It’s a party for the royal family today! Princess Kiko just had a baby BOY this morning. Princess Kiko is a wife of Prince Akishino who is the second son of the Emperor. The Emperor has 3 children; The Crown Prince, Prince Akishino, and Princess Nori (who got married last year and gave up her royalty) and he has now 4 grand children; Princess Mako, Princess Kako, Princess Aiko and this baby boy. Right now, the baby boy is the third person to succeed to the imperial throne. Congratulations, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko...and the baby boy! Personally, I’m curious what would have happened if the baby was a girl. I could have seen the first Empress of Japan before I die…(Junko)
You might be surprised to see so many kinds of [TOFU] at a supermarket in Japan. Kyoto has been very famous for delicious tofu since early times. People say that is because we have had plenty of pure water that is essential for making tofu. A tofu maker called [OTOKOMAETOFUTEN] established in Kyoto in 2005 has developed his tofu products in rapid-fire succession. They not only taste good, but also look very unique. I went to a supermarket near my place yesterday, and found the tofu. The prices are pretty reasonable…about 300yen/pack. I now understand why they have become huge hits. If you are interested in the products, please check their website in English;
One of the biggest hit songs in Japan at the moment is called [Tarako Tarako Tarako] which means “Cod roe Cod roe Cod roe”. This song was just a jingle of a TV commercial for Tarako (Cod roe) spaghetti sauce. But it became so popular that they made a CD and it has been released since Sept. 6th. Quite a few articles say they will do really good and I believe it. I think they will sell a lot because the song is so catchy and fun to sing. Kids love these kind of songs. Also their advertisement mascot “Tarako Kewpie” is so cute that it became so popular among kids and young girls. Anyway…the interesting thing is that songs about food sell thousands once every while. The last song was [Osakana Tengoku] which means “Fish Heaven”. Yes, we love seafood. (Junko)
In Japan, September 18th is a national holiday called [Respect for the Aged Day]. We celebrate the day annually to honor elderly citizens. The national holiday used to be held on September 15th, but Japanese government implemented the Happy Monday system, which moved a number of national holidays to Mondays, in 2003. Respect for the Aged Day is one example. I think it’s a good idea because we can have more chances to visit our grandparents to say hello if we have a longer weekend. I will send a gift to my grandmothers this year…what shall I send?...(Risa)
Update on the baby boy…Princess Kiko and Prince Akishino have named the new member of the royal family. The baby’s name is Prince Hisahito. It means “living a long life with relaxed attitude”…I love the idea of “relaxed attitude”…don’t know about the “long life” part though. I mean Japanese people have long lives to start with…so I wonder how long they want the baby to live. Anyway, it’s a great name! (Junko)
There is a nip of autumn in the air especially in the morning and evening. I woke up feeling chilly this morning. I’ll talk about one of the autumn flavours today. Matsutake is the common name for a group of mushrooms in Japan, considered by the Japanese as the [king of autumn flavors]. It has been an important element of Japanese cuisine for at least 1,000 years. The main recipes for matsutake are matsutake soup, matsutake rice, grilled matsutake, etc. Their magnificently spicy aroma, similar to cinnamon, enhances wild mushroom dishes and makes great recipes. The aroma lasts even after it is cooked. If you go to a Japanese restaurant in this season, matsutake dishes probably will be served.
[HAGI] is one of seven flowers of autumn, which are bush clover (Hagi), miscanthus (Obana), kudzu, wild pink (Nadeshiko), yellow flowered valerian (Ominaeshi), boneset (Fujibakama), and Chinese bellflower (Kikyo).
