Nishijin-ori

May 17, 2019

by Genki Ueno & Sakoda Shumpei

Japan is home to arguably the most unique cultures in the world, with its unique blend of old
tradition and a technologically advanced society. For many newcomers, it may feel like
walking through a couple of centuries of rich history in only a day. Hence it comes as no
surprise that since a few years ago, Kyoto, the heart of old Japanese tradition, has become
one of the most famous and popular tourist destinations in the world.

Foreigner Appeals: Kimono

Some traditions are still practised in Kyoto today, the most well-known example perhaps
being the fascinating world of the geisha. Geisha often, if not always sport a painted face with
jet black wigs adorned with beautiful accessories, but it is the beautiful traditional item of
clothing known as a “kimono” that they wear that piques the interest of many tourists, as they
flock from around the world to try this special garment. As the number of visitors from foreign
countries has been increasing, producers have been making kimono in “foreigner sizes” to
further appeal to tourists, encouraging them to try this experience. It is only after try wearing it
that they will truly realise its beauty and intricacy. Kimono has a set of complicated rules, and
it is a major task to coordinate all the pieces properly. People usually need help from the shop
assistants, and the process is quite time-consuming, and it is not exactly the most
comfortable thing to wear. As tedious as it may sound, wearing kimono is truly an art, and is
extremely special for anyone who is fortunate to have the experience of wearing one.

The Art of Nishijin

There are many kinds of Kimono; the one chosen for discussion is a woven Obi called
“Nishijin-ori”. Nishijin weaving, the type of weaving used to make these obi, originated in
Kyoto over 1200 years ago. It uses many different types of coloured yarns, which are weaved
into decorative designs. Nishijin-ori is the most sophisticated and treasured Obi in
Japan. Each obi is unique and are known to have spectacular designs, largely due to the fact
that Nishijin weaving employs very tedious and specialised procedures, thus ensuring the
quality of this art form.

As mentioned, the Obi is undoubtedly what represents the craftsmanship of the Nishijin-ori
art. Its threads come in many colors, including gold, and it is glamorously thick and rich, so it
goes without mentioning that they are very heavy as well. Though Nishijin Obi are indeed very
expensive, one is enough to last a lifetime. In recent times, more items of clothing have been
made employing the Nishijin technique, such as neckties. From a large obi to a small key
holder, it is assumed that no matter the size of the item, products from Nishijin-ori are always
impeccably made with remarkable quality. Due to its popularity and unique beauty, Nishijin-ori
also receives many orders from famous designer brands around the world such as Chanel,
Louis Vuitton and Dior to make other products, such as wallets, bookmarks and other
accessories. Known celebrities have also commissioned such items. Products that are made
of Nishijin-ori are great to own and can be enjoyed for a long time — it is rare to find such
timeless beauty.

History and Origin

While Nishijin-ori‘s origin lie in Kyoto, it’s beginnings are specifically linked to the Yasushi
family, who immigrated to Kyoto from China around the 5th to 6th century, and introduced
how to make silk textiles to the local people. By the 8th century, the royal court had created
an official branch to supervise the textile artists, and their production. In other words, this was
a government owned and operated industry. These artists used to live together around
Chouza machi, Kamigyo ku, Kyoto, which later on became a textile city. Between 1467 and
1477, during the Onin war, Kyoto suffered a long period of civil war between the East and the
West, and many artists fled Kyoto. As a result, the whole industry was almost extinguished.
Though the demand for these products dwindled in the 15th century, it regained popularity
soon after the war ended, and the art of weaving began to thrive once again. The textile
industry was revived in the area of Imagawa, Omiya.The growing weaving community
supplied materials for products commissioned by the Imperial Palace and samurai lords. As
these products were almost exclusively commissioned by aristocratic figures, the community
was rewarded generously. This increased productivity, leading to the development and
refining of new procedures to create newer, more intricate designs, such as the use of the
gold brocade and Damask silk that originated in China, during the Ming Dynasty. The literal
translation of “Nishiji” is “the West position”, referring to to the area in which many Kyoto
residents returned home after the war ended, in 1480.

However, the art of Nishijin faced another crisis in 1837, as there was an abrupt stop in trade
due to the unavailability of materials due to crop failures. Kyoto as a whole faced hard times,
and when the new capital of Japan was announced to be Tokyo, this was thought to be the
end of the Nishijin era. Thankfully, the art was brought back to life nearly half a century later,
after the Japanese travelled to Europe and learned new weaving techniques (such as the
Jacquard loom and the flying shuttle), later incorporating them into their own traditional
techniques. By the end of the 19th century, the Nishijin textile trade was well-developed and
possessed technology shared by the Europeans. This also marked the beginning of the use
of machinery in Japanese trade.

Nishijin in the Present and Future

Today, Nishijin weaving is seen more frequently in Japanese ceremonies, most prominently in
traditional Japanese weddings. It can be seen specifically on the bride’s kimono, which have
usually been handed down from many generations. These designs typically range from
scenes of nature, different breeds of birds, and several different types of flowers.
Taking into account its rich history, it is unsurprising that the intricate art of Nishijin weaving
still thrives even to this day. Commissioning or purchasing an item of Nishijin origin is
expensive, and only those of great affluence are able to afford them.

However, the Japanese textile community has dedicated the “Nishijin textile center”, rightfully located in Kyoto, to anyone and everyone who is interested in experiencing the meticulous process of Nishijin
weaving, as well as seeing the spectacular art up close.

