Old Schools as the ‘New Kyoto’

August 6, 2018

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.

Great Bread around Karasuma Station

by Kensei Iizuka, Yuta Kobayashi and Takanori Tsuhako

As you know, Kyoto has a lot of traditional Japanese food that is popular with tourists. However, do you know that bread is really popular with people in Kyoto? In fact, bread consumption in Kyoto is No.1 in Japan. The reason why bread is so popular in Kyoto is due to its connection with craftsmen. There are a lot of busy craftsmen in Kyoto and bread is really easy for them to eat when they are working. In this article, we are going to introduce some great bakeries near Karasuma Station. This area is really flourishing so you can find not only bakeries but also many nice shops such as souvenir shops, clothing store and so on. Enjoy the metropolitan side of Kyoto and great local bread in this area.

Sizuya

 

 

Sizuya is a famous bakery, which since 1948, has captured the hearts of Kyoto residents. Anyone who was born or grew up in Kyoto can’t but love their bread. There are 22 locations in Kyoto prefecture and the site that we visited this time is located in Shijo-Karasuma in the very heart of the city. This shop is very accessible as it is inside Shijo-Karasuma Station, and you can find it quickly as soon as you exit from the ticket gates. The most famous bread in Sizuya is the Karne -a sandwich with ham, fresh onion and soft margarine. It is very simple but delicious.

Shinshindo

 

 

Shinshindo is known as a bakery pioneer in Kyoto. It was established in 1913, making it 35 years older than Sizuya and the oldest bakery in Kyoto. There are 12 locations in Kyoto; however, some stores don’t just sell bread. Some have a restaurant where you can enjoy lunch or dinner, and others have a coffee shop inside where you can enjoy super fresh bread and excellent coffee. You can walk there in about 5 minutes from Hankyu-Karasuma Station, so you can take a break and enjoy great bread and coffee before or after exploring Shijo. The most popular bread in Shinshindo is said to be their rich buttery croissant. Outside is very crunchy and the inside is super soft. The beautiful flavor of the butter spreads out in your mouth as soon as you bite it. It must be one of the best croissants in Kyoto.

 

Grandir Kyoto


 

This bakery has a cool and trendy appearance with a simple black exterior, and inside there is a wide range of bread on display. Grandir Kyoto opened about 30 years ago and specializes in bagels and panini. People who want to eat a nice bagel or fresh panini should visit there. There are 5 locations in Kyoto and also 3 locations in Nagoya. The shop that we visited is near Kyoto-Shiyakusho-Mae Station (Subway- Tozai Line) and is easy to get to from Kawaramachi or Karasuma. When you open the stylish door and go in, you are surrounded by the pleasant smell of fresh bread. You can choose from a lot of different kinds of bagels as you can see in the photo: cocoa, cream cheese and so on. Just picking which bagel you want is fun. You can also order fresh paninis which the shop staff make to order in front of you. So, you can enjoy a really tasty fresh panini there.

 

Kin-iro Kyoto

Kin-iro Kyoto, was launched just recently in April 2018. It is getting a lot of attention from young people. There are only two kinds of bread, both of which are cream buns. One is called kin-iro which has rich cream and plenty of Canadian honey. It looks really gorgeous because it is decorated with pieces of gold leaf on the top. The other cream bun is called kuro-iro. Kuro means “black” in Japanese, so it is a black cream bun with cacao and coffee in the bread dough. Inside of the bun, you can taste Guatemala coffee’s honey in the custard and cream made from high-class eggs from Oita prefecture. The harmonization of the bread dough made by cocoa and coffee with the rich cream will blow your tongue away!

Kyoto Bakery Market

This bakery is perfect for people who are downtown shopping and don’t want to walk around too much just to find some decent bread. It is on the 7th floor of Marui Department Store near Kawaramachi Station (Hankyu-Kyoto Line). The best thing about this store is that you can find a selection of great bread from various bakeries in Kyoto. You don’t need to spend time and energy going to each bakery to sample their speciality bread. Also, you can take a break and have a coffee in the rest area attached to the bakery. In other words, here is like a culmination of what Kyoto’s bakeries have to offer.

【Information for Sizuya】

Sizuya is in front of the subway ticket gates in Shijo Station. You can also easily access it from Karasuma Station on the Hankyu Railway. The ticket gates are on the lower basement floor. If you come from the ground level, please take the stairs or escalator down. The opening hours are from 7:30am to 9:00pm, and they are closed on January 1st.

