December - October, 2011


Today is the last working day this year and we will meet you again on Jan. 4th next year. If you send us reservation forms or inquiry mails during the holiday, we will get back to you upon our return. We hope you will have a prosperous New Year! (Risa)


2 more days at work this year. How was this year for you? For me, bad things happened in quick succession in Decemberc I caught a cold twice in a month (I am still suffering from it), I was stressed out from the wedding preparations, and I broke a vase when I went to my auntfs gallery last weekendc What else? I think there are more, but I canft remember as there are too many! I hope the coming year will be a happy one for all of us! (Risa)


How was your Christmas? Itfs been very cold here in Kyoto as the weather reporter saidcand, we had the first snow of this season even in the downtown during the weekend. I hope you had a nice Christmas, but I had a lousy onec I caught a bad cold and was sick in bed half of the weekend. I am still sick, so I will have an early night tonightc (Risa)


I was surprised and shocked to see the weather forecast for the weekendc Snow! Snow! Snow! Tomorrow is a public holiday here, so we have a 3-day weekend this week, but itfll be freezing cold and might snowc I hope the snowfall wonft cause traffic chaos during the weekend! Itfs a bit early, but Merry Christmas to you all! (Risa)


I was talking with one of my co-workers today and realized there are only 10 day left until the end of 2011!!! I donft know why, but I feel time has passed more quickly than usual this year. I canft believe Christmas is coming up soon. Have you finished your shopping & wrapping? I know a friend of mine is rushing around in New Zealand, but I hope you guys are not! (Risa)



How was your weekend? I caught a cold and was sick on Saturday, but I took a baking lesson and made [Frankfurter Kranz] yesterday. The taste was very nice, but there are lots of things you have to do during the processcso, I donft know if Ifll make it again at homecmaybe I will buy onec Our baking teacher is going to Germany indefinitely next year, so we only have 2 more lessons left. I forgot what we will make next month, but I am looking forward to it. (Risa)


Itfs very cold today and it might snow even in Kyoto tonightc If you are planning to go to Arashima Hanatouro this weekend, be sure to wear very warm clothes not to catch a cold..

The Kanji of the year 2011 was announced at Kiyomizu Temple on Monday. It is chosen by the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society through a national ballot and the character with the most votes is selected to represent the events of the year. This yearfs Kanji was [KIZUNA] (bonds in English). After national disasters such as Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, big typhoons, and the flood in Thailand, etc., people across Japan have rediscovered the importance of their bonds with family and friends. Do you agree? Do you have the other Kanji in mind? (Risa)


My husband and I felt like eating Italian food (especially pizza) last night, so we called our favorite restaurant, but, the whole restaurant was reservedc, so we went to a Thai restaurant near my office instead. We enjoyed our meal very much, but we deiced to go to the pizza restaurant again soon (I think itfll be next year thoughc) (Risa)



My uncle and aunt went to Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro 2011 last Saturday. The waterfront, bamboo forest and historical cultural assets of the Saga Arashiyama area are illuminated by lights beautifully, and lots of people visit the event from all over Japan every year. It started on Dec. 9th and will last until Dec. 18th. If you are interested, dress warm and go there! If you can, I recommend you to go there on weekdays. (Risa)


I could finally upload the pictures todaycHere are the dinner photos at [KYO SEIKA] last week.


Roast pork belly.


Sashimi (flounder) salad. Itfs a popular dish among the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore, etc., and they eat the dish at New Year.


Chinese style steamed egg with crab sauce. I think it was my favorite.


Steamed Chicken with very spicy sauce. It was really hot!


Sweet-and-sour foie gras. It was very different.


Duck meat ball soup with various mushrooms.


Lobster with chili sauce. It was a bit hard to eat the unshelled lobster, but the taste was good.


Stewed beef with Kyoto vegetable. The beef was so tender.


Spinach noodle. It was a very soft and tender taste.


Almond jelly. It was simple but very delicious.


Chinese dessert.


Chinese tea with many kinds of fruit like strawberries, kiwis, apples, and blueberries, etc. Very cute, isnft it?

