News from
June 2006

June 1st
It is already Junec Isnft it amazing how fast time flies? I talk about Kyoto Machiya Townhouse today. One special kind of house native to Kyoto is the machiya or merchant townhouse, almost always restricted by law to two stories. Machiya are generally narrow at the front and extend way back from the street. This is because taxes were levied on houses in proportion to the width of the frontage during the Edo period. Many of these machiya still exist today, and they are strictly preserved in some areas of Kyoto.
I recommend a Kyoto machiya named [Buson]. It is one of the largest machiya in Kyoto, and it is now a popular cafe & gallery. A famous haiku poet, Yosa Buson lived in the house in the Edo period. Once you enter there, you will feel as if you were back in the old days. If you want to experience Kyoto traditions in various ways, you definitely should go there! (Risa)
* this is the website; http://www.buson.jp/*

June 8th
The weather-bureau announced today that rainy season [Tsuyu] has started in North Kyushu, Shikoku and Chugoku-area! Well, our office is located almost right in the middle of Japanfs main island and Chugoku area is right next to our area, Kinki-area. (It sounds like kinky-area. Funny, eh?) So this mean s that Tsuyu is going to start in our area anytime soon!!! I hate Tsuyu! It rains a lot and itfs always dark. Good thing though is it lasts only like 3 weeks, (They say it lasts about a month but I like to think itfs shorter.) and of course there are some sunny days in between. The best thing about Tsuyu is that when Tsuyu is over, itfll be HOT, HOT summer!!! I just love summer so Tsuyu excites me in a way. (Junko)

June 9th
After Junko wrote the news yesterday, rainy season has set in here too. I also hate Tsuyucwet and grey weathercI hope summer is coming very soon!
I tell you a good restaurant near our office today. In the middle of Nishiki food market (a famous covered shopping street), the so-called ekitchen of Kyotof, there is a luxurious vegetable shop. For example, it costs 800 yen for an eggplant! The Kanematsu specializes in the sale of Kyoto vegetables and has a restaurant. Its name is [Yaoya no Nikai] which literary means [the second floor of vegetable shop]. They serve dishes made with these special vegetables. The shop and restaurant attract a lot of tourists and a quite a few of them are foreigners because of an article in the New York Times. The restaurant has a daily lunch set that is made with 15-20 of vegetables sold in the shop. All the dishes are made according to traditional Kyoto home-style recipes. If you are not sure what to eat while you are in Kyoto, try this restaurant. Reservation recommended as the restaurant is soooooo popular! (Risa)

June 14th
I talked about a shopping street named [Shinkyogoku] at the beginning of June. In the bustling Shinkyogoku Arcade, there is a small temple called Seishin-in. The temple is the home of the famous writer, Izumi Shikibu. She was one of the finest poetesses in the Heian Period (794-1185). Her most poems are about passionate love. She is also very famous for her romance stories. By the gate of the Seishin-in, there is a unique stone known as [Suzunari guruma].

On a stone stand, there is a black ball-shaped stone on which a Buddhist sutra is inscribed. When the ball is turned, it causes a small bell to make a lovely sound. This is a place that people have been coming to for hundreds of years to make their wishes come true. If you have a special wish (even if you donft have a certain wish), this is a great place to come. (Risa)

June 16th
Have you heard of Ukai? U (pronounced like oo but shorter) is a Japanese word for cormorant. I donft know how much these birds are known in other countries but in Japan, they are well known because of the traditional finishing, Ukai. Ukai is an ancient fishing method catching Japanese trout by using tamed cormorants. The commander controls several cormorants at the same time. The cormorants are tied around the necks and they go under the water to catch trout and come above the watercthen the commander does some trick with the rope and make the cormorant spit the fish out!!! Thatfs how their fishing is done!!! Ukai can be seen in Arashiyama and Uji in Kyoto. (Arashiyama: from Jul. 1 ? Sep 15, Uji: Jun 24 ? Sep. 24) I havenft seen it in real life yet but I would love to see it, hopefully this year. Some people may think itfs mean to make the birds spit their fish out but the commanders take really good care of their birdies, so please do not worry!!! (Junko)

June 19th
I saw a beautiful full moon a week ago. And, I accidentally found an article about nice full moon spots in Kyoto. Some of the best places here in Kyoto to experience full moon,
1) The west bank of the Kamogawa River to bridges north of Imadegawa Street is one of the best places to watch the moon come up;
2) The grounds of the Kyoto Imperial Palace

