Kyoto Prefectural Library

June 22, 2015

by Yuya Fukuda

When people think of Kyoto, they imagine the traditional temples and shrines. However, there are also many modern western style architectures that exist in Kyoto.

Modern Western style Architectures in Japan

Most of those buildings were built from Meiji period to early Showa period (end of 19th century to early 20th century). In the Meiji period, the Japanese government hired many foreign government advisors (Oyatoi gaikokujin) to gain the knowledge of western countries to assist in modernization. Those western style buildings were one of the symbols of progress for the Japanese people. In 1877, the Japanese government funded the Imperial College of Engineering in Tokyo. It was the very first university of architecture in Japan. In 1879, the first students graduated from the university. They became the architectures who represent Japan.

Why does Kyoto have so many western style buildings today?

Today, Kyoto has more than 25 modern style buildings. Kyoto is traditionally known as a cultural city in Japan. Why? There are some reasons.

  1. Kyoto was the capital of Japan for more than 1000 years. But in the Meiji period, the capital transferred to Tokyo. At that time, Kyoto faced some difficulties. Since the Emperor and imperial families moved to Tokyo, many people and industries also left the city. Kyoto needed to rebuild its economy and social systems. For this reason, Kyoto invited some exhibitions and businesses. In the Meiji period, Kyoto held 2 big exhibitions. “4th National industrial exhibition” and “1100th anniversary of the transfer of national capital to Kyoto.” Kyoto had relocated those pavilions to another place, and used them.
  2. Kyoto didn’t have air raids by the United States during World War II. Therefore, many old buildings still exist in Kyoto.

Kyoto Prefectural Library

Kyoto pretectural Library

Kyoto pretectural Library

The Kyoto prefectural Library is located in the Okazaki area (east part of Kyoto), near Heian shrine. It was established in 1873 as the Shushoin library, the first public library in Japan. In 1898, it became the Kyoto Prefectural Library in the Kyoto Imperial Park. In 1909, it was relocated to the Okazaki area. At this time, the building was designed by Takeda Goichi.  The main building was a 3 story building which made by bricks. This library was one of the Takeda’s most famous work. However in 1958, the building suffered serious damage during the Great Hanshin Earthquake. In 2001, it was renovated, but the original building is still preserved to this day. The original building is combined to new, modern style building.

Goichi Takeda

Goichi Takeda was a one of the most important Japanese architects, and is often called “the father of Kansai architectural circles”. His study in Europe influenced him. Takeda is said to have introduced several new architectural styles, such as Art Nouveau or Wiener Secession, to Japan.

Address : 9 Seishoji-cho, Okazaki Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8343

Tel : +81-75-762-4655

Website : http://www.library.pref.kyoto.jp/tagengo/english.html

 

The Tale of Genji Museum-Uji city

July 5, 2014

The Tale of Genji Museum –Uji city

Akiho Kamijo & Shiho Iwasaki

About the Tale of Genji

The Tale of Genji was written by Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century (mid Heian era), and consists of 54 chapters (jou). More than 300 characters appear in it, in a story spanning 70 years. Within the work is contained about 800 shu of a 31-syllable form of classical Japanese poetry. This book is sometimes spoken of as the “classic of classics” and one of the greatest works in the history of Japanese literature.The tale itself is divided into three parts:

Part 1 : Hikaru Genji’s birth and his life of splendor and achievement.

Part 2 : Hikaru Genji’s life of anguish and ultimately his death.

Part 3 : The life of Kaoru,the child of Hikaru Genji, fillled with stories of love and tragedy.

 

 The author – Murasaki Shikibu

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Murasaki Shikibu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The author, Murasaki Shikibu, was born around 973 (Ten-en 1) to a middle-class aristocrat Fujiwara no Tametoki. Although we don’t know her real name, she was called Murasaki Shikibu in direct relation to the character of Murasaki no Ue, from The Tale of Genji. In 998 (Chotoku 4), she married Fujiwara no Nobutaka and they had a daughter named Daini no Sanmi. Unfortunately, three years after Daini’s birth her husband died, and it was about this time she began to write The Tale of Genji. Around 1005 (Kanko 2), she became a lady-in-waiting to Fujiwara no Michinaga’s daughter, Shoshi, who was the wife of Emperor Ichijo. In Murasaki Shikibu’s diary, it was written that The Tale of Genji was actually a special gift to Shoshi upon the birth of her son, the Imperial Prince, Atsuhira.

 

The Tale of Genji Museum -Uji City

The tale of Genji Museum is divided into two main areas: The Exhibition Zone and the Information Zone. Here are some of the main features :

Image exhibition of the Tale of Genji and a dynastic picture scroll.

