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News from
March 2006

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March 1st
When it gets warmer, beer suddenly becomes 10 times more delicious. Lots of foreigners get surprised by beer vending machines on the side of the streets. Yes, Japan is very open about public drinkingcwell there may be some people who are really against Japan about thiscbut itfs all good for me! Anyhow, I just read on the news paper that the export amount of Sake is increasing since Sake is IN now in the United States. (I didnft say it. According to the articlec) Comparing to 5 years ago, the exporting amount became more than doubled. Well, I personally like beer or cocktails better but Sake is nice too. I hope more and more people become interested in Japan because of the Sake boom! (Junko)
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March 3rd
Happy Hinamatsuri for all the girls in the world!!! Hinamatsuri is a festival for girls only. (Haha to boys!) For more information, see the entry on February 22nd. Who likes chocolate? Well, I went to a convenience store near our office during my lunch break to get some dessert and I found something interesting! Herefs the picture of it.

March 8th
Kyoto Higashiyama Hana Touro 2006 is starting on March 11th and goes till 21st. About 2400 pathway lamps line the walking route that connects to the Higashiyama foothills from Shoren-in in the north and continues through Maruyama Park and Yasaka Shrine 4.6 kilometers into the south, ending at Kiyomizu Temple Higashiyama is a retro-flavored area, and it is very popular among tourists all year round. But, I recommend you to visit this event and enjoy the fantastic scenery. The lamps at night create a magical atmosphere throughout the area. There are so many nice little shops and restaurants on you way, so you can rest your tired legs from a long walk. The air on a spring evening might be a bit chilly butcit will refresh you up! Letfs go!!!!!!!!!! (Risa)

March 9th
We had a beautiful day today here in Kyoto. The highest temperature was 12 degrees Celsius!!! Itfs getting warmer and warmer and I am getting happier and happier.
We added 2 great ryokan on our website!!! Please check them out! One is [Yuzuya Ryokan] in southeast area. This is a very hip ryokan these days. They were on some TV shows and ever since then, it is getting really hard to make a booking for Yuzuyacbut we will try our best for you if you want to stay there!
The other one ryokan is [Kikokuso]. This ryokan has a good reputation on their hospitality! Everyone who stayed there loves the owner couple. For more information, please see their individual pages!!! They both are really beautiful! (Junko)

March 10th
Cherry blossoms [Sakura] are called the symbol of Japanese culture, right? They have been celebrated and composed in a lot of Waka poems for centuries. There are soooooooo many varieties of Sakura trees in Japan, but our most beloved one is Somei Yoshino which account for 90% of all species of Japanese cherry blossoms. It is said that they bloom and fall (or we sometimes say they scatter) within a week. We enjoy the beauty of the flowers, and feel sorry for them to fall. We go to parks, temples and shrines with families and friends to see cherry blossoms at the time. It is also a good chance to get together and relax on a spring day. When is the best time to see them? The forecast for cherry blossom flowering was announced by Japan Meteorological Agency on March 1. According to the announcement, they start to bloom in Kyoto on March 28. There are thousands of beautiful Sakura spots in Kyotocso donft miss it! (RIsa)

March 13th
How was your weekend? We had a beautiful day in Kyoto on Saturday. It was very warm, just like a spring day and I thought winter was truly over! BUT of course it wasnft that easy. It snowed today in the morning! This is how Kyoto looked todayc.cold. (I know, all you can see is the brown building across from uscbut I needed the brown back ground to show you the snow.)

March 14th
Do you want to try the thrilling boat trip? This is the 400th year this boat trip has been taking place at the HozuRiver. This 16km trip which lasts about two hours is an exciting ride through one of the most beautiful scenic spots of Kyoto. As the boat dodges giant rocks and swirls through rapids, no motor roads can be seen and no sign of town life, only the breaking beauty of nature in pristine condition.

March 15th
As I promised in the March 13th entry, I got information on an even!
Look at the picture. Arenft they cool?

March 16th
Itfs raining really hard right now. I canft even see the mountains through the window in the office as I usually can. I hope the Plum blossoms are hanging on their branchesc
Herefs the news of the day. We added two new ryokan on our site. They are called [Ishicho Syogikuen] and [Oyado Ishicho]. As you can probably guess, they are sisiter ryokans, located in the central area, pretty close to the Imperial Palace. They have lots of unique accommodation plans so if you are interested in unique experiences, please check them out! (Junko)

March 20th
Did you have a lovely weekend? We had gloomy winter dayscit was snowing lightly on Sunday!

