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.

Glamping in Kyoto

by Sakina Nishitsuji, Nami Shinkado, & Shiho Tojo

Glamping is a term combined from the words ‘glamorous’ and ‘camping’. It is a new camping style where people can experience some luxurious and comfortable services. It’s like being in a hotel in nature, where guests don’t need to take any camping equipment or pitch a tent. There are glamping areas all over the world these days, as glamping has become so popular recently. It is said that the origin of glamping is in Africa in 1900s. Then, rich Westerners luxury-camped to have adventures in Africa. In short, the high-quality outdoor adventure resort that targeted the well off in the West existed since before the term ‘glamping’ was born.

Why has glamping become so popular recently? There are two main reasons why glamping has become so popular. The first is that glamping targets a wide audience. If you are an indoor person or one who hates insects, you can still enjoy camping comfortably there. Of course, if you are an outdoor person, you will like it, too, because you don’t need to prepare anything in advance. Also, glamping lets you feel as if you were in a foreign country. In nature, you can spend relaxed time.

The second reason is SNS applications. Recently, many people have been using Instagram. People always try to take wonderful photographs to share on Instagram. In glamping, people can take very fashionable photographs because there are very stylish tents, nature, food, beds and so on. It is so popular for Instagram users.

How to spend time glamping

Morning

You need lots of equipment to do normal camping, for example, tents, cooking tools, and so on. But with glamping, you do not need anything at all. Everything is provided, such as barbeque sets, cooking tools, and tents. You do not need to buy these. You need only a bag.

Lunch-time

Most glamping experiences include a barbeque. You do not need to bring your barbeque tools, as they are provided. Therefore, you can eat a delicious barbeque. You can also use a Dutch oven to roast, boil, steam or fry something. This allows you to enjoy lunch time without preparation.

Free time

In your free time, you can enjoy various activities, for example, canoeing, horseback-riding, and marine sports. And glamping provides not only the outdoor experience. You can also enjoy yoga indoors. You can have some wonderful experiences glamping.

Night time

At night, you can enjoy sitting around a campfire outside. You can drink coffee and alcohol while surrounded by fire, talking with your friends in a relaxed mood. If the skies are clear, you can see the stars. It is a very beautiful view.

What makes glamping unique in Kyoto?

As you know, Kyoto is a famous, cultural city with many sightseeing spot. Therefore, if people go glamping in Kyoto, they can see the sights of Kyoto on their way home. This is why glamping is so special to do in Kyoto as opposed to other places in Japan. Besides, the nature in Kyoto is very beautiful.

GRAX

One well-known glamping spot in Kyoto is called GRAX. It is located in Rurike, Nantan-city, Kyoto Prefecture. It was established recently and is at present the only glamping spot in Kyoto. There are also different types of structures to sleep in, for example, glamping tents, lumiere cabin, trailer houses, camping junior suite, camper’s glamping tipi, and delux cabin. Each option costs a different amount per night. Which to stay in might depend on the time of year. You can stay there comfortably in the winter, because that rooms are provided some beds and home heater. Glamping tents are the cotton tent which natural lights come through the window. It prepares a kotatsu only in winter. Lumiere cabin is a very comfortable room. They have air conditional and some beds. Trailer house is like your house, so you can relax and spend a day in the nature. Camping junior suite is only winter, it has kotatsu. You should talk with your partner in the kotatsu at camping junior suite. Camper’s glamping tipi is really simple tent. Delux cabin is a two stories building. You can stay here with many people. In this way, GRAX has many types of rooms, so I think you will found your favorite room.

GRAX has many attractive features. First, there is very good hot spring nearby, called Rurike Hot Spring. It is a natural hot spring, so is has always been a popular place to take a bath in nature. You can relax at Rurike Hot Spring for a small fee of 700 yen to 850 yen. Of course GRAX has a bath and restroom, but they are not per person. A bath and restroom are in a common space. Next, you can enjoy eating a BBQ at GRAX, because they provide fresh vegetables and meat. Although it is a little expensive at about 5,000 yen per person, it is delicious and will give you good memories. However if you do not want to eat BBQ, you should take food from your home. This is because GRAX is very much in the countryside, so there are not restaurant nearby GRAX. Next, GRAX provides breakfast. It is depends on a day, for example burger or toast bread. No matter which you make, you will be satisfied with it. Finally, GRAX is lit up in the night. This is very beautiful, as you are able to see a star-filled sky there. And if you stay in the summer, you can sleep outside your tent under the stars. In this way, if you stay at GRAX, you can enjoy not only glamping itself, but also the surrounding area. You can enjoy time in nature with your friends, partner, and family at this most excellent glamping spot.

GRAX operates seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. If you stay at GRAX, you can check in between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., and check out between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. GLAX also offers parking. It takes about 1 hour to get there from the Keihanshin. The address is Sonobe, Kawachi, Nantan-shi, Kyoto Hiroya 1-14.