Zuikougama – A Pottery Shop

by Saki Hirota & Mai taniguchi

The Zuikou kiln is a place in eastern Kyoto where visitors can go to experience making kiyomizuyaki, which is the style of pottery made in the area on the east side of the city called Gojozaka, near the famous Kiyomizu Temple. Kiyomizuyaki is a type of kyoyaki, which is a general term for pottery made in the Kyoto city area. The history of kyoyaki is very old.

It said that pottery creation in the Kyoto region began in the Kofun period (300~538 AD). In Muromachi period (1336~1573), color painted pottery began to make its appearance. Later, in the early part of Edo period (1603~1868), a man named Ninsei Nonomura lived. He is known now as the father of kiyomizuyaki, as he gave birth to the style that we know today. In 1771, the Rokubei kiln was established by the Rokubei clan, a well-known family of ceramists with over 240 years of history. Later, one of the members of the Rokubei family started a new branch called the Tsuchitani kiln, which was headed by Tsuchitani Zuiko, who was born in 1867. This was the start of the Zuiko kiln.

About the Zuiko Kiln

The Zuiko kiln is worth a visit for anyone wanting to experience Japanese culture, especially if they appreciate pottery. There are a number of advantages to visiting the kiln.

First, it is located in one of the main tourist areas of Kyoto, in the area surrounding the famous Kiyomizu Temple. The kiln is only 7 minutes on foot from Kiyomizu Temple and a 10-minute walk from the famous Yasaka Shrine. The area is not far from Kyoto station either, making it convenient for visitors. So, in addition to visiting the kiln to experience pottery making and see an impressive gallery of kiyomizuyaki, but tourists can also enjoy a very easy and comfortable walk around the area.

Also, Zuiko kiln offers a great service to visitors. For example, to better experience making kiyomizuyaki, visitors can borrow work clothes, which give them the feeling of being a true craftsman. And along the way, they are free to take a photos with their smartphones to share with their friends. The kiln’s staff is also very helpful, and they can communicate in English, which many foreign visitors appreciate.

Finally, the quality of the pottery visitors can make at Zuiko kiln is excellent. Not only is it easy to do, but the result is pottery that is thin, light, beautiful, and most of all: unique. The process visitors experience is the same one that authentic craftsmen of kiyomizuyaki carry out. This not only makes visitors happy, but they can take away a piece of pottery that can make someone or something appear more beautiful, such as a dining table. Also, Kiyomizuyaki can be made with many different colors, such as pearl, lemon, candy, turquoise, and bronze. These colors are very cute, so visitors can enjoy them.

Making Kiyomizuyaki

The Zuiko kiln offers three different plans to visitors who want to experience making kiyomizuyaki.

Light Plan

This is the shortest and cheapest of the three plans. It costs 1,900 yen + tax and only takes 20 minutes to complete. It allows visitors to make their very own cup in the kiyomizu style. They can also choose their own color, such as pearl, lemon, or candy.

Standard Plan

This is the most popular plan amongst visitors. It costs 2,900 yen + tax, and takes about 40 minutes to complete. However, if visitors plan ahead and make a reservation on the website before they arrive, they can receive a discount. Once underway, visitors can make their favorite size and shape of the pottery they make. They can also choose their favorite color from all the colors in the shop.

Zuiko Plan

This is the most expensive and time-consuming plan that Zuiko kiln offers. It costs 4,900 yen + tax and takes 60 minutes to complete. Alhough the price is a little high, this is a very special plan because visitors can choose to make 2 different types of kiyomizuyaki in their own shape and color.

Regardless of the plan, if visitors do not feel like carrying the pottery away when they leave, they can opt to have the product sent to their home in the mail. Of course, there is an extra charge for this.

Our Experience

We decided to try this kiyomizuyaki-making experience at Zuiko kiln. First, we received an explanation of contents of the workshop and the fee. Before we began, we were allowed to look at many different examples of finished pottery, to give us some ideas on what we could make. We chose Standard plan. Then it was time to start making our own pottery. We were able to choose any shape we liked. We chose a bowl and a cup. And whenever we needed help, the friendly and knowledgeable staff was there to help us. Once we were done, we then could choose one design from many different samples. From there, the craftsman drew the design onto our freshly made piece. In this time we chose flowers design. After that, all we needed to do was wait for it to bake it the oven. The pottery will send our house during one month. After we experienced, we can did in a nearby cafe. Once it was complete.

Access

Yasakakamimachi 385-5, Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 605-0827

TEL: 075-744-6644

Open Hours

10:00 – 17:00

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

Holidays

Open all seasons

Reservations

kyozuiko@gmail.com

By Email: please give us your

1) Lesson of your choice

2) Date

3) Time

4) Number of Participants

Ramen of Saiin

by Kanae Hamano & Shiho Fujinami

About Saiin in Kyoto

What do you imagine when you were asked for famous foods in Kyoto? You will imagine a lots of food like Matcha or Japanese confectioneries and so on. However, ramen is the famous food in Kyoto. Not many people know about that.

In this time, we are going to introduce about history of Kyoto ramen and three ramen shops at Saiin in Kyoto where we recommend. Saiin is located near Kawaramachi of the sightseeing spot. And Hankyu train and the bus go along this town and it is easy to access. Also there are some university in Saiin area, for example Kyoto university of foreign studies and Kyoto Koka woman’s university. So there are a lot of cheep and yummy restaurants in this area.

About Ramen

First, the ramen in Kyoto is thick type of soup. That is common. As history of Kyoto ramen, according to Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, Kyoto ramen was started by Chinese man in 1938. That person opened a ramen shop called “Shinpukusaikan” near Kyoto station. It is the start of Kyoto ramen. After that, the number of ramen shop gradually increased.

