History of Kyoto’s roads

November 24, 2018

by Shinji Yasuda, Shogo Koizumi and Kosuke Ono

street of Kyoto

A lot of tourists from foreign countries visit Kyoto. Most of them go to famous temples and shrines like Kiyomizu temple and Kinkaku-ji temple. However, Kyoto has other attractive points. Did you know Kyoto is a city in which streets are laid out in a checkerboard pattern? If you have ever been to Kyoto, you may noticed that. These straight roads are based on the ancient Chinese capital city. This article tells you why Kyoto imitated ancient China, and the background and history of Kyoto’s layout.  Most Japanese cities don’t have long, wide, straight roads, so you may enjoy Kyoto city more after reading this article.

History

The checkerboard was made about 1200 years ago by the 50th Emperor of Japan, Kanmu. Largeness of area was 23.4 mk2, and this was smaller than it is now. In addition, Kyoto had a spiritual role as well as a practical aspect. It is said that ancient China made streets like this to fulfill military functions. Such streets are capable of moving a large-scale army quickly and impressively. Such wide streets are useful in preventing the spread of fire. Next, it is important to manage the population. The management is essential to stay calm and be safe. Thanks to this road, people who were in charge could figure out what might happen there and move soldiers or workers quickly to the needed area. And then current Kyoto is became increasing narrow alley. Now each intersection is named for the two crossing roads. This custom was started from Heian Era (794 – 1185). The most flourishing section of the town was Kawara-Machi. The reason is that Kawara-Machi was given a boost after much of Kyoto burned during the Ounin Rebellion (1467 – 1477).

Kyoto has songs that can tell where you are if you have no idea where you are. For example, Kyoto has plenty of streets, including main streets, and one way roads. Many roads have similar names so visitors may be confounded. Even most of the people who live in Kyoto do not understand some of its geography. First of all, the checkerboard is divided by 3 rivers which are used as boundaries. The song named Teragoko starts with Teramachi and ends with Senbon. Thirty names of streets are included the song that is about streets at southeast. Next, the song named Marutakeebisu starts with Maruta and end with Kujo. This song has twenty-six name of streets. Each song is structured in the right order. Most of words that appear these songs are an initial letter of the street. These songs are a mnemonic to help people remember where streets are laid out, before they had access to GPS. This song was uploaded on Youtube. You can search and listen to it.

The northernmost  is named Ichijyo, which means first in Japanese, and the southernmost is named Kujyo, which means ninth in Japanese, and one more easternmost is named Teramachido-ri . As for easternernmost, that place doesn’t have particular name because it hasn’t being considered as the official road.  The history of streets of Kyoto has some interesting stories. For example, there is a street called Higashikyogoku. About 427 years ago, the general Hideyoshi Toyotomi conducted a big improvement which might be called urban renewal. He forced several temples to move to the eastside of the city. Higashi is east in English, so the name Higashikyougoku came from this event. Even Honnoji-temple are moved from it used to be. Teramachi-street has Shinkyogoku-street at a more eastern location. Shin means “new” so it’s New Higashikyogoku Street. These two streets help Kyoto with its prosperity and history of road.

Role of streets

Roads like checkerboard are called jouri-sei. Jouri-sei is system of land subdivision in ancient Japan. This system could also be seen often in capital city of ancient China. Thanks to jouri-sei it is easy to maintain roads and manage people. First, Heian-Kyou (kyou means capital in Japanese) was made in a wide and open field, so they were able to organize this city from the beginning. The model of Heian-Kyou was Cho-an which was capital city of ancient China. There is an  entrance gate, Gate of Suzaku-oji in Heian-kyou which was named Rasho-mon. In addition, this Japanese city has spiritual meaning. It was called Sijin-so-o that is an ideal topography for the four Taoist gods, with a river in the east, a broad avenue in the west, a basin in the south, and a hill in the north. In Kyoto, Mt. Daimonji in the east, Arashiyama in the west, Lake Ogura in the south, Tamba upland in the north. However, in current Kyoto, there is no Lake Ogura. Lake Ogura became agricultural land now. Benefit of Sijin-so-o is that people will prosper for all eternity.

Tradition

Shijo street is one of biggest street in Kyoto. Gion festival is held there.  Gion festival is said that one of the three major festivals of Japan. This festival lasts for a month. Traditional folding screens which feature pictures spreade over several frames or panels and other treasures are shown on the street. Moreover, huge wooden vehicles, called Yamaboko go around city and these are called moving museums. The purpose of this festival is to enshrine god in Gion and protect the city from disaster. This Yamaboko procession is registered in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Contemporary Kyoto

Shijo street

Kyoto looks like a useful city, but actually there is a problem.  Nature is hardly seen in Kyoto. To fix this problem, the municipal government is promoting one project. This project involves both the government and private Kyoto citizens. The goals of the project are as follows.