In conclusion, recently glamping has become popular in Japan. There are a lot of glamping spot in Japan. Among them, Kyoto has a very good glamping spot, called GRAX. We recommend this glamping spot for everyone. We hope you will go there with the people you care most about. It truly is glamourous camping!

Tamba Wine

by Hiroaki Kawakami & Yurie Natsume

 

Now, there are four major wine production regions in Japan. These are Yamanashi, Nagano, Hokkaido, and Yamagata. Especially, Yamanashi prefecture is known for its excellent wine, so there are a lot of wineries in the prefecture. However, one winery which is different from the four major production areas is in the spotlight now. It’s Tamba winery in Kyoto prefecture. Tamba winery is located in Kyoutamba district, and it is the only winery in Kyoto. Now, we will show about the history and attraction of Tamba wine.

History of Tamba Wine

Tamba winery was established in 1979. Its founder, Tetsuo Kuroi, went to Europe and was impressed by French wine there. Therefore, he decided he wanted to produce wines in Japan. His ideal was that the wines should agree with Japanese food, so he rented a sake brewery in Kyoto and started to produce his ideal wines there. In 1981, he sold his first wine produced in the Tamba winery. The reputation of Tamba wine was established almost immediately, and only two years later in 1983, Tamba winery won the gold prize of Monde Selection, a prestigious wine contest. After that, he gradually increased the number of cultivars and descriptions of wine. In 1984, the Tamba winery started to sell new brews, called nouveau in France. Now more than 40 species of grapes are grown as tests in the Tamba winery. When they can cultivate better varieties, they can produce wine with the grape as authentic products.

The Vineyard

 

What Makes Tamba Wine Special?

Tamba wine is different from other Japanese wine and overseas wine in its aromas and in its feelings it produces on the tongue. These differences are attributable to its production methods. Most of wine makers in the world ferment the intact juice of grapes, but Tamba winery first clarifies the juices of grapes before the process of fermentation, especially for its white wine. This method makes the wine smoother and fresher than other normal white wines. In regards to its aromas, the location of Tamba winery is deeply related with a unique scent. Actually the land of Tamba winery was originally a sake brewery, so the founder started producing wines with the exaxt same facilities and equipment that the sake brewers used. So the brewing machines still contain traces of the flavors of rice-malt, giving Tamba wine sublte aromas resembling those of Japanese sake. Hereby, they can produce the wine that is suitable for Japanese foods. Based on these factors, it can be said that Tamba wine is a perfect fit for the cultural climate and preference of Japanese people.

Wine curve

 

Now we are going to introduce two products of the Tamba winery.

Tamba Toriino Pinot Blac Sur Lie

The first product is white wine by the name of Tamba Toriino Pinot Blanc Sur Lie. This is made from the white grape called Pino Blanc. The color is clear yellow with a greenish tinge. In terms of aromas, it doesn’t just contain a roasted flavor derived from casks of oak, but also traces of rice-malt, honey, and apple. The taste is so rich, resulting from maturing in oak casks, and the sharpness of its sour taste is attributable to features of Pino Blanc and the climate of the Tamba district. However, the sour flavor is definitely not harsh. White wines made in Bourgogne of northeastern Frence sometimes contain too much sour taste, derived from abundant mineral compositions like Chablis. On the other hand, we can feel the comfortable and refined sour flavor in Pinot Blanc of Tamba Toriino.

Tamba Toriino Pinot Noir

The second wine is a red wine by the name of Tamba Toriino Pinot Noir. This is made from Pinot Noir, which is one of the most famous black grapes in the world. Furthermore, Pinot Noir is very famous as the grape which is considered difficult to cultivate. The color is like a deep ruby with a garnet edge. In terms of aromas, it contains various scents like watery soil, sweetly scented herbs, cedar, and black tea. The attack of taste is so soft and velvety, but tannins contained in the wine are rather strong. The aftertaste is as long as those of the wines made in New World, including America, Chile and Argentina. The global impression of this wine is that the Pinot Noir of Tamba Toriino is closer to New World’s wine. However, Tamba wine is milder than wine from the New World – which is fruity – so Tamba wine is suitable for Japanese dishes.

Tamba Toriino Pinot Noir & Tamba Toriino Pinot Blanc Sur Lie

 

Today, the sales of retailing of wine targeted at individuals is increasing year by year in Japan. This data shows that Japanese people often drink wine with Western dishes, but few people often pair it with Japanese dishes. Most Japanese people might think that Japanese dishes are not suitable to pair with wine. However, this thinking is wrong. Features of wine can be changed by the climate, the soil and the maker, so we must make an ideal wine that can be suitable for Japanese food. The wine from Tamba winery proves that this can be done. We believe that Tamba wine gives Japanese wine a big hope. We hope you try these wines of Tamba so that you can know new horizon regarding Japanese wine.