Shinpukusaikan(新福菜館

The first ramen shop is “Shinpukusaikan” There are just one kind of taste.That is one of the shops that surely(definitely) comes out if you search with Kyoto ramen. There are 5 stores in Kyoto. There are so many people who come all the way from a distance. This shop is famous as a shop that became the origin of Kyoto ramen. It is that has a lot of history.We visited to the Tenjingawa branch in Saiin area. Inside of the shop makes us nostalgic. A pitch black soup is characteristic. This ramen shop is famous not only ramen but also fried rice. There are 7 set menus; setA ( regular size ramen and fride rice), setB (small ramen and regular size fride rice), setC (ramen, fride rice and gyoza), Fried chicken set menu, Korokke (fried mashed potato) set menu, Pork cutlet set menu and Ground meat cutlet set menu. You can choose favorite one from these set menu and you can add more toppings. The best thing of all, the price is very cheap. Set menu is all 950yen. And you can take out ramen, fried rice, gyoza and so on.

Shinpukusaikan Ramen

 

Yakiniku no buru(焼肉ノぶる)

The second restaurant is Yakiniku-no-buru. Yakiniku means Japanese barbecue. Do you know that ramen of Japanese yakiniku restaurant is so tasty? This restaurant is a Japanese yakiniku restaurant not a ramen restaurant. But this place is a so famous at Saiin area for having delicious ramen. There are two kinds of tail ramen and yukgaejang ramen. Of course, it’s available to order only ramen.

Tail Ramen

This ramen is based white soup. This soup is condensed umami(delicious taste) because it’s stewed for three days. This place is a Japanese Yakiniku restaurant that’s why can offer. Also, tail is stewed spending a long time and it’s soft.

Tail Ramen for 1050 yen

 

Yukgaejang Ramen

Yokgaejang is Korean spicy meal with beef and some vegetables. This ramen has a very red and gives a strong impact. But it combines not only spicy but also umami(delicious taste). And it has a lot of ingredients such as egg and bean sprouts, so it gives a sense of satisfaction. For those who love spicy foods, cannot contain yourself for joy.

Yugaejang Ramen for 950 yen

 

Toritani(鶏谷)

The third restaurant is Toritani. This restaurant is a relatively new one opened in 2014. However, it’s so popular year by year. And this place is liked by many students of Kyoto university of foreign studies because it’s near university and Saiin station. Also, it’s often full and you may wait for a while.Ramen has five kinds and side menu has two kinds.

Torisoba

There are various kinds of torisoba such as rich taste (kotteri) and rough taste (assari). Every ramen has a soft char-siu chicken, you can enjoy chicken. Soup of rough taste torisoba is lightly but you can feel the taste of chicken tightly. Tori means chicken and soba means noodle, so Torisoba means chicken ramen.

Torisoba

Mazesoba

This ramen restaurant is popular mazesoba besides torisoba. This has ginger as a very good accent. The combination of mazesoba and torimeshi is the best. Mazesoba is that it is not include soup, so you can eat mixed them with dipping sauce. And torimeshi is chicken rice.

Mazesoba

Torimeshi

 

There are a lot of famous hotspots for ramen in Kyoto. Unfortunately, Saiin is not well known. But there are many great ramen restaurants that we know that’s why we are students of Kyoto university of foreign studies at Saiin area. Please try to eat the cheap and delicious ramen that Kyoto is proud.

Access

Shinpukusaikan

Adress: 33 Umezu Minami hiromachi, Ukyo-ku,kyoto-city, kyoto prefecture

Nearest station: 10 minutes on foot from the Randen-Tenjingawa station

Phone number: 075-864-9728

Regular holiday: Wednesday

Business hours: 11:00~23:00 (LO22:40)

Yakiniku no buru

Address: 2F 36-11 Kitayake-chou, Saiin, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-city, Kyoto prefecture

Nearest station: 3 minutes on foot from Hankyu Saiin station

Phone number: 075-925-9029

Regular holiday: Thursday

Business hours: 18:00~01:00(LO 00:00)

Credit card: VISA, Master Card, JCB, American Express, Diners Club

Website: http://www.yakinikunobull.com/sp_saiin/

Toritani

Address: 1-22 Shijoubata-chou, Saiin, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto city, Kyoto prefecture

Nearest station: 7 minutes on feet from Keihuku Arashiyama line Yamanouchi station

15 minutes on feet from Hankyu Saiin station

Phone number: 075-754-7969

Regukar holiday: Monday

Business hours: on weekday 11:30~14:30/18:00~22:00

on holiday 11:30~15:00/18:00~22:00

Credit card: unavailable (only cash)

Demachi Futaba – Traditional Sweets Shop

by Misaki Horita & Yusa Inoue

What kind of Japanese food are you interested in? There are many Japanese foods that are popular among many foreigners in Japan, for example, sushi, udon noodles, tempura, flour-based foods, andso on. Certainly, these Japanese foods are very tasty and highly popular among foreigners. However, many foreigners do not know about Japanese confectionery culture. Meanwhile, there is a store in Kyoto that has been specializing in Japanese confectionery for almost 200 years. Founded in 1823, it is called Demachi Futaba, and it is located in the Demachiyanagiregion of the city. Since then, the store has been making Japanese confectionery by traditional methods. This store has been chosen as the most delicious Japanese confectionery for the fourth consecutive year at the Japanese Confectionery Competition in Kyoto. Also, this store has been given many awards at the Japanese confectionary competition in Japan.

