September - July, 2011


I noticed a sweet scent of Kinmokusei (sweet osmanthus in English?) on my way to work this morning. Ifve liked the smell since I was little, and it always makes me happy. I think the flowers will be in full bloom soon and you can smell the scent here and there. Hope youfll have a lovely weekend. (Risa)


We had internet problems this week, so I'm sorry we couldn't post any news for the last couple of days. The weather has suddenly become cooler, and autumn sure is here. It still gets warm during the day, but we need a light jacket in the mornings and evenings. If you are planning to come to Kyoto in October, the weather will be similar, so donft forget to bring the both cooler and warmer clothes. (Risa)



How was your weekend? Sep. 23rd was a public holiday here in Japan, so we had a longer weekend. My mother and I took a baking lesson and made a carrot cake yesterday. According to our teacher, itfs originated in Switzerland, but itfs very popular all over the world (especially western countries) now. When I lived in New Zealand, it was one of my favorite cakes and I often ate it at home or cafes. The recipe we learned yesterday is a bit different to the one I had, but I like the both. I will definitely make it at home again. (Risa)


A big typhoon moved across the Kansai region, the Tokai & Kanto regions, and the Tohoku region yesterday, and it caused great damage againc We have too many natural disasters this year, and I feel deep sympathy for the victims.

My husband and I went to my parentsf place and had dinner together last night. My grandmother also joined us, and we had a nice time together. Sep. 19th was a public holiday called [Respect-for-the-Aged Day] here in Japan, so it was good to spend time with her last night. (Risa)


Ifve almost completed the travel itinerary for my friends. One of the friends decided to bring her daughter with her, so they gave up Hiroshima/Miyajima and decided to stay in Kyoto longer than they originally planned. Now, Ifm looking for their accommodationscand, Ifve realized how busy Kyoto is through the year. There are less tourists in summer and winter, but the ryokans in Kyoto are booked by school groups in and out of seasonc If you are thinking of coming to Kyoto in autumn/winter, please contact us ASAP! (Risa)


My friends in New Zealand are planning to come to Japan for 10 days next February, and Ifve been thinking about their travel itinerary. A few days in Kyoto, a day or two in Hiroshima, and then to Kyushuc Ifm also thinking about a nice hot spring resort somewhere. One of the friends might bring her daughter who is only 2 years old, so it shouldnft be a tight schedule. I will do more research over the weekend. I hope you will have a nice one. (Risa)


Monday was my birthday, and it became an opportunity to look back over my life. Many things happened to me in the past 32 years and are still happening to me. People say [Life is full of ups and downs] but I do agreecbut, I also agree with this saying [Bad times will not last forever]. I hope this will be a happy year for me! (Risa)



My uncle and aunt went to a ceremony called [Kangetsu-no-Yube] held at Daikaku-ji Temple and took the pictures above last Saturday. Daikaku-ji is a Shingon Buddhist temple founded in the early Heian period. The temple was once a detached palace belonging to Emperor Saga. In 876, his first daughter Empress Masako renovated the palace as Daikaku-ji temple and appointed her son, Imperial Prince Gojaku as the first chief priest. The temple inherited the doctrine of the monk Kukai, also known as Kobo-Daishi, whose faith Emperor Saga embraced.

The Kangetsu-no-Yube ceremony has tea ceremonies, musical performances with a Japanese harp and concerts as well as Shinto rituals. In addition, you can have fun on a dragon-headed boat and a bird-headed boat in a pond, Osawa-no-ike. The ceremony originated in the time when Emperor Saga played with nobles on boats and itfs been popular (among aristocrats in the old days) since then. The schedule changes every year, so donft forget to check it if you are interested in coming next year. (Risa)