Chinese food is sometimes too heavy for me, but the dishes served at this restaurant werenft oily at allcand, I could eat them all. If I have a chance, I would love to go there again. (Risa)


I brought my camera and downloaded the photoscbut, I canft upload them on the websitec so, I will try again tomorrow.

One of my best friends came to my place yesterday and planned our year-end party on Dec. 30th. We booked a table at a French restaurant [NAGATAKE] in Shijo area. Itfs very popular, so it was the first time for us to get a table after we tried a few times before. I will let you know how it was next year! (Risa)


My uncle and aunt took us to a nice Chinese restaurant [Kyo Seika] last night. Itfs only 3 years old (the owner had his restaurant in Shizuoka before and moved to Kyoto in 2008), but itfs popular and very hard to make a reservation now. I always wanted to go there, so I was glad they gave us the opportunity last night. I took pictures, but I forgot to bring my camera todaycso, I will post them on Monday, I promise! (Risa)


Itfs getting colder these days, and I see quite a few cold sufferers around me. I went to the hospital to receive influenza vaccine yesterday. I caught a bad cold last winter, so I hope I wonft get anything this winter! (Risa)


How was your weekend? I decided to have a restful month this month, so I had a relaxing weekendc I went for lunch and coffee with my friend on Saturday afternoon (we found a nice café/restaurant [CAVA] in Kitayama area!) and my friend visited me for coffee yesterday. I didnft go a single step out of my house yesterdaycIt was very unusual for me! (Risa)


Kobe Luminarie which is a light festival held in Kobe every December will start today and last until Dec. 12th. The festival started in 1995 to commemorate the Great Hanshin earthquake of that year, and it is the 17th anniversary this year. Major streets in the Sannomiya area are closed to auto traffic during the event (a few hours each evening) to allow pedestrians to fill the streets and enjoy the lights. If you are interested, here is the information (Japanese only though); (Risa)


November is nearly over, and we have just a month to go before the New Year 2012. I canft believe one year has already gonec I remember vividly what I was doing (what I was talking about even!) on New Yearfs Eve last yearcI guess itfs a good time to start thinking about the next yearfs solution now. (Risa)



How was your weekend? My mother and I took a baking lesson and made [Elisen Lebkuchen] and [Braunschweiger Honigkuchen] yesterday. Before we started baking, we donft know what they were likec The process is very simple and easy, but it takes a long time to make them. I especially liked the Braucheweiger Honigkuchen, which also goes with wine and cheese, so I want to make it again in the near future. (Risa)



My uncle and aunt went to Jojakko-ji on Mt. Ogura to see the autumn colors last weekend. The autumn leaves contrasting with the white wall of Nio-Mon and the fallen leaves on its pathways make the view of the temple more beautiful. According to my aunt, it was featured on TV last month, so lots of people were there. If you are interested and would love to visit there next year, here is the URL; (Risa)



I wrote about a temple called BISHAMON last week, and we went there yesterday. I didnft know, but there was a festival to admire the tinted autumn foliagecand, we saw sooooooo many tourists there. The autumn colors were not at their best yet (I think it will take a few more days), but it was nice to go there. (Risa)


How was your weekend? As I wrote on Friday, I went to my friendfs wedding on Saturday. It was raining so hard in the morning & afternoon, but it stopped raining around when her wedding started. Such a lucky girl! It was a lovely wedding, and every invited guest seemed to really enjoy it. On Sunday, I was going to meet my friend in Kyoto or Osaka, but it was cancelled because she was sick, so, I had a super relaxing day at home. Only one bad thing was I could hardly fall asleep last night since I took a long napc Hope you also had a nice weekend. (Risa)


Itfs grey outside today, and it will be a rainy weekend according to the forecast. One of my friends is getting married, and I am going to her wedding tomorrow. She and I worked together for 8 months (before I joined this company), and she moved to Tokyo for another job a few years ago. We rarely get the chance to see each other after she moved there, but Ifm looking forward to sharing the happy moments with her tomorrow. (Risa)


