I want to write about Karasuma area today. It’s the area where our office is located. Back in Heian period, it was called [Karasu-maru]. Most Japanese people who don’t know much about Kyoto would still call it Karasu-maru since that’s how it is written in Kanji characters. [Karasu] literally means [crow] and [maru] literally means [round] or [circle]. I can’t find out the meaning of the name but it could be that there were many fat crows around…maybe not. Anyway, Karasuma is now a center of business in Kyoto. There are lots of office buildings (but not as many as you would think. It’s still a pretty area with much less buildings compare to many other big cities). Since it’s the business center of Kyoto, the shops around here are more for adults than young kids. If you are tired of sightseeing spots, it might be fun to walk around this area! And if you do, please drop by at our office and say hi!!! (Junko)
Yuka (dining on a temporary veranda by the Kamo River) is one of summer feature in Kyoto. Lots of restaurants and bars set the verandas between Gojo and Nijo Streets. I had an expensive image of Yuka until a couple of years ago…but that’s not true. There are quite a few casual restaurants and bars, so you can visit there with no hesitation. You just want to have a coffee? Yes, Starbucks by Sanjo Bridge has set the veranda since May 1st. Isn’t it ideal to enjoy a good coffee, soaking up the sunshine? If you are so lucky to come to Kyoto from June to August, I recommend you to have dinner on the veranda feeling the cool night breeze. (Risa)
Have you heard of Kyoto’s Three Greatest Festivals? Well if you haven’t, that means you didn’t read through our website!...well that’s okay because it probably takes long to read everything on our website BUT if you DO have some free time to kill or have nothing better to do, please read through our website especially if you are interested in Kyoto.
Anyway, Kyoto’s Three Greatest Festivals are [Gion Festival], [Aoi Festival] and [Jidai Festival]. One of them is going to be held in a few days!!! It’s Aoi Festival and it is held on May 15th every year. I’m going to give you some quick info on Aoi Festival:
1. It’s an old, old festival…the origin of the festival goes way back in 567. Wow, it’s over 1,400 years ago…anyway, they had a seriously bad harvest year in 567 and people thought it was the curse of the Gods of Kamo shrines. To calm the gods, they held a ritual. This is the beginning of the long history of AOI MATSURI.
2. Aoi is a flowering plant. People and animals in the parade wear Aoi and that’s why it is called Aoi Festival.
Hundreds of thousands of people come to see the parade every year but fortunately for some lucky people, unfortunately for most people, the festival is held on Monday this year and there will probably be less people than the years when it is held on the weekend. If you are one of the lucky people, go check it out! I am going to sneak out of the office and take some pictures to put on this site! (Junko)
The sky has been dull and grey for a few days here in Kyoto. I feel [Tsuyu] is steadily approaching… Tsuyu is the Japanese name for the rainy season that lasts from the middle of June to the end of July. I suppose it is the most unpopular season among the Japanese people. The weather is humid and damp. However, the rain is essential for the growth of the rice and vegetable farms in Japan. What is beautiful in the rainy season? [Ajisai ? hydrangea] bloom beautifully here and there all over Japan. I guess [Mimurotoji] is the most famous temple for hydrangea in Kyoto. About 10,000 hydrangea are planted in the garden, and you can enjoy the colorful flowers. If you are around Kyoto in June & July, don’t miss it! (Risa)
As I wrote on the news for May 12th, I DID go take some pictures of AOI FESTIVAL!!! We had a nice weather, not too hot, not too cold…just about right! I went to the gate of Kyoto Gosho [Imperial Palace Park] about 10 minutes before the scheduled time. But by the time I got there, there were hundreds of people on the side walk and I couldn’t go any closer…well, I could if I tried really hard but since I am pretty short, I knew I would’ve ended up being in between people and not being able to see a thing!