Tsukimi, literary moon-viewing refers to Japanese festivals honoring the autumn moon. The celebration of the full moon typically takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar, and the day normally falls in September and October of the modern solar calendar. Today (Sep. 12th) is the day this year. Tsukimi traditions include displaying decorations made from Japanese pampas grass called susuki and eating rice dumplings in order to celebrate the beauty of the moon. In addition, there are several other food associated with Tsukimi. At McDonaldfs in Japan, a special fall menu is offered during September and October featuring fried eggs sandwiches known as Tsukimi burger. One of my co-workers went to McDonaldfs and ate it for lunch today. Hope we can see the full moon beautifully tonight. Ifll write about the Tsukimi more tomorrow. (Risa)


I was looking for a good massage place for 3-4 months and finally found it yesterday! Itfs located near our office and the treatment is covered by insurance, so I can go there easily. How much did I spend until I saw the osteopath???? I am so glad to see my savior finally! (Risa)


I got a text from a friend whom I havenft seen for a while yesterday. He lives in Fukuoka now, but he was visiting Osaka on a job training program for a couple of days. He is an Australian, but he speaks Japanese so well and got a job at a Japanese company as a product manager. He has a good job, lives at a nice place, and has a lovely girlfriend, so he should be happier than he sounded yesterday. It was very nice to hear from him, but I hope hefll be happier than now! (Risa)


How was your weekend? I went out even though the typhoon was approaching on Saturday. I visited my friend in hospital in Shiga and then went to my auntfs place in the afternoon. I was born when my aunt was 17 years old, so she treated me with a lot of affection and she still does now, too. We talked about various things for hours on Saturday and it was fun. Hope you had a nice weekend. (Risa)


A big typhoon is slowly approaching Kansai area and it will hit us within 12 hours according to the weather report. Forecasters are predicting gale force winds and rain, so people have to be careful on their way back home tonight. I am going to visit a friend in a hospital tomorrow, so I hope itfs gone by thenc Hope you have a nice weekend. (Risa)


I noticed Ginkgo fruit ripens on trees at Kyoto Imperial Palace when I went there last weekend. Their changes in color signal that autumn is on the way. The nut-like seeds of Ginkgo are popular food in the fall season, and I love them too. I want to enjoy my favorite season to the fullest this year! (Risa)


The full opening of the Kyushu Shinkansen bullet train line in March this year has attracted many passengers to local sightseeing trains in the Kyushu region. One of them, JR Ibusuki no Tamatebako is a limited express train connecting Kagoshima-Chuo Station and Ibusuki Station in the city of Ibusuki, Kagoshima Prefecture, in an hour. My brother lives in Kagoshima, and my parents will visit Kyushu next month, so I will recommend them to take the sightseeing train there. (Risa)


I got good news from my friend last night. She was looking for a job for nearly 2 years, and shefs finally got one! She starts to work near my office from next week, so I was glad to hear that, too. The Japanfs economy is still unstable, but it was indeed great news. This week has passed so quickly and I canft believe itfs already Friday. Hope you have a nice weekend. (Risa)


I got a mail from a friend in New Zealand a couple of days ago. She just came back from a trip to Africa. She and her boyfriend stayed there for 6 weeks and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Itfs nearly 6,000m and a huge mountain! They are both over 65 years old, but they are still very young and full of energy. They know how to enjoy life – I feel so every time I see them. I havenft seen them for a while, so I miss them very much! (Risa)


Summer is nearly over, so I think we have to talk about autumn now. If you are planning to visit Kyoto to see the autumn colors, we strongly recommend you to start looking for a hotel/ryokan and make a reservation immediately. We are always happy to help you, please contact us anytime, too! (Risa)


How was your weekend? We had a cool weekend as the weather forecast predicted. I woke up, feeling chilly this morningcand I feel a very hot summer is endingc Autumn is my favorite season, so I canft wait!


