Souvenirs in Kyoto

September 1, 2019

When you go to Japan, you can find a lot of souvenir shops, especially in Gion, Kawaramachi, Shinkyougoku, and places close to famous temples. Kyoto’s souvenirs are mostly traditional Japanese things. Therefore, people come to collect them from all around the world, include Japanese people. We focused on one of the souvenir shops in the Shikyogoku area of downtown Kyoto. It is called Kyo-no-Furusato, which means “Hometown of Kyoto.” They can speak seven languages, and are open from 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Kyo-no-Furusato is located on Shinkyougoku street, which is about 10 minutes on foot from the Hankyu Kawaramachi station. As you walk towards Kyo-no-Furusato, you can see many local shops. We chose to focus on this shop because there it is a very popular and busy shop. There are three main very popular souvenirs in Kyo-no-Furusato, so if you are interested in getting some great souvenirs from Kyoto, you should go there.

Fuurin

The first souvenir is called Fuurin, which is a bell made of metal, glass, and/or pottery, with a strip of paper dangling below it. You can enjoy hanging it under the eaves. In the picture seen here, the front is made of metal and the back is made of glass. We usually use it from the summer to the beginning of fall. When we hear the Fuurin sounds, our mind becomes calm and at ease. It is known as amulet. It was first used by nobles and then later used by the general population. 

The metal ones are traditional, while the glass ones is are more modern. Both of them are the poplar. You can find them in the center of shop.

Ochoko

An ochoko is a small bowl like a glass when you drink tequila shot. It is made from glass and pottery. The name ochoko comes from choku which mean ‘little by little’. We usually use it when we drink Nihonshu, or Japanese sake. The alcohol percentage is high, so we drink it with an ochoko. At first, it is used exclusively by nobles. But its use spread to the common people in an interesting way. The pottery in the form of Higuchi seems to have been old, but it was explosively spread in the middle of the Edo period when Soba (buckwheat) noodles were popular. They used it a way to drink Soba soup. After that normal people were able to drink sake then use the cup as glass of drink like now.

The ochoko in this shop has a lot of beautiful designs, which are all Japanese patterns. We recommend that if you would like to buy lots of ochoko, you can use them as ornaments. They are all so small, so you can bring them back to your country easily. You can find ochoko in the back of shop and along the right side.

Japanese Snacks

There are many Japanese snacks available in Souvenir Shops like Kyo-no-Furusato. Especially, Kyoto is very famous for green tea, so many snacks are made with green tea.

 Everyone knows Kit Kat. In Japan, however, the snack is made in a very Japanese way. For example, there are Kit Kat chocolates with sake of plum, chocolate with sake, chocolate with roasted green tea, green tea, and Uji green tea (Uji is a part of city of Kyoto that is very famous for green tea). In addition to Kit Kat, there are many other famous snacks from Kyoto, including:

1. Yatsuhashi 2. Malebranche from Cha no ka 3. Senju Senbei from Kogetsu 4. Ajarimochi from Mangetsu 5. Green Tea Corneta from Jouvancelle 6. Torori Warabi-mochi from Warabin 7. Kyo Baumkuchen from Otabe 8. Hogyoku-do’s Fox senbei from Hogyokudo 9. Macha Tea Roasted Chocolate from Nakamura Tokichi 10. Kyoame Koicha Temari

There are many kinds of snacks unique to Kyoto. However, it is not just Kyoto that has special snacks. Other prefectures also make unique snacks, so when you have time in Japan or when you go to other prefectures, it is better to find that snacks from that prefecture. It can be a very interesting experience during your trip.

In conclusion, Kyoto is wonderful city, especially for traditional things. When you come to Japan, you must be open minded, so it is important to try things outside of what is normal for you. For example, you can buy a Huurin and use it in your own country. In this way , you can feel the Japanese summer in your own country, or choose Kyoto’s special snacks and eat them in your country with your family, friends, and neighbors. You can share what Japanese people like the most. Let’s enjoy your trip to Kyoto by experiencing true Kyoto things.

