The Charm of Kyo-Machiya and a Machiya Hotel

December 4, 2017

We wonder how many people know about it Kyo-Machiya, Machiya is a type of house that can be seen throughout Japan, but Kyoto is especially famous for it. It is a traditional wooden townhouse that has been used in one form or another from the 8th century to the 1th century. The typical area of a Kyo-machiya is determined by a frontage width of about 6 meters and a length’ of about 20 meters or more. Because of this long and narrow shape, people call them “unagi no nedoko” which mean “eel beds” in English. Even now, there are over 45,000 of the traditional and historical machiya in Kyoto city. They make cityscape more beautiful and have been attracting people as a symbol of Kyoto for centuries. However, the number of machiya has been decreasing because they are torn down by owners who face high maintenance costs, inheritance taxes and the simply the inconvenience of living in such a traditional space. The decrease of machiya means the loss of the beautiful cityscape in Kyoto. Machiya should be known by more people and should be preserved. Therefore, we would like to introduce machiya hotel in Kyoto to make more people aware how nice they are! Fortunately, we had an opportunity to contact with Akiko, the owner, who has a machiya and uses as an accommodation in Kyoto city.

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The name of the hotel is Kyo-machiya Kokon Higashiyama Holiday Home Kyoto. It is located in Higashiyama-ku, Chaya-cho, Kyoto and is only 0.5 km from Hokoku Shrine, 1.5 km from Kiyomizu Temple, and 2.5 km from To-i Temple and the Kyoto International Manga Museum. We could get there in 15 minutes by foot from Gojo Station. Although the location is very good, the place is very quiet. The appearance was very traditional, but at the same time was also very new and clean inside. There is a kitchen, bathroom, toilet, living room space on the 1st floor and 4 beds, chair and desk on the 2nd floor. Whatever guests might need are already stocked inside; there is even a washing machine, dryer and etc. If you stay there in winter, you can use a kotastu, which is a low covered table with a heater inside. Furthermore, there is information in English for foreign guests.

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On the 2nd floor, we could see black beams on the ceiling. The contrast between white walls and black beams looks modern and very beautiful. Most interesting point was the toilet, because it was outside. The type of the toilet is familiar with old style Japanese house. You can find it in “Sazae-san” and “Chibi Maruko-chan,” which are Japanese famous cartoons. Also, you can enjoy a tsubo niwa, which is a very small Japanese garden that can be seen from living room. It was cute and tastefully laid out. Most of the customers are foreigner the owner said. Tourists want to have new experiences in Japan by spending time in the Japanese traditional house. I want more people to know about the existence of machiya hotels and want them to use them more. If the demand increases, we can save more machiya and keep the beautiful cityscape, too!

image If you visit in Kyoto, you should stay in a machiya hotel.

Hirano Shrine

Kyoto is one of the best places to experience the four seasons. For example, in fall you can see lots of beautiful autumn leaves everywhere, and in winter you can see wonderful temples or shines covered by snow. Especially in spring, you can see cherry trees in full bloom. Many people say that Hirano Shrine (平野神社) is the best places to see these beautiful cherry blossoms.

The History of Hirano Shrine

Hirano Shrine is located in northwest of Kyoto. In this area are many famous landmarks: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kinkajuji Temple, and Ritsumeikan University. Hirano Shrine was established in 794 when the capital was changed to Heian-kyo from Nagaoka-kyo. When you visit Hirano Shrine can see the large torii (a gateway at the entrance to a Shinto shrine) and you can pass through it for fee. The shrine has been involved with Japan’s Imperial Household and Imperial Family. This shrine is very famous for its cherry blossoms. There are about 400 cherry trees of sixty different types on the shrine grounds. Every spring, many tourists come to visit here to see the beautiful blossoms.