According to the weather forecast, it will get a little cooler after this weekend finally! We are sick of this heat, so we canft wait! (Risa)



There was one of four big events called [Gozan no Okuribi] in Kyoto last night. This event has some hundreds years of history. During obon the spirits of ancestors came back home, and on the last day of obon (Aug. 16th) we send them off with fire. Lots of people also prayed for the earthquake victims this yearc

Five giant bonfires are lit on mountains surrounding the city from 8pm. Three of them form giant Chinese characters, and two of them are shapes (boat and shrine gate). My aunt took the picture above at Kawaramachi Imadegawa and sent it to me, so I want to share it with you. One of my co-workers also went to see it after work last night. They saw the bonfires from the top of Mt. Yoshida and they could see them clearly. (Risa)


I met a friend the other day and heard the sad news about her sister. She was only 34 years old, but she suffered from womb cancer and had a hysterectomy last yearc. She wanted babies, so I imagine how shocked she wasc After I met her, I took pap-test and heard the result this morning. I am examined every 6 months, but I still get nervous every time I call the clinicc I am one of the women who donft like the test, but I keep saying itfs very important to get it before itfs too late to my friends. (Risa)



How was your weekend? My uncle and aunt went to Kyo no Tanabata Festival and sent the above pictures to me. In the Horikawa River area, a [Milky Way of Light] illumination event is held where you can feel as if you are actually walking along the Milky Way.


They are art works [Choju-jinbutsu-giga] created by students at Department of Manga, Kyoto University of Art and Design. It is a famous set of four picture scrolls belonging to Kozan-ji temple in Kyoto. The right-to-left reading direction of Choju-jinbutsu-giga is still a standard method seen in modern manga and novel in Japan. It is also credited as the oldest work of manga.

If you are interested, today is the last day of the festival, so donft miss it! (Risa)



One of my co-workers went to Kyoto Tanabata Festival with his wife last night and took the pictures above at Nijo Castle. Very fantastic! (Risa)


My husband and I went to Toki Matsuri, a massive outdoor pottery fair that is held on the both sides of Gojo Street between the Kamo River and Higashioji from Aug. 7th to 10th annually. About 400,000-500,000 people visit the event to look for bargains every year, and you are sure to find something worth buying at this sale. We set the budget limit and started a shopping hunt. We found some favorite shops and bought a few ceramic plates and dishes. Also, we met several potters we know and had a chat for a while. We were at the fair for 2.5 hours or so, and it was good fun. (Risa)



Shigafs largest summer fireworks display called Biwako Dai-Hanabi Taikai was held along the shore of Lake Biwa in Otsu on Monday. About 350,000 people show up every year and my co-workers living in Shiga Prefecture went to see it after work this year. One of them sent the picture above. Itfs beautiful, isnft it? I would love to see the fireworks next year! (Risa)



The pictures above were taken at Nijo Castle Site of Kyoto Tanabata Festival. You can enter the castle for free from 19:00 to 21:00 during the period (Aug. 6th to 15th), so if you are interested, donft miss it! (Risa)



How was your weekend? The 2011 Kyoto star Festival is being held from August 6th to 15th, and my uncle and aunt went there and sent me a few pictures above. The pictures were taken at the Kamo River Site, and LED bamboo with paper decorations and bamboo lanterns are displayed on the riverbank there. There are lots of events focusing on praying for the recovery of the areas destroyed by the Great East Japan Earthquake this year and lots of people visit the festival. The festival is also held at the other site, and I will write about it tomorrow. (Risa)


Ifve been looking for a nice ryokan at Arima Onsen in Hyogo Prefecture, but I still canft decide where to stayc Arima is one of Japanfs oldest hot springs, along with Dogo Onsen in Ehime and Shirahara Onsen in Wakayama and itfs been popular since 8th century. The onsen has two kinds of springs. One is Kinsen (gold spring), which has water colored yellow-brown from iron and salt. The other is Ginsen (silver spring), which is colorless and contains radium and carbonate. This is the first time to try Kinsen, so I am looking forward to it. Hope you have a good weekend. (Risa)


Ifve had very bad stiff shoulders and neck and had trouble sleeping these days, so I went to have a massage after work yesterday. There was my favorite masseur at the Shiatsu place, but apparently he left the place last monthc I asked someone else to give me a massage, but the result was badc My shoulders and neck are still very very sorec If you miraculously know a good masseur in Kyoto, please let me know! (Risa)



