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News from
May 2006

May 1st
Happy May Day! It is May Day in Japan like many other countries and we could hear demonstration against work environment out side of our office today. It doesnft feel good to hear people complaining about work when we are working but we finished our day no problem, without complaining! It was a good day. (Junko)
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May 10th
I want to write about Karasuma area today. Itfs the area where our office is located. Back in Heian period, it was called [Karasu-maru]. Most Japanese people who donft know much about Kyoto would still call it Karasu-maru since thatfs how it is written in Kanji characters. [Karasu] literally means [crow] and [maru] literally means [round] or [circle]. I canft find out the meaning of the name but it could be that there were many fat crows aroundcmaybe 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. Itfs still a pretty area with much less buildings compare to many other big cities). Since itfs 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)

May 11th
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 agocbut thatfs 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. Isnft 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)

May 12th
Have you heard of Kyotofs Three Greatest Festivals? Well if you havenft, that means you didnft read through our website!...well thatfs 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, Kyotofs Three Greatest Festivals are [Gion Festival], [Aoi Festival] and [Jidai Festival]. One of them is going to be held in a few days!!! Itfs Aoi Festival and it is held on May 15th every year. Ifm going to give you some quick info on Aoi Festival:
1.  Itfs an old, old festivalcthe origin of the festival goes way back in 567. Wow, itfs over 1,400 years agocanyway, 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 thatfs 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)

May 16th
The sky has been dull and grey for a few days here in Kyoto. I feel [Tsuyu] is steadily approachingc 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, donft miss it! (Risa)

May 17th
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 coldcjust 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 couldnft go any closercwell, I could if I tried really hard but since I am pretty short, I knew I wouldfve ended up being in between people and not being able to see a thing!

May 18th
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. Itfs 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 advancecmaybe 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)

May 23rd
Itfs raining todaycbut 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 itfs rainycI am supposed to meet them after work and I was thinking gif it was not raining, I could have taken them to one of the Yuka (temporary veranda for dining) restaurants or barsh 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. Herefs a bar I want to check out sometime soon. 

May 2nd
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), Childrenfs 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)

May 8th
Ahhhh, I think great numbers of people in Japan are back to real life today after Golden Week. Itfs not so easy to accept the reality but OH WELL. My 5-day vacation was great! I didnft go on a trip (Traveling in Japan during Golden Week is just insane. I am not a big fan.) and didnft 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 didnft turn out so well. Here is the picture.

I hope your Golden Week was great too!...if you are working/living in Japan. (Junko)

May 9th
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]cbut we didnft order it (Akiyo bought it back home instead). Yes, the cafe is indeed as nice as

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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)

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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 gohhhhhhcI could feel the excitement in the air!!! But then it took them forever to start anythingcanyway, maybe about 10 minutes after the gohhhhhh, 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! Itfs 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)

May 19th
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 didnft 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. Ifm sure younger people have a grateful heart as older people docbut 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)

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http://www.atlantis-net.co.jp/
They have a bar on their Yuka. Doesnft it look really nice? Unfortunately, the website is only in Japanese but you can get some idea from the pictures!!! (Junko)

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May 24th
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 onefs educational background
The explanation is a bit too longc What I wanted to say here iscKyoto 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)

May 25th
Do you think Japan is a safe country? I think so! I mean of course there always is some bad news about murdering and violence etc in Japan too but compare to lots of other countries, I think Japan still is a very safe country. Lots of my friends from overseas say Japanese news programs on TV are funny because they show news that would never be news in their own countriescfor examplechthere was Soba eating competition in this villageh, gA panda stood up in that zooh etc. (Recently there are lots of sad news on TV thoughcI am very sorry for those who are suffering from the incidents.) What I am trying to say today iscwell, I was checking out something on Yahoo and one of the top news was that gwe are having a great weather all over Japan today BUT itfs only today and not tomorrow!!!h Big news, eh? (Junko)

May 26th
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. Donft forget to check the washroom if you have a chance to come to Japan via KIX!

(Risa)

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May 29th
It was Risafs friendfs birthday on May 9th and we had 20-days-delayed birthday dinner for her on Saturday. We went out to [DEMODE QUEEN] againcthe American restaurant Risa wrote about on April 21st entry. This time, we ordered course meals. It was very reasonable and made us sooooooooooo full. Herefs what we got for only 1,500 yen/person. A drink [cocktails, wine, soft drinkscbut no beer, unfortunately], French fries and onion rings, a huge salad, Chicken with tomato sauce, Pasta, Loco moco [Hawaiian dish]

and a huge plate of ice cream! I think itfs 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)

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May 30th
Itfs indeed beautiful this morningcbut itfs 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 canft book for a four-leaf taxi* (Risa)

May 31st
I was getting ready to go to work this morning with my TV on. On a TV show, they were talking about Japanese business peoplefs 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 [Ifll be a bit late to come home], how long late are you really going to be? When you say [Ifll go get A drink after work], how long will it take? Here are Japanese business peoplefs 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 [Ifll go get a drink], it usually takes much longer than 1hour and 20 minutes. (Junko)