【Information for Shinshindo】

You can walk to Shinshindo in about 5 minutes from either Karasuma Station or Shijo Station heading north-east. Diagonally opposite, there is a park that has a playground. Shinshindo has lovely trees and plants, so you can easily find it. Opening hours are 7:30am to 8:00pm. The days when the bakery is closed varies.

【Information for Grandir Kyoto】

Grandir Kyoto is a smaller bakery than others. The closest station is Kyoto Shiyakusyo Mae (Kyoto City Hall) Station; however, you can walk from Kawaramachi. If you go there from Kawaramachi, please head north. It’s about a 15-minute walk. This bakery is next to Kyoto City Hall. You will see bicycles parked in front of the bakery. The opening hours are 8:00am to 7:00pm. The days when the bakery is closed varies.

【Information for Kin-iro Kyoto】

Kin-iro Kyoto is on Sanjo Street. You can walk from Kyoto Shiyakusyo Mae (Kyoto City Hall) Station (10-minute walk) or Kawaramachi Station and Karasuma Station (15-minute walk). The bakery doesn’t have any space to eat inside. The opening hours are 11:00am to 7:00pm. The bakery is closed on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

【Information for Kyoto Bakery Market】

Go to the 7th floor in Marui Department Store, which is on Shijo Street opposite the Disney Store. There are lots of tables and chairs where you can eat. If you are tired of shopping, you can take a rest here. Opening hours are 11:00am to 8:00pm. The bakery is closed when Marui is closed.

 

 

ART AQUARIUM

by Nami Shinkado, Sakina Nishitsuji & Shiho Tojo

The Art Aquarium is a special art exhibition held each year in Japan, and has already been experienced by a total 7.8 million people in the last 10 years. The most recent location was at the famous Nijo Castle in Kyoto, where the Restoration of Imperial Rule (Taisei Hokan) happened 150 years ago. The Art Aquarium an underwater exhibition that uses new technology such as light and images, the motif being Japanese. The main motif is koi, or Japanese goldfish, which became associated strongly with Japanese culture in the Edo period. Art Aquarium is world of Japanese art that centers around the goldfish and colored carp which express the beauty of Japan, and the traditional Japanese culture of Kyoto, including kimono, Japanese confectionery, green tea, and sake. These will be brought back to life as art and fused together with new art skills. In the exhibition, there are various kinds of goldfish, from a high-quality type that we cannot usually see to the type often seen in local festivals. The goldfish is an aquarium fish that has a history that was made by people. Art Aquarium is a very colorful and relaxing place created by Hidetomo Kimura. He makes a stage out of a World Heritage Site like Nijo Castle and attracts people by offering a unique worldview.

Hidetomo Kimura

Hidetomo Kimura was born in Tokyo in 1972.  He is an artist who combined the concepts of ‘aquarium’ with ‘art’ to create a unique exhibition by designing the interior, the music, the image, and space layout. Later, he accomplished an incredible feat by taking the Art Aquarium exhibition to Milan, where he got rave reviews for his art and design. He always tries new things all over the world. Moreover, he always does it with goldfish. He said the reason why does choses the goldfish is that it is a work of art created by hand.

Attraction of Art Aquarium

In 2017, Art Aquarium was held at Nijo-jo Castle in Kyoto. Nijo-Castle was built in 1603, during the Edo period, so it has over 400 years of history. It is recognized as a national treasure and registered as a World Heritage Site. The admission fee to the exhibit was 1,500 yen per person, with children being just 1,000 yen, while children under 4 are free of charge.

Art Aquarium is really beautiful and mystical, while being held at night in a special place normally off-limits to guests. In 2017, it was held from October 23 to December 14, from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM (Last entry: 9:30 PM). So, if you visit the exhibition, you can see Nijo-jo Castle with a different atmosphere than usual.