Events at Hirano Shrine

As already stated, Hirano Shrine is famous for cherry blossoms. A cherry blossom is on the crest for the shrine. The origin of it is from the Heian period and at that time Emperor Hanayama had thousands of cherry trees planted on the shrine precincts. One of the cherry trees in Hirano shrine is called “Sakigake.” It comes from this Shrine and it is said that when this cherry tree starts to bloom, then people in Kyoto start to have cherry blossom-viewing parties. Cherry blossoms are not usual, but special. Every year, On April 10th, Hirano holds a cherry blossom festival. People cannot merely see these trees, but can also see them lit up at night from March 25th to April 19th. When the light up is held, music concerts are also held. They are held outside and free of charge.

Shops around Hirano Shrine

I want to recommend going to lunch and takinga break around Hirano Shrine. At first I recommend going to Shikura ramen (Chinese noodles) shop. The ramen here is based of the pork-bone broth. It is so popular that at lunch time there is always a long line. Next I want to recommend you to go to Tawaraya. This shop is famous for udon noodles. It serves a really different style of udon. It is famous for very thick and long udon that you cannot eat at any other udon shops. Next I recommend you to go OKONOMIYAKI JYANBO. This shop is famous for okonomiyaki and fried noodles. Their okonomiyaki is really big, so it is a good place to go for growing boys. Next I recommend you to go to the Harbor Cafe. This shop is nothing special, but it is open 24 hours. So you can go there after a walk at night time.

In conclusion, Kyoto has a long history, so there are many kinds of temples or shrines. And each temple or shrine has a best season to visit. The season you should visit Hirano Shrine is spring. Please enjoy the four seasons in Kyoto!

Four Things to Do in Arashiyama

by. Hinako Uematsu, Aina Sasaki, Mina Ito

When you come to Kyoto, where do you want to go? We recommend Arashiyama. It is the one of the most popular places in Kyoto for tourists. There are many shops here and you can feel you are in “Japan.” There are four things you must do in Arashiyama.

Togetsu Kyo Bridge

The first thing to do is walk across the Togetsukyo Bridge, which is Arashiyama’s iconic landmark. The name of the bridge, Togetsu, means “moon crossing.” It was originally built during Heian period (794-1185) but was recently reconstructed in the 1930s. Togetsukyo is 155 meters in length are spans the Katsura River, which flows leisurely down from the mountains in the north. The bridge looks very attractive against the background of forested mountainsides. In a riverside park, you can see cherry blossoms in the spring, or red leaves in autumn or covered with snow in the winter. Beautiful views abound adjacent to the bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

River Trip

The second thing to do is take a river trip from Kameoka to Arashiyama.This trip uses traditional style, flat-bottomed boats that are manned by boatmen who guide the craft with oars and bamboo poles. The boats take about two hours to leisurely make their way down the river. This journey is a relaxing way to see the natural views of the natural Kameoka ravine. Cruises are offered year round, but are particularly popular from the middle of November to early December when the leaves change their color. The boats are heated in winter and still go down the river during light rain. Seated passengers will be covered in a plastic tent, but service is canceled in case of heavy rain or large changes in the water level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bamboo Groves

Arashiyama has very famous bamboo groves. The third thing to do is to take one of many walking paths by foot or by bicycle that cut through one of these bamboo groves. The groves are particularly attractive when there is a light wind and the tall bamboo stalks sway gently back and forth. The bamboo is used in various products, such as baskets, cups, boxes and mats. These have been made at local workshops for centuries. Nowadays people from many countries visit here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food

The fourth and last thing that is essential to your visit in Arashiyama is eat at one of the many fine restaurants there. Many restaurants retain their old traditional exteriors. So if you go to here you can feel the Japan of the past. In hot weather we recommend eating shaved ice, or kakigoori. There have many kinds of shaved ice shop and there hare many places to eat shaved ice in Arashiyama.

These are four things we recommend for you to do. Please enjoy your time in Arashiyama.

Shimogamo Jinja

by Yuri kamakura & Akane kaneta

Located on the southern banks of the Kamo river, Kamomioya-jinja both reflects and inspires Kyoto City. Even its common name is a product of the city. “Shimo-,” meaning lower, and “-gamo,” after the city’s central river, yields the familiar Shimogamo. The creator and guardian of the city, Kamotaketsunomi-no-mikoto, is enshrined in the main sanctuary of the shrine, along his daughter Tamayorihime-no-mikoto, a mythical figure with her own repute. Together these deities welcome and protect all who visit the shrine, from Kyoto and beyond.