A high-definition video exhibit introduces a fascinating summary of the Tale of Genji and features a model of Rokujoin, the home of Hikaru Genji.

An ox-drawn carriage and period dress exhibit.

There is a restored ox-drawn carriage here, plus a Junihitoe (the ceremonial attire of a Japanese court lady of the period) which symbolizes the level of the circle the characters in the Tale of Genji moved in.

An exhibit showcasing the dynastic culture and many functions of the court.

Here we can view the dresses and articles of furniture of the shinden dukuri style in an architectural representation of a nobleman’s residence in the Heian period. There are also examples of the games and annual events held each season in the Heian period court.

Kakehashi or Connecting Bridge

In this exhibit we can experience the journey from the capital of Heian to Uji that is illustrated in the Tale of Genji.

“Uji jujo” story theater

Here, there is a replica of a famous scene from the work Uji jujo featuring a curtain and a life-size set.

The scenes and fragrance of the Tale of Genji

The fragrances that Heian nobility were particularly fond of are introduced in this exhibit. Many of which are featured in the tale of Genji.

Movie room

We can enjoy another two movies here of the tragic love stories, “Ukifune” and “Hashihime”.

 

 The Role of Uji in the Tale of Genji

Murasaki Shikibu and the ten Uji Chapters

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The Uji Connection

The Ten Uji Chapters start with the chapter Hashi-Hime (Maiden of the Bridge) and conclude with Yume no Ukihashi (Floating Bridge of Dreams).This “bridge” in the story serves to move the setting from the capital to Uji, and also changes the focus of the story from Hikaru Genji to his son, Kaoru, as well as his grandson, Niou no Miya.

Heian aristocrats knew Uji well, and Murasaki Shikibu decided to use this setting to make them feel part of the story. Kyoto at this time was full of very important people, but Uji was a haven where the aristocrats could relax and be themselves. Murasaki Shikibu very skillfully told the stories of the emotional dramas played out between the men and women of Uji, a place that had a lively, yet also dark side

Uji in The Tale of Genji

In the Ten Uji Chapters of The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu writes about the villa of Hikaru genji’s son, Yugiri, as being on the west side of the Uji River. Actually, this was where Fujiwara no Michinaga, a very influential person of the time, also had a grand home. On the bank where Uji Shrine and Ujigami Shrine are located, she writes of the mountain villa of Hachi no Miya. Fujiwara no Michinaga’s villa on the west bank was later made into Byodo-in Hodo by his son Yorimichi, and still stands today as a prime example of buddhist architectural splendor. However, Ujigami Shrine, where Uji-no-waki-iratsuko, the son of Emperor Ojin is enshrined, is far more modest, and is much more representative of Hachi-no-Miya, who lived alone and lonely.

 

Address: 45-26 Uji-Higashiuchi, Uji City, Kyoto 611-0021

Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Admission until 4:30 p.m.)

Closed: Mondays (or the following day if Monday is a national holiday) and Dec. 28 to Jan. 3

Transport links:

http://www.uji-genji.jp/

 

Onono Komachi

September 18, 2012

by Kato Hideaki

Who was Onono Komachi?

Onono Komachi was a great female poet in Japan. It is unknown when she was born exactly, but it is said that she was born in Akita prefecture. She played an active part in the Heian era (around 800 to 1400 A.D.), and she left behind a lot of Japanese poems on the theme of love. She was very well educated and as a result, she served at the Imperial Court. She was also famous for being a very beautiful woman, and she was considered to be one of the three most beautiful women in the world. A lot of men made advances to Onono Komachi, but she turned them all down. After serving at the Imperial Court, she traveled all over Japan. It is not known when she died. Her Japanese poems were recorded in some anthologies of waka poems such as “Kokinnwakasyu”. “Kokinnwakasyu” was an anthology of many Japanese poems which was commissioned by the Emperor. This anthology of Japanese poems was written in kanji and hiragana scripts. Kanji is originally from China and it is used in Korea too, while hiragana is an original Japanese script derived from the kanji characters.

Stone Monument in Komachi Street
Stone Monument in Komachi Street

Her Connections with Kyoto

The Ono clan lived in Zuisin-in, a temple which was located in Yamashina in Kyoto. Onono Komachi‘s house was located around Zuisin-in , but this temple was destroyed by fire in the Onin War which broke out in 1467 and continued for over ten years in Kyoto. After the war, Zuisin-in was built again in 1599.There are some historic spots in the precincts which are connected to Onono Komachi`s beauty. For example, there are some sentences which were written by many men who loved Onono Komachi. Zuisin-in holds a beauty contest every year called the “Ms.Onono Komachi contest”. The Ms. Onono Komachi is selected in this beauty contest. This contest started in 2006 and only women who are aged from 18 to 30 years old can enter. The prize winners play an active part in official events such as volunteer work at Zuisin-in and so on. In addition, there are a fewlegends of Onono Komachi in Kyoto. For example, there is a street named “Komachi Street” in Kyoto City. Once, Onono Komachi composed some poems in the area with Otomono Kuronusi who was himself a great poet .His poetic ability was as good as Onono Komachi’s, and he was jealous of her because he took pride in his poetic ability . One day he played a trick on her poem and he damaged her reputation. However, she spotted it because the poem was written by him. After causing this trouble he wanted to commit suicide but she forgave him. This legend is called “Sousiarai”. This was how the street came to be called “Komachi Street”. There is a stone monument commemorating this legend in this street.