Art Aquarium uses a lot of real goldfish and colored carp. They were lit up by various colored lights, for example, red, blue, yellow, purple, green and so on. Those goldfish and colored carp express the beauty of Japan and the traditional Japanese culture of Kyoto. Art Aquarium is a very famous event for both Japanese and foreign people alike. That is because, Art Aquarium is not only lit up at night with goldfish and colored carp, but also offers visitors beautiful sounds and light projections. This performance has great appeal to guests. If you go to Nijo-jo Castle, you can enjoy seeing many goldfish and to spending a wonderful time. There are also some nearby shops and restaurants, so you can eat delicious food and drink alcohol, coffee or tea. In addition, there is a souvenir shop, where all sorts of things are sold. For example, they sell postcards of Art Aquarium, brochures, candy, accessories, and so on. Therefore, if you go to this event with friends, family or a partner, you can leave with some great memories.

About Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle is a Japanese castle built in the Edo period in Nijo Town, Kyoto City. It is a flat castle in the city of Kyoto and it was a castle built by Ieyasu Tokugawa, who won the battle of Sekigahara in 1603. The castle inside Nijo castle consists of Honmaru Palace and Ninomaru Palace, each with its own garden. Ninomaru Palace is the largest, consisting of 3,300 square meters and 33 rooms. Moreover, Nijo Castle was registered as a World Heritage Site in 1994. Also, it is famous for being the place where Taisei Hokan occurred, when the Edo Shogunate returned governance to the Imperial Court in 1867, signifying the end of the Edo Shogunate. It was done by Yoshinobu Tokugawa, who was thr 15th generation of Tokugawa. In 2017, it was just 150 years from the year of Taisei Hokan occurred. To celebrate it, Art Aquarium was held in a grand way.

In conclusion, Art Aquarium attracts people with in various ways, from its beautiful real goldfish, to various forms of aquariums, to lighting up the space with various colors, and so on. By combining these, a magnificent performance is created. Thanks to these performances, Art Aquarium has become a popular spot for many tourists, causing a queue of people there every day there. It is fantastic!

Also, Nijo Castle is a very famous place historically, so on the day when Art Aquarium is not held, you can still visit Nijo castle. We recommend this aquarium spot and Nijo castle for everyone. We hope you will go there with the people you care most about.

Address of Nijo Castle

541, Nijojo-cho, Nijo-dori Horikawa Nishi iru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto

Train
JR Kyoto Station→
City Bus Routes 9, 50 and 101 ⇒ Get off at Nijojo-mae station

Car
It is about 30 minutes from both the Kyoto-Higashi Interchange and the Kyoto-Minami Interchange on the Meishin Highway

The Kyoto Animation Company

by Hiroaki Kawakami & Yurie Natsume

Today, the Japanese animation market is active all over the world. Lovers of Japanese animation in foreign countries call it Japanimation. And one of the sparks of this popularity is The Kyoto Animation Company, which was leading the animation industry when Japanese animation was not well-known. Now, we’ll explain the history of The Kyoto Animation Company and its attractive points.

History 

In 1981, The Kyoto Animation Company was founded by Yoko Hatta. At that time, she was working at Mushi Productions, which was founded by Osamu Tedzuka. She later left the company and moved to Kyoto, where she married Hideaki Hatta, who later became a president of The Kyoto Animation Company. It started out as a limited company in 1985, and then became fully incorporated in 1999. Incidentally, the company’s logo is based on the kyo kanji, which is the first character of the Japanese kanji for ‘Kyoto’. In the middle of 1990’s, they took part in several Ghibli animation productions by Hayao Miyazaki. Typical examples are Porco Rosso (Kurenai no Buta) and Kiki’s Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyubin). The Kyoto Animation Company became highly acclaimed around that time. After the 2000’s, the company produced the TV animation Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu. This was their first prime production in 2003.

Production Style

The Kyoto Animation Company makes many kinds of TV animation. The most representative genre is romantic productions, like AIR, CLANNAD and Kanon, with the origin of these productions being games. In addition, they have also produced some comedies, like My Ordinary Life (Nichijou), and mysteries, like Hyouka, which is popular among fans of Japanese animation. As we can see from these examples, The Kyoto Animation Company is creating TV animation for a broad base of viewers.

One remarkable feature of the company’s style is its drawing in animations. For example, when they began making TV animation, they were drawing human eyes a lot bigger: approximately one-half of the face. Subsequently, this style became mainstream in the drawing a faces in animation. Likewise, in recent years, they have been drawing human hair so delicately, and this way of drawing is close to being at the forefront of the animation industry.