Itfs already middle of November, and itfs getting christmasy in the town. I canft believe we only have 1.5 months to go till the end of 2011c Many things happened to me this year, and I still have a few things to sort outc I hope everything will get clear before I greet the new year 2012. (Risa)


There is a temple called [Bishamondo] near my parentsf place. When I still lived with them, I sometimes walked there for a refreshing change or some exercise. It is a hidden leaf-viewing spot, so I especially liked going there in autumn. This year, it was featured in a TV commercial, so I think lots of people will visit there to see the foliage. HmmcI lost my best-kept secretc (Risa)


How was your weekend? I attended a Buddhist memorial service for my late grandfather yesterday. I canft believe it has been 6 years already since he passed awayc Time fliesc I was a bit sick yesterday, but it was nice to see my grandmother, etc. (Risa)


According to the news I saw yesterday, the leaves have started to turn red and gold at many temples and shrines in Kyoto. It will still take 10 days or so until they will be at their finest, but if you come to Kyoto this weekend, go to Jinjo-ji Temple in Takao. Itfs located in the northern part of Kyoto City, so you can enjoy the splendid autumn foliage there now! (Risa)


It got cold quick in Kyoto, so I turned on the heater today. According to the forecast, January and February will be very cold this winterc If you donft mind the cold weather, you should come to Kyoto then. Temple and shrines arenft crowded, and you can enjoy sightseeing at your own pace. (Risa)


Sorry I didnft post any news yesterday. I found a bit old pictures on my computer, and I would like to share them with you today. My parents took us to a dinner at a restaurant [Hyotei] the other night. The restaurant was originally a tea house for travelers to rest on their way to the Nanzenji Temple, established about 400 years ago. It converted to a restaurant in 1837, and has been in the Takahashi family ownership for 16 generations. The entrance hall, the thatched Kuzuya building, and the garden are said to still look as they did around 400 years ago. If you are interested in the restaurant, here is the official website;


Snapper Sashimi, etc. The sashimi was served with ordinary soy sauce and tomato soy. It was sweetish and chewy, and I loved it. According to the article I read, they only use female snapper caught in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture.


Softshell turtle soup. It sounds gross, but it was actually quite delicious.


Grilled chest nut & gingko nuts, Hamo (Japanese conger) sushi, grilled sand borer with sea urchin sauce, and Hyotei eggs (itfs their specialty). I always wanted to eat the egg, and the day finally came!


Steamed abalone and sea urchin. It was very simple but delicious.


Grilled sea bass.


rice with green peas and dark miso soup.


Seasonal fruit (figs, Japanese pear, and grapes) jelly. It was light and not too sweet, and I liked it.


It was served with Matcha (Japanese green tea).

It was a nice experience, but itfs too expensive for us to go there by ourselves againc (Risa)


How was your weekend? I went to Osaka to see my old friend on Saturday. She and I went to the same school for 10 years, but we didnft have many opportunities to catch up after the graduation. The last time I met her is 5-6 years ago when she gave birth to her daughter. We had early dinner and enjoyed chatting over coffee after. We lead a different life now, but itfs always nice to catch up with old friends. (Risa)


Yesterday was a public holiday, and my family and I went to northern Kyoto by car. There is a favorite restaurant of my parents called YAMANE in Miyazu City, so we headed there for lunch. Itfs not cheap, but itfs very reasonable compared with the Kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto Citycand, every dish was so delicious! Itfs a bit far, but I would love you to try the restaurant if you have a chance! (Risa)


Cooked Ayu (sweet fish) with Japanese pepper, Yuba & sea urchin, and persimmon with sesame sauce. The persimmon was my favorite!


Squid, Snapper, and Tuna. They were caught in the sea around, and even the tuna was not imported.


Clear soup with tilefish


Grilled spanish mackerel. The chestnut served with the fish was so yummy.


Anago (Conger eel) sushi. I think it was my second favorite.


Walnut Tofu. Itfs different, but I liked it.