Nishijin-ori

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.

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.

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

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.

Great Food Hall at Kyoto Tower

By Kensei Iizuka and Takanori Tsuhako

Kyoto Tower

As you know, Kyoto city is the main city in Kyoto prefecture and it is really lively. Of course, you can find a lot of nice places in the city like cafés, restaurants, clothing stores, general stores, temples, shrines and so on. Moreover, this city is also has a great edifice that can be seen from many parts of this city. That is Kyoto Tower. It is 131 meters high and is the tallest construction in Kyoto city. From this building, you can enjoy the panoramic view of the city. Of course, you can also see some famous historical buildings like Kiyomizu-Dera temple.

Not only can you enjoy the view, you can enjoy some facilities. For example, a beer and BBQ garden is on the 10th floor and Kansai Tourist Information Center is on the 3rd floor and so on. This article is focused on the Food Hall on the B1, or basement, floor.

Food Hall

There are some good facilities in Kyoto Tower and one is the Food Hall on the B1 floor. There are 19 restaurants in this food hall including typical Japanese food like Sushi. This food hall has really varied kinds of restaurants such as Chinese food, Mexican food, sweets and bars serving alcohol.

There are some good points of this food hall. First, there are many kinds of restaurant. You can eat beef, pork, chicken, curry, ramen noodles, soba (Japanese traditional noodles), pancakes and doughnuts. In addition, there is a restaurant for vegans and vegetarians. Second, this food hall is big and there are a lot of seats. On the weekend, every place near Kyoto station gets really crowded. That is why, if you find a good restaurant, you have to wait for a long time. On the other hand, you can find your seats more easily at this food hall. Last, you and your friends can choose your favorite food. It is usual for food hall but it is a big merit for using food hall. You can eat what you really want to eat and you can also drink alcohol. The experience at this food hall should be a good memory of your trip.

Recommended Restaurant

Gottie’s BEEF

If you would like to have beef, this restaurant is highly recommended. The beef served here has been carefully selected considering thing such as district where the cows were raised and using only the choice cuts of beef. In addition, it takes 40 days to mature the beef. The stage of production is called “dried-aging method.” By this method, the flavor of the beef will be enhanced. The steak sauce is very well matched with the beef.

KYOTOSENMARU Syakariki murasaki

Ramen noodle is one of the most popular foods in Japan and you should try it if you come to Japan. Ramen noodles in Japan are served in various flavors like shio (salt), tonkotsu (pork bone) and shoyu (soy sauce). Syakariki’s noodles have soy sauce taste but the broth that accompanies them is also made of seafood products and chicken. That is why Japanese like ramen noodles. Japanese people like to eat ramen noodles after drinking so, if you like to drink alcohol, try eating ramen noodles after that.

List of Shops

How to enjoy your meal at KYOTO TOWER SANDO

In the dining hall, which is like a food court, you can sit in any vacant seat. This means your party can buy food from different restaurants.

    1. Order

      When you decide what you would like to have, please go to the individual restaurant and order your meal. Please pay at this time. You can use not only money but also credit cards.

    2. Wait

      The staff will give you a bell. You can go back to your seat and wait until the bell rings, please.

    3. Pick Up

      After the bell rings, go to the restaurant again and pick your order up, please. You can also help yourself to water if you want to.

    4. Return 

      After finishing your meal, please return the empty dishes to the restaurant. You can easily find the sign “Return Here” there.

      Access and Information

You can come to Kyoto station by JR, Kyoto Subway Karasuma line, Kyoto City Bus, or by taxi, bicycle or private transportation. You can come to KYOTO TOWER SANDO directly from the underground shopping area called Porta. If you are above ground, you can come from an entrance which is located at the corner of Karasuma-dori and Shiokoji-dori intersection. Don’t worry. It is easy to find KYOTO TOWER.