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Torii

Myth

The ancestor of the Kamo clan, Kamotaketsunomi-no-mikoto, is said to have descended to earth on the grounds of Mt. Mikage, a mountain east of Kyoto. According to Shinto beliefs, this god metamorphosed into the three-legged deity of the sun, Yatagarasu. In this form, he led the legendary first emperor of Japan, Jimmu, throughout the Kyoto countryside and finally settled at the future site of the Shimogamo shrine.

This great god’s daughter, Tamayorihime-no-mikoto, attended to her ritual duties on the shrine grounds. One day while purifying her body in the Kamo river, she saw an arrow floating downstream. Unknowingly, she picked up the arrow, placed it on the shore, which before her eyes turned into a beautiful god. Shocked and smitten, she married the god and begot a child. Her son took on another avatar of the Shinto arrow, as the thunder god. Worshipped at Shimogamo’s sister shrine, Kamigamo, the thunder god Wakeikazuchi is said to have all the power of thunder when it impregnates the land with life. His mother’s legacy is therefore one of productive marriage and parenting.

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Saru

History

The history of the Shimogamo shrine extends at least two thousand years. A recent excavation of the Tadasu-no-mori, the shrine’s forest, unearthed artifacts from as long ago as the Yayoi period (4 B.C. – 3 A.D.). Fragments of plates and arrowheads from the Yayoi were found in good condition throughout the forest excavation site. Artifacts dating from later periods document the evolution of society around the shrine. Heian period artifacts include the head of a ceramic horse figurine and elaborate roof tiles, while Edo period artifacts range from simple bowls and nails to mirrors and money.

The shrine grew in stature as the powerful Hata family adopted Shimogamo and its sister shrine, Kamigamo, as two of their favored shrines. Since then, the shrine has enjoyed considerable attention from important and indeed, imperial, families. It was during the reign of Emperor Temmu (675-686) that the first shrine buildings were constructed. Surrounding the shrine was an ever-growing amount of land. Records from the Tempyo Shoho period (749-757) indicate one cho of land (about one hectare) was given to the shrine to cultivate food for religious offerings; three hundred years later, Shimogamo owned 689 cho of land, extending all over the country. The growth in this influence came as Emperor Kwammu moved his capital into a neighboring province of Kyoto and finally to the site of modern day Kyoto. At the founding of the imperial capital (then called Heian), priests gathered at Shimogamo shrine to worship for its success.

Imperial culture flourished in Kyoto during the Heian period (794-1185) and the Shimogamo shrine alongside. The shrine was its most prosperous during the reign of Emperor Saga (809-823). Many of the shrine’s elaborate architectural designs and traditions come from this time. Emperor Saga was the first to dedicate one of his daughters as a Sai-in, or maiden of the shrine, following a similar custom as established at the Ise shrine. The Sai-in would only come once a year, in a grand procession with an imperial messenger. The shrine priests would decorate the buildings and their own costumes with branches of aoi (hollyhock), and so started the Aoi Matsuri. This event became so famous than it was known as “the matsuri” or the festival, throughout Japan. It is mentioned under this name several times in the classic Heian-period Japanese epic Tale of Genji. Tempestuous love rivals rammed their ox carts in battle during one matsuri and contented couples strolled through another. Contemporary to the Tale of Genji, the Makura-shoshi, a compilation of the likes and dislikes of a noblewoman, lists the matsuri as one of her favorite events in Kyoto. Noble by noble, Shimogamo shrine cultivated the good favor of the imperial court and aristocracy for several hundred years.

The court began having financial difficulties in the 13th century. The emperor suspended the tradition of the Sai-in, and gifts grew fewer in number. The country fell into strife and was eventually engulfed in civil war in the 15th century. When the new shogunal government emerged, the Shimogamo shrines were still intact, but as vestiges of the imperial era, their power was considerably reduced. Emperors would still visit the shrine, but with less pomp than in previous eras.