Steamed flounder with sticky rice. I was already full when it was servedcbut, it was nice.


Rice cooked with crab meat. I was too full to eat allc!!!


Dessert. Pear compote with persimmon sauce, etc.


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The 26th National Cultural Festival is taking place from October 29th to November 6th in Kyoto. It is the largest cultural festival in Japan which aims to provide the Japanese public with the opportunity to present various cultural activities. There is an emphasis on activities by local performers to motivate individuals to participate in cultural activities, encourage culture, inspire the development of local culture and enrich the lives of the people. Since 1986, the festival has been hosted annually by one of the Japanfs prefectures on a rotating basis. The festival features cultural arts ranging from highly artistic ones to those close to daily life, traditional ones cultivated in history and regional ones such as food culture, film, manga, fashion, etc. out 70 cultural events are planned throughout Kyoto Prefecture. The distinctive culture of the hosting prefecture will be presented throughout the festival, which will attract many participants and visitors from Japan and abroad. The festival will be held in Tokushima next year, so if you are interested, why donft you plan to come to Japan during the period? (Risa)



My mother and I took a baking lesson on Sunday and made [Schwasiesher Apfelkuchen] this time. The process was relatively time-consuming (easy though), but I would love to make it again as I liked it. Our teacher is going to Germany to learn more and open her shop (maybe) next year, so February will be our last lesson with her. Only 4 more lessons leftcI am looking forward to our lesson next month. (Risa)


How was your weekend? A good friend of mine came to Kyoto on Saturday, and we went mountain hiking together. After we met at Shijo Karasuma at 9:30am, we headed to Narutaki by bus and got there at 10:30am. We started to climb Mt. Atago soon after that and reached at the summit around noon. We had lunch at the top and headed down the mountain as we started to feel cold (the temperature difference between the base and top is around 10 degrees)c It was the 3rd time for me to climb the mountain this year, but I felt it was much easier this time. If I have a chance to climb the mountain again, I would definitely choose spring or autumn NOT summer! (Risa)


My friend and I are going to see our friend and her newborn baby after work today. She was due Oct. 17th, but she was born on Monday this week. We expected she would be a big baby (the doctor said so too), but she wasnft. The baby boom is still continuing around me, and more babies next year! (Risa)



One of my co-workers went to Norikura, Nagano Prefecture last weekend and took the picture above. The foliage season has already arrived there, and the colored leaves are a tourist attraction now. Norikura has a few high mountains, and Kengamine is the highest peak (3,026m) in the area. Visitors can catch a shuttle bus or taxi up Tatamidaira and enjoy the highest road (2,700m) in Japan (only from June to October though). There are lots of things to do and see in Norikura, so I believe you will enjoy if you add it to your travel itinerary. (Risa)



I wrote about Jidai Festival last week, and my uncle and aunt went to see it on Saturday. They sent the pictures above, so I would love to share them with you. If you are interested, why donft you plan to come to see the festival? Itfs held on Oct. 22nd every year! (Risa)


My friend and I went hiking on Sunday. We met at Sannomiya Station in Kobe at 10:30a.m. and started to walk towards Futatabi Park located on Mt. Futatabi. I climbed the mountain last spring and enjoyed a lot, so, I was expecting it would be similar this timecbut, we lost our way at the beginning and had to take a much harder trail than originally plannedc As a result, it was a very nice hike, but we were exhausted on our way up to the mountain! (Risa)


How was your weekend? My friend and I went for a drive to Tango Peninsula on Saturday. We were going to an outlet mall because the forecast said it was going to rain, but the weather was ok in the morningcso, we changed our destination all of a sudden and headed north. We arrived at Kumihama around 2:30pm and had lunch at a café [Reception Garden]. It was a lovely café with a nice view, so I want to visit there on a sunny day next time. You can stay there if you want as there are holiday cottages to let in their property, too. We left Kyoto at 10am and arrived back at 9pm...We kept talking for 11 hours and it was fun! Here is the URL of the cafe for your information;