・Protect and plant cherry blossom trees
・Double trimming trees before and after autumn leaves
・Create lines of trees on wide streets
・Nurture nature reflecting citizens’ opinions
・Make green spaces in the city (green roofs, green walls)
・Establish and management volunteer centers of green space

Shopping arcade

Shopping arcade of Kyoto

There are many old, covered streets in Kyoto that are called shotengai, or shopping arcades in English. On wide streets like Shjio street and Kawaramchi street there are many modern, multistory buildings with department stores and famous brand stores. But there are also narrow alleys with many small souvenir shops. These are crowded with many students from all over Japan on school trips. A famous Kyoto street is Nishi kouji, which has many stops selling traditional Japanese foods and food s unique to Kyoto. This street is crowded with tourists every day. The number of local shopping arcades is decreasing in Japan because of huge supermarkets. However, Kyoto’s shopping arcades are not declining because they are deeply connected with peoples who live in Kyoto and currently Kyoto has many tourists so they spend money.

Conclusion

Kyoto has a very long and interesting history about its roads. The origin of the roads was China but the form has been changed by people. Now, Kyoto’s roads have their own unique style, which can be called part of the identity of Kyoto. These streets are not only part of functional life, but also have traditional aspects.  Moreover, Kyoto is still changing, hopefully in a good direction as evidenced by the municipal project above. We hope you got more interested about Kyoto after reading this article.

Old Schools as the ‘New Kyoto’

Background

At present, Japan has an aging population and declining birthrate problem. Therefore, the government has been closing about 500 schools a year. Rather than let these buildings go to waste, the closed schools are being revamped into new places such as welfare facilities, hotels, community centers and so on. The closed school sites are attractive plots of land in Kyoto due to it being a crowded city that sits in a basin. The densely populated situation in the city center means that any large spaces are far and few between. Plus, the school buildings themselves have historical value.

There are 3 main advantages of using old school buildings. First, the ample space can be used effectively, for example, holding seminars in the classrooms and enjoying sports in the gymnasium or outdoor ground. Second, by using existing facilities, new ventures can significantly decrease their costs. Finally, the site of a former school is designated as cultural property as a historic building, so they should be maintained as such. The Kyoto Art Center and Comic Museum in Kyoto are both housed on old school sites. On the other hand, there are demerits too. These old schools need repair work which means they are not always easy to use as a welfare facility or for social gatherings. They also need a lot of money to look after them. As explained, using these sites has various problems which need to be considered carefully.

 

Renovations

Currently, even in the center of Kyoto, there are 10 sites where elementary schools used to be. These buildings have been turned into libraries, hospitals, homes for the elderly, NPO offices, museums, cafés and spaces for volunteer activities. Kyoto International Manga Museum is a famous museum for overseas visitors. Inside there is a café, shop, exhibition room and memorial hall about the old elementary school. Before this site was used as a museum, it used to be Tatsuike Elementary School. The wooden floors and stairs faced of stone and tiles still remain. The floor creaks under your feet when you step on it, giving sweet memories of times gone by but in a modern setting. Moreover, visitors can read various comics and books in the surroundings of an old school. In one of the buildings, there is still the principal’s office. You can see the main terrace by the playground from the window in this office.

Kyoto Art Center used to be Meirin Elementary School. You can see the design of floats that were used for traditional feasts in Kyoto in front of the building. There is a large tatami mat -156 square yards- which adds to the traditional Japanese atmosphere. This facility also has a library, cafe and workspace for art. The management of the facility wanted to revive Kyoto, so they established the center in the old school. In 2008, there was some resistance to use the site as a cultural property, but this school was used carefully for a long time by the people in the neighborhood. Even now, a lot of people go there to learn and see the art, drink something and catch up.

The Department of Administration in Kyoto City Hall has beautifully renovated these old elementary schools into new facilities with thoughtful consideration of the local community. Elementary school buildings create fond memories for many children and adults, so it is important that the new facilities do not destroy old memories.

 

Future of old schools

Finally, let’s take a look at some future plans for reusing old school sites. Until now, old schools in Kyoto have been transformed into new facilities through a careful renovation process that does not break up the existing buildings, creating spaces for bustling communities and thriving cultural exchange. Planners care about the thoughts of the local community more than anything else and intend to continue this way in the future. They have to observe the rules made by the city. For example, stores that are built inside of these old schools must be local business’ that have a link to Kyoto’s traditions. As a result, local people who have affection for the old school buildings agree to the new utilization plans. As an example, there is the case of Rissei Elementary School. It is located in Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto and closed in 1993. This school will be renovated by 2020 and opened as a new complex that includes a hotel, café, library, resident committee meeting space among others with the cooperation of the city, local self-governing associations and real estate companies. Furthermore, a similar cultural complex will be opened in 2021 at the site of Shirakawa Elementary School in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto. In this complex, planners intend to build shops that exhibit and sell Kyoto’s traditional crafts, a garden where local people can feel free to gather, and a hotel where guests can experience Kyoto’s culture. You will be able to see a lot more renovated buildings with new cultural complexes that protect the old school buildings. The purpose of the old schools can live on through these reconstruction projects.

Vegetable brand “Kyoyasai” worth trying

Risa Uemura, Mika Nakajima and Mai Hayakawa

What are kyoyasai ?