Another point worthy of special mention is how beautiful and elaborate the landscape in their animation is. In fact, some of the landscapes in their productions are based on real places. For example, the TV animation Sound! Euphonium (Hibike! Yufoniamu) is set in Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture. By basing the landscapes on real-world places, they can draw the landscapes in animations with high accuracy and high pixels. In this way, we can enjoy seeing real beautiful landscapes in animation.

Hibike! Yufoniamu

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

One of the most famous TV animations created by The Kyoto Animation Company is The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu). It was based on a series of light novels written by Nagaru Tanigawa. Immediately after televising, this animation attracted people’s attention immediately, and the popularity of this production became a social phenomenon in 2006 and 2007.

In the story, Kyon, the leading character, is a student at North High School in Nishinomiya, Hyogo. In the entrance ceremony of the high school, Kyon meets an eccentric and occult girl named, Suzumiya Haruhi. One day in class, she suddenly told all classmates, “First off, I’m not interested in ordinary people. But if you are aliens, time-travelers, psychics or strangers from another world, come see me. That’s all.” After this incident, Kyon come to be at the mercy of Haruhi’s whim by accident. Furthermore, Yuki Nagato, who is an artificial human created by the data overmind; Mikuru Asahina who is an actually time-traveler; and Itsuki Koizumi, who is an psychic; all gather around Kyon and Haruhi. Haruhi is determined to establish a club called the SOS Brigade, short for “Spreading excitement all Over the world with Suzumiya brigade.” This work is a story that describes and illustrates their extraordinary daily life.

As you can see, The Kyoto Animation Company has many attraction points and has made a big influence on the animation industry and society. Nowadays, domestic and overseas fans of Japanese animation are calling The Kyoto Animation Company: Kyo Ani. And because their works feature real-world places as the background landscapes for the stories, many fans choose to take a trip to visit these places from other prefectures or oversears. The popularity and impact of their productions has been having a positive effect on the economy. In this way, animations are not just wonderful works of two dimensions, but also the golden eggs from which are expected enormous economic development. Watching the animations made by Kyo Ani, you can feel the magnificence of the landscape in Kyoto or other prefectures. If you are interested in the creative works of this company, please watch one.

10 Minutes Mont Blanc

by Shiori Iwawaki, Maya Kondo & Eri Inaba

Do you know the Mont Blanc that you cannot eat without lining up in Kyoto? Mont Blanc is originally from Piemonte, Italy and it means White Mountain. A French chef was the original creator using a chestnut candied syrup called marron glace. In 1933, a Japanese chef, Mr. Keizo Nishida, went to Italy to learn how to make Mont Blanc, bringing the technique back to Japan. However, at that time not many people knew about Mont Blanc in Japan. Nowadays Mont Blanc is a very famous sweet in Japan. People think that Kyoto is famous for green tea, but it’s not 100% true. There is a now a shop called 10 Minutes Mont Blanc in Kyoto which is very famous right now. In this article, we would like to introduce about this shop’s history, its Mont Blanc, and interview its owner.

The owner of 10 Minutes Mont Blanc is named Mr. Keizo. He opened the shop in Kyoto because he was born here in Kyoto. One more reason is he worked at many bakery stores after he graduated from high school and he wanted to run a shop by himself. The reason he wanted to work at a bakery store was when he was a high school student was he first saw a wedding cake. From that time, he wanted to make a cake by himself. He finally managed to open his own shop at near Nijo castle, in the Sanjo-kai shopping district. The name of the shop was ‘Sweet Cafe Kyoto Keizo’. Before he managed to run this shop, he had worked at a first-class confectionery shop for 40 years. At that time, he wanted to open a shop offering to customers amazing sweets as soon as they are ready to serve. It has made happen by building his own pastry studio. He restricted a building which had been there for 100 years to create a beautiful shop. Because of it, people can feel missing and relaxing.

From inside his shop, we can see the garden that leads to the pastry studio. We can sit in a terrace seat and smell the scent of sweet cake. Then, we can observe the process of making the cake. Mr. Keizo wants to give customers a fresh taste, because he believes a cake that has already spent time waiting to be eaten is not a good for offering to a hungry customer. The concept of this shop is based on this principle, so they give the cakes to the customers as soon as they are prepared.