Perhaps the most famous imperial visit during this time was that of Emperor Komei in 1863. Legend has it that he prayed for the return of the antagonistic foreigners to the land from which they hailed. This wish went unfulfilled, and as the shogunal government collapsed as the threat of Western invasion advanced, imperial culture was, at least nominally, brought to the fore once again. During this Meiji era, the government glorified the role of the emperor and provided generous stipends to the Shimogamo shrine, listing the Kamo shrines second only to the Ise shrine. However, the process of modernization stripped away the hierarchical social structure that the shrine relied upon and redistributed the shrine’s land holdings.

During the 20th century, the country faced a more hostile exchange with Western powers. As World War II consumed the national psyche, festivals were cancelled and supplies rationed. After the war, the emperor was left defeated and humanized, and the imperially favored shrines lost visibility. Though festivities resumed in 1953, the shrine needed to recast itself for the post-war era.

Today, the Shimogamo shrine is integrated into the Kyoto community. It hosts community wide markets, an old book fair, a lecture series on religious and historical topics, always bringing people together for social and spiritual purposes. People from the community volunteer in the forest on Earth Day, and flock to the many festivals throughout the year.

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Keidai

Access

〒606-0807 Kyotoshi-Sakyouku-Shimogamo-Izumigawacho-59
TEL:075-781-0010
Mail:info@shimogamo-jinja.or.jp
Open-Close
6:30~17:00

Hozukyo Gorge ~a wonderful place~

by Ayaka Murai, Hikari Yanai, Daichi Hatakuyama

I have one recommendation in Kyoto.  It is an amazing place. If you spend your holiday in Kyoto with your family, friends, or love ones, I recommend going there.  The place called Hozukyo Gorge. In Kyoto, people called it Hozukyo.  I expect that everyone think, “Really?”  But Hozukyo has many appealing points, one which will not make you bored.  I would like to tell all about.

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Hozukyo is a famous gorge leading Kameoka city to Togetsukyo placed in Arashiyama Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City.  It is filled with nature. Hozu-gawa River running through Hozukyo is also famous.

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There is a hiking trail of Hozukyo, and you can see beautiful nature throughout the year.  So it is a tourist spot where a lot of people visit.  In the spring, it is blooming with cherry blossoms, so a lot of tourists and local people go there for picnics.  In the summer, a lot of people enjoy Hozugawakudari. It means going down Hozu-river by a small boat.  You will be surrounded by great nature and you can feel the nature directly on the boat.  In addition, rafting has become popular recently.  During Hozugawakudari a boatman rows the boat, but rafting lets you control the boat yourself.  It is very thrilling and getting popular.  In the autumn, all kinds of trees take on color.  So you can enjoy seeing colorful scenery.  In the winter, the nature is blanketed in snow.  It is remarkably attractive viewing.  So, you will press your camera’s shutter release button in spite of yourself.  Thus Hozukyo is a great spot with many attractive points.

 

JR Hozukyo station and train Hozukyo station are the nearest station from Hozukyo.  You can arrive at JR Hozukyo station, which is very famous for cherry blossom in spring.  You can set to train Hozukyo station about 10 minutes from tram Saga station.  This train is also one of the sightseeing features.  The interior has motif of Japanese style.  The train’s seat is made of wood seat for a natural feeling.  Autumn is the best season on the outskirts of the tram Hozukyo station.  Many tourists visit to see the autumn colors.  The train is overcrowded in the autumn, because it is very popular.  However, if you are lucky, you can ride it.  If you can’t ride it, you can walk westward along the railroad.  It’s also nice and you can see beautiful autumn colors.  

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Hozukyo is often used in movies, and filming is shoot on location.  Hozu-gawa is flowing under the Hozukyo.  A lot of people often barbecue, hike on the banks of the Hozu-gawa and so on.  People come to here for these reasons. Therefore, you can feel nature in Hozukyo.  In addition you can arrive at Arashiyama, which is a tourist spot near the Hozukyo only minutes from JR Kyoto.  Please go to Arashiyama after you go to the Hozukyo.  If you want to feel Kyoto in four seasons and spend your holiday in Kyoto with your family, friends and loved ones, please go to Hozukyo. 

