Touring Kyoto by Rental Cycle

September 17, 2017

By Kensei Iizuka, Yuta Kobayashi and Takanori Tsuhako

As you know, in Kyoto, there are a lot of attractive places. However, how do you visit such nice places? Do you use buses or trains? Now, let us introduce the most active and flexible way to move around Kyoto: by rental cycle.

In Kyoto, there are many rental cycle shops and you can rent a bicycle for one day, which costs somewhere between 1 and 2 thousand yen. Optionally, you can rent a sport-type bicycle, a power-assisted bicycle, or child’s bicycle.

Merits of Using Rental Cycles

There are many merits of using rental cycles. First, it is the most active way to move around Kyoto. For example, if you like athletics, it is the best way to sightsee. Second, it is the most flexible. While you are sightseeing, you don’t have to worry about time like you do when taking the bus and/or train. Therefore, you can simply enjoy the places you like and just forget about the clock. In addition, because of its flexibility, you can enjoy Kyoto by going wherever you want to go. For example, you can bike down interesting Kyoto-like back alleys, encounter a temple which suddenly appears in front of you, or stumble across a friendly café. You can discover places which are not written in guide books, while choosing your destinations with your own senses.

Cautions

Pay attention to the seasons. If you come to Kyoto in the spring or autumn, you can enjoy your bicycle tour because you can feel a comfortable wind and see great cherry blossoms (in the spring) or red and yellow leaves (in the autumn). However, if you come to Kyoto in the summer or winter, you must pay attention to the temperature. In the summer, it is very hot and muggy, so you should be careful about heatstroke. And in winter, it is too cold to ride a bike, so you must wear warm clothes, a scarf and some gloves. At last, we don’t recommend renting a bicycle in June because it is the rainy season in Japan. You will get wet.

Places to Rent Bicycles

In Kyoto, there are many places to rent bikes. It is easy to access if your hotel is near the rental shop. Some shops are near the train stations. For example, here are some popular stores around Kyoto station:

Kyoto Eco Trip (http://www.kyoto-option.com/english/)

Kyoto Cycling Tour Project (KCTP) (http://www.kctp.net/pc/en/)

Kyoto Miyabiya (http://k-miyabiya.jp/index.html)

Fuune (http://miyakoshiki.wixsite.com/mysite)

How to Rent / Return

Renting a bike is easy. For example, we rented some bikes at Kyoto Eco Trip, near Kyoto station. You can reach it in five minutes after getting off the train. First, at the desk, a staff member gave instructions to us. Then, we could choose the type of bicycle and the plan. Some places rent an electric bike, which is a little bit more expensive than a normal bike, but you can ride it easily. It is necessary to show your I.D. card in order to rent a bike.

There are various kinds of plans by stores. It is good for you to choose a store by looking carefully at the plan. You pay in advance, but if you end up renting it longer than you had planned, you can pay the difference when you return. It’s convenient, isn’t it?

After paying the rental fee, the staff will bring you a bike and explain how to use it. The shop we rented from uses a dial type of key. You can decide whatever numbers you want to use. We also received some ice-cold bottled water for our journey. It was a very hot day, so we were really happy about that.

Famous Spots around Kyoto Station

Toji temple

One of the main symbols of Kyoto is Toji Temple, located in Minami-ku, which was registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994. When you are just about to arrive at Kyoto station by a bullet train, you can see this five-storied pagoda from the south side window of your train. It only takes about 7 minutes on bicycle to arrive at Toji Temple from Kyoto station.

Kyoto Aquarium

There is a modern aquarium to the west of Kyoto Station, which was established in 2012 inside Umekozi Park. This is the first aquarium to use complete artificial seawater to keep displays beautiful in Japan. 15,000 different kinds of fish and animals are put on display there, such as the Japanese Giant Salamander (Andrias Japonicus), which is designated as a special natural monument, and which lives in the local Kamogawa River. There are also various kinds of penguins, dolphins, and fish there. It is only a 10-minute bicycle ride from Kyoto station.

 

Kyoto Railway museum

There are two hot spots in Umekozi Park, one is the Kyoto Aquarium and the other is the Kyoto Railway Museum. This museum is newer than the aquarium, and opened in 2016. There is the largest of Japan’s train museums. You can see many different kinds of trains there, for example a retired 0 series shinkansen. Also, you can take a short ride on an old steam locomotive. How special? It is also 10-minute bicycle from Kyoto station.

Nishihonganji temple

Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who is the famous builder of Osaka castle, established this temple in 1591. Inside the temple, a lot of traditional buildings and gardens representing the Azuchimomoyama Era are there. This temple is also registered as a World Heritage Site in 1994. It is approximately 3 minutes by bicycle from Kyoto station.

Higashihonganji temple

This temple is placed in almost in front of Kyoto station and you can reach it even on foot in 5 minutes. Furthermore, the shape of temple is very similar to that of Nishihonganji temple, and these temples are very close to one antoher. It can be fun for visitors to examine the differences between them.

Shoseien

Shoseien is a completely sophisticated and beautiful garden located in middle of the city. Although you are in the city, you can see brilliant green trees and shaped pond as soon as you enter. You can calm down and relax with a tweeting of birds in the garden. Also, you can view Kyoto Tower, which is a main symbol of Kyoto from the garden. It looks like a strange landscape, but it is actually wonderful. It is only a 7-minute bicycle from Kyoto Station.

Kyoto Tower

Kyoto Tower stands just in front of Kyoto station and is the highest building in Kyoto city. It was built in 1964. This is an important spot for visitors to get souvenirs from a complete range of souvenir shops and can enjoy local foods in the surrounding restaurants. At the top of the tower, you can see the whole landscape of Kyoto. It is a valuable spot to see other famous places from a high point.