The fireworks season has just started. My uncle and aunt went to Shiga and took the pictures of fireworks last night. Their father lives in an apartment for the elderly in Ogoto, so they could watch the fireworks rising at the harbor from a close distance. Quite a few fireworks festivals are held in August all over Japan, so donft miss it! (Risa)


My husband and his co-workers (they are cooks) climbed Mt. Atago and visited Atago Shrine last night. On the night of the 31st, many people walk up the mountain to visit the shrine (home of the Diety of Fire Protection, Atago Gongen) and it is believed that a shrine visit on the night is equivalent to 1,000 visits. My husband and his co-workers headed to Kiyotaki (starting point of the climb) after work and started to walk around 9:30 p.m. When he texted me saying it was done, it was almost 3 a.m. He was on the early shift, so he started to work at 6 a.m. this morning. Poor him. He must be exhausted! (Risa)


My husband and his co-workers (they are cooks) climbed Mt. Atago and visited Atago Shrine last night. On the night of the 31st, many people walk up the mountain to visit the shrine (home of the Diety of Fire Protection, Atago Gongen) and it is believed that a shrine visit on the night is equivalent to 1,000 visits. My husband and his co-workers headed to Kiyotaki (starting point of the climb) after work and started to walk around 9:30 p.m. When he texted me saying it was done, it was almost 3 a.m. He was on the early shift, so he started to work at 6 a.m. this morning. Poor him. He must be exhausted! (Risa)


This week has passed so quickly, and I canft believe itfs already Fridaycand itfs already the end of month! The next big event in Kyoto is Gozan-no-Okuribi (also known as Daimonji-yaki) on August 16th. Anyone coming? (Risa)


I went out for dinner with a friend the other night. We didnft decide where to go, so we walked around the town and came up with an idea. There is an Italian restaurant [IL GHIOTTONE CUTINERIA] at Shijo Karasuma which opened about a year ago. Itfs a very popular restaurant and it was very difficult to make a reservation for a while. We opened the door and asked if there was a table available on specc The answer was unexpectedly yes because it was after 8 p.m. If you are interested in the restaurant, I recommend you to book in advance or go there after 8:30 p.m. according to the staff. Here is the information: (Risa)


I am moving this weekend and will start a new life there. I think it takes a while until I can get things sorted out, but itfs always fun to do something new. I think I will have difficult times at some time in the future, but I will overcome and enjoy my life to the fullest! (Risa)


How was your weekend? My mother and I went out on Saturday and found a nice patisserie named [Patisserie.S] near Karasuma Shijo (Kyoto downtown). I knew the name, but it was the first time to go to the shop. Once we stepped into, we liked the atmosphere, etc. and spent 12,000yen ($150.00) in total! If you are interested, here is the shop information; (Risa)


I woke up hearing a buzz of cicada this morning. People could feel the change of the seasons when the TV news announced the springfs first cherry blossoms or the first song of a cicada in summer, and I am definitely one of them. It was not loud at all this morning, but they will start screaming very soon. Hope you have a nice weekend. (Risa)


Today is the day of the ox, which is named after one of the twelve animals of Chinese zodiac. We have a custom of eating eels on the day of the ox in midsummer to get stamina and survive the hottest season. I went to supermarket yesterday and saw there were more grilled eels on sale than usual. According to the article I read, the annual consumption of eel in Japan is 600 millioncthat shows we love eels very much! Hot humid weather will still continue for 2 months at least, so I should eat ells for dinner tonight, I guess! (Risa)


A typhoon has hit Kansai area and itfs moving toward the east at 15km per hour now. According to the weather forecast, it will cause much rain in quake-hit areascso, I hope there wonft be any more damage there. (Risa)


