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News from
August 2006

August 2nd
When we walk around town in this season, we can see lots of boys and girls wearing Yukata. People wearing yukata are a common sight at fireworks displays, and other summer events. The yukata is a casual form of kimono that is also frequently worn after bathing at traditional Japanese inns. A yukata is a cooling garment to wear. Unlike formal kimono, yukata are typically made of cotton rather than silk or synthetic fabric, and they are unlined. Traditionally yukata were mostly made of indigo-dyed cotton but today a wide variety of colours and designs is available. Like the more formal kimono, the general rule is the younger the person, the brighter the color and bolder the pattern. A child might wear a multicolored print and a young woman, a floral print, while an older

August 15th
Bon Odori (If you wonder what Bon is, please read the news on Aug 11th) is an event held during Obon. It is celebrated as a reminder of the gratefulness one should feel toward one's ancestors. The O-Bon festival is observed all over Japan as well as parts of China, Malaysia, and American cities with a large enough Japanese population. Originally a Nenbutsu folk dance to express the effusive welcome toward the spirits of the dead, the style of celebration varies in some aspects from region to region. Prefectures often have their own ways of Bon dancing. There are many kinds of music that go with the dance. The music varies from classical music to Japanese traditional music such as the Makkou Onndo to matsuri-themed pop music such as the Pokemon Ondo. The tradition is said to have started in the later years of the Muromachi period as a public entertainment. In the course of time, the original religious meaning has faded, and the dance has become associated with summer. We can see people still enjoy the Bon Odori everywhere in Japan in summer. You may have a chance to see the dance if you are here at this time of the year! (Risa)

August 23rd
Itfs a very beautiful day today. Quite a few Kyoto people say summer ends with Daimonji-yakicbut the temperature now is 36 degreescIfm sure wefre still in the middle of summer. We had heavy thunder squall in Kyoto yesterday. Junko and I were surprised because it suddenly got dark and started raining. We were looking outside through the window but we couldnft see anything clearly. Actually I like the thunder squall pretty much as long as I am inside the building. The reason? Thatfs because I can feel that summer is here!!! (Risa)

August 31st
Today is the last day of August! I cannot believe August is already over!!! August is also called gHazukih in Japan. (Well not reallycwe know the name as the old way of calling the month. We never really use it in daily life now.) gHazukih is written with two Chinese characters; gleafh and gmoonh, isnft that pretty? The reason why August is called gHazuki, the moon of leavesh is because August now used to be in October now under the old calendar. Therefore August back then was the month when the leaves fell off the treescthatfs how it used to be called gHazukih. What do we call August in Japanese now? We call it gHachi-gatsuh, meaning the 8th month. Not so fun, eh? I guess people from old times had more imagination. (Junko)

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woman would wear a traditional dark blue one with geometric patterns. Since the late 1990s, yukata have experienced a bit of a revival, and many young women now wear them in summer in personally distinctive ways not limited by tradition. Both men and women often wear yukata at traditional Japanese inns, especially ones with their own Onsen. After checking in, people often change into the yukata provided by the inn. Many of them go for walks outside, to the public baths, and even to dinner and breakfast in their yukata. If you have a chance to stay at the Japanese inn, how about trying it on? [If you are interested in staying at a Japanese style hotel called Ryokan in Kyoto, donft forget to check our website!] (Risa)

August 3rd
Have you ever heard [Doyou No Ushi No Hi], which means Midsummer Day of the Ox in English? We, Japanese people have the custom of eating grilled Unagi (eel) on the day. There are different stories about the origin of the custom, but I tell you the most leading one today. In Edo Period, an owner of eel restaurant went to see Hiraga Gennai for good advice to boost the sales. Hiraga Gennai is very famous as a pharmacologist, student of Western studies, physician, author, and inventor back then, and lots of people his advice. Hiraga Gennai told the owner to display the sign saying [Doyou No Ushi No Hi] outside the front of the restaurant. People in those days believed that they could survive the hot summer if they ate the food including the word [U]. The restaurant owner followed the advice and made the sales up. From the next year, the other restaurant owners started to do the same thingcand it became a kind of custom all over Japan. We tend to lose our appetite in summer so it makes sense to eat eel in this season. We have 2 days of Doyou No Ushi No Hi this year ? July 24th and August 4th. Yes, itfs tomorrow. If you havenft had grilled eel yet this year, why donft you go to an ell restaurant tomorrow??? (Risa)

August 17th
As I wrote in the news on July 25th, a big event known as Daimonji-yaki was held yesterday. It is said to be one of the four biggest events in Kyoto. (The other three are Aoi Festival, Gion Festival, and Jidai Festival). When I finished work yesterday, I got an email from my aunt. She kindly asked me if I wanted to see the Daimonji-yaki from her place. The apartment has a rooftop deck, so we walked up there and saw the event. We couldnft see all the five bonfires, but we saw eDaif, eFunef and another eDaif. As only residents can go up to the roof, there werenft so many people. I was pretty lucky to see the bonfires with no hassles. One of my workmates, Junko also went to see the event with her friends. She also found a nice spot at Shinnyo-do. She said she could see huge eDaif and eHof beautifully from there. Yep, we so much enjoy summer events in Kyoto! (Risa)

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August@11th
O-bon is a Japanese Buddhist holiday to honor the departed spirits of one's ancestors. This Buddhist holiday has evolved into a family reunion holiday. People studying or working in the big cities return to their home towns and visit and clean their ancestors' graves. O-bon has existed here in Japan for more than 500 years. It is held from July 13 to the 16th (Welcoming Obon and Farewell Obon respectively) in the eastern part of Japan (Kanto area), and in August in the western part (Kansai area including Kyoto). However, in recent years, most people hold Obon in August to coincide with the summer holiday period. Imagine people move from the cities to the country at the same time. We always hear the news about terrible traffic jam at this time of the year. I was born and brought up in Kyotocand I still live herecso I am pretty lucky I have never been stuck in the major traffic jam or I have never squeezed myself into the fully packed Shinkansen at O-bon time. As I wrote in the news on July 25th, an O-bon related event called Daimonji-yaki will be on August 16th in Kyoto. I strongly recommend you to come to see it if you are around Kansai area on the day. Surely, you will be fascinated by the sight!!!! (Risa)