Opening hours are from 9am to 9pm (Final Entry 8:40pm). In Japan, restaurants generally stop taking orders about 30 minutes before closing time. Customers are expected to finish their food and drinks by closing time and leave soon after. The telephone number is 075-361-3215 (9am to 8pm). The address is 721-1, Karasuma-dori Shichijo-kudaru Higashi-shio-koji-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi 600-8216.

 

Guesthouse Len

by Rena Tokunaga, Maya Kondo & Riku hamaguchi

Len is both a hostel and a café, with a bar and restaurant. It is located about an 8-minute walk from Hankyu Kawaramachi Station. Access to the downtown Kyoto area and the Kamogawa River is convenient, so you can see the beautiful view of Kyoto’s mountains as you approach. Len has a café on the first floor and a hostel on the second floor, so you can enjoy yourself even you don`t stay overnight at the hostel.

Staying at the Hostel

Len has six different types of rooming options. There are Mixed Dormitories, Female Rooms, Queen-size Double Rooms, King-size Rooms, Twins Rooms, and Triple Rooms. You can choose the one you want. The hostel can accommodate approximately 70 guests at a time.

First of all, they have dormitories. If you stay there, you have to share a room with other tourists. In the mixed dormitory, you will share one room with 6~8 people. In that room, men and women can share the room. The price is 2,600 yen per person for an 8-persson room, and 2,800 yen per person for a 6-person room.

In the female dormitory, only women are allowed to stay. So if you come to Japan with only women, it is the recommended room for you. The price is from 3,000 yen for one person.

Next, they have private rooms. In the twin room, there is one bunk bed and a desk if you want to work. Moreover, you can watch the sunrise from the window as well. The price is from 3,500 yen per person.

The triple room has a bunk bed and a single bed. It is bigger than the twin room and also you can see the view of the rising sun. The price of this room is 3,200 yen per person.

The queen double room is quite spacious. It includes a queen-size bed (1700mm), a desk, chair, and a washstand. This room is designed to make you feel at home. They prepare amenities as well. The price of the room is 4,400 yen per person.

The king double room is their biggest room of all. It has a king-size bed (1940mm), your own desk, chair, and washstand. It is equipped with three big windows out of which you can see a spectacular view of Kyoto. You must be satisfied with this room, as you relax and enjoy. The price of the room is 5,400 yen per person.

All shower rooms and lavatories are shared with all guests and open 24 hours. So, you cannot make noise at midnight, for it would disturb other guests. In addition to that, they do not have a curfew, so please consider the other guests if you come back at night or early in the morning.

Check-in & out 

Check in time is from 4pm to 10pm. Please make sure to arrive before 10pm. Check out time is by 11am. They can keep your luggage before check-in and after check-out. It cost you a small fee if you want to keep your luggage the day before you check-in or the day after you check-out.

Café bar and dining

The main floor has a café bar and a diner. These are open to guests and visitors.

Len wanted to improve their coffee, so they asked ONIBUS COFFEE`s recommendation for the best coffee. They serve not only coffee, but also baked goods such as cakes and cookies. The Café is open from 8:00-22:00.

BAR & DINING

The café area is turned into a Bar starting from 17:00. In addition to local beer, they also serve brewed craft beer and bottled beer from all over the world, along with various cocktails. Here, we can enjoy an atmosphere open for conversation and drinks. And the food menu contains a rich variety of dishes, such as all sorts of rice omelets and seasonal items. There are seasonal menu and rare menu that it is contend about “kyo-yasai” , variety of country’s food and traditional food. If you could eat only vegetable, staff and cook can make only contained vegetable meals. If you would not eat a lot of salty nutrition, you can tell staff “please decrease salt in meals”. Staff and cook can make decreased salty nutrition’s meals. And I want you to eat “variety county food”. There are rare meals that it is African past, Italian pasta, Spanish meat omelet and ancient Japanese meals. Ordinary people could not eat and see some it. You can go and relax its menu and you had never seen menus. We recommend that you must go and see your both eye and eye. Probably you will be astonished.