We asked Mr. Keizo about how to make the Mont Blanc, so he gave us permission to go inside of the pastry studio. Therefore, we were able to watch carefully how the 10 Minutes Mont Blanc was being made. First of all, they squeeze whip cream in the middle of a plate, and then put a sponge cake on the top the whip cream. Next, they put a crunchy meringue over the sponge cake. This crunchy meringue is the most important point of the 10 Minutes Mont Blanc. It takes about three hours to make the meringue, and the chefs have to pay close attention because the baking time may vary depending on how they mix the dough. Toward the end of the process, they squeeze chestnut paste all over the meringue. Finally, they decorate around the plate with chocolate sauce, sprinkle some white sugar powder and put a single chestnut on the top of the cake. They make the Mont Blanc after their customers place their order. They don`t stock the Mont Blanc in advance, but rather they start the process after the customers place their order. After the customers order the Mont Blanc, they can go to the pastry studio and watch how their pastry is being made. 10 Minutes Mont Blanc means if you eat it within 10 minutes, you can feel the meringue is crunchy. But if you wait longer than 10 minutes to eat it, the meringue become soft and the texture become totally different from the crunchy one. Therefore, you can enjoy two kinds of meringue textures with just one Mont Blanc.

We asked Mr. Keizo how he invented the 10 Minutes Mont Blanc. Then, he answered that he wanted to use meringue as a protagonist in this sweet story. As everyone knows, meringue always plays a supporting role; never the protagonist in the production of a sweet. He discovered the right type of meringue when he was making a chiffon cake, as it uses a lot of meringue. When he tried to bake the meringue, it became crunchy. This was the first step in the process of making Keizo’s Mont Blanc. Moreover, Mr. Keizo wanted to let the customer imagine the inside of the cake. The top four most popular cakes are shortcake, cheese cake, minnefeuille and chocolate cake, but these cakes can be seen through to the inside. On the other hand, the inside of a Mont Blanc can not be seen, so we must imagine what it looks like and what it is made of. However, to make use meringue as the main ingredient, you cannot take the pastry homme because it will not last long. The most challenging part of making a 10 Minutes Mont Blanc is to make a crunchy meringue. Therefore, they can only serve the pastry in the shop itself in order to keep the meringue crunchy.

Mr. Keizo said that he was most confident about his staff. This is because they are all able to explain about the menu and go to the customer’s seat and explain about the food and dessert. Also, Mr. Keizo wants all the customers to enjoy and smile and go back home and feel that they were glad to come to this store. His happiest moment is when a customer says with a big smile, “It is so delicious, I will come to this shop again.” For him, the 10 Minutes Mont Blanc is like his child because he worked so hard through trial and error to create it. In the future, he wants to make a new kind of Mont Blanc that is relevant to the season in which it is eaten, and made with seasonal ingredients like pistachio, cherry blossom, pumpkin, and many others. Moreover, in the shop there are many other kinds of cake, so he wants the customer to taste other things as well. Now, many people say “Let’s go and eat 10 Minutes Mont Blanc,” but he wants customers to say “Let’s go to Mr. Keizo’s shop” and “which cake should I eat today.” This is his goal and he wants to spread this shop around the world as well.

As you can see, Mr. Keizo has a lot of feeling for 10 Minutes Mont Blanc, and his store’s staff can give customers that same feeling when they explain about the way to eat the Mont Blanc. The staff said to us “Let’s enjoy the sound of the crunchy meringue, using a fork and knife.” After that, we started to eat with a fork and knife, and listened the sound carefully. When we eat just Mont blanc, it taste still dark, but when we eat it with chocolate sauce, that is becoming sweeter. From the beginning to the end, we could enjoy feeling the change of texture. After we left the shop, there was a long line of people waiting to get in. Finally, Mr, Keizo described 10 Minute Mont Blanc is as his son, so you should go and try this amazing cake.

Nishijin Brocade

by Motonari Iwamoto, Kana Kobashi & Kensuke Nagai

Nishijin Brocade is one of the traditional crafts in Kyoto.  Traditional crafts are disappearing year by year in Japan.  We have to protect traditions and pass them on to the next generation.  However, some traditional crafts are changing with the times. It is important to keep traditions, but sometimes it is not enough.  If the traditions change and evolve, people will pay attention to them and will want to know their history.  Therefore, we researched Nishijin Brocade and thought about its future.