Iwatayama—Kyoto’s Monkey Mountain

By Kazauki Kume and Yoshiki Kawauchi

Arashiyama, in Kyoto, is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Japan. Not only Japanese but also many foreign tourists visit this part of Kyoto city every year. Arashiyama has many different kinds of sights and is famous for temples, shrines, a huge bamboo grove, autumn leaves and the Togetsukyo Bridge. Arashiyama is surrounded by nature and so visitors can enjoy different scenes as the seasons change. In the middle of such a sightseeing mecca, there is a monkey paradise called Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama.

 

Arashiyama Monkey Park

This monkey park was begun after Japanese monkeys (nihonzaru or the Japanese Macaque) living there were fed for research by Kyoto University in 1954. After that, the area became a park and was opened to the public in 1957. Currently, about 120 monkeys live in their wild state. However these monkeys have come to recognize that human beings do not pose a threat to them because there are strict rules for visitors. Therefore, even if humans come nearby, the monkeys are not afraid. But you must not gaze at their eyes or touch them because they recognize these actions as aggressive behavior and will retaliate. In their view, you are taking a threatening attitude toward them.

About Japanese monkeys

Japanese monkeys are well known for appearing in old folktales in Japan. In their natural habitat they live in groups of about a dozen individuals and their life expectancy is said to be around 30 years. Among monkeys, the Japanese Macaque is the northernmost most species. Since monkeys are usually distributed in tropical regions, Japanese monkeys, especially those living in the northern snowy areas of Japan, are called “snow monkeys.” They usually live in deep in the mountains. Therefore, researchers around the world are very surprised because they can see monkeys here.

Access, Fees and Information

The park entrance is about fifteen minutes from the Hankyu Arashiyama and Keifuku Arashiyama train stations. In addition you have to walk a mountain path for about ten minutes from there. You should wear good walking shoes or boots and not high heels. Sports shoes or sneakers are best. There are no free exclusive parking for visitors, but there are pay parking lots nearby the entrance.

The admission fee is 550 yen for each adult and 250 yes for children (children nder three years of age are free). There are a group rates for parties of thirty or more. If the group rates apply, the fee becomes 450 yen for adults and 200 yen for children. If you want to feed the monkeys, you have to pay 100 yen on the top of mountain. You can buy apples, pineapples and peanuts for 100 yen.

The Monkey Park is open throughout the year. However on days of heavy rain days or heavy snow it is closed. If you want to check if the park is open, you can call 075-872-0950. Business hours are 9:00~16:30 in summer (March 15~September 30) and 9:00~16:00 in winter (October 1~March 14). But sometime the monkeys return to the forest later in the day. So you should visit the park at an early time.

Starting a Day in Kyoto Station

by Takumi Abe

Japanese life in morning

At Kyoto Station many people head to school or work at the beginning of the day. If you are there, you can feel Japanese daily life in the morning. We cannot see such a scene in temples or shrines. Commuters are coming and going in the station. You can see many faces with delightful, depressed or serious looks.

Kyoto Station starts “Rush Hour” at 7am with arriving trains. At this time, the station is crowded. I took pictures of commuters, tourists and station officers at this busy time. You can feel a very different atmosphere at Kiyomizu temple. I hope you enjoy the photos enough that you will want to visit Kyoto Station in the early morning. I was there for an hour from 7 AM.

Starting a day from Kyoto Station

No.1 Starting Gift Shop

Gift shop (Omiyageya)

People who come to Kyoto are not only tourists but also students on school excursions and salaried workers on business trips. Some of them use Kyoto Station for going back home. They buy souvenirs in gift shops in the station. Clerks want them to buy gifts so they put goods on the shelves.

No.2 Keeping clean for users

Be clean

People are coming and going in the station. It is not easy to keep clean especially on rainy day. However, the station is always sanitary. In the background, there is a lot of hard work being done by the facility workers.