This is the middle of the season of school trips now. Yes, Kyoto is one of the most popular destinations. We have recently seen lots of students walking around the town here and there. They look very excited away from their home. It’s very easy to pick them up because they act together in groups. That definitely makes you hard to book a hotel/ryokan in April and May. They plan and arrange for a school trip well in advance…maybe 6 months ? 1 year ahead? They are pretty lucky to come and stay in Kyoto in the best season, eh? So, if you have a plan to come to Kyoto this season next year, please book a ryokan as soon as possible!!! (Risa)
It’s raining today…but we had a great weather on the weekend! There was a music event in Osaka so I went there with my friends. It was like a summer day!!! Very hot and fun! My friend and her cousin from Australia are in Kyoto hanging out right now. I hope they did lots of touristy things although it’s rainy…I am supposed to meet them after work and I was thinking “if it was not raining, I could have taken them to one of the Yuka (temporary veranda for dining) restaurants or bars” As Risa wrote on May 11th, even Starbucks has a Yuka now! Some of the verandas are much more casual compare to several years ago. Here’s a bar I want to check out sometime soon.
We have a long-waited 5 straight holidays from tomorrow! Golden Week is a Japanese term applied to the period containing the following national holidays; Greenery Day(Apr 29), Constitution Memorial Day(May 3), Between Day(May 4 - the day between national holidays should be a national holiday), Children’s Day(May 5). The term [Golden Week] was coined by movie theatre operators after a new law created the consecutive holidays in 1948. Many Japanese people take days off on the intervening work days, but some companies also close down completely and give their employees time off. So, Golden Week is a very popular time to travel. Flights, trains, and hotels are often 100% booked despite higher rates at this time. Even some foreign destinations are affected during this season too. I will basically stay in Kyoto, but I will definitely enjoy my GW holiday!
* When the new law was enacted in 1948, April 29 was a national holiday celebrating the birth of Emperor Show. Upon his death in 1989, the day was names as [Greenery Day] in order to retain Golden Week. In 2007, Greenery Day will move to May 4, and April 29 will be renamed Showa Day. (Risa)
Ahhhh, I think great numbers of people in Japan are back to real life today after Golden Week. It’s not so easy to accept the reality but OH WELL. My 5-day vacation was great! I didn’t go on a trip (Traveling in Japan during Golden Week is just insane. I am not a big fan.) and didn’t do anything that special but it was such a relaxed and chilled vacation and I loved it. We had incredible weather in Kyoto except for Sunday. I was by Kamogawa River one afternoon and the sky was so high and so blue that I took a picture...which didn’t turn out so well. Here is the picture.
Yep, I had a great holiday too. I was sooooooo mellow and relaxed during the Golden Week, which was what I wanted. As Junko mentioned in the news yesterday, it was pouring down on Sunday. But, I went for a drive to ShigaPrefecture with a friend (Actually she was driving. Thanks, Akiyo!). We were heading to a cafe called CLUB HARIE but we got stuck in a traffic jam on our way. We finally got there after a 2-hour drive. The cafe is very famous for [Baumkuchen]…but we didn’t order it (Akiyo bought it back home instead). Yes, the cafe is indeed as nice as
everyone says. We had a cosy time, looking at a beautiful garden. If you have a chance to come to Kyoto & Shiga, you should go! (Risa)
So I decided to stay a bit away from the crowd and waited for the parade to come out, on my toes, stretching my neck up. (The parade starts in the park and then comes out on the street.) Well, they were late! But after a while, 2 police officers came out through the gate on their horses and I could hear the crowd go “ohhhhh”…I could feel the excitement in the air!!! But then it took them forever to start anything…anyway, maybe about 10 minutes after the “ohhhhh”, the first group or the parade finally came out through the gate. Even for me, a Japanese person, it was quite exciting to see the people in the old, traditional, historical costumes!