Junko and I went to Kyoto Higashiyama Hana Touro 2006 after work on Friday. Although it was a bit chilly night, there were so many people on the streets. The temples, shrines and even trees etc looked beautiful lit by lots of lanterns. There were various types of lanterns (size, shape and color etc) but we especially liked the bamboo lanterns placed in the tiny stream.
We thought the candlelight is much better than the artificial light I guess the longstanding tradition perfectly fits for the Kyotofs cityscape. The photos show you how the Hana Touro event is likec Do you feel like coming to Kyoto now????? (Risa)

March 22nd
We had a National Holiday yesterday in Japan. It was Spring Equinox Day. It was supposed to be warm and sunny but it was pretty cloudycwasnft much of a spring-like weather!
Herefs a piece of information you might be interested in. Nijo-jo castle will be lit up from March 24th till April 16th. I bet it will be really beautiful especially when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. As it was mentioned in March 10th entry, the cherry blossoms are expected to star blooming March 28th this year. Please check out Nijo-jo official website for the beautiful pictures of Sakura [cherry blossoms] and the castle at night.
http://www.city.kyoto.jp/bunshi/nijojo/i2rightup2.html
They are pretty amazing, eh? (Junko)
6pm ? 9pm (Monday ? Thursday) 6m - 9:30pm (Friday ? Sunday)
Notice: If you go into the castle before 6pm, you will have to re-enter for the night opening time, which means you have to pay the admission fee twice. Please be careful unless you really want to see the castle day and night.
Admission fee: 400 yen/adult. If you go there wearing KIMONO, the admission is free!
Note: Some parts of the castle compound, such as Ninomaru Goten are closed at night. If you have some particular parts you want to see, please e-mail us!

March 2nd
Hay fever season has finally startedcI have heard you donft have hay fever in western countries. Is that right? If yes, lucky you!!!!!! Every time we watch the weather forecast at this time of year, the reporter talks about the pollen dispersal. Quite a lot of people suddenly developed hay fever last spring because we had a quite warm winter. I did tooc

According to the newspapers and magazines, the hay fever remedies are flying out of the drug stores/pharmacies like crazy. The pharmaceutical companies release the new drugs for hay fever every year + the sufferers try various kinds of ways to relieve the allergic symptoms as much as possible. The market is pretty big and potential, right? I havenft seen any people wearing masks on streets, but we will see a throng of sufferers everywhere soon. I guess the sight is one of Japan institutions at this timec(Risa)

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Itfs gNaked KitKath!!! They took the outside chocolate off KitKat!!! Can you believe that? I wonder Nestle is selling this all over the world or just JapancLet us know. Was it good? Yes, of course! Just like KitKatcwith a bit less chocolate. (Junko)

March 6th
How was your weekend? I had a busy but nice weekend.

St. Valentinefs Day in Japan is a day when women give boxes of chocolate to men ? Read back the news on February 8. Do you know what March 14 is for? We call the day [White Day]. While St. Valentinefs Day was an imported event from western countries, White Day was purely a Japanese creation. But, I have heard the White Day is celebrated in Korea and Taiwan, too. On White Day, the men who received chocolate on St. Valentinefs Day return the favour and give gifts to women. Whatfs the origin of White Day? There are many theories, but I will tell you the most accepted one; a marshmallow maker started marketing to men that they should pay back the women who gave them chocolate or other gifts with marshmallows. The day was originally called [Marshmallow Day]. Soon after, chocolate companies started realizing they could also capitalize on the day and marketing white chocolate. So, people started to call the day White Day. Now, men give not only marshmallow or white chocolate but also other gifts i.e. jewelry, bouquet flowers etc. According to the survey by a department store in Tokyo, the gift which makes women happiest is flowers with a greeting card. Wowcpoor Japanese men...they have to spend lots of money if they get boxes of chocolate on St. Valentinefs Day. Do you still think they are lucky?????? (Risa)

March 7th
I had a great weekend too! We had a beautiful weather on the weekend! It was warm and sunny both on Saturday and Sunday.

Anyway, I want to thank my great friend, Emma for letting us know they donft have Naked KitKat in England and they wouldnft sell too many of them even if they try because it makes no sense to get rid of something really goodcTHE COATING CHOCOLATE!!! Well, at least Naked KitKat seems to get some attention, right?
Since Emma wrote me the cute message, I read the entry on the 5th again and that makes me depressedcI am not very happy about my writing skillcAt first, I was talking about Hinamatsuri and out of the blue, I started talking about chocolate! Not so goodc(Junko)

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Well, although we are having crazy weather in the past few days, it will be nice and warm soon and Kyotofs busy season will start pretty soon. There are lots of events lined up in the springcstarting with Hanatouro (see the entry on March 8th), there will be many events (big or small) going on here and there. We will try to write about as many events as possible and share as much information as possible with you. And because of the beautiful spring weather and the events, it will get very, very, very hard to make hotel/ryokan reservations. So, please DO NOT wait till the last minute and miss all the fun and great experiences in Kyoto. (Junko)