Kyoto is far from the sea, so it was hard for people to get seafood a long time ago. That’s why people living in Kyoto used to eat mainly vegetables. 1,000 years ago, local people presented the Emperor, who used to live in Kyoto, with several vegetables grown in other prefectures in Japan. Then these vegetables were grown in Kyoto and became good quality thanks to the climate, clean water and cultivation methods there. This was the beginning of Kyoyasai and Kyoto’s speciality vegetables. Even now, some of these vegetables are still grown using the same traditional methods.

There are several requirements for vegetables to be registered as kyoyasai. To suit the image of Kyoto, they have to ship to other prefectures, and must consistently meet the quality standards. Farmers must avoid using pesticides under the Kyoto Kodawari cultivation rules. Also, only types of vegetables that have been grown before the Meiji era are allowed to be called kyoyasai. These special vegetables are used in restaurants and even at home for cooking.  Recently, scientists discovered that “Kyoyasai has an original smell, taste and colors. Furthermore, they have many health benefits such as preventing cancer and keeping a healthy weight as they are low in calories.”

 

Kyoto vegetables which you can try now

Currently, there are twenty types of Kyoto vegetables registered. Some of them are available to harvest all-year round, and some are only available at certain times of the year. Kyoto Mizuna (pother mustard), Kujo green onions, and Mibuna (similar to pother mustard) are grown all-year. Kyoto Mizuna has leaves with a deep slit, and has a crisp texture. It can be cooked in various ways in a range of dishes, for example, with deep-fried bean curd (tofu), dishes prepared in seasoned broth, salads, and can be made into delicious light pickles. Kyoto’s famous springtime vegetable is takenoko (bamboo shoots), also called shiroko. Compared to other bamboo shoots, these have a sweeter taste, and the texture is fleshy and soft. In summer, shishigatani kabocha (pumpkin) is popular. It has a rough shape, like Japanese gourd. Due to its shape, it is sometimes used like a plate, with other food placed on top. An example dish is shishigatani kabocha, which is pumpkin stuffed with minced beef. The shape is unique, so people also use it for its appearance. Fall in Kyoto brings eggplants and chillies to the kitchen. They have various shapes, sizes, and other individual features. There are many Kyoto vegetables harvested in the winter. Above all, the most famous vegetables are kintoki ningin (carrot), Horikawa gobo (burdock) and seigoin daikon (radish). Kintoki ningin carrots are bright red from the surface to the inside. Therefore, they are used to add color to winter dishes such as miso soup and osechi (Japanese New Year’s cuisine). The burdock is bigger compared to normal burdock and has a hollow trunk. So, they soak up surrounding flavors. Seigoin daikons do not taste bitter; instead they have a faintly sweet flavor, so they are often used in oden (Japanese hotpot with assorted ingredients like radish, tofu, or boiled egg). Of all the Kyoto vegetables, the most famous are Kujo green onions and Kyoto Mizuna because they are well known and available to harvest all year.

 

Recommended stores and restaurants for Kyoto vegetables

Finally, we would like to introduce several cafes and restaurants where you can eat Kyoto vegetables. We recommend three restaurants in Kyoto. Isoya on Sanjyo is a casual restaurant where you can eat grilled Kyoto vegetables with an original sauce, a selection of salt, or Miso (bean paste condiment). In the restaurant, fresh Kyoto vegetables which were picked that morning are lined up, and a chef cooks those in front of you. So, you can enjoy eating different Kyoto vegetables and cuisines depending on the day you visit. If you go Isoya, we recommend you reserve in advance.

Gion abbesses on Gion Shijyo is located in an old Kyoto townscape. It is a luxury French restaurant, and you can try authentic French cuisine with colorful Kyoto vegetables. There are more than 150 kinds of wines including natural wines in this restaurant, and you can consult with a wine sommelier.

Obase on Sanjyo. It is a Japanese style restaurant in a renovated kyo-machiya (a traditional tile-roofed wooden house structure with mud walls and an inner garden, built using a framework construction method). This restaurant is very particular about the interior because it chose pieces of furniture to match the traditional building. You can eat original Japanese and Western course meals with Japanese tableware and chopsticks.

We introduced three restaurants where you can eat Kyoto vegetables in a wide variety of dishes. Kyo-branded Products Association (Public Interest Group Corporation) has certified formal Kyoto vegetable dealers in the metropolitan area and the Kinki area as bases for consumption promotion and sales promotion. Now, twenty-five stores in the metropolitan area and twenty-four stores in the Kinki area are certified, and you can easily get Kyoto vegetables at those stores. On the Kyo-branded Products Association’s official site, a lot of cooking recipes using Kyoto vegetables have been released. If you are interested in those dishes, please try cooking them yourself at home!

 

The History of Movies in Kyoto

Yu Sakamoto & Daiki Tabuchi

The Beginning of the Movie Industry in Kyoto

At the beginning of the 20th century, after the Meiji Restoration was over, people worked hard to make a new Japan. It was around this time that Kyoto became the first place in Japan to enjoy the surprising and exciting technology that created the modern entertainment medium of cinema.

On a snowy day in 1895, cinematography invented by the Lumière brothers was used for the first time by Kyoto Dento. It was shown on a screen in the courtyard on the company’s building. This was the first time these people had seen a movie. Today, in this spot, there is a signboard that marks this event and the beginning of the movie industry.