So I am pretty sure it would be as exciting or even more exciting for people from other countries! If you get a chance in the future, you should go see AOI MATSURI! It’s held on May 15th every year. Oh, and if you get a chance, I recommend you to reserve a seat in Imperial Palace Park (where they start the parade) or Kamigamo Shrine (where they end the parade) because being in the crowd on the toes for long time is not so comfortable. (Junko)
When I walked to our office this morning, I saw students on a school trip. They were just leaving on a tour bus. I noticed there were some ryokan staff seeing them off on a street. They were waving good-bye to the students with a smile. However, the students didn’t notice them, ignored them even. I often see the similar sight here and there. On the other hand, elderly people wave back with a big smile on their face. I’m sure younger people have a grateful heart as older people do…but why do they not show their thanks to people? They are just shy? Whatever the reason is, it is very important for us to express our gratitude, right? (Risa)
They have a bar on their Yuka. Doesn’t it look really nice? Unfortunately, the website is only in Japanese but you can get some idea from the pictures!!! (Junko)
What do you think it is? It is [Wagashi]. It is a general term for traditional Japanese sweets, specially the types made of mochi (rice cake), red bean paste, and fruits that are served at a tea ceremony. The origin of Wagashi is not clear, but they may have existed for as long as people have existed here in Japan.
The carbonised remains of what seemed to be baked biscuits made from chestnut
powder were discovered in an excavation of a Jomon era archeological site.
Until sugar was introduced in the 16th century, wagashi was sweetened with
mizuame (a clear, thick, sticky liquid made by converting starch to sugars),
and fresh and dried fruits. Records from these times write about how treasured
dried fruits like persimmons and raisins were. During the Edo period, the
production of sugarcane in Okinawa became highly productive, and lower
quality brown sugar as well as heavily processed white sugar became widely
available. Wagashi was a popular gift between Samurai, in significance
much like a good wine in western countries. Wagashi is served as a part
of a tea ceremony and serving a good seasonal wagashi shows one’s educational
The explanation is a bit too long… What I wanted to say here is…Kyoto is very famous for Wagashi. And, there are thousands of wagashi shops here in Kyoto. As you see the photo above, you can feel a sense of the season eh? Don't you think it is beautiful? (Risa)
I read interesting news on the Internet a couple of days ago. The Top 10 Airports in the world for 2006 was announced. Which airport do you guess got the Gold Award? It is Singapore Changi Airport. Skytrax that did the survey also reported the category winners. Kansai International Airport in Osaka (KIX) was given high marks for some categories, e.g. Immigration service, Terminal cleanliness and Cleanest public washroom. You may already have a clean image of Japan, but the survey results proved that. Don’t forget to check the washroom if you have a chance to come to Japan via KIX!
and a huge plate of ice cream! I think it’s an incredible deal for only 1,500 yen/person! If you are very hungry, and if you are tired of healthy Japanese food, you should go to DEMODE QUEEN!!! (Junko)
It’s indeed beautiful this morning…but it’s going to rain later on. Crazy weather, eh? Probably the most convenient and luxurious way to look around Kyoto on a rainy day is by taxi. If it is raining, as it often does in June, you are sure to stay dry. There are hundreds of taxi companies, but Yasaka Taxi is the oldest one here in Kyoto. All Yasaka Taxis have a green three-leaf clover symbol on the top of the taxi and on the side doors. But, only four taxis have a four-leaf clover, a symbol of luck all over the world. There are about 9,000 taxis in Kyoto. Four of them are lucky! See if you can hail a four-leaf clover Yasaka Taxi and win a special prize. *Note; You can’t book for a four-leaf taxi* (Risa)
I was getting ready to go to work this morning with my TV on. On a TV show, they were talking about Japanese business people’s sense of time. An organization (I forgot what the organization was) had a survey on it. I wonder if your sense of time and their sense of time are different. Okay, when you say [I have a meeting early/first thing in the morning], what time does the meeting start? Or when you say [I’ll be a bit late to come home], how long late are you really going to be? When you say [I’ll go get A drink after work], how long will it take? Here are Japanese business people’s average answers: [Early-morning meeting] would start at 7:54 am. [A bit late] would mean 1 hour late. [A drink] would be 1 hour and 20 minutes long. What do you think? I know when I say [I’ll go get a drink], it usually takes much longer than 1hour and 20 minutes. (Junko)