Model Tour

After arriving at Kyoto station, go to the Hachijo-guchi exit (South Gate). A few minutes’ of walking will bring you to Kyoto Eco Trip. Check in and rent a bike; then your trip has started. First, go to Toji temple. It is in a south-west direction from Kyoto Eco Trip. You can get a map at Kyoto Eco Trip, so you can ride around without getting lost. It takes about 10 minutes from Eco Trip to Toji Temple. Park your bike near the car parking lot. If you are not sure, just ask the staff. If you park on the road, your bike might be removed by the authorities. In Kyoto, the places which you park your bike are basically free. Some places are only free for a few hours, so be careful about it.

Next, to go to Umekoji Park by heading north. It takes only five minutes to reach the park. There you can enjoy the Kyoto Aquarium and the Kyoto Railway Museum, too. There are a lot of nice restaurants near there as well. We decided to visit a sushi restaurant for lunch, which was delicious.

After taking a rest and eating your fill, move on to Nishihonganji and Higashihonganji temples. It only takes about 10 ~ 15 minutes to get there. Seisyoen is also near Higashihonganji. You can feel the real Kyoto spirit there. After feeling Kyoto, you can visit Yodobashi Camera and buy anything you want. There are a lot of restaurants there, too. You can also visit Kyoto Tower while you are at it. Finally, go back to Kyoto Eco Trip, give your bike back and end your trip. What a great day!

Kurotaniwashi

by Mayumi Otsuka, Mai Takezawa and Kanako Wakamatsu

Have you heard of the traditional paper craft in Japan? It is called washi. Paper craft is one of the important Japanese traditional arts. There are several styles of paper craft in Japan, such as tosawashi in Kochi, obarawashi in Aichi, and narushimawashi in Iwate. Kurotaniwashi, however, is the famous paper craft of Kyoto. Kurotaniwashi is often referred to as “The most beautiful paper craft in Japan.” In this article, we will explain to you all about kurotaniwashi: its history, how it is made, and its use in popular souvenirs.

Kurotaniwashi

 

History of Kurotaniwashi

Kurotaniwashi has a very long history, starting over 800 years ago. Surviving soldiers of the Heike clan had escaped from Genzi pursuers and had hidden in a village in a mountain valley. Those surviving soldiers started papermaking as a livelihood. Since then, that village became famous for papermaking, as most of the villagers are took part in papermaking process in one form or another. The name of the village was “Kurotanimura” so the paper craft came to be named kurotaniwashi.

Originally, kurotaniwashi was used in the making of various practical tools for living, such as lights and sliding doors made with paper and wood. However, at the beginning of Edo period, kurotaniwashi began to gradually be used in not only tools for living, but also in works of art and in artistic ways. The reason is that the village was close to Kyoto and the paper was of very high quality. Some of main products of Kurotaniwashi in Edo era was related to Kyo-gohuku. Kyo-gohuku is generally point to textile product that made by silk fiber. After the Meiji period, the silk industry took off and began to develop rapidly. Therefore, the demand of the products made with silk increased. With developing of the silk industry, demand of the product for cocoon bag became high. Cocoon bag is necessary tool for raise silkworm for that silk, and that cocoon bag are mostly made by paper. As you can see, kurotaniwashi was used for art products and industrial products, but nowadays it is frequently used for daily products. For example, some post cards and letter paper are made from kurotaniwashi. In this way, the culture of using craft paper became more widely known and practiced in Japan. Eventually, kurotaniwashi came to be designated as an intangible cultural property of Kyoto prefecture. Over the years, several large fires have occurred in the village. During those fires, some of the most important historical documents were burned, so it was difficult to determine the details of its origins. Nevertheless, it is said that kurotaniwashi is the oldest type of paper that exists now in Japan.

How to Make Kurotaniwashi

Kurotaniwashi is made from Paper Mulberry (broussonetia papyrefera), a kind of tree that is called kouzo in Japanese. It grows to a height of over 3 meters. The first step is to harvest the wood. They cut down the tree without leaves in the winter. Next, they put the wood in a big barrel and steam it in a furnace for 3 hours. The part of the process is called kagomushi in Japanese. “Kago” means basket, and “Mushi” means steam in English. After that, the craftsman starts de-barking the trees, a process called kagohegi in Japanese. Hegi means ‘bark’ or ‘peel’ in English, and is a kind of local dialect. The craftsman removes the bark to expose the white tree bark inside and they cook it with alkali water for an hour. After that, put the kouzo in cold water to eliminate any remaining lye and soil. This stage of the process is called midashi in Japanese. After that, they smash the wood into pulp, similar to the way of making rice cakes from steamed rice. It is called dakai in Japanese. After dakai, the wood has now become a pulp of small fibers. They then mix the pulp with water and glue, then start creating sheets by pasting the pulp on a special wood board with a brush. This final stage is called kamitsuke in Japanese. Thus, kurotaniwashi is made by drying with natural air.

The countryside region of Kyoto Tango is very famous for a long time, because there are very suit for growing good kozo (paper mulberry) that is the main material. In addition, there are Kurotani river that has very clear water. Therefore, the water of Kurotani river is perfect for making Kurotaniwashi. People who are papermaker use only natural materials. However, people who know about the way of making Kurotaniwashi and are able to make Kurotaniwashi is decreasing, so we have to protect the way of making Kurotaniwashi that is one of the Japanese traditional.

Kurotani

 

Kurotaniwashi Souvenirs

In Kyoto there are many traditional products sold as souvenirs, some of which are made with kurotaniwashi. For example, you can buy something simple, like just kurotaniwashi paper for 600-800 yen. Other products made with kurotaniwashi are letter paper, post cards, envelops, notebooks, book covers, cushion covers, and so on. These products have a traditional texture, so they are very tough. Therefore, they are capable of long term use. They become charm of kurotaniwashi. even they become too old.

Kurotaniwashi Shops

Kyoto Washi Koubou

Kyoto Washi Koubou is a store with some souvenirs made with kurotaniwashi. You can buy online. At the site, you can learn more detail about the history of kurotaniwashi, as well as buy some traditional products online. In addition, you can make your own kurotaniwashi by designing their color or pattern.

TEL: 0773-42-9810

http://www.aspa.or.jp/washi/

Kurotaniwashi Kaikann

The “Kurotaniwashi Kaikann” is a store and studio of kurotaniwashi. It is not open Saturday and Sunday. You can buy kurotaniwashi souvenir at the store. If you reserve on the Internet before the day you go to the store, you can try making kurotaniwshi.