Rice Cake with Beans

Because Demachi Futaba is so famous, there are often long rows of people waiting in line to buy their products, even on weekdays. There are usually 10 types of items for sale on any given day in Demachi Futaba. The most popular item is a rice cake with beans. This Japanese confectionery has lots of sweet bean paste inside the rice cake. And the rice cake is covered with big black beans. The white color of the rice cake and black color of the beans create an excellent color balance. Also, the texture is so soft that it feels like a cheek of a baby. However, rice cakes have elasticity. The taste is very elegant. This rice cake with beans uses good quality rice with salted beans that balance the sweet bean paste. This rice cake with beans has a very good balance of taste all around.

A rice cake with beans

It is one of the most wonderful Japanese sweets among the many in Japan. Therefore, all people can enjoy the rice cake with beans of Demachi Futaba, from children to old people alike. However, as soon as you buy this sweet, you must eat it right away. These kind of Japanese sweets don’t keep for a long time. So, it may not be suitable as a souvenir for someone the day after. This short shelf life is because this Japanese confectionery is using a delicate technology. It is an advanced technique of craftsmen who have developed it over many years. I recommend eating your freshly bought rice cake with beans on the banks of the nearby Kamoriver. Eating a rice cake with beans while watching the beautiful view next to the river is particularly special. This Japanese confectionery can also be bought at department stores in Kyoto Station. However, you cannot buy it in other places except Demachi Futaba and department store in Kyoto station. Therefore, we can understand that craftsmen value the quality of rice cake with beans.

Enjoy with the Five Senses

There are many types of Japanese sweets other than bean cake in Demachi Futaba. For example, pink-colored sweet rice cake wrapped in a cherry leaf, rice cake stuffed with sweet adzuki paste and wrapped in an oak leaf, three color dumplings, and so on. The appearance of rice cake with beans is very simple. However, these other Japanese confectioneries are more colorful and beautiful than a simple rice cake with beans. They are especially popular amongst women, and can be enjoyed with eyes in addition to our tongues. The colors of pink, green and yellow stimulate our appetite.

Three color dumpling

Furthermore, this shop also has seasonal Japanese confectionery. A lot of foreigners can experience the aesthetic qualities of the four seasons of Japan. If there are no seasons in your country, we would like you the experience the seasons of Japan through the Japanese confectionery of Demachi Futaba. This store is a special place for foreigners who are interested in Japanese food culture. Please visit to experience the appearance, flavor, seasons of Japan.

Information of Demachi Futaba

Demachi Futaba is one of the most famous Japanese confectionery stores in Kyoto. So, this store can have long lines, even on weekdays. You should except to stand in line for at least 15 to 30 minutes. But it is no matter, as you will surely will be satisfied with the taste, appearance, flavor of the sweets. A lot of people say, it is worth lining up for. And the price is also reasonable. I think easy for anyone to buy sweets there, so it is popular among all generations. And although Demachi Futaba is a little away from the center of Kyoto, it is still easy toaccess because it is very near the train station and the bus stop.

In sum, Demachi Futaba is a place where you can learn Japanese traditional Japanese confectionery culture. If you are interested in Japanese confectionary culture, you should go to Demachi Futaba.

Access

Keihan Railway, Demachiyanagi station. It’s a 7-minute walk to the west. Cross the Kamoriver and Kamo bridge

Kyoto city bus, Aoibashi Nishizumie bus stop. It’s 2-minute walk to south. And Kawaramachi Imadegawa bus stop. It’s 3-minute walk to northwest.

Opening time:              8:30
Closing time:             17:30
Regular holidays:    Tuesday, the fourth Wednesday
Seats:              Only takeout

The Apple Store in Kyoto

by Sakura Hatsuta, Genki Takeuchi & Shayne Gonzales

EntranceKyoto opened a new Apple store in downtown Kyoto recently. There were already eight Apple Stores in Japan (Shnjuku, Ginza, Shibuya, Omotesando (Tokyo), Sendai, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka), but the ninth one in Kyoto is nothing like the others. It is very much inspired from the traditional culture of Kyoto inside and outside of the building. It is definitely one of the newest and hottest spots to visit, not only for people who live in Kyoto, but also tourists. In this article, we would like to introduce some information, highlights, and how to access the Kyoto Apple Store.

The Kyoto Apple Store is located in the Shijo Karasuma shopping district, on Shijo and Takakura Streets. Shijo Karasuma is well-known as one of the busiest places in Kyoto. There are many banks, offices and stores in that area, so it is always crowded with locals and tourists alike. The new store location matches well with the town square concept of an Apple Store: Make a store where people can easily gather in the center of the city.

The Kyoto Apple Store is open from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm, Monday through Sunday. Since Kyoto has many visitors from overseas, people who work at the store are also from various regions of the world, such as Europe and North America. They can communicate in 12 different languages.

The Apple Store opened on August 25th, 2018, and is currently the largest store in Kyoto. It has been 14 years since the last time Apple opened a large store in the Kansai area (the first store being Shinsaibashi, Osaka). Even before Apple opened their first store in Kyoto, it was receiving a lot of attention. There were advertisements on transportation and all sides of the walls in the subway stations.

Apple

On the opening day, there were more than 1,300 people lining up to get in. And those people who came to the store on the first day received a limited edition gift box. It included a t-shirt, sticker and pin. Those goods are all came with the same logo written as ‘Kyoto’ in Japanese characters, and its design was inspired by goban no me, a Japanese traditional boardgame used for gomoku (five in a row). It has 19×19 grid of lines. Interestingly, goban no me is often used when people explain the layout of Kyoto city. It is because when you look up Kyoto city on a map, it looks like goban no me. Therefore, the Apple store is not only making a creative new logo, but also they take into account the culture in which the store exists. But the logo on those products is not the only thing about the Apple Store that is inspired by Kyoto culture.