Uzumasa is a district in western Kyoto that was once called the “Hollywood of Japan.” During the height of Japanese filmmaking in the 50s, Kyoto was a bustling film center. This movie industry created a lot of economic vitality and developed into one of Kyoto’s major cultural sectors.

In the golden years of Japanese film from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, the Kiyamachi area was dotted with inns where screenwriters stayed and worked. The hotel where one of Japan’s top film directors, Masahiro Makino (1908-1993), regularly stayed was also here. The area was also known for the many bars where movie people hung out.

The Famous and Historical Movie Studios in Kyoto

Toei Studios, Kyoto

With an area of more than 66,000 square meters, Toei Studios is the biggest movie studio in Japan. In the 1950s to the early 1960s, Toei Studio film companies in Kyoto had to produce more than 60 films every year. The staff used Sundays and holidays, often working throughout the night on weekdays as well. The Kyoto studios were filled with energy. Everyone said that the workers of the Toei Studios were so busy that “no one was walking, they were always running.”

Shochiku Studio

Uzumasa, the capital of the movie industry, started producing new types of movie studios. Shochiku Studio is one of these famous movie studios in Kyoto and has a long history. It was created by Makino Takei in 1935. It has experienced a lot of ups and downs, even today. Most of the works shot here are very familiar, including TV dramas.

Famous Movie Shooting Methods of Akira Kurosawa in Kyoto

Today, many people all over the world watch movies for entertainment. People who watch movies are fascinated by many factors. In particular, the methods used for shooting movies is one of the most critical factors for making enjoyable experiences for moviegoers. It is no exaggeration to say that the evaluation of a film depends on the shooting methods.

Therefore, most film directors are particular about shooting methods and have their own specializations. Akira Kurosawa is the most famous director who shot movies in Kyoto using innovative and bold shooting methods, attracting a lot of attention from overseas. He has two renowned shooting methods.

First, his movies are famous for their bright backgrounds. It is said that his backgrounds sometimes stand out more than the actual people in the picture. This is because he used pan-focus shooting. Pan-focus shooting focuses on everything in the picture. When the camera focuses on the subject in front, the background becomes blurred. Today, this work is easy because all the work is done automatically by the camera. However, at that time, it was necessary to adjust all the lighting and focus. Therefore, pan-focus shooting required a lot of money, time and labor. But thanks to pan-focus shooting, he could shoot some great movies. Even now, many film directors and researchers praise his vivid backgrounds.

Multi-cam shooting method used by Kurosawa

Kurosawa was the first person to use this technique that has multiple telephoto lenses. Multi-cam shooting has the advantage of taking various angled cuts with one shot. However, it is a problematic shooting method when at the actual location of the filming. This is because the condition of lighting and background must be considered depending on the position of the camera. However, the scene shot in this method is very powerful. Today, many film directors use this method.

There are other famous shooting methods besides these. For example, Rashomon was filmed using mirrors instead of reflectors to take advantage of the natural light while directing the camera to the sun, which was considered taboo at that time. In the first scene, Kurosawa used hoses and water mixed with black ink to shoot a powerful image of rain in monochrome. This method was also used in the battle scene of The Seven Samurai.

As you can see, movies and Kyoto have had a deep connection from when the movie industry started in Kyoto. The beauty of Kyoto fascinated many film directors and people involved in movies. There are more than a few masterpieces that were born in Kyoto. If you visit Kyoto, visit not only major tourist attractions but also these fascinating movie spots too.

Public baths in Kyoto

Yu Sakamoto and Daiki Tabuchi

Today Japanese culture is evaluated from abroad in every aspect. Especially in Kyoto, there are many cultural places to attract visitors from around the world. And Kyoto is also famous for hot springs. But this time I would like to introduce public baths. Because hot springs are already famous among many tourists, so this time we want to reveal the charm and history of public baths and how they are different to hot springs.

What are public baths and hot springs?

Firstly, let’s take a look at the features of public baths and hot springs. As the name suggests, the public bath is just a bath for the public. They began in Kyoto in (794-1185). It is said that they spread throughout Japan with Buddhism. On the other hand, hot springs have natural water. If the water temperature of the hot spring source is 25 degrees or more, and it includes any one of the 19 designated ingredients of the hot spring law in the country, it is regarded as a hot spring.

 

 

 

 

 

The differences between public baths and hot springs

There are two significant differences between hot springs and public baths. First, hot springs use natural water from springs, while public baths do not. Second, public baths have no special rules because the water is not directly from a spring, so it is checked for safety already. In other words, since hot springs use water that is drawn from nature, they are concerned about sanitation, so they must be well managed by the law under the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to ensure that they are safe for customers.

The history of public baths

 People do not know how the tradition of public baths in Japan began. However, according to “Keityoukenbunroku”, a book written about the history of Japan, published in 1614, Ise Yoichi built the first public bath in 1591 on Zenigamebashi, which is in Ibaragi prefecture. People were joyous, and his public bath was very popular. In the 17th century, public baths became popular and could be found in a lot of towns. The bath of this era was a kind of steam bath. Water was put in the bottom of the bathtub. A door was placed in the entrance of the bathroom to prevent the steam from escaping. However, it had one problem. When people opened and closed the door, steam did escape. So, some people solved this problem by making a type of bath called zakuroguchi. They put a bathtub in a small room covered by a wooden plate, then dropped the board low from the entrance ceiling to prevent steam from escaping.