TEL: 0773−44−0213

Time: 9:00~16:30

E-mail: kyoto.ayabe@kurotaniwashi.jp

Making Kurotaniwashi

 

Conclusion

The paper craft that was born in Kurotani village is called kurotaniwashi, and it is the famous paper art of Kyoto. It is said that it is the most beautiful and oldest paper craft in Japan. Kurotaniwashi has a very long history from 800 years ago, and it is made by the special skill of craftsman using natural ingredients, such as the pristine Kurotani river water. You can not only buy kurotaniwashi, but also make it on your own in Kyoto. It will be a nice souvenir and may become a special memory of you in Kyoto. Why don’t you try it?

The Kanji Museum

by Miyabi Saeki and Natsumi Awa

In 2016, the Kanji Museum was established in Kyoto. It looks like a modern building, but it suits the scenery of Kyoto because the basic color is black. At the Kanji Museum, you can learn about the origin, history, and development of kanji, as well as become familiar with many different kinds of kanji. There are also a few small collections related to Kanji. For example, you can see the original types of tools used to write Kanji in its early days, like sand and bones, to the present day, such as computers and smart phones.

What are Kanji?

Kanji are ideographs which were made to represent the Chinese language in China, over 3,500 years ago. An ideograph is a picture which has a certain meaning. For example, the Kanji 馬 (uma). This Kanji was made based on the shape of a horse. Therefore, the meaning is ‘horse’. Kanji was introduced into Japan about 1,500 years ago via China. Currently Kanji is used in China, Japan, and Korea. Kanji was originally made by changing the shape of what was a picture. It is said that it is only kanji that is still used from that time. In other words, the most historic writing system in the world is Kanji.

The advantages of Kanji are that it is easy to understand and express short words briefly. In addition, there are many coined words in Kanji, so it enriches the Japanese vocabulary.

The disadvantages of Kanji are that Kanji have many stroke counts and complex shapes. Also, Kanji is not suitable for expressing sounds, so it is difficult to learn to read and write. Therefore, hiragana and katakana (phonetic writing systems in Japan) are used to help people read kanji and for transliteration of loanwords.

Floor guide

The 1st Floor

On the first floor, there is a theater, a café, a gift shop and some historical exhibitions. For example, there is a time line of the history of kanji on the wall. Kanji has a long history, and you can learn about it by looking at the time line. Furthermore, when you enter the Kanji Museum, you will receive a pamphlet, which is a kind of activity in which you learn about the origin of the Japanese writing system. You compare stamps of old and recent kanji and kana which are characters made in Japan that represent sounds. Sometimes the same kanji looks very different.

         

The 2nd Floor

There are many activities on the 2nd floor. For example, there are kanji quizzes, a kanji photo studio, a place where you can make your own kanji, and so on. The kanji quizzes can be a little difficult even for Japanese native speakers, but there are many kinds of quizzes and the levels are different. Some are like written exams, but others are like games that you can play. For example, you can match different parts of kanji together with cards, or put the correct words onto pictures. You will see many kids and adults taking these quizzes together.

Also, the kanji photo studio is fun, because you can pose in the shape of different kanji. This activity is fun even if you know almost no Japanese. You only have to know the shape of the kanji, and try to make it with your own body. In addition, you can make your own kanji, and also you can see many kanji which were made by other people.

        

If you don’t know any Japanese, you may not find it interesting, but if you know even just a little Japanese, you should try the stamp activity to see what your name looks like in old kanji.

Events at the Kanji museum

There are many events at the Kanji Museum for people to learn about kanji while also having fun. The events change every month. You can see what events are taking place on the museum’s homepage. For example, one recent event was making kanji with clay. Kids and adults could learn about the different meanings of kanji by making them with clay.

         

There is also a Kanji fair. The meaning of kanji changes over time. Here, you can learn about those changes. Some words that are now used were used very differently in the past. Many Japanese native speakers also don’t know the old meanings of kanji that they currently use.

If you don’t know a lot of Japanese, the arts and crafts events can be a lot of fun and you also get a souvenir. Or if you want to learn more Japanese, events like the Kanji fair may be more interesting.

At any rate, feel free to check out the Kanji Musuem in Kyoto. You won’t be disappointed.

Basic information about Kanji museum

Established June 29th, 2016

Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (last admission 16:30) Closed: Mondays

Admissions: Adults: ¥800

University and high school students: ¥500

Junior high and elementary school students: ¥300

Preschool children: Free

Handicapped visitors: Free

Address: 551 Gionmachi Minigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0074, Kyoto Prefecture

Access: Keihan Line, Gion-Shijo Stn, Exit 6, 5-min walk.

From Kyoto station, city bus number 100 or 206. Stop at Gino Bus Stop. 3 min walk.

Randen Tour

by Kensei Iizuka, Takanori Tsuhako, Yuta Kobayashi

What is the best way to do sightseeing on the west side of Kyoto city? On this page, we recommend useful and comfortable transportation: a tram named Randen.

The Randen Keifuku Line is a tram which runs from Shijo-Omiya to Arashiyama with a total of 13 stations. In the day time, it runs 6 times per hour. Usually it is one car long, but at rush hour and at the height of the tourist season, it is two cars long.

Merits of Using Randen

There are several advantages to using the Randen. First, the Randen is punctual. If you use a bus for sightseeing, it will be late because buses are often late. On the other, the Randen is never late. In addition, because it runs 6 times per an hour, you can plan your trip by the minute. Second, it is not crowded, so you can ride it very comfortably and don’t need to worry about your big baggage. Finally, it is fast. It only takes about 1~2 minutes to move to the next stop, so you can save your time to do sightseeing.

