News from
December 2006

December 1st
Kozanji-temple was founded by the famous monk Myoe in the 13th century. It is renowned for its numerous national treasures and important cultural properties. You may have heard about a picture scroll called [Chojujinbutsu-giga] ? Light-Hearted Painting of Bird, Beast and Man in English -. There is the oldest tea field in Japan, where Myoe is said to have planted tea from seeds brought back from China by the Zen priest Eisai. The temple remains standing very humble and quiet. Honestly, I so much prefer the Kozanji to Jingoji. It was registered as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Historic Monuments of Acient Kyoto in 1994. (Risa)
December 11th
How was your weekend? A big event is held at Kiyomizu Temple annually on December 12th. The Kanji of the year will be announced, and a monk at the temple will write it on a huge paper tomorrow. The last yearfs kanji was [AI] which means love in English. (I want to show you the Kanjicbut kanji characters arenft shown properly on this websitecsorry!) I am wondering what this yearfs kanji will bec I will let you know as soon as I find it out. If you express your year 2006 in one word, what will it be? (Risa)
December 5th
Do you know the character [Hello Kitty]? If not, look at the photo below. She is Hello Kitty. She was originally created by the Japanese company Sanrio in 1974. She was given an English name, Kitty White as British culture was very popular among Japanese girls at that time. Her name came from one of the cats that Alice kept in the book, Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. As you know, Hello Kitty is now a globally well known trademark. Do you know how it got so popular? Lots of American celebrities such as Mariah Carey, Cameron Diaz, Christina Aguilera, Paris Hilton and so on have contributed to the popularity.
December 4th
I canft believe itfs already Decemberc We have one more month to gocbut, how was your year 2006? Have you accomplished your goal? If yes, congratulations!!! If not, donft worry too much. We can try our best until we greet the new year 2007. We sometimes call December [Shiwasu] in Japanese. If we write the word [shiwasu] in Kanji, [shi] means monk and [wasu] run. I guess you can already imaginecyes? It is said monks are super busy visiting the Buddhist parishioners and reciting a sutra in Decembercso they have to run to the parishionerfs houses! (Risa)

gbv ACR
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December 14th
I guess the three most popular [Hatsumode] spots in Kyoto are Heian-jingu Shrine, Yasaka Shrine, and Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. (Hatsumode means New Yearfs visits to shrines). One of the shrines, Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine in Fushimi Ward started to make Fukukasane, or packages of good luck charms, on December 4th. The Fukukasane will be given to worshippers who will visit the shrine during the New Year season. Female shrine attendants, who are called Kagurame made the charm by combining talismans such as Mamoriya (an exorcising arrow), Ema (a votive pictorial plaque) and a spray of sacred Japanese cedar. I am pretty sure there should be soooooooooooo many people at the shrine during that time, but itfs worth visiting there!!! (Risa)
December 15th
We finally got some sunshine after long grey days!!! I am a pretty simple person, so beautiful weather can make me happy. I am sure it wonft last long because itfs wintercbut I want to enjoy the sunshine as much as possible. Whatfs your plan for the weekend? Maybe Xmas shopping? I hope you have a lovely weekend!!! (Risa)

December 20th
Itfs been pretty cold since Monday this week, and we finally got our first snow in Kyoto city too. According to the past news Junko wrote, it snowed on Dec. 6th last year. Maybe I told you before, but I donft like wintercso I hope we will have a warm winter as the weather reporters have expected. The temple lightly dusted with snow is really beautiful though. (Risa)

December 21st
One of my co-workers, Kohei had the set menu for his lunch today. As the taste is very nice, he seems to go there pretty often. He said the meal is really of good value for the price. How much do you think it is? Itfs 800yen (about US$6.5). What do you think about the price? Would you like to try? According to Kohei, there are lots of business men (quite a few business women too! ? I though they may worry about garlic smell) there. What do you usually have for lunch? And whatfs the average price? (Risa)

December 26th
One of my co-workers, Kohei came back to our office with a full smile after lunch. He had a piece of marriage paper in his hand. Yes, he is getting married!!! He doesnft know exactly when it iscbut he says itfs really soon. This is a notification of marriage. Of course, both husband and wife have to sign the paper, but also they must get signature from 2 people. Everyone can be their witness, but they are usually their father or mother. Is that similar to your country? If not, how different is it? Please let us know!!! P.S. Congratulations, Kohei!!!! (Risa)