Nishijin Brocade is a general term for Sakizome – or dyed textile goods – created in a certain region of Kyoto. Sakizome refers to the prior dying of the threads before the cloth is actually woven.  There are many different types of these textiles produced in small quantities.  Nishijin Brocade has been designated as a national traditional craft since 1976.  There are many kinds of Nishijin Brocade and they are all beautiful and produced delicately.  So, it is used in many products like Noh costume, a long outer garment, obi (traditional sash), underwear, neckties, and so on.  The name ‘Nishijin’ comes from the area of the city where the brocade was produced and traded.  It is in the northwest section of Kyoto.

History of Nishijin Brocade

As the Onin War (1467-1477), which split Japan into two parts, ended in the Muromachi era, textile craftmen who were spread out across the country returned to Kyoto.  The production of textile was resumed around this area, where it used to be a territory occupied by a western military troop led by Sozen Yamana during the War.  The textile town prospered before the war, an area known today as the northern west part of Kyoto, which had started being called Nishijin around that time.  The name of Nishi (west) – Jin (territory) was derived from the territory of the western military troop.  The site of residence that was owned by Sozen still remains at Itsutsuji-iru, Horikawa-dori in Kamogyo-ward.

Nishijin Brocade Types

There are 12 kinds of brocade that have been designated in Japan, and there are three different weaving machines to produce them. Now we will introduce some types of Nishijn Brocade.

The first is Tsuzure.  In this type, the weft is three to five times thicker than the warp, where the weft wraps around the warp.  So, the warp does not appear on the surface of it.  This way of weaving involves many small techniques, so it takes long time to finish.  The oldest it in world was made in 1580 B.C., around the same time as the 17th Egyptian dynasty period. In Japan, Sehei Izutsuya was the first person to weave it in the Edo period in Nishijin.

The second is Nukinishiki.  It is a general term of brocade that is woven with several threads and it is used to make gorgeous brocades.  Many of Nishiki brocades use Enuki that weft needs surface of the pattern. Nukinishiki represent most of brocade.  It has longest history of Japanese brocade weaves.  Its origin isn’t known for certain, but it said to have been woven from more than 1,200 years ago.

The third type is called Kasuri-ori.  It is created with some patterns by the warp and weft are resist printing in some designs.  There is the brocade of the satin weaving.  It represents a simple weaving.  At first, it began in India and then it arrived in Thailand, Burma, Java, Sumatra, Okinawa and finally to Japan.

There are five stages to the production of Nishijin Brocade.  The first is the planning. Producers think of the design and then decide on the pattern that how to make it with which colors.  The second stage is the preparation of the materials yarn sellers in white silk and dyers prepare them.  Nishijin brocades are weaved silk yarn of high quality. The third state is weaving.  Representative Nishiki-ori and Kara-ori are weaved by jacquard loom. Jacquard loom was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1804.  In the old days, producers used Sorabikibata. They weaved Nishijin Brocades two people, so they can’t produce many products.  However, they began using jacquard loom, they can produce many products.  The final stage is that products are given a certificate stamp issued by the Nishijin Brocade Industrial Association.  It indicates the number of producers, kind of obi material, and structure of the fiber used.

Presence and Future of Nishiijin Brocade

In the past, the designs were drawn by hand, but today they are done on the computer.  As it became digitalized, making corrections became easier, but a lot of the work is still manual labor.  Recently, with the assistance of big designer names such as Dior, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, the industry is starting to focus on expanding abroad as well.  The new Nishijin strategy is to create interior designs, shawls, and bags.  As the number of foreigner visitors has increased recently, many wear kimono, and in order to adapt to this, producers started making foreign sizes as well.

There is a technique of knitting, which is a very complex structure, and this technique is weaving from a thick thread into a fine thread.  The complexity of building this technique will probably be close to the top in the world.  In addition, this technique is used on space projects.

We knew about Nishijin Brocade from before, but we made sense to be throughout this research.  It is used in many products, so recently many foreign people are interested in it.   Also, Japanese young people pay attention to it because the industry is now collaborating with some famous brands.  Time moves on, so traditional crafts have to evolve with time.  And we have to study about it and tell next generation from now.  If we and traditional industry do that, traditional crafts won’t disappear and they will keep their history.  Won’t you help to protect our traditions with us?