The Kyoto Apple Store’s modern architectural style is inspired by the design and materials unique to the ancient city of Kyoto. For example, the design of the second floor was inspired by traditional Japanese lanterns, so it is surrounded by lightly thin fittings, with a lighting-like design. Also, in the upper part of the facade, it imitates traditional Japanese wooden houses and shoji (It is Japanese sliding door that is made of wooden) and uses materials that make it reminiscent of wooden lattice and Japanese paper.

1st Floor

There is also an atrium at the colonnade located in the center of the building, which spans multiple floors in a building where a Japanese style and a state-of-the-art modern building blend together. The first floor part is made of full-sized glass, and it is a structure that can be understood from the inside as well as from the outside. Above the 2nd floor, when looking from the outside, it looks like a shoji, with lights inside that are lit at night. And behind the atrium there is a staircase leading up to the second floor. This staircase using artificial marble seems to reproduce the stairs of Apple’s headquarters in Steve Jobs Theater. In addition to this staircase on the second floor, you can also go up by elevator.

On the 3rd floor, which is only accessible by elevator, there are business negotiation rooms for corporations, such as start-up companies and educational institutions, along with board rooms. Interior decoration that reproduced the meeting room of Apple headquarters was utilized, so the sofa placed near the entrance is the same as the chair of Steve Jobs Theater of Apple headquarters.

It seems that the purpose of the building is to introduce the style and feeling of a town square while incorporating a Kyoto-like lattice design. It is more than just a store, but rather aims to achieve the purpose of gathering people together in the city’s plaza, aiming for a place where people can connect and develop their ideas and imagination.

Access

The new Apple Store is located on the popular Shijo Street in Kyoto, so there are many ways to get there. If you are going there from Kyoto Station, you can ride the local city bus from the station to Karasumi Shijo where the store is located. Alternatively, you can take the subway to get there. It is only two stops from Kyoto Station. You can also go there by car, but we think it is hassle to do it because usually Kyoto doesn’t have any free parking areas, so you have to pay for parking spaces and it ends up being a bit expensive. We think using the local city bus is the best way to get to the Apple Store there because the fare is fixed and if you buy the one-day card, you can also get around Kyoto easily.

Conclusion

We think going to the new Apple Store is a good way to learn a bit about Kyoto’s culture, study how they imagined and made the designs, and why they chose the location. Is it because of the traditions that are surrounding Kyoto, or is it because there are lots of local and foreign tourists that are going there? It is definitely in a central, downtown location, so it is one of the busiest places in Kyoto. When you see it, will you think that the apple store is inspired by Kyoto’s culture? Why don’t you go there and find out for yourself. Explore what is inside the new Apple Store and discover the difference between the Apple Stores that you have already visited and this new Apple Store in traditional Kyoto.

Malebranche

by Saki Hiorta & Mai Taniguchi

Malebranche is a famous Japanese Western-style confectionery shop in Kyoto. Malebranche was originally built in 1982. The main store is on Kitayama Street, in the north part of Kyoto. The name ‘Malebranche’ comes from Nikolas Malebranche, a well-known French philosopher from the 17th century. In general, this shop is best known for its delicious Mont Blanc cake.

Malebranche Products

Malebranche offers its customers many delicious and wonderful products, many of which are various kinds of baked confectionery, such as:

  • Cha no Ka Langue de Chat Cookies
  • Green Tea Confectionaries
  • Mont Blanc Baked Confectioneries
  • Mont Blanc Baked Cakes
  • Kyoto-style Sable Cookies

CHA no KA

Cha no ka is a type of langue de chat style cookie in which strong green tea is used. It is made by a Malebranche team that takes great care when selecting tea leaves used in the manufacturing process. They call the method ‘Kyoto Quality’, and they use carefully selected tea from the Uji region of south Kyoto, famous for its green tea. First, its producers grow the tea leaves, and the Malebranche team goes straight to the farmers to buy the best tea. Second, to make strong matcha (powdered green tea) from the tea leaves they selected. When making matcha, much depends on the weather and a number of other conditions. They have found special method for that. Third, they strive to make Cha no ka with a clearness of color, a depth of taste and a great flavor combining matcha and white chocolate with a sincere heart and refined method. Finally, they wrap each individual cookie immediately to keep freshness and special design. Only then is the Cha no ka ready to be sold to customers.

Green Tea Confectionaries

Malebranche specializes in using green tea to make many of their products. These products are kept cold, like Fondant Chocolat and chocolate cake, as it is perishable. Therefore, it must be eaten soon after buying it. Malebranche staff visits tea plantations on a regular basis to select and purchase tea leaves for their products. This product is made with a lot of dark tea from Uji, a famous tea-growing region in the south part of Kyoto. It is also popular product.

Mont Blanc Baked Confectioneries

This product’s name is Malon de Male. These confectionaries have the flavor of chestnut and the smell of rum. Mont Blanc has a strong image of being a cake, but these are in fact baked confectionaries, which are original creations of Malebranche.

Mont Blanc Baked Cakes

This kind of baked and confectioneries can only be purchased at the main Malebranche shop on Kitayama Street. It recommended as a gift or souvenir, as it is carry to easy.

Kyoto-style Sable Cookies

Malebranche also makes and sells Kyoto-style sable cookies in five different varieties: milk chocolate and matcha, plain sugar, strawberry and white chocolate, chestnut and milk chocolate (autumn season only), and pumpkin and white chocolate (autumn season only). We can enjoy choosing and tasting these many flavors. They express the season of Kyoto with important smells and flavor. Malebranche delivers season-by-season the face of Kyoto.