No.3 For Kyoto

The gate

At the same time as arriving trains, all the people go through automatic ticket gates. Their daily life in Kyoto begins. They head to school or work in the city.

No.4 Changing trains

On stairs and elevators

Kyoto station has JR (Japan Railway) and Kintetsu (Kintetsu Railway). Some people change trains for JR or Kintetsu. Lots of people run into each other in the elevators and stairs. They walk in a hurry while somehow avoiding collision.

No. 5 If you need help

Officers help you

Station officers help everybody.  They want users to feel comfortable. If you do not know where a destination is, officers answer and relieve your anxiety.

No.6 A student

a Student reading a book

Half of the station users are students. While waiting for trains, they chat with friends or read a book or study.

No.7 School trip

School trip

In Japan, Kyoto is a famous destination for school trips. Many students study the history of Kyoto and Japan. They also learn how to go to famous places.

No.8 Starting Sightseeing

It is difficult to be in unfamiliar place

Tourists also start here to get to tourist sites. In front of the map, some tourists check where their destination is. This map shows you locations. In a cafe, some tourists eat breakfast to build up energy for the day ahead.

No.9 A line

No.0 platform

On platform 0, users make lines without disorder. They use phones for checking e-mails, messages or news. They look down on small screens. If you stand beyond the yellow line, you will be warned by the station staff.

No.10 In the busy time

He watched Shinkansen and trains

In the rush hour, it is not easy to have inner peace. However, a place you always use looks different between busy times and free times.  You may find another face of the Kyoto Station if you look.

Morning Kyoto

Speaking of Kyoto, many people will come up with temples and shrines. However, if you are interested in daily Japanese life, you can see it in Kyoto Station. You can see common Japan. In famous places in Kyoto, you can feel old Japan. Kyoto Station however, is filled with another part of Japanese culture. These pictures taken in Kyoto station belong to this part. If you have time to stay in Kyoto, I want you to enjoy World Heritage sites, but I want you to see daily life in Japan. It may be fun to find differences between your own country’s life and that of Japan. You may be surprised . Kyoto station has both a traditional and contemporary atmosphere. I want you to take an interest in the morning time in Kyoto Station.

Kamishichiken and its shops

by Riho Miyagi, Akane Mukai and Yuuka Yamazaki

 

Kyoto has a lot of popular sightseeing spots, for example, Kinkakuji-temple (金閣寺), Kiyomizu-temple (清水寺), and Fushimiinari-shrine (伏見稲荷大社). Speaking of famous places, do you know any essential and passionate places in Kyoto?

 

What is Kamishichiken?

Kamishichiken” is a district of northwest Kyoto. It is the oldest of the five hanamachi  in Kyoto and located east of the Kitano Tenmangu-shrine. Local people pronounce it as “Kamihichiken”. In Kanji, it means “Seven Upper Houses”. In the Muromachi Period, seven teahouses were built from tools and material leftover from the rebuilding of the Kitano Tenmangu-Shrine. Kamishichiken has many traditional wooden buildings, some of which are teahouses or geisha houses. There are approximately 25 maiko and geiko in Kamishichiken now and they entertain in 10 teahouses in Kamishichiken. It is located in Kyoto’s Nishijin area, which is famous for traditional textiles.

 

The Kamishichiken Kaburenjo Theater

The Kamishichiken kaburenjo theater, considered by many to be the main symbol of this small Geiko district, is one of the few remaining wooden theaters. The Kamishichiken kaburenjo is the largest building in Kamishichiken. It is known for the performances of Maiko. Maiko learn and practice their songs and dances here every day. Their performance takes 1.5 hours. There are 20 performers dressed in kimono. This dance performance was first held as Kitano Odori in March 1952, to commemorate the 1050th year anniversary of Sugawara-no-Michizane’s death. He was a highly ranked court noble to whom Kitano Tenmangu shrine is dedicated. It also featured the tea ceremony, where Geisha prepare bowls of Japanese tea and sweets. The performance is considered as both elite and tasteful. The Kitano Odori performance opens on March 25th and ends April 17th. In addition, from July 1st until August 31st, a beer garden is open to the public at Kamishichiken Kaburenjo Theatre and offers unique chance to be served by maiko and geiko.