December 27th
The TV drama serial [IMOTAKONANKIN] airs on NHK channel at 8:15a.m. every morning (Mon-Fri). As the drama is set in 1950fs -1960fs, it is pretty popular among the middle-aged people. What does the title [IMOTAKONANKIN] mean? Actually it is not one word. We can divide it into three words, Imo, Tako and Nankin. [IMO] means sweet potatoes in English, [TAKO] octopuses, and [NANKIN] pumpkins. What do you think they are? It is traditionally said they are the three most favourite foods of ladies. Maybe they are changing these days, but I guess itfs still kinda true. I am not one of them thoughc What are the most favourite foods of ladies in your country? (Risa)
December 28th
According to the weather forecast, Kinki area (I know [Kinki] sounds very weird to youc) will be hit by a cold wave during the year change period. I did feel it on my way to work this morning already. If it snows a lot, school kids and dogs will be very happycbut, I am concerned about a terrible traffic jam because of the snow. Quite a few people go back to their hometown during their New Year holidays, so the snow will have no small effect on them. I hope we wonft hear any bad or sad news on TVc [Please drive safely!] ? to all drivers from me!!! (Risa)

December 22nd
I canft believe itfs already Friday. I will have a bonenkai, [forget the year gathering] with a couple of friends after work today. It is a Japanese eating and drinking party that takes place at the end of year, and generally held among groups of co-workers or friends. The purpose of the party, as its name implies, is to forget the woes and troubles of the past year. But, I guess not so many people think about the meaningcwe just want to have a party and enjoy eating and drinking a lot!!!! (Risa)

The character was produced for young girls at the beginningcwho could imagine she would be loved by people of all age groups all over the world? Itfs pretty amazing, isnft it? P.S. How much do you guess the stuffed Hello Kitty below is? UmmcI canft believe itfs 100,000yen (about US$900)!!! (Risa)

December 6th
Wefve recently received quite a few inquiry mails for March & April 2007. Actually I was also surprised that lots of ryokans in Kyoto are already booked out especially during the cherry blossom season. Spring is one of the most popular seasons in Kyoto, and so many people come to see the beautiful cherry blossoms from all over the world. Some people prefer quiet and humble autumn, others prefer colorful and bright springc Which season do you like better? If you are one of the spring lovers and thinking of visiting Kyoto during that time, you have to hurry up! We will try our best to find a place to stay for you!!! (Risa)
December 7th
Lots of confectionary companies have released new products for winter. One of my co-workers went to a convenience store near our office during his lunch time and took the photo. Apparently there are quite a few strawberry-flavoured products there. You might think strawberries are typical spring fruitscyes? I donft know why, but we can see and get the strawberry-flavoured items at this time of year. I guess we have already missed warm spring days. Itfs getting colder day by day here in Kyotoc.especially in the morning and evening. YES, I so much miss springcI have to go and get the strawberry thing! (Risa)
December 12th
I am getting confused nowc I wrote about [Tanuki Udon] last Friday and told you I would research the origin of the word. Yes, I started to check it up on the Internet. I have found out there are quite a few versions of Tanuki noodles. For Kyoto people, Tanuki is either udon or soba (buckwheat noodle) with bite-sized deep fried tofu in a thickened soup. For Osaka people, it is soba with a big deep fried tofu in a not-thickened soup. For Tokyo people, it is either udon or soba with Tenkasu (crunchy bits of deep fried Tempura batter) in a not-thickened soup. Kyoto is bordered on the west by Osaka, but the food culture isnft samec itfs really interesting, isnft it? Which Tanuki would you like to try??? (Risa).
December 8th
A bad cold is going around here in Japan. Lots of people have been downcand, I was one of them. I donft know why, but it took ages to recover from the cold 100%. Am I just getting old? Or, is this yearfs cold too bad? One of my co-workers, Kohei didnft feel really well yesterday and decided to eat Udon for lunch. In Japan, we are recommended to eat Udon or porridge when we are sick.
The reason is pretty simplecthey warm up our body and digest well. What do you eat in your country when you are sick? Here is the photo of the Udon Kohei had yesterday. Itfs called Tanuki (raccoon in English) UdoncSorry I actually donft know the word origin. This is my next mission ? please give me some more timecI will tell you the answer as soon as possible. (Risa)
December 13th
This yearfs Kanji was announced at Kiyomizu-temple yesterday. It was [Inochi] which means life in English. The top monk wrote the word dynamically on a big paper. Here are the reasons the word was chosen as this yearfs Kanji. 1. The imperial baby ePrince Hisahitof was born in September 2. Lots of students killed themselves suffering from bullying at school 3. Typhoons and tornadoes killed many people etc. Wefve noticed how important our life is after experiencing cruel incidents and accidents. I felt a bit sad when I heard the newscbut I do hope a happy word will be chosen next year. (Risa)

December 25th
Merry Christmas to you all!!! There are more than 190 countries on the earth, and we are spending our day differently. Are you having a white Xmas? Or is it burning hot in your country? I got a phone call from a friend in New Zealand this morning. He said itfs a beautiful summery day therecand he just finished Xmas breakfast (BBQ in the garden) with his family. As itfs not a national holiday here in Japan today, we are working very hard as usual. Youfre lucky if you are having a day off!!! Anyway I hope you all have a wonderful Xmas Day!!! (Risa)