You will definitely enjoy this boat trip if you love nature. You will be so impressed by the prodigious works of nature. Imagine that you feel the spring wind and enjoy cherry blossoms from the boatcbeautiful, isnft it? I very much love the power of nature so I will try it shortlyc(Risa)

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The event is called Seiryu-e. Seiryu means Blue Dragon. They carry a dragon and walk in and around Kiyomizu temple wishing everyone peace. Why dragon? Itfs from the old myth. The name Kiyomizu [pure water] came from the water fall in the compound. It is said that a dragon which is an avatar of Kannon [goddess of mercy] comes down to the water fall for some quick drinks every night. The PURE WATER must taste really good for the dragon to come down all the way from the heaven (?) every night, eh? (Junko)
[The event is on for 3 days, March 15th, 16th and 17th. The parade starts at 2pm.]

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March 24th
I will recommend you a nice and cosy restaurant in Sakyo-ku, Kyoto. Itfs pretty close to Demachiyanagi station of Keihan line. Its name is [FalafelGarden], and they serve natural and healthy food. It is easy to imagine the specialty of the restaurant, right? Yes, it is efalafelf which is very popular among vegetarians all over the world. There are lots of other vegetarian/vegan dishes such as hummus, eggplant paste, and avocado pita sandwiches etc. If you are a meat eater, donft worry! There are chicken dishes for you.

Junko and I went to the restaurant and sat at the table in the garden. I guess itfs a perfect idea to sit there and just relax on a spring/summer day. There are a couple of tables outside and some more inside. When the owner couple moved to Kyoto, they renovated the old Kyoto house (about a 100-year-old house) for the restaurant. So, it still has retro flavour everywhere. I am sure you have a relaxing time there!
* If you donft have time to sit at the table, you can take away the food. (Risa)

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March 27th
You know what I miss about living overseas? Well one of the lots of things I miss the big variety of cereal! I love cereal breakfast but our choices are slim pickings here. But our choices that are FAT pickings arecnoodlescinstantcin cups!! Even in a convenience store, we have so many kinds of noodles! Although I hardly ever eat them since I believe they are really bad for your health, isnft it always nice to have choices??? (Junko)

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March 28th
What do I miss about living abroad? My answer is THICK-CUT potato chips. I am not a big fan of junk food, but I occasionally feel like having some. In that case, I always chose the thick-cut chips when I was in New Zealand. I donft know why but I probably like the crisp texture. We can hardly find the hard and crisp chips here in Japan. Why donft chip companies develop new products and launch them? There are hundreds of chip makers here, so I am sure some of them would like tocdonft you think they can pump up the sales?
It was finally reported that the cherry blossoms in Kyoto started to bloom yesterday. I was walking by Kiyamachi Street in the middle of town this morning, and I noticed the cherry trees in bloom. I was talking about it with my friend the other night. See? I did bet they would start to bloom soon! (Risa)

March 28th
We are having a crazy weather today. It was snowing till a few hours ago!!! Itfs almost April and snowing?! I just canft believe it. We had lightning and hard rain yesterday too. I feel really sorry for the cherry blossoms that are trying to bloom right now. They need warm weather and no rain to look pretty. But here is a picture of cherry blossoms I took today. They are trying! Well, Risafs buddy told her that we only talk about cherry blossoms here and itfs getting old but I care so much about them and canft help it. Sorry for ignoring the

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advice! The reason why I care about cherry blossoms so much is because there is a great equation about them in Japan. (Cherry Blossoms + Beer) = Partiescgotta love those flowers, huh? (Junko)

March 30th
How are you doing today? I hope you guys in the Northern Hemisphere enjoy lovely spring weather. Me? Not yet unfortunately.
Actually, I have run out new things to say herecor my brain has just stopped todayc Either way, I would love to ask you what things you want to know about Kyot or Japan.
Events, food, weather or what? Got any nice ideas? Junko might have something to tell you todayc Here it is, Junko. (Risa)
I AM enjoying early springy-feeling here! Feeling so mallow... (Junko)

March 31st
It snowed again last night. I was outside freezing. I just donft get the weather this year. It seems very springy outside today through the window but it actually is pretty chillycI am not amazed with this weather at all!!!

Well, even though itfs colder than it should be, it doesnft stop Kyoto from being the sight-seeing mecca of Japan. There are lots of temples and shrines having light-up events now and herefs one of themcwell, actually itfs not either a temple or a shrine.

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Itfs a tomb called gShogun-zukah. You can visit the tomb at night (5pm ? 9:30pm) from April 1st to the 16th. Yes, it is a sight-seeing spot but for locals, Shogun-zuka is more famous for its lookout. The view from the lookout is very pretty and itfs one of the famous dating spots. I bet many locals donft even know there is a tomb there even though it IS called SHOGUN TOMB (Shogun-zuka). (Junko)