Voices of the Staff

Mr. M

Please visit us by all means because my restaurant is a very cozy space. When you come to Len, we will give the best time to you by serving your our most recommended food and alcoholic drinks.

Ms. R

Len is very recommended shop in because foreign guests very often want to use English with Japanese guests. Also, there are rare alcoholic drinks that cannot be found elsewhere. I think that enjoy because there is a local and limited menu of each country. We look forward to your visit.

Mr. N

We have a lot of foreigners who speak Japanese fluently, so I do not worry if you cannot speak English well. Please have a conversation with them because there are a lot of foreigners who want to know more about Kyoto. We look forward to your visit.

Conclusion

We strongly recommend that you go to Len if you want to speak English and learn about a foreign culture. We guess Len is the best space for foreign lovers because Len has a lot of foreigner guests. Also, the food is delicious and alcoholic drinks are rich in variety. So, you can try a lot of things. In addition, Len is convenient because it is open from 8 o’clock in the morning until 12 o’clock in the evening. Make sure you pay a visit to Len soon!

Old Schools as the ‘New Kyoto’

Background

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

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

 

Renovations

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

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

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

 

Future of old schools

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

The Hottest Ramen Noodles in Kyoto

by Kensei Iizuka, Yuta Kobayashi, Takanori Tsuhako

As you know, there is a lot of delicious food in Kyoto. In this article, we are going to tell you about the noodles. Kyoto, especially Kyoto City, is one of the most famous places for noodles in Japan. That is why there are a lot of great noodle restaurants here. In this article, we will introduce you to Menya-Kirameki: a really famous noodle restaurant on Kyoto Sanjo and part of the Kirameki chain of noodle restaurants in Kyoto. We will introduce other Kirameki restaurants at the end of this article. If you want to get more information about the Kirameki Group, please check them out.

Menya-Kirameki Kyoto Sanjo 

Taiwanese Spicy Soupless Noodles

The most famous noodle dish in Kirameki is their Taiwanese Soupless Noodles. This dish was born in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture in 2008. It was created from meals that were prepared for the staff of a Taiwanese restaurant in Nagoya. The Taiwanese owner used to serve these soupless noodles only for his employees until one day a customer saw them and asked him to put it on the regular menu. The owner tried to add some spices to make it tastier because it was a simple dish compared to other items on the menu in this restaurant. The dish contains ground meat seasoned with some spices that are placed on the top of super thick noodles. It also has fish meal, leeks, Chinese chives and fresh egg yolk. The way to eat it is straightforward: you just mix all the ingredients to taste them together. You might be surprised by the flavors when you eat this for the first time. However, we are sure that you will like it more and more as you continue to eat. When you have finished eating, it is recommended that you put a small cup of rice into your noodle bowl that still has some flavor from the spices. This is called “shime” in Japanese, and it is meant to refresh your mouth. To put it simply, it plays the role of brushing your teeth. By eating a bowl of plain white rice, you can ‘clean up’ the remaining flavors in your mouth. In Kirameki, you can get a small cup of rice for free when you order Taiwanese Soupless Noodles. It is okay to put the rice into your noodle bowl at the end of eating, and it is great to eat the noodles and rice together. It definitely makes you full and satisfied. But, please take care of the smell of your breath after eating Taiwanese Soupless Noodles! Those are some spicy flavors!

