restaurant [Shuhaku] and enjoyed Kaiseki Ryori (a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner). The restaurant was opened in 2001 when the owner was 29 years old and itfs been popular since then. The owner worked at a French restaurant for 6 years in his late 10s and early 20s, so we thought his dishes (not all of them) were unconventional and quite interesting. Itfs located near Yasaka Shrine and Kodaiji Temple, so you can go there easily after you do sightseeing in Gion area. But, I recommend you to make a reservation far in advance.

Here are the pictures of the dishes we had. Every dish was delicious and impressive, but I especially liked the third one and sixth one. (Risa)

shyuhaku shyuhaku shyuhaku shyuhaku shyuhaku shyuhaku shyuhaku shyuhaku


More photos of cherry blossomsc My brother took them along the Lake Biwa Canal near our house. I will explain a bit about the canal here. It is a waterway built during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) to transport water, freight, and passenger from Lake Biwa to Kyoto City. This waterway was also used as Japanfs first hydroelectric power generator, which served to provide electricity for Kyotofs trams. At present, the waterway is not used so much to generate electricity, but rater for water supply, fire-fighting and irrigation purpose.

cherry blossoms cherry blossoms cherry blossoms

I love the color contrast between vivid yellow of rape blossoms and fair pink of cherry blossoms. The both flowers signal the arrival of spring and make me very happy. (Risa)


cherry blossoms cherry blossoms

My mother and I walked back to Kitaoji Station after the baking class on Sunday and saw a long row of cherry blossom trees. This year, the cherry trees in Kyoto started to bloom a bit earlier than usual, but it took a while to be in full bloom due to the low temperatures in late March. According to the report by Kyoto Shimbun, the cherry blossoms at most temples and shrines are in full bloom now. If you are planning to visit Kyoto this weekend, I recommend you to go to the northern part of Kyoto such as Ohara or Kurama, etc. (Risa)


easter bunny

How was your weekend? I went to a baking class with my mother yesterday and made [Osterhasen aus Hefeteig] this time. In English, itfs Easter bunny bread. The process was very easy, but it was quite tough to decorate them with icing and chocolate, etc.

easter bunny

This is the one which our teacher made. She has bigger ears and looks cuter, doesnft she? We will make German-style cheese cake next month and are looking forward to it! (Risa)


I canft believe itfs already April! Time fliesc The weather has been unstable here in Kyoto these days and itfs pretty hard to keep up a good condition. If you are planning to come to Kyoto over the next weeks, donft forget to bring warm clothes, too. You might not believe, but it snowed on Monday this week! Hope you have a lovely weekend. (Risa)


Hotel Matsui on our website ( will reopen as Matsui Bekkan Hanakanzashi on April 3rd, and I went to a private show this morning. Its lobby, communal bathrooms, guest rooms (not all of them), etc. were renovated and they look brand-new. The ryokan is located in the middle of downtown, so itfs very convenient to go shopping and sightseeing. Please let me know as soon as possible if you would like to make a reservation there as itfs a very popular ryokan. (Risa)

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