Fare for Randen

You can buy a Randen one day pass at Shijo-Omiya (A1), Katabiranotsuji (A8), Arashiyama (A13) or Kitano-Hakubaicho (B9). It costs 500 yen and with it, you can ride the Randen all day without limit. If you board the Randen without a one day pass, you have to pay 220 yen (adults) or 110 yen (children, between 6~12 age) per ride. Once you board, all you need to do is pay or show your one day pass when you get off the train. At Shijo-Omiya, Katabiranotsuji, Arashiyama and Kitano-Hakubaicho, you have to pay or show your one day pass at the ticket gate.

Famous Spots Along the Randen

KORYUZJI


Located in Uzumasa, the Koryuji temple is one of the oldest pieces of architecture in Kyoto. This temple was established approximately 1,300 years ago and is dedicated to Shotoku Taishi, one of the founders of Buddhism in Japan. As soon as you enter the temple, you can walk on the stone-paved road. On both sides of the road, a wide range of trees, such as pine, is planted. Moreover, you can go to the Toei Uzumasa Movie Park, which is just a 5-minute walkfrom Koryuji temple. This is kind of historical theme park in which you feel like you are back in Edo era, with samurai, ninja, and geisha. The nearest station of these spots is Uzumasa Koryuji Station (A7).

KURUMAZAKI SHRINE


Located in Saga, the Kurumazaki Shrine is dedicated to the Confucian scholar, Kiyoharano Yorinari. This shrine is well known for its religious stones, so many tourists go there to get fortune stones to make their wishes come true or to remove bad luck. There is strange way of wishing, which is to write down your name on a human-shaped piece of paper and then put it into a box while making your wish. Inside the shrine, there is a sub-shrine, called the Geino shrine. A lot of famous entertainers in Japan visit here and they write their name or group name on a red stick for their success in the future. The moment you get off the train at Kurumazaki Shirine Station (A10), you can see the shrine in front of the station.

ROKUOUIN


Here is a Japanese beautiful garden Before reaching this garden, you go through a road covered with various kinds of vivid green trees. You can feel nature strongly here, even though you are in the middle of Kyoto city. The nearest Randen station is Rokuoin Station (A11). It is about a 7-minute walk to reach the garden.

HOGONIN


As soon as you enter this temple, you will start to feel very calm because there is extreme quiet or only a tweet of some birds. The period you can enter there is limited to only the spring and autumn. In both seasons, you can see a great garden, which contains some beautiful red trees in the autumn. The nearest Randen station is Arashiyama Station (A13). You can also enjoy some famous sightseeing spots, such as the Togetsukyo bridge and the Bamboo Road in Arashiyama.

OMURO NINNAJI TEMPLE


Omuro Ninnaji temple was registered as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1994. Construction began in 886 and was finished two years later. In the spring, this temple is famous for its beautiful cherry blossoms. The nearest Randen station is Omuroninnnazji Station (B5). In front of the station, there is restaurant where you can eat traditional Indian curry.

RYOANJI TEMPLE


Ryoanji is also World Heritage site. It has the most famous rock gardens in Japan. You can feel wabisabi (the art of imperfection) in this sophisticated garden with no chaos at all. One interesting way of observing this garden is when you focus on stones in the garden. From any angle you can’t see all the stones at one time. The last stone is definitely hidden behind another stone. The nearest Randen station is Ryoanji Station (B7).

TOJIIN


Here is placed in near Ninnaji temple and Ryoanji temple and was established in 1341, Muromachi era, by Takauzi Ashikaga who is the founder and first shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate. There is also beautiful garden inside here. Furthermore, you can see the tea-ceremony room, which is completely sophisticated and extremely Japanese shape of culture. Nearest Station is Tojiin Station (B8).

Model Randen Sightseeing Plan

Let us suggest a sightseeing plan for using one-day Randen ticket. First, your Randen trip starts from Shijo Omiya station. Take the tram for 13 minutes to Uzumasa-Tenjingawa station. There you can visit Koryuji temple.

Next, take the tram from Uzumasa-Tenjingawa station. to Kurumazaki-jinja station. You can visit Kurumazaki-shrine there. Then, take the tram to Rokuoin station. It’s the next station from Kurumazaki-jinja station. Walking a short distance from the station, you will find Rokuoin.

After that, take the tram for Arashiyama station. The station is really nice and wonderful. They sell a lot of food and souvenirs. You can also enjoy a foot-bath there. Arashiyama has a lot of places to visit, but we recommend you visit Hougenin if it is the right season of the year. If you show your coupon, you can get some presents.

After you enjoy your stay in Arashiyama, take the tram again and get off at Katabirano-tsuji station. When you get off the tram at this station, you don’t have to show your one-day ticket. Change trains at the station, and get off at Omuro-ninnaji station. It’s the fifth station. There is a wonderful curry and rice restaurant right front of the station. We recommend you have some nice lunch there. After having lunch, you can visit Ninnaji temple.

Once you have seen Ninnaji, go back to Omuro-ninnaji station. and take the tram to Ryoanji station. It’s the second station. From the station, walk about 10 min. to arrive at Ryoanji temple. After visiting Ryoanji, finally, take the tram again and get off at Tojin station. It’s only a 5-minute walk.

That’s the best plan for using your one-day Randen ticket. You end up taking the trams nine times, and if you haven’t bought the one-day ticket, you would have spent over 2,000 yen!

Shijo-omiya sta. Start
↓ 13 min. 6 stops
Uzumasa-koryuji sta. Koryuji Temple
↓ 7 min. 3 stops
Kurumazaki-jinja sta. Kurumazaki Shrine
↓ 1 min. 1 stop
Rokuo-in sta. Rokuo-in
↓ 3 min. 2 stops
Arashiyama sta. Hogenin
↓ 8 min. 5 stops
Katabira-no-tsuji sta. Change Trains
↓ 7 min. 5 stops
Omuro-ninnaji sta. Lunch, Omuroninnaji Temple
↓ 3 min. 2 stops
Ryoanji sta. Ryoanji Temple
↓ 1 min. 1 stop
Tojiin Tojiin

Kyoame

by Mayumi Otsuka, Mai Takezawa and Kanako Wakamatsu

If you come to Kyoto, what are you going to buy as a food souvenir? There are very popular food souvenirs in Kyoto, such as yatsuhashi, matcha, and so on. However, have you ever heard of kyoame? Kyoame is a candy and is one of the historical Japanese sweets in Kyoto. It has a pretty design and a very beautiful color, such as pink, purple, green, and yellow. Also, in Chinese characters, ‘candy’ means ‘be delighted by eating’. Therefore, you can be happy by eating the candy called kyoame.