 

 

Chicken Bone White Broth Noodles with Soy Sauce

There is a wide range of noodles in Kyoto. Most noodle restaurants in Kyoto specialize in ‘rich noodles.’ Kyoto is called the “Student City” because there are many universities in Kyoto City. Students want to feel full and satisfied for as little money as possible. That is why many noodle restaurants are serving ‘rich noodles’ to make students-the main customers-feel satisfied. Kirameki serves ‘rich noodles.’ The soup in this dish is made from chicken bones. It takes a long time to produce the umami flavors from the chicken bones. Umami is made from the chicken bones and adjusted for taste.When you eat ‘rich noodles,’ at first, try a spoonful of just the soup and enjoy each original rich flavor. Secondly, pick up some of the noodles and eat them together with the rich soup. The noodles are all made from Japanese flour called yumemanten, which is made in Nagano Prefecture. They are really thick and chewy. Most people fall in love with these divine noodles due to their texture. Also, you can enjoy some awesome toppings such as slices of roasted pork, juicy menma (bamboo shoots), shredded green onions, and a slice of lemon. They make these noodles even tastier.

 

Chicken Bone Noodles

As well as their soy sauce dishes, Kirameki also serves noodles that have a delightful salty taste. This dish is very similar to the soy sauce options. However, the color of the soup is a little different. These dishes have a special handmade sauce that contains salt made from fresh sea water from Vietnam and France. You can taste the natural flavor of the salt, which gives you a very different taste to the soy sauce noodles. It would be great to share two noodles with others if you go to Kirameki with your friends. Comparing two flavors is just one way of enjoying noodle restaurants and becoming an expert in Japanese noodles!

 

Golden Noodles with Sesame Sauce

In Japan, especially in Kyoto, the temperature reaches up to about 38 degrees in the summer. It is said that the summer climate in Kyoto is worse than a desert. Someone might say “I don’t want to get hot food on such a humid day.” But, for those people who need to cool down in the coming summer season eating noodles can be a great option. Golden noodles with sesame sauce is a dish of cold spicy noodles. It has plenty of shredded meat on top and also some peanuts. The peanuts play an important role in this dish. The sweet taste of the peanuts balances the spiciness. In Kirameki, this dish is served only in the summer. It would be the perfect noodle dish for anyone who really wants to eat noodles even on a hot day. Although we concentrated on Kirameki noodle restaurants this time, enjoy discovering and experimenting with a variety of noodle restaurants around Kyoto. You may be able to find a special noodle restaurant that your friends don’t know, and can be your noodle heaven.

【Access】

There are six Kirameki restaurants in Kyoto:

1. Kirameki-no-tori

This was the first Kirameki restaurant opened in Kyoto. If you visit Kyoto Imperial Palace, Kirameki-no-tori is nearby. The opening hours are 11:00-15:00, and 18:00-23:00. The telephone number is 075-231-2505.

2. Yuhi-no-kirameki

This was the second Kirameki restaurant. If you visit Ichijoji, or Takaragaike, it is nearby. The opening hours are 11:00-15:00, and 18:00-23:00. The telephone number is 075-746-5388.

3. Kirameki Chicken Heart

This is Kirameki’s third restaurant. It is near Kyoto University of Foreign Studies. If you visit Arashiyama, you can go there by bus. The nearest bus stop is Shijo-kadono-oji, which takes about 15 minutes from Arashiyama. The opening hours are 11:00-14:30, and 18:00-22:30. The telephone number is 075-754-6388.

4. Kirameki ☆ JAPAN

Kirameki ☆ JAPAN, the fourth Kirameki restaurant, is near Demachi-yanagi Station and Kyoto University. Take the Keihan Railway and get off at Demachi-yanagi Station. It is easy to get there. The opening hours are 11:00-14:30, and 18:00-22:30. The Telephone number is 075-741-7174.

5. Komugi-no-kirameki

This is the fifth Kirameki restaurant. The nearest station is Kamikatsura, and Katsura. Kamikatsura is on the Hankyu Arashiyama Line. You could visit here before or after visiting Arashiyama. The opening hours are 11:00-22:30. The telephone number is 075-874-4411.

6. Menya-Kirameki -Kyoto Sanjo Street

This is the sixth Kirameki restaurant and the head restaurant of Kirameki. If you visit Kawaramachi, you can visit here. Head to north from Hankyu Kawaramachi Station. It takes about ten minutes on foot. The opening hours are 11:00-23:30. The telephone number is 075-744-6199.