3) Large temple compounds, where there are few lights, are among the most interesting and beautiful on moonlit nights: Daitokuji Temple, Kurodani Temple, Myoshinji Temple. As there are so many temples and shrines in Kyoto, letfs find your favourite place! (Risa)

June 21st
According to the weather report, the temperature will go up to 32 degrees. Yes, it is really hot and humid today. Kyoto, which is surrounded by mountains that keep the humidity high, has always been the perfect place for moss garden. Traditionally, Japanese poets have compared moss in June velvet and sea waves. Here are a few places where you are sure to find the wonders of moss waiting for you.
1) Saiho-ji Temple: It is known as a moss temple, Saiho-ji is undoubtedly the best place to experience the wonders of moss. This temple is said to have 120 varieties, and all of them grow there naturally.
2) Rokuo-in Temple: Rokuo-in, a Zen temple which dates back to the Muromachi period (1333-1568) has an exquisite Zen garden, much of it covered in moss.
3) Zuiho-in: The modern moss garden at this temple, designed in 1961 by Shigemori Mirei, is a fine example of a Zen landscape garden. It is located in Daitoku-ji Temple. There are a lot more moss gardens in Kyoto, but I canft tell you all of them herecmaybe next time! (Risa)

June 2nd
According to the weather report, the rainy season will set in next week. Yep, it is grey as expectedcI hope it wonft rain this weekend.
Todayfs topic is eshopping streets in Kyotof. Any tourist will quickly notice that Kyoto, like many other big cities in the world, isnft designed for cars. Wherever you go these days, whether itfs New York, Paris or Rome, cars have become a problem and walking along busy streets is often tiring. But, in Kyoto, you can escape the stress and see something different by strolling along covered shopping streets. There is a quite famous covered shopping street near our office called [Shinkyogoku]. It literally means the new edge of Kyoto. It was created in 1872 as a place to showcase modern Western business. Today, the street is a popular destination for young people. Also, as Kyoto gets so many students on school trips from all over Japan, I see lots of them on the street. (Risa)

June 5th
We had really nice weather this weekend. It was very hot both Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, I had late lunch/early dinner with my mom by Kamogawa River. We had sushi together. The restaurant was awesome! Itfs called [SUSHI TETSU] and they serve real sushi (I mean not the ones on the belt-conveyor, but they make sushi on your order) for only 105 yen each!! [Not all of them but most of them are 105 yen for a piece.] The restaurant is located by Sanjo Bridge. [southwest side of the bridge] I really, really recommend this cheap yummy sushi restaurant.

Anyway, after the lunch/dinner, I and my mom went to sit by the river. And we found the cutest street music performers there!!! Herefs the picture of them.
The guitar player is the big sister and she is only a first grader of junior high school, so she should be 12 or 13 years old. The drummer is in the third grade of elementary school, so that makes him 8 or 9 years old. The drum seemed to be an old speaker boxche has a great sense of rhythm and his big sis was an amazing player and singer!!! I so want them to be on TV or something because they are so cute and super talented! I hope to find them again soon by the river! (Junko)

June 6th
It has steadily warming up here in Kyoto. The temperature went up to 30 degrees yesterdaycit was really hot outside.
One of the famous events in early summer in Japan is to watch fireflies (Hotaru in Japanese) in the beautiful country side. There are some recommended spots in Kyoto too. Hotaru festival is held on June 17th in Ayabe city which is 2 hour drive from Kyoto city. Fireflies will be released in the night sky. You will be amazed at the beautiful view! Also, you can take part in an overnight fireflies photo tour in Miyama town, which is known as a breathtaking view of its thatched roof houses. It is a bit closer to Kyoto city, but it still takes 1.5 hours by carc If you are interested in this tour, we will get more information for you. Please let us know! (Risa)


June 13th
All the staff from our office went out for dinner last Friday after work. We never had a proper welcome party for our new staff, Oishi-kun. (kun is a word we put after manfs last name to show respect), our new co-worker! Anyway, we went to a great Japanese restaurant. They serve really, really fresh seafood there. I will tell you lots about this place but for now, let me just show you a picture of gigantic oyster!!!