Yatsuhashi

 

History of Kyoame

There wasn’t any such thing as candy in ancient Japan. Instead of candy, there was starch syrup (the literal translation is ‘water candy’ in Japanese) that was made with rice and malt. However, it was used only as seasoning. In the late Muromachi era (1392~1573), Portuguese explorers came to Japan, bringing their religion and culture. One of the things they introduced was white sugar. However, it was not famous among the common people at that time. It was not until the end of Edo era (1600~1867) that ordinary people found out about white sugar. However, it was very expensive, so some of them could not eat it yet, much less see it. In the Meiji era (1868~1911), Japan began to engage actively in foreign trade. In addition, the skill of making candy was developed, so many kinds of candy were produced. In this way, kyoame was born by using traditional candy-making techniques with starch syrup and the new ones with white sugar.

How to Make Kyoame

At the beginning, the kyoame craftsman makes the paste of the candy. First of all, she boils the sugar up to 110° C, which is raw material of kyoame. Then he keeps boiling the sugar until it reaches 160° C. Then, she uses a special machine to drain the candy of its water. After that, she puts the candy paste on a cooling plate and blends in the flavor and food coloring. This is the basic process of making the kyoame candy paste.

Once the candy paste is made, what happens next depends on what type of Kyoame is desired. In general, there are two methods of making kyoame. One is made by pouring the candy paste into a variety of molds. Another is done by combining some big candy parts together, which differ by color and taste, to make one big candy paste mass. The craftsman then makes the candy paste long and thin and then cuts it into small pieces. That part is very similar to European-style candy making.

The craftsman work is very sensitive because the craftsman needs to adjust his work to a variety of conditions, such as season, temperature, humidity, and so on. To be a kyoame craftsman is a very difficult job because it requires both technical skill and management skill. As proof, some kyoame craftsman have been commended for their sensitive skill by officials from Kyoto city.

Of course, making kyoame is very difficult and almost impossible for ordinary people. However, there is one kyoame store that offers visitors the experience of making kyoame themselves. So, if you go there, you can try to make your own original version of kyoame. Many kyoame stores do not use machines much, as mostly the candy is made by the craftsman’s hand.

Kyoame is popular souvenir for foreigners because the design is very beautiful and it really has the feeling of a traditional Japanese souvenir. On the other hand, kyoame is also a popular souvenir amongst the Japanese, because it is so affordable. Often, Japanese people feel guilty for receiving a souvenir that is too expensive. And in the season of school trips, students often buy kyoame as a souvenir for their family or for their seniors. Kyoame is not so expensive, but the design is beautiful, so it is easy to buy for students. In sum, kyoame is suitable as both a formal or casual gift.

Kyoame

 

Where to Buy Kyoame

In Kyoto there are several famous Kyoame stores. We would like to introduce two of them.

Ayanokouji

The first one is called Ayano Kouji. It was founded in 1876. They have 5 kinds of kyoame and the names of each are related to traditional Japanese culture. For example, Shun is related to the change of the seasons, so you can enjoy a different taste at different times of the year. They also make specific Japanese tastes, like like plum, yuzu, kujyou welsh onion, etc.

http://www.ayanokouji.co.jp

TEL 075-351-0593

Open 9:00-18:00 (Monday-Friday)

Crochet Kyoto

The second kyoame shop is named Crochet Kyoto. Unlike Ayano Kouji, it is a very new shop, just founded in 2013. They offer 21 kinds of kyoame. All of them are flamboyant and their name is related to both Japanese and European culture. For example, Shiromuku is kind of traditional clothing that brides wear, and it’s taste is that of sakura, or cherry blossom. Another is named Antoinette, from Marie Antoinette. It is related to Europe and its taste is strawberry.

http://crcht.com

TEL 075-744-0804

Open 10:30-19:00

Kinds of Kyoame

 

Surprising Fact About Kyoame

In 2004, a company that makes fashion accessories with kyoame was established. It is called Nanaco Plus+. It reproduces traditional Kyoto confectionery with their accessories. If you go there, you can see jewelry or key rings that look just like kyoame. They want us to watch, wear, and eat kyoame. Their goal is to revive the heart of beauty and sensitivity that Japanese felt in times long ago.

Their accessories are made with real kyoame. The company invented a technique to cover the real candy with clear resin. Each piece is hand-made, so you can enjoy differences in size and design. In addition, they also sell cosmetics, such as a lip cream which smells like kyoame. In this way, traditional kyoame can be loved forever.

As you can see, kyoame is a traditional sweet in Kyoto that requires a special technique to make. There are a variety of kinds and tastes, and they have names related to both Japanese and European culture. In addition, you can enjoy Kyoame not only by eating them, but also by wearing them as accessories. Therefore, we recommend you buy a beautiful kyoame as a souvenir during your stay in Kyoto.

The Best of Nishiki Market

by Yu Sakamoto, Tashi Nisikawa and Kazu Shibao

Entrance

Inside Nishiki ichiba

In recent years, the number of tourists who come from overseas has been increasing. In 2003, for example, the number of visitors was 5,211,725. However, that exceeded ten million people in 2013 and recently hit almost 20 million. Even Japanese who are not good at speaking English have struggled to help foreigners be more comfortable during their visit. Simply put: Kyoto is flooded with tourists.

There are many chances to get written information about the recommendable spots in Kyoto. However, theses spots are popular and are therefore always crowded. This can make you irritable. One of these famous spots is a 400-year-old market called Nishiki Ichiba, which shouldn’t be missed. Below is our advice on how you can enjoy Nishiki Ichiba in spite of the crowds.