Tamba Wines

Hirano Shrine

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

The History of Hirano Shrine

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

Events at Hirano Shrine

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

Shops around Hirano Shrine

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

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

Shimogamo Jinja

by Yuri kamakura & Akane kaneta

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

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Torii

Myth

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

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

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Saru

History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Keidai

Access

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

Kamishichiken and its shops

by Riho Miyagi, Akane Mukai and Yuuka Yamazaki

 

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

 

What is Kamishichiken?

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

 

The Kamishichiken Kaburenjo Theater

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

 

Shops near kamishichiken

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

 

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

 

Kyo-yuzen

by Mayumi Otsuka, Mai Takezawa, and Kanako Wakamatsu

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

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Kimono

1. History of Japanese dyeing methods

2. What is Kyo-yuzen?

3. How to dye by using Kyo-yuzen

4. Kyo-yuzen in foreign countries

5. Actual experience of Kyo-yuzen

History of Japanese dyeing methods

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

What is Kyo-yuzen?

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Kyo-yuzen

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

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

Kyo-yuzen in foreign countries

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

How to dye by using Kyo-yuzen

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

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

Actual experience of Kyo-yuzen

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

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

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Kyo-yuzen studio

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Kyo-yuzen items

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

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

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

Kyoto City Subway – Karasuma Line

by Yumika Fujii and Erica Wada

 

Kyoto StationJapan has a lot of public transportation, for example, Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, has an amazing fifteen subway lines. You can transfer everywhere by those subway lines, but it is very complicated even for Japanese tourists. However, there are only two lines in the Kyoto City Subway system: The Karasuma line and the Tozai line. If you read this article and master the Kyoto City Subway system, you can enjoy Kyoto with more ease and comfort of movement. Here we would like to introduce to you some of the main points and interesting features of this very important part of the Kyoto travel network.

 

Karasuma LineThe Karasuma Line

The Karasuma line was the first subway line in Kyoto City when, in 1981, the line connecting Kitaoji station to Kyoto station started. The extent of the line grew longer and longer until it reached its present length in 1997. The railway runs under Karasuma Street, north to south, between Kokusaikaikan station and Takeda station. In the beginning, the Karasuma line trains consisted of only four cars, but now they consist of six cars, following the connection to Takeda Station. There are actually fifteen stations now, numbered K1 to K15, and all the stations are located in Kyoto City, with the express and regular trains all stopping at every station.

Imadegawa Station

Imadegawa StationImadegawa Station is located in Kamigyo ward, Kyoto city, and the station number is K6. Imadegawa Station was opened in 1981 which was at the same time the line first began operations. This station is very close to the Kyoto Imperial Palace (Gosho), which is one of the most famous traditional places in Kyoto. Imadegawa station is really only close to the Gosho or Tohoganji Temple, therefore if tourists want to go to the other popular places, they would really need to use the Tozai subway line, Kyoto city buses, or Kyoto bus. However, compared to the Tozai line, the Karasuma Line is more convenient for schools and businesses.

 

Connecting to Universities in Kyoto

In the north of the city especially, the Karasuma line is a key transport link to a number of large universities. For example, Kyoto Seika University and Kyoto Sangyo University both run shuttle buses from Kokusaikaikan station; Kyoto Kougei Seni University is near Matsugasaki station; Kyoto Notre Dame University is near Kitayama station; Otani University is close to Kitaoji station; the Imadegawa campus of Doshisha University and Doshisha Womens’ University is close to Imadegawa station; the Kyoto campus of HeianWomens’ University is close by Marutamachi station; the Murasakino campus of Bukkyo University is accessible from Kitaoji station and the Shijo center is near Shijo station. As you can see, many universities have a station on the Karasuma subway line nearby, so this is one of the most important transportation methods for students in Kyoto to commute every day.

 

Kitaoji Bus Terminal

This is a big bus station hub located on the basement level of Kitaoji subway station and a large department store called Vivre. The buses that leave here head to Kyoto Sangyo University, Kamigamo Shrine, Kinkakuji temple, Shugakuin, and many other tourist spots all across the city. This makes the subway and the bus station a major transport hub for Kyoto City.

Karasuma Oike Station

Karasumaoike StationKarasuma Oike station used to be just another station until the Tozai Subway line was established, and the area near Karasuma Oike station was not well developed either. However, after the Tozai line started operations, Karasuma Oike station became one of the major stations to link the Tozai and Karasuma lines. This meant that the surrounding area also gradually began to develop, and is now a thriving business and commercial district in the city.