The Waka poets since acient times have admired the simplicity and beautiful colours, and composed lots of waka poems. It is said especially [Hagi] has been the most popular among the seven autumn flowers. There are quite a few temples which are famous for the [Hagi] flower in Kyoto. Nison-In, Jyorin-Ji, and Kodai-Ji are the ones. How about visiting the temples on a lovely autumn day???? (Risa)
The 2016 Summer Olympics: While a host city hasn’t been determined yet, various cities have begun a bidding process for the honour. The candidates are Tokyo, Bangkok, Doha, Cape Town, Nairobi, Istanbul, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco and Chicago etc… A host city will be announced at the 121st Session of the international Olympic Committee to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009. Lots of people believe that the host city will most likely be in Northern America because cities from Asia, Australia and Europe have been selected as hosts for the four most recent Olympic Games. But, if Tokyo will be chosen as a host city, isn’t it great? A lot of people come to Japan to see the Olympic Games and visit old cities like Kyoto and Nara too!!! (Risa)
I’m sure you’ll be surprised to know the price for the mashroom…the Japanese Matsutake (Not the ones imported from China, Korea, and Canada etc) at the beginning of the season, which is the highest grade, can go up to US$2,000 per kilogram. Can you believe it?! (Risa)
It’s not raining today!!! It had been raining all week, so this one day of sunshine makes me happy! We have rainy season in June and July but the rain that lasts for days in the middle and the end of September is called “Aki No Nagaame” or “Long Rain of Autumn”. It has something to do with autumnal rain front hovering along Japan. It doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it? But there is another expression about autumn weather. “Aki Bare” or “Fine Autumn Weather” is an expression we use in autumn. In October, anticyclone brings low temperature, dry air and the sky clears up because of that. The autumn sky is very blue and high! I know the sky is always blue and high but it looks extra blue and high because the air is so clear. Please pay attention to the October sky in Japan. (Junko)
Yes, I will talk about food again today. [Matcha], occasionally spelled maccha, is a fine, powdered green tea used in Japanese tea ceremony and to dye and flavour foods. Matcha is generally expensive compared to other forms of tea, although its price depends on its quality. Matcha is now a common ingredient in sweets. It is sometimes used as flavouring in many Western-style chocolates, cookies, and ice cream etc. Even the Japanese snack Pocky has a matcha-flavoured version.
The use of matcha in modern drinks has also spread to cafe culture in North America, Europe and Oceania etc. It has become integrated into lattes, iced drinks, and milkshakes etc. I recommend a Japanese sweets shop called [Komori] in Gion area. There are lots of sweets shops in Kyoto, but I guess that’s the best one. (Risa)
It’s gradually getting cooler every day but it’s pretty hot today. I think it’s because of the typhoon that hit Japan over the weekend. I’m sorry the typhoon brought about a major disaster in Kyushu area. We have two more weekends by the end of September. Have you fully enjoyed your summer? If not, I want to suggest you visit Kibune area to have a cool experience. You can have lunch over the water…yes! Truly over the river! (Look at the photo below). It’s a very popular event for summer but I would rather recommend you to have the experience at this time of the year. As the temperature won’t go up too high, you can enjoy the delicious food and beautiful nature without any stress or worries!!! (Risa)
Do you know there is a very popular flea market in Kyoto? This popular market appears at Chionji Temple next to Kyoto University on the 15th of each month (it is moved to the 16th if it rains). Millions of shoppers flock to the more than 200 stalls that cover the grounds of the temple to buy jewelry, clothes, artwork, and sweets like cakes or biscuits all made by the hands of the sellers. I guess the most popular stalls are the food stalls where people form long lines to purchase yummy cakes and breads baked with love. Yes, there is almost too much choice at this attractive market… I’m sure you will never get bored there, but the problem is you have only one chance each month! (Risa)
Are you interested in having a cultural experience in Japan? I have found an interesting cooking class in Kyoto. Maybe I said in the previous news, but I think food significantly show the culture of the country/area. Mrs. Hirayama gives cooking lessons in English at home. After she lived in Tokyo for over 20 years, she moved back to Kyoto in 2001. Then, she decided that she wanted to connect with foreigners and teach them about Japanese culture through cooking. In her little cooking school/circle they prepare everything in a typical small Japanese Kitchen. The atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed, and this leads to wonderful mutual communication through conversation and intercultural observation. Her cooking class is; 1. Each class consists of 2-3 people, 2. She will decide what to cook after talking with the participants about their favourite/unacceptable ingredients, what they want to try etc, 3. After they have prepared the dishes, they will eat them and talk together, 4. 1,500yen-2,500yen/person (depending on the ingredients), 5. Reservation essential Tel; 075-723-3461, email@example.com (Risa)