Nishiki Ichiba is nicknamed Kyo no Daidokoro by the Japanese. Kyo means ‘Kyoto’ and daidokoro means ‘kitchen’. So as you can imagine, Nishiki Ichiba is the place where you can find food from all over Kyoto in one place. The market is a straight path running east and west, and is 390 meters long and only 3.25 to 5 meters wide. Nishiki Ichiba is typical of the structures of Kyoto. As mentioned previously, it has existed for more than 400 years, so it has a long history.

How to Get There

Unfortunately, Nishiki Ichiba is not located near Kyoto station, which is where most tourists usually arrive first. Although people can get to the market by both bus and subway, taking the subway is faster and easier than taking the bus.

Kyoto station has many train lines. You should take the train that is the Subway Karasuma line. Simply buy a ticket to Shijo station, which costs 210 yen. When come out of the station at ground level you should walk down Shijo street to the east and turn left at the second corner. The entrance to the market is on the right as you walk north about 100m (see photo at the top).

In Nishiki Ichiba, there are a total of about 126 stores. So when you go there, you can easily become confused. Therefore, we have put together a guide to the best shops in Nishiki Ichiba.

Raw Oyster Shop: Daiyasu

At the very beginning, when you first enter the market, you can see the shop on your right. This shop provides the fresh Oysters to customers. In the summer season, you can eat a kind of oyster called iwa kaki, and in the winter you can eat ma kaki. Iwa kaki is much bigger than ma kaki. (see the photos below). Its taste is juicy. Ma kaki is smaller than iwa kaki, but its taste is much creamier than iwa kaki. You can eat them either raw or grilled. We suggest you try eating raw oyster. The taste is amazing. If you visit Nishiki Ichiba, you should definitely go to Daiyasu.

Inside “Daiyasu”

Up “Iwa kaki”, Down “Ma kaki”

Soybean Shop: Kyo no Omamehan

A lot of flavor in the store.

Just nearby Daiyasu, you can find a soybean store named Kyo no Omamehan. If you can’t find it, don’t worry. Your nose can lead the way, as the smell of beans will attract you. Inside, there are so many different kinds of bean snacks, as you can see in the photo. Also, you can sample every flavor of bean snacks on offer. Therefore, you can discover your favorite before making a purchase.

Also in this store, you can get some bean-flavored ice cream, which has an unusual, but pleasant taste. There are 3 flavors: black vanilla, tofu milk and black soy bean. These are limited to only 50 a day, so if you want to have some, you can’t be late. Otherwise they will be sold out. These bean-flavored ice cream prices are all 380 yen, so it’s quite reasonable.

We ate Ice cream.

Matcha Sweet Shop: Sawawa

Front of SAWAWA

After Kyo no Omameha, walk to straight to the east about 50 meters. There you will see a shop on your left that provides freshly ground matcha, or powdered green tea. The shop uses tea grown in Uji, which is a region in the south part of Kyoto. It is famous for its high quality green tea. Of all the sweets make with matcha in the shop, we suggest that you eat matcha warabimochi, which is similar to a jelly-like sweet made from bracken starch and covered in powdered green tea. The taste is mild and you can enjoyed the aroma of matcha. Of course, it goes well with freshly brewed tea.

 

 

 

Spice Shop: Ochanoko Saisai

Front of “Ochanoko Saisai”

After walking 1 minute more to the east, you will come upon a Kyoto-style spice shop named Ochanoko Saisai. There, you can buy the spiciest ichimi togarashi and shichimi togarashi in the world. Ichimi togarashi means ‘one flavor chili pepper, while shichimi means ‘seven flavor chili pepper’. Ichimi is made from dried red chili pepper flakes, while shichimi contains seven spices, some of which are uniquely Japanese.

Also, at the storefront you can try ichimi and shichimi togarashi rice crackers. I can tell you one thing that if you want to try this one, get a bottle of water beforehand. You’ll need it!

Click here to learn more about Shichimi.

 

Deep Fried Chocolate Shop: Inoue Tsukudani

Have you ever eaten deep fried chocolate before? At the bento store named Inoue Tsukudani, you can have a chocolate croquette. You might think this is gross, but once you eat it, your thinking will be changed. According to one of the shop’s workers, the chocolate is hard to melt, so you can also take it back to your hotel if you are full. In this store, there are a couple of seats, so if you want to eat comfortably, you can go inside and sit down. And if you ask politely, you can get cold or hot tea for free. Also, like in the picture below, you can leave your message on the wall. This is a great place to have a little fun time while you eat something delicious and unique.

We wrote messages.

Mochi Shop: Mochi Tsukiya

Front of “Mochi Tsukiya”

After your chocolatey visit to Inoue Tsukudani, walk straight to the east for about 2 minutes. You will then see a shop on your right, just east of Yanagibamba street. It is called Mochi Tsukiya and it is famous for mochi, or Japanese pounded rice cake. If you are hungry, you can eat high quality mocha filled with red bean paste. You can also sample mochi made with different ingredients, such as seaweed, cheese, fish eggs, pickled plum, grated white radish, and shiso (perilla) leaf. And if you feel hot, you can cool down with some kakigori, which is made with mocha and shaved ice. They have some chairs and tables, so you can take a break here. We suggest you eat kakigori. You can also order a half-size mochi with kakigoori. This shop was is so good that it was featured on a famous TV program. Don’t miss it!

Liquor Store: Tsunoki Shuho

You can buy this sake only here.

Near the east end of the street, you can find a liquor store named Tsunoki Shuho. It is over 220 years old. In this store, there are so many unique types of Japanese sake. Even you can taste the sake which Barack Obama drank during his visit. You can also sample sake inside the shop; just make sure do not drink too much. This is good place to buy a gift for your father.

 

 

Well, that brings us to the end of our recommendations for visiting Nishiki Ichiba. Did you find anything of interest? We think it is the best way to complete your visit of Nishiki Ichiba. In addition, there are a lot of other stores in the market, so it’s a good idea to explore some of the other shops in addition to following our guide. You might discover something even better. Anyway, enjoy your Kyoto trip!