 

Shops near kamishichiken

The area around Kitano Tenman-gu shrine has lots of wonderful shops and cafés. I recommend you try shaved ice with real fruit syrup in summer time at KONOHANA.  At another shop, YUSURAGO, yuzu-flavored ice is very popular. Yuzu is a fruit. produced by a tree belonging to the Citrus family and is similar to oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruit.. Another area shop is MAEDA, which is famous for baby sponge cake. Baby sponge cake can be eaten in all seasons and can be brought back home. If you want to eat Japanese sweets I recommend TENZINDO. This shop serves rice cakes, one for only 100 yen, so it’s very reasonably priced. And I really want to recommend NERIYA HACHIBE. This shop is famous for bracken-starch cake. This cake comes in two flavors: kinako (soybean flour) and matcha (powdered green tea). Matcha is now popular throughout the world, so you should try it. Kyoto is famous for tofu (soy bean curd) and yuba (bean curd skin). If you want to try one of these I really recommend TOYOUKE CHAYA. This shop is famous for tofu and yuba. you can enjoy traditional Japanese flavors at these shops.

 

Kamishichiken is not as famous as other hanamachi, but there are many interesting and fantastic shops here. Once you go, you can absolutely feel the core of Kyoto culture.

 

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.

 

The best shops we selectted in Uji City

By Yu Sakamoto, Tashi Nisikawa and Kazu Shibao

There are many sightseeing spots in Kyoto, such as Amanohashidate, Uji, Fushimi Inari Shrine, etc. There are so many wonderful sightseeing places that the list of examples is endless. This is a wonderful thing about Kyoto, but some people are confused by too many sightseeing spots. If you could stay longer, you would go to various places, but not everyone can stay for a long time. I would like many people to visit so many places and have lots of good experiences. Therefore, I’d like to tell you how to enjoy sightseeing efficiently even if you stay a short while. This guidance is for Uji, which is also popular with local people. Uji has plenty of places to see the sights. I will introduce a sightseeing itinerary that does not waste time.

First of all, we will introduce the history of Uji city. Uji city is located around the beautiful, clean Uji River, and is graced with many temples and shrines, which is indicative of Uji city’s long history and rich culture. In Uji city there are two UNESCO World Heritage sites. Ujigami Shrine and Byodoin Temple were registered in December 1994. In this area. From the15th century to the 16th century, Uji city was a place of a lot of fighting where various generals fought to control Japan. Since that time, Uji city has spent many peaceful years and Uji city has become a cultural center of Japan. Uji city has many historical sights and famous cultural specialties. Also, Uji Green Tea is the best and most famous Japanese Tea. We will show you some great tea shops in this article, and please enjoy it in traditional tea houses.

At first, I recommend you to take a train as the easiest way to go to Uji. Because most of the spots of Uji that can be enjoyed are in front of the station, if you get to the station you just have fun! However, there are two Uji stations, so some people are confused. One is JR line. The other is the Keihan line. Either way you get off. Therefore, the train to ride depends on where you are. When coming from Kyoto if you are near Kyoto Station, please use JR line. If you are near Kawaramachi please use the Keihan line. Likewise, if you are coming from Osaka, you can take JR or the Keihan line.

  • When you are near Kyoto station
  1. First of all, please buy a ticket to Uji station. (240 yen for one way)
  2. Please look for the time table board for the train in the direction to Nara
  3. Once you get on the train you do not need to change trains and you will arrive at Uji station in about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • When you are near Kawaramachi
  1. First of all, please buy a ticket to Uji Station at Gion Shijo Station. (310 yen for one way)
  2. Please get down to the platform, number 2 and get on the limited express train bound for Yodoyabashi.
  3. From there, we get off after 3 stops (about 10 minutes) in Chushojima and transfer.
  4. Please go to the platform number 3 in Chushojima and get on the Keihan Uji Line and get off after 7 stops (15 minutes) in Uji.