The Fushimi area of Kyoto is not written in many guide books. It is unfortunate because there are lots of things you shouldn’t miss out. I introduce one spot for Sake lovers… Fushimi has been home to one of the greatest concentrations of sake breweries in Japan, and is still considered one of the top five in terms of excellence along with Niigata, Hiroshima, Toyama and Kobe, all of which are famous for their rice and water (essential ingredients for making beautiful sake). In Fushimi area, there is the Gekkeikan Okura Kinenkan covered with the distinctive wood and plaster walls. It was once a Sake warehouse, and it is now an excellent sake museum operated by the largest Sake maker in Japan. The museum covers all aspects of the Sake-making process with life-size models and many interesting displays. You can get a pamphlet written in English there too. [Open 9:30-16:30, Closed Mondays Admission 300yen] (Risa)
How was your weekend? I went to Tokushima in Shikoku with a friend of mine on Sunday. It took us about four hours to get there by bus. Yes, it is a long way…but there is a huge museum which is worth visiting. The Otsuka Museum of Art built by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd in 1998 is the biggest museum in Japan. As it has had an enormous reputation since the establishment, I wanted to visit there for a long time. All the art works displayed in the museum are superbly-detailed replicas. It was possible to make the reproductions with the special technique developed by one of the Otsuka group businesses. There are about 1000 art collections, and they are displayed according to the period i.e. ancient times, Renaissance, baroque period and modern times etc etc… There isn’t enough time to see all the art works in one day. I should definitely visit there again. If you are interested in art, and also you love the ocean, Shikoku is your next destination after Kyoto! (Risa)
Today is a [Bath Day]. Actually 26th of every month is a [Bath Day] because the number 2 can be read [hu] in Japanese and 6 can be read [ro]. Those two sounds together [hu-ro] is how we call bath in Japanese. Yes, it is a pun. I think Japanese people like to pun very much…well anyway, today is a bath day and I would like to talk about bath. I used to always take a bath when I was a child. Never only a shower…my mom says taking a bath makes you healthy. Thanks to mom, I grew up pretty healthy. But I don’t take a bath everyday like I used to do anymore. Usually I just take a shower but in the winter, I entertain myself in the bath with some toys. My favorite is the bath light. I put this egg shape light in the bath tub and it changes its colors like rainbow in the water. And of course there is always a bubble bath. I am not very happy that our hot summer is almost over and winter is approaching but one thing I can get excited about winter is my bath toys! (Junko) )
I talked about the [Gekkeikan Okura Kinenkan] last Friday. I found one more interesting museum for sake lovers in Kyoto city. I guess beer lovers are interested in the museum too! The [Horino Memorial Museum] is open to the public as a place where people can experience Machiya (Old Kyoto house) style architecture and the original form of a sake brewery. Matsuya Kyuubei set up the brewery in the town in 1781, and it became the home of Kinshi Masamune Sake. It was moved to Fushimi in 1880, but the original buildings have been preserved carefully since then. There is also a beer brewery at the back of the museum. The skilled sake craftsmen have researched various kinds of beer renowned all over the world, and finally made Kyoto local beer. There are 3 types of beer; [KARUOSU] of a clear taste, [MATTARI] of a deep taste, and [KURO] of a bitter taste. You can enjoy the beer at a beer parlor attached to the museum if you want. I’m sure it will be another popular attraction in Kyoto! (Risa)
Have you ever heard about [Koyasan]? It has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004. In early part of the 9th century, Kukai built a huge monastery on Mt. Koya, which eventually became the headquarters of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. Even now over 1200 years later, the Mt. Koya still attracts a huge number of Japanese pilgrims every year. An overnight trip to Mt. Koya is recommended to the visitor to Kyoto area. For the tourists from overseas, with or without any spoken Japanese ability, this trip can be made easily. Ideally an overnight stay at one of the temples (vegetarian dinner and breakfast included) is the best way to experience the religious atmosphere of the Mt. Koya. There are quite a few temples that are used to accommodating foreign visitors. In the morning, there is a bell at 5:30 signaling the start of morning services at 6:00. Anybody staying at the temple can attend the services. The early morning chanting will be a memorable experience. If you want to relax your mind and body, how about visiting the fantastic Buddhist Mountain retreat? (Risa)
Are you planning to come to Kyoto to see the beautiful autumn leaves this year? Well, in that case I hope you have already found a place to stay since most of the ryokans and hotels in Kyoto are all booked for the season. BUT even if you haven’t and you can’t find any rooms available in Kyoto, don’t just give up! There always are places somewhere close enough, like Shiga, Nara, Osaka!
Anyway, I will give you the top 5 of popular spots for autumn leaves in Kyoto!
5. Tofukuji temple
4. Nanzenji temple
3. Senzenin temple
2. Kiyomizu temple
Except for the number 1, all the popular spots are temples. Well, I guess it’s because most temples own big lands and there always be good monks to take care of the trees. Arashiyama is an area which is located in the west side of Kyoto city. There are lots of trees in the mountains there. You can find more information about the temples above except for Tofukuji on our website. Please check them out. (Junko)