Kyoto’s Historical Boulevard

by Takumi Abe

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

Karasuma from 794

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

 

The gateway of Kyoto

What you can see on Karasuma

Shijo Karasuma

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

Cocon Karasuma

Doshisha University

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

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

Toraya

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

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

Manga museum

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

The street as a face of Kyoto

Kyoto Imperial Palace

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

 

The Best of Nishiki Market

by Yu Sakamoto, Tashi Nisikawa and Kazu Shibao

Entrance

Inside Nishiki ichiba

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

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

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

How to Get There

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

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

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

Raw Oyster Shop: Daiyasu

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

Inside “Daiyasu”

Up “Iwa kaki”, Down “Ma kaki”

Soybean Shop: Kyo no Omamehan

A lot of flavor in the store.

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

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

We ate Ice cream.

Matcha Sweet Shop: Sawawa

Front of SAWAWA

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

 

 

 

Spice Shop: Ochanoko Saisai

Front of “Ochanoko Saisai”

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

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

Click here to learn more about Shichimi.

 

Deep Fried Chocolate Shop: Inoue Tsukudani

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

We wrote messages.

Mochi Shop: Mochi Tsukiya

Front of “Mochi Tsukiya”

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

Liquor Store: Tsunoki Shuho

You can buy this sake only here.

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

 

 

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

Foreign Impressions of the Kamo River

By Hiroto Shima and Aina Sasaki

Is there a river where you live? Do you often go for a walk there? We are familiar with Kamo River, because our school is in Kyoto. There are paths along both banks where people walk, jog and bicycle. When we come to Kamo River, we always see foreigners there. So, we tried a questionnaire.

First, the Kamo River is the main river that runs through Kyoto, from the north to the south.. In the old days, the Kamo flooded its banks many times during typhoons but now such natural disasters are rare since high banks have been built. Now the river is a place of rest and Kyoto people can spend time there slowly. The Kamo river has some charms. One famous charm is its abundance of nature. Many creatures, such as the giant Japanese salamander and ayu sweetfish are living in the river . There are also many birds—ducks, white egrets, blue herons, cormorants and seagulls in winter.

The Kamo River has many beautiful views and can be recommended in every season. In spring many cherry trees are blossoming on its banks, so it is a popular place for cherry-viewing parties. So the Kamo is loved by many people including locals and foregin tourists.

Cherry tree

Cherry tree

 

The Kamo River is located near the Kyoto Station. The Kamo is a good geographic landmark, so it can help visitors navigate the city. It is good place to have lunch on a bench, take a little break or have coffee at a riverside café. We can often see local people walking or jogging on the mornings and evenings. The Kamo river is one of the symbols of Kyoto. More tourists will visit Kyoto in the future and they are sure to visit the Kamo River.

Jogging at Kamo river

Jogging at Kamo river

We met three foreign people at the river and asked them the following questions:

1. Where are you from?

2. What have you seen at the Kamo river that you will remember?

3. Do you have a river in your hometown? How similar or different to the Kamo river is it?

Their answers were so wonderful that we would like to relate them here:

First of all, we will introduce the answers of a French woman. She said that she recalls the memory of playing in the river when she was young. She lives in Lyon in France and they have a river too. The river is divided into two branches that are named la Saone and la Rhone. There people can run, chat together on riverside benches, play on the grass, skateboard—many people use the river as a place to relax. Her image about Kamo river is that it is more natural and at the Kamo river we can see cherry blossom and autumn leaves and feel the four seasons. Both rivers are similar in that they are places to relax and people can enjoy themselves without spending much money.

The second person we met lives in Finland. She said when she saw the Kamo river she thought that Japan is very beautiful place. Finland has a lake named Uthah lake, it is not river but many people relax there. She said she has never seen the people playing beside the Kamo, but Uthah lake has a lot of people playing. And also she said both are loved by many people.

The third person we met is from America. When she came to the Kamo river it reminded her of her boyfriend. Her boyfriend is not Japanese but he lives in Japan so when they meet in Kyoto, they definitely come to the Kamo River. She told us about a river in Minnesota: it is used only as a place for walking or jogging, whereas the Kamo is a good spot to chill out. Because there are cafes and convenience stores nearby,  the Kamo is very convenient. She also said the Kamo has great nature and is a good place to relax.

Kamo river at night

Kamo river at night