In Uji city, there are a lot of stores. So, when you go there, you can easily become confused. Therefore, we have put together a guide to the best shops in Uji city. When you come out of the Kyohan station, you can see the bridge front of the station. You need to cross the bridge, then you can see Torii gate. Here is the start point on this guide in our article. In this point, there have two ways. Please go left side. Do not go to the Torii gate way.

 

This way.

Torii gate. Not this way.

 

 

Kyo-Food: Uji Kawa Ryokan.

 

At the very beginning, when you first enter the left side way, you can see the shop on your left. In this shop, you can enjoy the river view from the room and you can eat Kyo-food. This shop is a Ryokan (Japanese traditional style hotel), so you can stay there if you like. If you want to eat some native Kyo- food, we suggest you visit this shop.

 

 

 

Obanzai buffet: Rokujyoan.

 

Just nearby Uji Kawa Ryokan, you can find you can find an obanzai store named Rokujyoan. In this shop, you can eat obanzai. Obanzai is the word for home cooking in Kyoto dialect. You can eat different kinds of obazai food, and this shop is buffet style so you can eat many foods. This is a great place to have a lunch time. If you want to eat obanzai, we suggest you visit this shop.

 

 

 

Green Tea Takoyaki and Soft Cream Shop: Tako Q.

 

After Rokujyoan, walk straight to about 1 minute. You can see the shop. In this shop, you can have green tea, takoyaki and soft cream. Green tea takoyaki is a rare food in Japan. If you visit Uji city, you should try to eat green tea takoyaki. It will become a great memory.

 

 

 

Old Green Tea Shop: Akamon-chaya.

 

Have you ever drunk green tea beer before? At the Akamon-chaya, you can have a green tea beer. After Tako Q, walk straight to about 4 minutes. After that, you can see three ways. You need to go left side. Then you can see the shop. In this shop, you can also experience how to make green tea. This shop has an old history. This shop using a great high level green tea, so the price is little expensive. However, you can feel Japanese traditional in this shop. We will recommend drinking green tea beer. It is so sweet and you can feel green tea smells in your mouth after drinking this beer.

 

 

Byodoin Temple.

 

 

Walk straight to Uji bridge shopping street, you will see the entrance of Byodoin temple. This temple is opened at 8:30 a.m. and closed at 5:30 p.m., so do not go too late, otherwise you can’t go in.

Byodoin temple is a Buddhist temple which was built in the late Heian period, 794 to 1185. This temple is registered as a World Heritage site. Also, this temple is very famous for being on the reverse of the 10-yen coin, and the phoenix which you can find behind is on the 10000 yen-note.

In the area of Byodoin temple, there is a huge pond around the temple. There are many carp so you can feel Japan very much. Furthermore, there is a museum named Hosyokan in which you can see the history of Byodoin temple. The entrance fee is 600 yen for adults, 400 yen for junior high school students, 300 yen for elementary school students. In addition, if you would like to go inside of Byodoin temple, you need to pay 300 yen more. You might think it’s little bit expensive, but I’m for sure it’s worth it.

 

Green tea restaurant: Itokyuemon.

Walk along Uji river, you can see the restaurant named Itokyuemon just nearby Keihan Uji station. This restaurant is very famous for maccha, and at this restaurant we ate maccha soba, maccha cheese tart with hoji tea jelly and maccha parfait. You can smell maccha very much from each meal but especially Maccha soba. You think these two don’t match well but once you eat this soba you will change your opinion. Also, the maccha plus cheese tart is quite unique combination as well. Taste of maccha is very rich and creamy. Apparently, a famous TV show reported this maccha cheese tart. Furthermore, this maccha parfait is one of the best maccha parfaits I’ve ever had. The price is 680 yen, so it’s very reasonable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you find any interesting store?? This is our best way to experience Uji. In addition, there are a lot of other interesting stores or spots in Uji. It’s maybe good idea that have a look around while referring our article. Anyway, enjoy your Kyoto trip!