Seasonal Events and Products

Visiting many Malebranche Spring is the name of an event that happens in the Spring. Customers can collect a series of stamps at various Malebrance shops. They must visit at least three of sixteen stores in Kyoto and Shiga. Then, if they buy products of over 500 yen in each one, they can get one stamp for each store. If they collect three stamps, they can receive a present of something sweet, like a special cheese cake or cheese ball, or some baked cheese sweets.

Ryo Cha no Ka

This is the summer version of Cha no Ka. The original Cha no Ka is made with chocolate, which too easily melts in the summer heat, so Ryo Cha no Ka has chocolate blended into other ingredients and baked until it becomes crispy. It will not melt, so it is perfect for the hot summer months.

Autumn Two

In the autumn, Malebranche uses chestnuts and sweet potatoes to make some unique fall confections. Chestnut and sweet potato are mixed with butter, which creates a very smooth cake in which you can taste most of the original taste of the ingredients. It’s delicious.

Christmas Products

At Christmas time, you can buy Jingle Bells Chocolate at Malebranche. It is a caramel chocolate cake. It made of chocolate-flavored sponge cake with caramel cream and chocolate chips, and there are strawberries, caramel cream, and chocolate on the top of the cake. This cake is made for both kids and adults, so it is good for a family.

Another Christmas time product from Malebranche is the Hex House. It a little house made of six kinds of sweets. Its contents are the matcha fir tree tart, the crescent moon mango shortcake, the strawberry tart, the Buche de Noel, the snowman cheese tart, and the witch hat chocolate tart. It very cute and filled with dreams of children and adults with a child’s heart. It is a little expensive, but very much worth buying. There are many other beautiful and delicious products to purchase at Christmas time. However, the numbers are limited, so you should act quickly to reserve your own from the Malebranche website.

Conclusion

Malebranche products are perfect as representative souvenirs of Kyoto or Japan. All these products are made with great care and are delicious. Not only does the store have high quality sweets that taste great, but also has product events that provide visual pleasure to customers. There are over 20 store branches in places other than Kyoto. So, you can visit many places and you can try these products.

Access Information

The main shop is located on near Kitayama Station on the Karasuma subway line. It is across from the north entrance to the Kyoto Botanical Gardens. Visit their website for more information: Malebranche Kyoto

Koizumi: a Folk Instruments Shop

Musical instruments from Peru.

A folk instrument shop, called Koizumi, is in the Teramachi area in downtown Kyoto. We went to this shop and interviewed the store manager, Mr. Koizumi. We asked him to talk about the following topics: traditional Japanese instruments, the reason he opened the store, how he acquired the instruments, and which instrument is the easiest and most difficult to play. What follows is what we learned.

Traditional Japanese Instruments

Japanese traditional musical instruments are called wagakki instruments. What are the musical instruments of Japan?

Wadaiko. This is a kind of drum, which is used by kabuki musicians. People beat it with a stick. It has a big sound.

Shakuhachi. This is a is a kind of woodwind instrument, similar to a flute. It comes from China and is made of bamboo. Playing the shakuhachi takes lots of practice because it is difficult to play.

Shamisen: It is similar in construction to an acoustic guitar, but only has three strings. You can buy a shamisen in many places in Kyoto, as many shops sell them.

Musical instruments came to Japan from China and Korea 1,200 years ago. These musical instruments, like the wadaiko, shakuhachi and shamisen still exist today. As the culture developed in what is now Kyoto and Osaka 400 years ago, the music culture developed, too. Kabuki was famous as a cultural expression in this age. A lot of popular songs were created then. The unique music using Western musical instruments also developed. It eventually led to modern music. Traditional Japanese musical instruments are now famous, so foreign tourists are interested in them. Kyoto is a great place for buying and listening to these instruments.

Reasons for Opening the Shop

The grandfather of the manager opened this shop in Kyoto in 1940. At the time, the shop was not an ethnic musical instruments store. It was a common general musical instrument shop. The current manager turned the store into an ethnic musical instruments shop in the late 90s. He did this because he liked music and its mysterious sound. He went to India three times a year afterwards. He went there to collect musical instruments, called “sitar” and “tablah”. He was not satisfied with the sound of Japanese instruments. He wanted to look for musical instruments of the world.

The shop did not prosper at first. This is because even though it had a Japanese name (Koizumi), it only carried instruments from India and Taiwan. The manager then made up his mind to collect musical instruments from all over the world. So, he started traveling to other places, like Africa and Korea, bringing back a variety of different ethnic instruments back to sell in his store. In addition, he learned preservation methods of each instrument. The manager focused on the quality of the musical instruments in his shop. These are the reasons he founded the shop and why his shop has been successful.

How the Instruments are Acquired

An instrument of the Ainu from Hokkaido

There are several steps the manager goes through in order to acquire the instruments in his shop. First, he goes to foreign countries two or three times a year and visits musical instrument factories. Because he can’t speak English well, he communicates with local people using a smattering of English, and in non-English-speaking countries like rural areas in China, he often communicates using gestures. While he is there, he confirms quality of the instruments and negotiates the best price to provide his customers with quality instruments at fair prices. Then, he asks local people to teach him how to repair the musical instruments and buy necessary components because he thinks that not only should he sell the musical instruments, but also, he wants to support his customers. In addition to this, he sells musical instruments on the internet so that customers who live in distant areas can buy them. Finally, he pays the suppliers in advance and need building trust relationship with local clients because it sometimes happens that ordering deadline is half year or one year behind time schedule by the weather and some people don’t send his products so, he must trust the suppliers and wait for his products. In this way, he gets musical instruments.