Kiyomizuyaki

by Miyabi Saeki and Natsumi Awa

Kiyomizuyaki is one of many traditional crafts in Kyoto. The word kiyomizuyaki refers to all pottery made in Kyoto. In the past, people used many different words for different kinds of pottery. Kiyomizuyaki used to only mean pottery made near Kiyomizudera-temple. However, because Kiyomizuyaki was the most famous pottery in Kyoto, gradually it became the word most used to refer to all of Kyoto’s pottery.

In Kyoto, it is almost impossible to make a clay pot out of raw material, so the potters ordered the soil from other areas, blended them independently, and created works full of individuality. Even now, they continue to make works combining a comfortable feeling with an excellent design, such as a light finish familiar to the hands, or a pattern that contains the wishes of the four season’s flowers and a lucky omen. The individuality of each artist in the pottery is strong, and it can also be said that it is a feature.

History of Kiyomizuyaki

The origin of the pottery in Kyoto is not certain. However, there is no doubt that it started a long time ago. In the first half of the 5th century, under Emperor Yuuryaku, it is written that the pottery was made in Uji City and Fushimi Ward. After that, it is said that near the current neighborhood of Gojozaka, Kyoto, which is around Kiyomizudera-temple, is where the monk Gyouki built a kiln by the emperor’s order.

In the Muromachi era (1336-1573), color painted pottery was born by a technique transmitted from the Ming dynasty. Also, when moving to the Edo period (1603~1868), tea pots were made mainly in the Higashiyama area against the backdrop of the tea ceremony’s expanding popularity. This is what is widely called Kiyomizuyaki.

Since the Meiji Period (1868-1912), production volume has increased along with the introduction of modern production methods, and it has become an important export item for Japan. In addition, as new technologies from overseas were introduced, interest in new Kiyomizuyaki was born. After the war, there was the promotion of the conversion to environmentally friendly manufacturing facilities, but Kiyomizuyaki never lost its quality and artistic nature. The tradition continues to be protected as a high-quality ceramic featuring many varieties.

Currently there are hundreds of Kiyomizuyaki gathered in Kyoto. By master artists aiming for a new design while preserving the traditions of their predecessors, even today Kiyomizuyaki has an established position as a traditional craftwork representing Japan.

How to Make Kiyomizuyaki

There are two ways to make Kiyomizuyaki. One is by hand, and the other is by using a potter’s wheel.

These are the necessary materials for when you make it:

  • Clay: nowadays in Kyoto, people use clay from Shigaraki, Shiga prefecture, because the amount of clay from Kyoto has decreased since a long time ago and it’s hard to get now. Also, the quality of clay in Shigaraki is good, and Shigaraki is near Kyoto. Therefore, people use Shigaraki clay.
  • Potter’s Wheel: only for when you make Kiyomizuyaki by using a potter’s wheel.
  • Pallet (pottery knife): to fix the shape.
  • Kiln: a stone kiln to bake the pottery
  • Glaze: to make the pottery shine.
  • Oxide: to color the pottery, for example, with gold, silver, and/or copper.

To make Kiyomizuyaki, follow the steps below:

  1. Knead: press the air out of the clay to make the quality uniform.
  2. Potter’s wheel: put the clay on the potter’s wheel and shape it into what you want by using centrifugal force. If you don’t use the potter’s wheel, shape it by hand.
  3. Polish: fix the shape by pallet when it dries a little.
  4. Bake: heat it at 600-800 degrees until it hardens for the later processes.
  5. Sketch: sketch it by using metal or pigment.
  6. Glaze: coat the pottery with glaze by using brush
  7. Bake again: heat the glazed pottery at 1200-1300 degrees.
  8. Paint: paint it by using oxide and heat it a low temperature.

How to Use Kiyomizuyaki

Before using Kiyomizu pottery, you should put it in warm water or lukewarm water. Especially when you use soil vessels that are not strongly sealed, you can reduce the invasion of tea and seasonings by passing the pottery through warm water before using it. For instruments decorated with color drawings, gold, or silver, you should avoid using equipment that becomes high in temperature such as microwave ovens. When you find dirt or mold, it should wash out if you immerse it in bleach or boil water in it. If using bleach, please wash well with dishwashing detergent afterwards.

You can use Kiyomizuyaki as a cup, a vase, or as a plate. They are good for gifts. In Japan, sometimes people give them as wedding gifts. You can buy them at souvenir shops in Kyoto city, especially near Kiyomizudera-temple. A piece of Kiyomizu pottery can cost anywhere from 1,500 to 40,000 yen. It depends on where and what you buy, as well as who made it. The more complicated the design, the more expensive it is.

If you are interested in Kiyomizuyaki, you can experience making it by yourself by taking a pottery lesson at Kiyomizugojo, near Kiyomizudera-temple. For example, you can make a cup at Zuikougama, which is a pottery studio. First, you should put on a samue – which is an apron that looks like a kimono – to keep your clothes clean. Then you can begin making Kiyomizuyaki. Usually, it is hard for beginners to start from the first step, so the staff has already done the difficult parts. You do the other parts. For example, you do the shaping. It is a little difficult to shape it how you want, but the staff helps you when you are in trouble. After that you can choose the color from dark brown, light brown, and white. Also, you can carve your name at the bottom of the cup. This course is only about shaping, but if you want, you can also sketch.

There are six courses at Zuikougama, three of them are wheel pottery lessons, and the others are painting pottery lessons. The price, time, size, shapes and color are different depending on what you choose. Choosing a course is one of the fun parts, so please enjoy it. There are many places where you can take Kiyomizuyaki lessons in Kyoto. Some of them can offer English lessons. If you have a chance to come to Kyoto, why don’t you experience it?

Zuikougama (Kiyomizudera Trial Studio)

Address: 385-5 YasakaKamimachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0827, Kyoto prefecture

Open hours: 10:00 – 17:00

*Last Entry 16:30 (Cup Plan, Painting Light) 16:00 (others)

Reservation: 075-744-6644

kyozuiko@gmail.com

*By Email: please give them your:

1) Lesson of your choice
2) Date
3) Time
4) Number of Participants

Access: From Kyoto Station, Bus number 100 or 206.