 

Kotochika Karasuma Oikestarbucks coffee

Kotochika is a commercial facility inside the subway stations at Yamashina, Kyoto, Shijo and Karasuma Oike, with Kotochika Karasuma Oike established in 2011. The shops and services you can find here are Daily Yamazaki (which is a convenience store with good bread), Kokokarafain (Drugstore), Ohgaki Shoten (Bookstore), Shizuya (Bakery), Raffine (massage and relaxation space), and Starbucks coffee. There are many people who drink coffee, or buy some when they get on the train or before going to their company.  People also want to buy their lunch before going somewhere, or read a book while they are riding on the train. In general, everyone needs something to do to kill time while riding the trains.  This facility is particularly useful for them, as they can buy all they need before boarding or heading out to work or school locally.

 

Tickets

There are many kinds of tickets available for the subway. A book of 11 tickets, from 1 city ward (210yen) to 5 city wards (350yen), can be bought for the price of 10 tickets because of bulk discount pricing. Daytime discount coupon ticket books have 12 tickets but you can only use them on the subway from 10am to 4pm. However, you can buy 12 tickets for the same price as 10 tickets if you purchase this way. There are also other types of transfer tickets that let you change to the other subway line as well as buses: Trafika Kyo card, Surutto KANSAI Miyako card, a booking card for exclusive buses, and so on, are also available.

In conclusion, Kyoto subway has two lines, the Tozai line and the Karasuma line. Both are used by a lot of tourists and a lot of citizens in Kyoto. Most stations on the Karasuma subway line are located near a university in Kyoto, so this line is in comparatively high demand by students living in Kyoto, or from other prefectures. In addition, there are many convenient ticket options that allow tourists to access the subway line during the day. Please use them to go to tourist spots, and enjoy a wonderful relaxing time in Kyoto.

 

 

 

Shokoku-ji

Shokoku-ji

Yuri Kamakura, Akane Kaneta

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Gate

 Shokoku-ji

Temple is one of the great Zen temples in Kyoto. It was founded in the Muromachi period by Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, who was a shogun at that time. Although, Shokoku-ji was destroyed by fire and rebuilt again and again, it has the oldest Zen lecture hall (hatto), originally built  in 1605 and it is an important cultural asset. It has a large dragon painted on its ceiling.There is a wooden sculpture of its founder, Muso Soseki, in the Founder’s Hall (kaisando), which is only open at special times in the spring and fall. ​Also ​the hojo, the abbot’s​ living quarters in a Buddhist temple, a sutra library and Benzaiten shrine are all tangible cultural assets of Kyoto city​.

The ​Temple’s ​Origin


“Shokoku-ji” means “helping the country” or “governing the country.​” This terminology original ​comes from China. In Japan, the Minister of the Left (in medieval and pre-modern Japan) was called “Shokoku.​” Yoshimitsu Ashikaga was the Minister of the Left, so his temple was named “Shokoku-ji.” In China, there are “Taishokoku-ji” which was a temple and the beginning Gozen or “Five Mountains” ​system. The Gozen system​ designated the top five Zen temples in Kyoto.

 

Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji

“Kinkaku-ji” and “Ginkaku-ji” are branch temple​s​ of Shokoku-ji. Kinkaku-ji was founded by Yoshimitsu Ashikaga. Later, Ginkaku-ji was founded by Yoshimasa Ashikaga.

 

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Hatto

Activities

Shokoku-ji ​has a wide variety of activities. Zazenkai or ​Zen meditation meetings​ are held for lay people twice a month. Since 1999, the Enlightenment Activity Committee was set up to explore proper measures for religious outlook for several problems in a modern society. ​They have regular study and training and publisha transcripts​ of lectures ​they hold in cooperation with teachers of various fields.

Jotenkaku Museum

This museum is located in the temple grounds and contains many treasures. It has a deep relationship with the tea master Sen​-​no-​Rikyu, so its collection of items related to the tea ceremony is substantial.  On permanent exhibition are many important cultural properties, such a bokuseki or ink painting and the tea implements, etc. Now, this museum has five national treasure and many excellent cultural properties include 143 important cultural properties.

Admission fees

Adult 800円
65years of age older・College students:600円
Junior and senior high school students:300円
Primary school children:200円

Open: 10:00~17:00

 

 Zen meditation

Zen meditation is a practice of Zen Buddhism; it  is a means to wake up. People want to live like Buddha, sit and hope that get the enlightenment. Since it’s difficult to continue alone  the temple holds zen meditation meetings. It’s encouraging if there are others doing meditation with you.

 

Opening day

Every month second fourth Sunday

But there are flying off, be careful.

→Holding time

AM9:00~11:00

Zen meditation 9:00 ~ 10:30

Lay sermon 10:30 ~ 11:00

Okokorozashiosame  ¥100

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☆Access☆

〒602-0898

Kyotoshi-kamigyouku-imadegawadori-karasuma-higashiiru
TEL:075-231-0301

「Imadegawa」 near the subway station

「Doshisyamae」name of nearest city busstop