The Jidai Matsuri Festival will be held in Kyoto this Saturday. Itfs one of Kyotofs renowned three great festivals, with the other two being the Aoi Matsuri in May and Gion Matsuri in July. Jidai Festival traces its roots with the relocation of the Japanese capital to Tokyo in 1868. The parade begins in early morning with the mikoshi (portable shrines) brought out of the Old Imperial Pace so that people may pay their respects. The mikoshi represent emperors Kanmu and Komei, respectively. The five-hour, two-kilometer costume procession begins in the afternoon, with approx. 2,000 performers dressed as samurai, military figures, and common people, from the earliest eras/ to Meiji era and ends at the Heian Shrine. Unfortunately, it seems to rain on Saturday, but donft miss it if you are interested in the festival. (Risa)


My parents and I decided to take our friends from New Zealand to Yamashiro Onsen (hot springs) in February and booked a ryokan called [SHIROGANEYA]. One of my friends stayed at the ryokan before and she said it was nice, so I always wanted to go and stay there. Snow crabs will be in season in that area, so that would be the highlight of our trip, too. This is the first time for our NZ friends to come to Japan, so I hope they will make lots of beautiful memories while they are here. Here is the information of Yamashiro Onsen if you are interested; (Risa)


I got a text message from my mother-in-law today. She went to Aso ( in Kumamoto on Sunday and enjoyed the autumn flowers such as cosmoses in full bloom there. According to her, autumn leaves throughout the area have already started turning red and yellow and they were beautiful, too. Ifve been to Aso once before, but I would love to visit there in autumn next time! (Risa)


How was your weekend? I didnft have any plans on Saturday, so I slept in a bit, did household chores, took a yoga lesson, and went to have a massage. My shoulders and neck arenft so stiff now, but I try to go there on a regular basis to maintain the condition. What was surprising me was that the therapist was drowsy and nodding off many times while he was giving me a massagec There were the other therapists and patients near me, so I didnft point it outc Hefs usually a good therapist, so Ifm thinking if I should give him one more chancec (Risa)


I had time off from work and went to Fukuoka for our wedding arrangements. We were just busy with the preparations, so we had little spare time for ourselves to do sightseeing/shopping, but we enjoyed the local specialty, Pork Ramen for lunch and dinner yesterday. There are very many ramen restaurants in Fukuoka, so itfs really hard to decide which one to goc I have a few more places I am interested, so next time for sure! (Risa)


How was your weekend? Yesterday was a public holiday called National Sports Day, so many schools and organizations held athletic meets under a clear autumn sky. It is said that autumn is the best season for sports, art, reading, and eating, etcc What do you focus on this year? (Risa)


Japan has one of the lowest birthrates in the world, but there is a baby boom around me this year. One of my friends gave birth to her first child last month, so I am going to meet them tomorrow. Marriage, pregnancy, and childbirth, etcc Ifve heard lots of news so far this year, which is good! (Risa)


A cold rain is falling, and now is the time when we are getting deeper into autumn. Ifm going to climb the highest mountain in Kyoto with friends on the 3rd and 5th Saturday this month, so if we are lucky, we might be able to see the autumn colors at the mountaintop. Hope the weather will be good! (Risa)


I was watching TV this morning and knew there is a [FURIKAKE] boom among people who want to save money and electricity now. Furikake is a dry condiment meant to be sprinkled on top of rice. It originally consists of a mixture of dried and ground fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, and salt, but other flavorful ingredients such as bonito flakes, salmon, eggs, powdered miso, vegetables, etc. are often added to the mix. If you go to supermarket in Japan, you will find various kinds of furikake (more than 30 kinds on average) there. The variety of furikake amounts to about 1,000 throughout Japan and is still increasing. I want to try the new products I saw on TV this morning, so I am going shopping after work tonight! (Risa)


How was your weekend? Ifm going to have 2 days off from work and going to Fukuoka next week. We have lots to do while we are there, so I donft think we can do touristy thingscbut, hopefully Ifll find/get something interesting I can write about there. (Risa)

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