The Easiest and Most Difficult Instruments to Play

These are Indian Sitars

According to the shop manager, easy instruments to play are Jew’s Harps, thumb pianos, and drums. Jew’s Harps can make various sounds by using movement of the tongue and breathing. In Japan, this instrument was used by Ainu people lived in Hokkaido or north Tohoku region. Thumb pianos can make a sound by snapping a bamboo stick or iron stick with one’s thumbs. It is said that thumb pianos were precursors of music boxes. As for drums, we can make a sound by hitting it because they are made by stretching a thin film made by animal skin onto a frame. These music instruments are fun to play, even if you can’t play music instruments well.

The most difficult music instrument to play is the sitar, which is made in India. This instrument has about 20 strings, a thick neck and is played with a wire pick. In India, people are used to playing musical instruments like the sitar, so it is only the most difficult to play for us. However, the shop manager said “Don’t think that the sitar is a difficult instrument. In addition to this, I want everyone to enjoy playing these instruments.”

Review

The Kalimba from Tanzania

At Koizumi, we can enjoy instruments freely in the shop. I experienced many music instruments from all over the world. For example, the dan bau is from Vietnam, the kalimba from Tanzania, and the sitar from India. The Animal Voice is the instrument we recommend the most. It is a mechanism which emits the sounds of an animal’s bark when we shake a square box. There are four types: bird, cow, sheep and cat. I thought that the barks were different, and the quality was high. It is sure to be popular with children. Another instrument we recommend is the kalimba, or thumb piano. Kalimba is said to be at the roots of music. It was very easy to play when we tried. It is a wonderful instrument that can make beautiful sounds when playing with our thumbs. Koizumi has many kinds of kalimba, so we can try playing all of them to find one that we like to purchase. All of them create beautiful sounds.

The store manager said, “We not only sell instruments, but also do repair because we want to help the performer.” The most attractive point of this shop is we can play the instruments. It seems that half of the customers are foreigners. Please try to go there at least once and enjoy many instruments they offer for sale. You might just go home with something new and wonderful.

Access

You can see koizumi in front of subway station exit 5 named “Kyoto shiyakusyo-mae”.

Address: info@koizumigakki.com

518 shimohonnoujimae-cho Anekoji-agaru Teramachi Nakagyo-ku Kyoto-shi Kyoto 604-8091 JAPAN

Website: http://www.koizumigakki.com/

Tel: 075-231-3052

Tenryuji

by Haruko Ishii and Mai Kobayashi

Arashiyama is a very popular spot in Kyoto thanks to its history, nature, and clean air. Tenryuji is one of the famous temples here and was registered as a world heritage site in 1994. Kyoto has a lot of temple and shrine which was registered as a world heritage. In this article, we focus on Tenryuji.

Gate of Tenryuji

Inside the temple grounds

The temple’s garden was made by Musou Soseki. Musou Souseki is Japanese priest. He had been lived from 1275 to 1351. This garden is Japanese style and karesansui. This word means the ‘expression of water flow through rocks and sand.’  The view of this garden changes each season. In spring, you can see the view of cherry blossoms. Autumn is especially beautiful because you can see the red, green and yellow leaves. In the autumn season, are a lot of people visit Arashiyama and Tenryuji, not only oversea tourists but also Japanese people. A good time to visit is in the morning and in mid-November.

If you visit in the early morning, you can feel at one with the beautiful nature: the sound of water, the warmth of the sunrise, the natural sound of trees, the smell of the trees and so on. Try sitting on the tatami closing your eyes and feel the nature. Inside the main hall, there is a painting of a ‘cloud dragon’ on the ceiling. You can see it just on Saturday, Sunday, public holidays and the special public day in spring and autumn. The painting of the dragon is very big and beautiful. If you go the inside Tenryuji, you have to pay cash. Adults (high school student and older), pay 500 yen, elementary school and junior high school students pay 300 yen, and younger children go in for free.

 

Garden of Tenryuj

 

Tatami

Akusejo of Tenryuji

An akusejo is the certificate of the temple. The meaning of certification is the evidence of visiting. You can do this at any temple, but each place has its own book design to collect them.

akusejo of Tenryuji have been starting from the Edo period (1603 to 1867). Originally, akusejo was the stamp that people could receive from a temple when they hand-copied sutras for temples and shrines. The akusejo includes the name of the temple, the date of the visit, and kakuou-houden(覚王寶殿) which means ‘to go and worship’. Kakuou (覚王)means ‘to respect Buddha’ and houden(寶殿) means the temple building where Buddhist images are enshrined for worshipping Buddha. Nowadays, people present their books to the staff of the temple who write these phrases in their own hand writing to mark their visit to the shrine.

 

Event of Tenryuji

There are event in Tenryuji. Especially I recommend to participate Zazen(坐禅). The reason why Japanese people do Zazen is finding yourself. In order to live the way you want, Japanese people practice Zazen. If you practice Zazen, you can take stresss-free life.

There are three points when you practice Zazen. First, you have to prepare your bodies. Second, ajust your posture and third, ajust your breathing. You can practice Zazen at Tenryuji every second month Sunday and 9am to 10am. You don’t need appointment and entry fee. However, in February, July and August don’t hold.

 

Getting to Tenryuji

 

There are three ways to get there. The first is by bus and takes about 30 minutes from Kyoto Station to Arashiyama Station. There are many buses going to Arashiyama, but the most direct bus is number 28. The number and the Chinese characters“嵐山”are on the front of the bus. A one-way adult ticket costs 230 yen, children are half-price, and of course, babies can ride for free. If you intend to take buses all day, you could get the all-day ticket which costs 600 yen.