As I promised last Friday, I will post a few pictures of Gion Festival. My uncle and aunt went there on Thursday night (Yoiyoiyama) and Saturday (Yamahoko Junko), so please enjoy the both atmosphere. I also went there on Friday night and took some pictures, but they were terrible, my uncle and aunt saved me! (Risa)


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Yamahoko Junko

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Gion Festival is on and Kyoto downtown is filled with locals and tourists now. Ifm going to take a few pictures and post them next week. Hope you have a nice weekend! (Risa)


Itfs been very hot these days and the temperature goes up to about 35 degrees (95 F) every day. People complain they tend to lose their appetite because of the heat and avoid hot food and drinks. Cold soba, udon and even ramen are very popular for lunch in summer here in Japan, but what do you usually eat on hot days in your country? (Risa)


My friends and I went to a beer garden on the roof of Hotel New Hankyu Kyoto after work yesterday. Beer gardens are very popular and summer wouldnft be summer without them for many Japanese people (especially business men, I think). We arrived at the beer garden around 8pm and it was already full of people having fun. I am not a beer lover, but I enjoy the atmosphere very much. If you donft like beer like me, donft worry! There are wines and cocktails, too. If you are planning to come to Japan in summer, why donft you go to a beer garden? (Risa)


I usually have plans on both Saturdays and Sundays, but I didnft have any plans the day before yesterday. I woke up early as usual and went to do yoga in the morning. I wanted to have one more lesson, but I decided to go home because I was still not in top condition. Maybe I donft know how to relaxc I started to do a big cleaning and it took about a few hours. I was working without the air conditioner on, so I sweated as I practiced in a hard yoga class. As a result, it was a very nice Sunday and I went to sleep at 9pm! (Risa)


How was your weekend? My friend and I went to Nagano Prefecture on Saturday and had a great time there. We ate the local specialties such as Soba noodles and peaches and then headed to Hirugami Onsen (hot springs) in the afternoon. The weather forecast wasnft so good, but we didnft have rain at all miraculously and enjoyed the trip. The only bad thing was that I felt sick and passed out during the trip. I recovered quickly after a short rest, but I was at a loss what to do. I hope it wonft happen again. (Risa)


The Japan Meteorological Agency announced the rainy season ended in Kansai area today. We can fully enjoy hot summer from now on! Hope you have a great weekend! (Risa)


Today (July 7th) is Tanabata which is a Japanese star festival originating from Chinese Oixi Festival. It celebrates the meeting the deities Orihime (the star Vega) and Hikobishi (the star Altair). According to the legend, the Milky Way separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunisolar calendar. In present day, we generally celebrate the day by writing wishes on strips of colorful paper called tanzaku and hanging them on bamboo branches. Whatfs your wish this year? Letfs make a wish tonight! (Risa)


Gion Festival will be held in Kyoto on July 17th, so you can hear the festival music practiced here and there in the downtown area now. People in Kyoto think summer has arrived when they hear the music and start to look forward the festival. Street stands will be set up on the previous three nights, so lots of people come to Kyoto and have fun. July 17th is Sunday, so more people are coming to the festival this year. (Risa)


There is [The Museum of Kyoto] near our office and itfs been closed for renovations since last December, but it will reopen this Saturday. Various special exhibitions are scheduled, but I am especially interested in the Katsushika Hokusai exhibit in Feb/Mar next year. If you are interested in the museum, here is the information; (Risa)



How was your weekend? My friend and I went to climb Mt. Atago on Saturday. The weather wasnft so nice (mostly cloudy), but it was good for us. We walked at our own pace and reached the top of the mountain separately, but we had lunch and went down the mountain together. According to the Internet, there were a cable railway, a hotel, and an amusement park at the mountain until 1944, so you can still see ruins and rubbles on your way. If the weather is ok, I will climb it with other friend again this month. (Risa)


Itfs Friday! My friend and I are going to climb Mt. Atago (if you are a regular reader, it is the same mountain I climbed last month) tomorrow. My brain has been so busy and tired these days, so I want to spend some time in nature and relax! (Risa)

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