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Isnft it gigantic??? It was served as [Fresh oyster] so we ate it freshcdo you want to see the cut surface of the oyster??? Here you go!
It was so exciting to see this jumbo oyster for the first time in my life but as taste goes, I like the regular kind better! (Junko)


June 20th
How have you been enjoying the World Cup? Ahhh, I am talking about soccer (football) World Cup in case you have no idea what I am talking about. (I doubt it though.) Well, soccer is pretty popular in Japan. We have professional leagues toocbut not even close to how popular baseball is. (The reason why people say soccer is not as popular as baseball is that they donft show the professional soccer games on regular TV stations anymore. On the other hand, there usually are one or more baseball games on TV everyday.) BUT we are going crazy about the World Cup! I think it can be because a big event like this is like a festival for us. We Japanese love festivals! Wefve always enjoyed festivals since long, long time agoclots of them are very traditional.
Anyway, Japanese team is pushed into a corner now. We have to win against Brazil the next game or we are not going to make it to the next stage. Yes, Brazil is one of the best team in the whole world! Well, the thing is Japanese team always play really good when they have nothing to lose, so I am really excited to see the next game and I believe it will be a great game! (They are playing on the 23rd, 4am Japan Time.)

June 26th
Early last week, I was walking on Shijo Street after work and I heard Ohayashi from the House of Naginataboko. Ohayashi is traditional music for festivals. What is Naginataboko? Well itfs one of the most famous floats of Gion Festival. Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival) is one of the Three Greatest Festivals of Japan. (It started in 869. Thatfs 1,137 years agoc.unbelievable, eh?) Lots of people think the festival goes on from Yoi-yoi-yama ([yoi] means a night beforecso [yoi-yoi-yama] means two nights before the festival) which is July 15th to the big parade of the floats on July 17th, but the festival actually starts on July 1st and goes on for the whole month. This festival is a great deal for people in Kyoto, especially those people whose families have lived in the center of Kyoto city from long, long time ago. The reason why itfs a big deal for them is because they are the ones who carry the gigantic floats. The floats belong to each town/area of the city and itfs their tradition to take parts in the festival. I am not from Kyoto but I can imagine how important it is for the boys/guys therecwhy only guys??? Well, because girls are banned from carrying or being on the floats. Not very nice, huh? Oh well, itfs the tradition.
Anyway, I just wanted to share a hint of summer and a hint of the great festival. They have already started the practice of Ohayashi (the people from the float-towns must be very excited!!!) When we hear Ohayashi in Kyoto, we can feel that the summer is just around the corner. (Junko)

June 27th
People called June [Minazuki] in the old days. The word Minazuki means [month of no water]. June is the rainy season here in Japan, so whatfs going on? If you check the lunar calendar, the wonder clears. The no water month was todayfs July, the post-tsuyu month of increasing dryness. (If you wonder what the tsuyu is, check the news on June 9th). June 30th was called Ice Day back then. It was the day when natural ice, stored


since winter, was delivered to the homes of the aristocrats.Apparently, it was believed that eating ice on this day guaranteed getting through a hot summer with a minimum of sweat. A man thought it was a good business opportunity, and started to sell a jelly like sweet out of rice flour in the shape of ice. This idea was well received, and people are still eating Minazuki on June 30th. If you have a chance to have a tea break in Kyoto this month, try some Minazuki! You might forget the heat and the humidityc(Risa)

June 30th
I guess lots of people who come to Japan have an interest in experiencing some of the traditional Japanese culture: tea ceremony, flower arrangement, origami..etc. So, I found useful information for you. COSMOS, a volunteer group, provides foreign visitors with an inexpensive, convenient way to experiencing these things. For example, you can try ink painting or carve stone to make a name seal. Or you can learn how to play the Japanese board game, Igo. All the events (Look at the list below) will be held at the Kyoto International Community House. You can get information about Kyoto there too. Available in Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean and Portuguesecgreat, isnft it? (Risa)
* 1st & 3rd Saturday
10:00-12:00 Shogi Club (Free), Handicraft (Free)
12:30-14:30 Origami Folding Paper (100 yen)
15:00-16:45 Calligraphy(50 yen), Japanese Writing (50 yen)
* 2nd & 4th Saturday
10:00-12:00 Igo Club (Free)
12:30-14:30 Flower Arrangement (Free), Ink Art (200 yen)
15:00-16:45 Fan Throwing Game(Free), Green Tea manners (1000 yen)