 

 

 

 

 

 

The water bath was developed at the end of the Edo era. This bath was called sueburo. It became popular among ordinary families. In this era, people needed to put hot water in the bathtub, but after that, they developed a way to heat up the bath water by placing a tube of iron under the tub that was connected to a fire. In the Edo era, the public bath was mixed bathing, meaning men and women could bathe together. However, the inside of zakuroguchi was dark because there were no lights, so many problems occurred involving sex. This type of problem was not easily reformed, so between 1841 and 1843 there was a severe crackdown. After that, many public baths changed the rules. They put a wall in the center of the bathtub to separate the genders, and they made separate times for men and women to take a bath. Other public baths became single-sex.

Famous public baths and hot springs in Kyoto

Now, let’s look at some famous public baths and hot springs in Kyoto. First of all, the famous hot spring in Kyoto is Arashiyama Hot Spring. You can see the famous Togetsu Bridge and the beautiful views of Arashiyama from the outdoor hot spring. Also, there are various kinds of hot springs and many sightseeing spots around there. A famous public bath in Kyoto is Nishikiyu which is located very close to the Nishiki market located in the center of Kyoto City. This is very popular among tourists. The building is large, and it’s retro style takes you back in time. In Nishiki, there are also various events, such as live music, rakugo (a short Japanese comedy story), and places to buy kimonos and yukatas cheaply. As well as the public bath, you can enjoy the local charm and lively atmosphere around Nishiki.

Characteristics of Kyoto’s public baths

Currently, there are about 150 public baths in Kyoto. Many places use traditional building methods and are set in kyomachiya, which are traditionally built townhouses. Kyoto’s public baths have three features.

  1. Tile pictures

When you imagine the Japanese public bath, I think you will imagine a Mt.Fuji picture above the tub. Kyoto’s public baths are decorated with various tile pictures. In addition to the main bath, you can also see tile pictures attached to the upper parts of the dressing rooms. These tile artworks are the original style of Kyoto’s public baths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tile picture of Mt.Fuji

  1. Groundwater

Public baths in Kyoto have a well, so using groundwater is another major feature. Kyoto is blessed with good water.

  1. Noren shop curtains

These shop curtains can be seen hanging at the entrance of shops and public baths in Japan. There are three styles of shop curtains: Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo. The Kyoto style is divided into three, and it has an extended length with a break in the middle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noren

As you can see, public baths have a long history and original culture, and there are also the differences between public baths and hot springs. However, what they have in common is that they can both relieve tiredness, so both types of bathing places can be a great way to relax and experience a Japanese tradition.

 

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Kyoto’s Historical Boulevard

by Takumi Abe

Many people who visit Kyoto want to seeonly  Kiyomizu temple, Kinkakuji temple or the Ryoanji rock garden. However, when most people first arrive in Kyoto, they will see the Kyoto Tower and a wide avenue going to the north. This street has many cars, taxis and buses. Its name is Karasuma-dori, and its length is six kilometers. Karasuma street is an important and central street in Kyoto, so there are many business buildings and some temples along it.  In addition, two universities are located on Karasuma, and the Kyoto Imperial Palace flanks the avenue as well. It is an important street especially from the views of the economy, education and Japanese history.

Karasuma from 794

Kyoto city has prospered for about 1200 years so many streets in Kyoto have a long history. If you walk down Karasuma street, you can see buildings from various eras. Karasuma was constructed in the Heian period (794-1185). At that time, this road was called Karasumaru-koji street. “Koji” means small road. This street was named after a family of Heian-period aristocrats. Karasuma has been significant because among the many Fujiwara families it was the largest area where Heian aristocrats lived. The street flourished,  but it fell into ruinduring the civil war in Medieval times. After this period of battles, the street was revived by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Due to his project, the street had many upper-class mansions, houses and stores. In  the Meiji period (1868-1912),  one of the modern Japanese periods, Kyoto Station was built at the south end of Karasuma street. As a result, this street was expanded and extended to all the way to northern Kyoto. At the same time, a streetcar started to run along the street. Today, Karasuma is in the central business district, where there are many banks and companies. Additionally, it is a gateway to Kyoto for people from various countries first arriving at Kyoto Station.

 

The gateway of Kyoto

What you can see on Karasuma

Shijo Karasuma

Shijo-Karasuma is one of the big commercial areas in the city. Many banks and insurance companies are located here. You can see the modern Japanese architecture and a long history. On the left side of the above photo of Shijo -Karasuma is the Mitsui building. This entrance was created in 1941.

Cocon Karasuma

Doshisha University

Cocon Karasuma is a commercial complex and office building. You may be fascinated by the arabesque pattern on the wall. This building was constructed in 1938, and it was recently renovated. It was not exposed the fires of war, so you can see the old-style stairs and floors inside. “Cocon,” in Japanese means both ancient and modern, so this amazing building shows the past  and the present in Kyoto.

If you continue much further north on Karasuma you will come to Doshisha University. This university was founded in 1875, and now about 27,000 students go to this school. It was established by Jyo Nijima. He was the first Japanese person to graduate from a university in the USA. He opened the door to modern education in Japan.