Stop at Kiyomizu-Michi Bus Stop.

From Shijo-Kawaramachi, Bus Number 207.

Stop at Kiyomizu-Michi Bus Stop.

It is located near Kiyomizu Temple, just next to the five-story pagoda “Yasaka-No-Tou” (Yasaka Pagoda).

Kyoto’s Spicy Street Gekikara

Yu Sakamoto, Kazu Shibao, Taishi Nishikawa

Funny sign

“Danger! Super Spicy!”

 

Do you like spicy foods? There are many kinds of spicy foods all over the world. And although traditional Japanese foods are not spicy, especially those in Kyoto, there are still many opportunities to eat spicy dishes because they have recently become popular in Japan. Nine out of ten people said they like spicy foods when we asked them. They said that spicy dishes are addictive.

Then we heard something interesting —there is “Gekikara Shotengai” in Muko town in Kyoto. Muko is a very small town and its residents wanted it to become more famous. However, they did not have any special attractions. Townspeople thought that if they did not have a selling point, they would create one. From this, Gekikara Shotengai was born in 2009. It has become fpopular and was even the subject of a TV show. ‘Gekikara” means “super spicy”; and “shotengai” is a shopping street.

We went there to try their famous spicy food and find out how it tasted. Was it only spicy or spicy and delicious?

 

Photo spotThe mascot character of Gekikara street named "karakkyi"

On the way there, a lady from NHK interviewed us about spicy food. According to her, Gekikara Street is not only famous among locals, but is also getting a lot of attention from foreigner visitors who come to eat spicy foods.

 

 

 

Sudden death DogFront of the "Only"At first, we went to the crepe shop named “Only” which was recommended to us by the woman from NHK. It seemed like a regular shop, but besides basic crepes, they were also a selling spicy crepe named “Sudden death Dog.” We can choose the spicy level from 1 to 5, so if you are not good at spicy foods but  want to still try this crepe, you can choose level 1. One of us did try level 5 and it literally burned his tongue. Basically, it tastes like a mixture of curry and chili sauce, and tastes very good until the spiciness kicks in.

Next, we went to a café named “Cucina.” This café also seemed normal, but they also had spicy foods on their menu. We ordered gekikara cream soda, gekikara coffee zenzai and habanero ice cream. These were really strange combinations but once we took a bite we were surprised by just how good these tasted.

 

MenuSpicy Sweets

 

For dinner, we went to the okonomiyaki restaurant named “Kyuzo“. The restaurant was so gorgeous that it belonged in Gion. We ordered Gekikara Okonomiyaki, the “spiciest okonomiyaki in the world”. We could also choose the level of hotness from 1 to 5. However, we warn you not to choose level 5. We did try level 3, but that was enough to kill us. If you are don’t have problems with spicy food and even love it, then we would recommend level three.

We ran into some foreigners and asked them some questions. They were an old couple form America. First, we asked, “How did you find out about the Gekikara Shotengai?” They said from a TV program. Next, we asked, “Do you like spicy food?” They answered in the affirmative. When we asked them their opinion of Gekikara Shotengai, they answered, “It is awesome! There have many kinds of spicy food, and the level was so high. We have never eaten such spicy food.”

Gekikara Shotengai in Muko town is a good spot to eat really spicy food. The places that sell a spicy food products are marked by a flag that is placed in front of their shops or restaurants. If you will visit Gekikara Shotengai, you can refer to a map that shows all of the shops that have spicy foods. Many of these foods were broadcast nationwide on an NHK TV program. We think Gekikara Shotengai will be become a huge tourist attraction.

Spicy restaurant flag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Japanese Sweets at Kanshundo

By Yuri Nonaka, Karen Takeda, Mayu Kuwahara

“Wagashi” are Japanese traditional sweets. The continental culture of Tang China was introduced to Japan by special envoys during the Nara period. At that time so Tang cakes were introduced to Japan. The Tang cake was used as an offering and they became popular among the Heian aristocrats because the cakes were so beautiful. The Tang cake was deeply related to the Imperial Court and it developed forms that were peculiar to Japan. Confectioners who made “wagashi” polished their skills and created graceful wagashi. They named each wagashi after the beauties of nature. Besides, when tea was introduced to Japan by Eisai, a Zen priest who founded Kenninji Temple, “kyogashi” (Sweets made in Kyoto) were already developed here. Kyogashi sweets were made with high-quality water and natural ingredients of Kyoto, so they were praised by Japanese people.

 

kansyundo

 

We went to Kanshundo (甘春堂) confectionary on November 14th to make kyogashi and interview wagashi makers. It took one hour and fifteen minutes to make four different wagashi cakes. One of them was higashi, which is made of sugar and has little moisture.  I made one that was in the shape of a maple (momiji) leaf. The others were jyonamagashi, which contains candies, creams, jam, or jellies, and is very moist. Each wagashi reflects the changing seasons, therefore, we made autumn ones. These days, wagashi makers are taking in Western holidays such as Halloween and Christmas.

 

namagashi

 

  Interview

Q : What kinds of customers do you deal with? Do foreigners also come here?

A : Many high school and junior high school students and families. And recently, foreign customers have been increasing. They are also great at making wagashi, because some of them learn waka and haiku.

Q : How many customers come per day?

A : The number of customers depends on the day, but the maximum is 180 people per a day.

Q : How much does each wagashi cake cost?

A : From 100 yen to 1000 yen. An assortment is usually between 2000 yen and 5000 yen.

Q : What is your recommendation?

A : “Chajyu no utsuwa,” which is a cake shaped like a Japanese tea cup. You can pour drinks in the cup and eat it too.

 

Information

Stores:

in Higasiyama・Kiyomizu

in Arashiyama ・Sagano

 

Open: 9:00

Close: 18:00

 

Timetable for making wagashi

1. 9:15-10:30

2. 11:00-12:15

3. 13:00-14:15

4. 15:00-16:15

Please book a few days in advance.

Charge for wagashi-making class: 2160 yen

 

 

namagashi2