The other way is that you can go by train. First, take the JR train from Kyoto Station to Saga Arashiyama Station. It takes about 20 minutes. Change here to the Randen Line and get off at Arashiyama Station. It takes about 2 minutes. If you get off Randen, you could arrive Tenryuji by going to the right.

Alternatively, you can ride the train from Kyoto Station to Shijo Station. Then, change to the Hankyu Line from Karasuma Station to Katsura Station. Finally, you have to change the train at Katsura Station to the Arashiyama Hankyu Line and get off at Arashiyama Station.

Once you arrive, there are many shops in Arashiyama and there is also the famous Togetsukyou Bridge. If you use the Hankyu Line to go to the Tenryuji, you have to cross the bridge and go straight.

 

There are many famous temples and places to enjoy in Kyoto, but if you want to feel the natural beauty of Japan, put Tenryuji on your list!

 

 

Traditional townhouse cafes

by Mai Kobayashi and Haruko Ishii

 

Have you ever been to a café in Kyoto? We’re sure you have as there are a lot of cafes in Kyoto City these days. Also, Instagram is popular now, and a lot of pictures of cafes in Kyoto appear on it. So, cafés in Kyoto are becoming more and more popular. Recently, cafes which are in many of Kyoto’s renovated traditional townhouses have become very popular! In this article, we will look at some of these renovation cafes.

Traditional townhouses used to be merchants’ houses which were built from the Edo period (1603-1868) through to the beginning of the Showa period (1926-1989). A traditional house in Kyoto is called unagi-no-nedoko which translates as ‘bed for an eel’. The meaning of this name comes from the narrow width and considerable depth of the houses, making them resemble an eel. The reason why there are many unagi-no-nedoko in Kyoto is related to the old Japanese tax system. In the Edo period, the amount of tax was decided by the width of the frontage, so many traditional townhouses had an elongated structure. The reason why traditional townhouses are being renovated more and more recently is that people who visit Kyoto can really experience the interior spaces of Japanese tradition. Also, to keep the appearance of Kyoto, activities to protect traditional townhouses are being held. As an effort to do that, entrepreneurs have renovated traditional townhouses and are building fashionable shops and cafés.

Here are some Kyoto cafes which are renovated traditional townhouses for you to try!

SARASA-KAYUKOJI

This cafe opened in 1984. The interior of this café has a first floor with counter seating and a second floor with tables and sofa seats with almost all of the furniture is made of wood. The entrance is a very small and deeply shaped, so it looks like unagi-no-nedoko and many Japanese movie posters are hung on the walls. This café’s staff are very friendly so you can have a comfortable time enjoying the atmosphere here. On top of the interior design, there is a selection of Japanese Manga to enjoy.

Sarasa opens from 12:00 to 23:30 Monday to Saturday. On Sunday, they open from 11:30 to 23:00. At lunchtime (12:00-15:00), you can eat their daily lunch which has a main dish, rice and soup. You can have dessert and drinks anytime. There is also a lot of dishes to try at dinner time (18:00-23:00). The soup rice dish is recommended! This has a mild taste. You can choose chicken or pork. At this café, you can try dishes that are favorites of a lot of Japanese people.

 

Soup rice

 

Lunch menu

 

Chocolate parfait & Season Cake

 

The café’s address is 〒604-8024 Kyotoshi-cyuouku-shinkyougoku-shijyouagaru-nakanocyo-565-13. You can get to this café by taking the Hankyu Line and getting off at Kawaramach Station. Go to Exit 6 and when you get to ground level, go right and go to Kayukoji Street (花遊小路商店街). Lunch time and dinner time are popular, so you may have to wait.

Blue Bottle Coffee

The Blue Bottle Coffee Company is from California, America. There are 10 cafes in Japan: Tokyo, Kobe, and Kyoto which only has one café. This café is a renovated traditional townhouse that is over 100 years old. The interior has a high ceiling with large windows which let in a lot of natural light in this open space. Neon lights are on exposed earth walls with bamboo. The ceiling has modern neon lights that harmonize with the nostalgic atmosphere of this old building. Leading up to the entrance there is a gravel courtyard where you can spend a special moment in the seasonal nature: fresh green from spring to summer and autumn tints that fall in autumn.

This café opens from 8:00 to 18:00. There are 44 seats in this shop so you can take a seat to enjoy the selection of freshly brewed coffee and pastries while looking at the interior. The aroma of the coffee here is very good and has a deep flavor. If you like it, you can buy the coffee beans to take home.

A further tip is, before or after you go to Nanzenji Temple, have a break at Blue Bottle Coffee. Nanzenji is the highest rank of temples in Japan. This temple is very popular with Japanese people and overseas tourists. In mid-November, you can see beautiful autumn leaves in this area.

Latte

 

The address is 〒606-8437 Kyotoshi-sakyoku-nanzenji-kusakawacyo-64. This café is located near Nanzenji. You can get to this café by taking the Tozai subway line and getting off at Keage Station (蹴上). Blue Bottle mark is a landmark for this café!

 

 

The landscape of Kyoto is different each season so you can enjoy them from the numerous cafes dotted around Kyoto. In spring, there are a lot of cherry trees and blossoms. In summer, you can relax in a café with the sound of cicadas. In autumn, colored leaves are beautiful in Kyoto. And finally, in winter, you can see snow. So, you can enjoy not only cafes in Kyoto but also the real feeling of the four seasons. We recommend you to try out these two cafes especially.

History of Kyoto’s roads

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.