Toraya

If you want to eat Japanese sweets, I recommend that you go to Toraya. It has a long history, and this store has been around for nearly five centuries. From the days of old, this store made sweets for the Emperor. Its famous itme is Azuki-bean jelly. It has been loved for more than 500 years. Is is on Karasuma just southwest of Doshisha University.

Traditional culture inJapan is not only concerned with food, but there is also kadou or literally “the way of flowers”. Kadou is arranging flowers beautifully. It represents and expresses the beauty of Japan. Kadou was formed in the Muromachi era (1336-1573). It is said that it originated at the pond of Rokkakuji temple. This temple is crowded with tourists. Next to it on Karasuma is the headquarters of the Ikenobo School of Flower arrangement.

Manga museum

Moreover, people who love Japanese culture had better go to the Manga museum, which is nearby the Oike-Karasuma intersection. As the name indicates, this museum keeps more 30 thousand manga. You can read manga in the museum or in its garden. The Giga-Ukiyoe, which is a collection of funny pictures and was printed in the Edo era (1603-1867), is in the collection of the museum. Moreover, some manga housed here are from overseas. The amazing thing is that this building has been used since 1929. it used to be an elementary school, therefore you can see also the old style of Japanese school.

The street as a face of Kyoto

Kyoto Imperial Palace

Karasuma street has a long history. It is rare that you can see a story that is 1200 years long. This place has faces of traditional Japan, modern Japan and present-day Japan. You can feel a Japanese passion to create the city, protect its heritage, and reinvigorate its culture.  The street is bustling with university students and some of its cafés are filled with young power. What is more, many workers use the street to find lunch or dinner, or go shopping. In  old times, there were many people riding in a carriage or walking in kimono. Suppose you come to Karasuma—you may feel the history of Japan.

 

Kyo-yuzen

by Mayumi Otsuka, Mai Takezawa, and Kanako Wakamatsu

You can see Kimono (old style Japanese clothes) all over Japan, but especially in Kyoto. Kimonos have many different patterns and colors, but do you know how many of them are actually designed? Well, the designs on kimonos are often achieved by dyeing, using a method known as Kyo-yuzen. Here, we would like to introduce some aspects of this unique dyeing method.

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Kimono

1. History of Japanese dyeing methods

2. What is Kyo-yuzen?

3. How to dye by using Kyo-yuzen

4. Kyo-yuzen in foreign countries

5. Actual experience of Kyo-yuzen

History of Japanese dyeing methods

There have been a lot of dyeing methods used in Japan over the years, and most of these were developed from Chinese dyeing types. These were introduced to Japan several thousand years ago, and taught by people from China or Korea, they formed the basis of Japanese dyeing tradition. Before this people dyed clothes very simply by applying different types of grass, flowers or even mud. In the Asuka era, in the middle of the 6th century, there was a system developed that divided people by the color of the clothes they wore. This was to distinguish between class and status, and required greater use of color in fabrics and design. In addition, in the Nara era, in the 8th century, international trade was increased, which meant further diversification in dyeing methods were introduced and spread all over Japan, with each area developing its own style. One of the most famous of these was Kyo-yuzen, a dyeing method created in Kyoto that became hugely popular. Next, we would like to introduce this unique and beautiful, traditional Japanese item.

What is Kyo-yuzen?

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Kyo-yuzen

Kyo-yuzen is one of the dyeing methods developed in Kyoto during the Edo era of the mid to late 17th century. At that time, there was an artist in Kyoto by the name of Miyazaki Yuzensai, who had built a reputation for the exquisitely drawn folding fans he produced.  Due to this, his patrons soon began to encourage him to apply his artistic skills to designs for kimono, too, which he did.  Following this, his name quickly came to be associated with top class kimono design in Kyoto, hence the name that was given to this particular dyeing style, Kyo-yuzen.

There are some interesting features unique to Kyo-yuzen that need to be noted.  First, it is possible to apply any kind of design you want, just like drawing a picture.  Second, there are many colors and hues used in the production of Kyo-yuzen pieces.  Third, a technique using elements of glutinous rice is used to guard against colors mixing or merging together.  Finally, Kyo-yuzen is done by combining more than one dyeing method, and requires several steps to achieve a final result.  Through this, Kyo-yuzen is quite superior to other dyeing methods and has become very popular all over the world.

Kyo-yuzen in foreign countries

As we said before, Kyo-yuzen is very famous globally.  For example, some events involving Japanese culture have been held recently in Paris, and there are sales booths for Kyo-yuzen products set up there.  At the booths, stainless steel mugs that are made in cooperation between Japanese Kyo-yuzen craftpersons and craftpersons in Paris are sold, and these are also available in Eigamura, a very famous sightseeing spot in Kyoto. Selling a large number of these mugs means expanding the exposure to traditional crafts of Kyoto to people in foreign countries

How to dye by using Kyo-yuzen

There are two main types of dyeing method used for Kyo-yuzen. One of these is hand painting, and the other is using stencils. First, we will explain the hand painting method:

  1. Think of the design you want for the cloth and make a design pattern  
  2. Trace the design onto the cloth
  3. Apply the special glue ② to prevent the colors from mixing with each other (this is called Itomenorioki)
  4. Apply the colors to the cloth
  5. Steam the cloth
  6. Wash the cloth
  7. Steam the cloth again and stretch out the wrinkles
  8. Using a stencil, draw the design onto special Japanese paper and cut out the pattern to make the stencil
  9. Paste the cloth onto a wooden board that is called “Yuzen-Ita”
  10. Put ① onto ② and dye
  11. Same as ⑤~⑦ of hand painting method

Actual experience of Kyo-yuzen

In Kyoto, visitors can actually experience Kyo-yuzen at some special studios.  Participants can experience dyeing cloth items like handkerchiefs, wrapping cloths, and so on.  One session is usually about one and a half hours long, and costs between 1,500 yen and 2,500 yen. Therefore, you can experience a traditional craft of Kyoto easily, and after the lesson, you can take the Kyo-yuzen item that you made with your own hands home with you.

Japanese dyeing methods have continued to develop over the centuries, and Kyo-yuzen especially. This method was created by combining a lot of different dyeing methods, which have been improved upon over time, and have become famous all over the world.  You can buy Kyo-yuzen items in many places in Kyoto, and you can also make them by yourself.  Why not give it a try!  

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Kyo-yuzen studio

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Kyo-yuzen items

One of the studios where you can experience Kyo-yuzen is “Marumasu-Nishimuraya” in Kyoto city.

Here’s their website:   http://www.marumasu-nishimuraya.co.jp/

You can reserve an experience time and get the access details there.

Furisode

By: Shiori Iwawaki, Hina Uematsu, Mina Ito

There are several types of kimono, and they vary from place to place. In this article, we will introduce ‘furisode’. Furisode is a kind of kimono and is important to Japanese because almost all Japanese women wear it at least once in their lifetime. We will look at what a furisode actually is and its history, and will introduce three typical situations where furisode can be seen.

 

History of the furisode

A furisode is a style of kimono that can be worn in the coming-of-age ceremony which is called Seijinshiki. The furisode originated in the mid-1500s as middle and upper-class children’s clothing for both sexes, and at that time it was not worn by adults. At first, furisode had quite short sleeves and were used as everyday wear. However, furisode is a form of very tight clothing, so some people couldn’t wear them all the time as they were not practical. As time went by, sleeves became bigger and bigger and they became an elegant form of dress worn mainly on special occasions. Nowadays, popular furisode have long sleeves, but at first they weren’t that long. In the Genroku Era, from 1688 to 1703, furisode sleeve lengths were about 55cm to 95cm, but in the Edo Era, furisode sleeve lengths became about 95cm to 122cm. There was actually a reason that the lengths became longer, and that was because they started to do special dances at that time, and the movements looked much more beautiful if they had longer sleeves.

 

According to a 17th century text, boys could wear furisode until their 18th year or until they went through their coming-of-age ceremony, while girls were supposed to stop wearing them when they married or reached their 20th year. Initially, furisode were not that different for boys and girls, but fabric designs started to become more gender specific in the 19th century.  In the 20th century, furisode became restricted to women only, mainly due to western influence on clothes for boys and girls. As the furisode became increasingly associated with young adult women, the shorter-sleeved children’s type became known as Wakiake.  This means open-sided, in English.

 

When and where they are worn

Furisode are mainly worn in three situations. One of them is at a wedding as an attendee and another is at Yuino. Yuino is a proof of engagement ceremony when both families and the matchmaker gather together. However, the most common situation for Japanese is at the coming-of-age ceremony. People who became 20 years old are called ‘seijin’ in Japan and a coming-of-age ceremony is held on the 2nd Monday in January. On that day, women who became 20 years old wear furisode and celebrate becoming ‘seijin’. Originally, furisode could only be worn by women who were not married, therefore, almost all women wear furisode in the ceremony even though they are already married. Also the design of furisode has changed. In the past, the designs of furisode were older, traditional patterns, which could fit the Japanese mind, but now, along with the times, the designs are changing to more common patterns like leopard print. There are many more kinds of design than a long time ago, so we can choose from a large variety of patterns of furisode. The clothes which we wear today are comfortable to wear and easy to move in, too. On the other hand, furisode are very tight and hard to wear and move and run in.

Do you know the differences between kimono and furisode? Actually, they are basically the same. As there are many kinds of dresses, so there are many kinds of kimono. All furisode have long sleeves, but they can be divided into three different types, which are ko-furisode, chu-furisode and o-furisode. The ko-furisode is usually worn with a hakama for graduation ceremonies. The sleeves are a little bit shorter than furisode sleeves at about 75-87cm long, but they are still longer than standard female kimono sleeves. The chu-furisode is the most common type of furisode. Young girls usually wear it during their coming-of-age ceremony. The chu-furisode has medium size sleeves somewhere between ko-furisode and o-furisode, and the sleeves are about 91-106cm long. The o-furisode, also called the hon-furisode, is the most formal furisode, and mostly worn by brides. The O-furisode has super long 114-125cm sleeves, as well as a train. They are quite heavy, and difficult to walk around in. Furisode come in various styles and designs and it is lovely to see women and girls still wearing them in modern society, on their wedding days, special occasions, and especially on the day of the coming-of-age ceremony.

Hina Uematsu wear red furisode

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Shiori Iwawaki wear blue furisode

 


Mina Ito wear pink furisode

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hina Uematsu’s ribbon color is black with white flower

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Mina Ito’s ribbon color is black with yellow and pick flower

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Shiori Iwawaki’s ribbon is gold with red and green flower

 

 

 

Geta

by Mayumi Otsuka, Mai Takezawa and Kanako Wakamatsu

Maybe you know “Kimono”, which is a traditional style of Japanese clothing, but how about “Geta”?  Geta are a kind of shoe or sandal, and Japanese people wear them when they wear Kimono, like women wear high heels when they wear dresses.  Here, we are going to introduce Geta to you in three ways:

  • What are Geta?
  • History of Geta
  • Different types of Geta

In addition, we are also going to give you some surprising facts about this interesting Japanese clothes item.

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Geta

What are Geta?

As we mentioned before, Geta are a kind of old Japanese style shoe and people wear them with Kimono or Yukata, in general.

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Kimono

Geta are usually made of wood, with the price changing by the kind of wood used. If Geta are made of “Kiri”, for example, then they would be a high price indeed. There are some different styles of geta, but in general, they have three main components to them; “Dai”, “Ha”, and “Hanao”.  Dai is the base board that people put their feet on, and Ha are the pieces of wood that support the Dai from below. Ha means teeth in Japanese, and the name comes from the side view of a Geta.  Geta usually have 2 “Ha”. The Hanao is made of cloth and it is placed on the Dai. When people wear Geta, the Hanao passes between the big toe and the second toe, a little like a beach sandal. Geta consist of these 3 parts, and this type of Geta is the latest type. Then, how about the old style?

History of Geta

In olden times, Geta were made and used as work shoes in Japan. In the Yayoi period (about BC 300 ~ BC 300) people in Japan started using “Ta-Geta” (“Ta” means “rice field” in Japanese). At that time, rice farming was started, and people could not move easily in the rice fields because the ground was muddy and soft. Therefore, they made Ta-Geta to make it easier to work in rice fields. However, Ta-Geta did not have Ha and their Hanao were made of straw. Furthermore, another style, “Nezura-Geta” (“Nezura” is a kind of fish in Japan), were used on the beach or in the shallows. Nezura-Geta had needles attached to their soles, like spiked shoes, and people wore them to catch fish.

During the Heian period, (BC 794 ~ BC 1185), one type of Geta, “Takaba”, which had only one Ha, were worn by priests. They usually wore them when they climbed up and down a mountain. It sounds very difficult to climb up and down a mountain wearing Takaba, but apparently they were quite suitable for slippery mountain roads. However, towards the end of this era, nearly all the common people wore “Zouri” (that were made only of straw and very simple) instead of Geta, and Geta became a rare and expensive thing for the average person.   

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Zouri

It wasn’t until the Edo era (BC 1603 ~ BC 1868) that people started to wear Geta again, and this was because people started to become more interested in fashion.  They wore Geta not only as work shoes, but also as a fashion item. Also, up to then, Geta had usually only been worn on rainy days, however, from the middle of the Edo period, people began to wear them on sunny days, too. Thereafter, the skill of making Geta improved and the shops selling them began to appear, and in greater numbers. Because of this, more than 200 kinds of Geta were made at that time, and Geta became more and more famous among common people. So, what types are there around now?

Different types of Geta

Actually, there are many kinds of Geta still worn now, and a good example is “Ippon-Geta”. They have only one Ha, supporting piece, and are very good for your body balance. If you wear them, it can make your upper body stronger. It is also said that wearing Ippon-Geta can heal back pain or gonalgia, too. Another type is called “Tengu-Geta” because it has been said this type of Geta was worn by Tengu, a sort of Japanese monster, and also god, that has a long nose and red face. This simple variety is very similar to the Ta-Geta we introduced earlier.

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Ippon-Geta

Finally, we have “Okobo”. Okobo are often worn by Maiko. We talked about Maiko in a previous article:  

http://thekyotoproject.org/english/the-long-journey-of-becoming-a-maiko/)

The height of an Okobo is about 10cm, and are worn mostly by women. In the “Shichi-Go-San”, a festival in Japan to celebrate the healthy growth of children, girls often wear them. They also go by some other names, including Pokkuri, Koppori or Bokkuri, but this is different from place to place.

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Okobo

Conclusion

Geta is a traditional Japanese shoe, and, in olden times people used them as work shoes. Now, however, they are worn still as a fashion item, too. Recently, in Kyoto, the number of rental Kimono shops is increasing because of the number of foreign visitors interested in this style. If you go to one of these shops, you can try wearing Kimono and Geta and go sightseeing with them on. Also, most of the shops have hairstylists, so if you are women, you can try a traditional hairstyle. It costs around 3,000 yen 〜 6,000 yen, so we recommend you to try it. It may be difficult to walk wearing Geta for the first time, but it really is a uniquely Japanese traditional experience. You will surely enjoy Kyoto even more if you try out the old Japanese clothes style, Kimono and Geta!