The Tale of Genji

by Hideaki Kato

Introduction

The Tale of Genji is a historical literary work. It was written in the middle of the Heian era in Japan (around 800 to 1400 AD) and is based in the city of Kyoto at that time. It was written over 1000 years ago so it is very old. It has been very popular for a long time.

Murasaki Shikibu

The Tale of Genji was written by Murasaki Shikibu who had talent as a writer and poet .Those talents were recognized by a number of people and she served the Emperor’s daughter. The Tale of Genji was written at that time. In those days, Heian nationalism was very influential. It was the Japanese original noble culture, and kana script in this way developed. Kana is the original and formal Japanese script and derives from the kanji script which was originally from China and is also used in Korea too. Therefore, kana script is used in The Tale of Genji.

The Story

The tale of Genji is an epic romance story, comprised of 54 volumes. Those volumes are separated from part 1 to part 3. In addition, this story is written in Japanese style, intermixed with waka poetry. There are many characters in this story and most of them are nobles of the Heian era. This story is written about their loves. So it has been written realistic of the aristocracy culture. The novel’s hero is Hikaru Genji who is a son of the emperor. He was very handsome and was in love with many girls in his lifetime. But he often had affairs with many girls and he has been explained the pain time. Uji is the main stage of the second half of the story and the next hero is the son of Hikaru Genji .Uji is very important in this story. There is a museum and there are sightseeing spots related to the Tale of Genji in Uji. We can realize the history there.

Popularity

The Tale of Genji is called the greatest masterpiece in the history of Japanese literature. However, not all people could read it when it was first written and it was mainly nobles who read it in the Middle Ages. Therefore other nations were not able to obtain it either. It was around the Edo era when print technology developed in Japan and the common people came to be able to have it in their hand. Many people were able to read it because Akiko Yosano translated it into the contemporary Japanese language.

Now The Tale of Genji is not only a literary work but represented in comics and movies. As a result, it is known by both young and old people. It was in about 1882 that The Tale of Genji was first translated into English and The Tale of Genji has now been translated into many foreign languages. Therefore, it is a work that is loved not only in Japan but around the world.

Sei Shounagon and The Pillow Book

February 12, 2012

by Wataru Meguro

Sei Shounagon is one of the Japanese poets who lived in the Heian period, which started in 794 A.D. and lasted until 1185 or 1192 A.D. She is known as the author of The Pillow Book, which is regarded as one of the most valuable historical sources on life in the Heian period as well as being a masterpiece of literature in Japan. Compared to the Tale of Genji by Murasaki Sikibu, The Pillow Book has a reputation for its jestful descriptions of the life of nobility during that period.

Shounagon was born the daughter of the poet, Kiyohara no Motonosuke, and given an education in literature. She married when she was 16, but divorced shortly after. At age of 28, she started to serve in the palace, where her literary talent was recognized by Fujiwara no Teishi, the empress of the time. There she worked both as a secretary and private tutor of Fujiwara no Teishi. In addition to that, she kept a journal about her observations palace life and its seasonal cultural practices. The collection of these journals eventually came to be called The Pillow Book at a later date in time.

The Pillow Book consists of about 200 short chapters. It has achieved a high reputation for its lively description and expressive words. The quotes from the book can be seen in almost all of the literature textbooks in Japanese high schools. Also, since it contains detailed descriptions of the life of Heian nobility, The Pillow Book is considered to be one of the most important historical records of that era. The most famous quote from the book is below.  

春はあけぼの
やうやう白くなりゆく山際、少しあかりて、紫だちたる雲の細
くたなびきたる –第一段

which means,

I think the most beautiful hour in the spring is early morning.
The sun is yet behind the peaks. Outside is getting light a little bit. And the thin cloud, which appears slightly purple, is hanging in the sky. – Episode 1

Summer Sunrise Over Jizoudake

Summer Sunrise Over Jizoudake

Sei Sounagon is famous for such writings that mention the beauty of nature and the four seasons, but the episodes about her daily life comprise a large portion of the book.

There are several things that I cannot stand to hear. For example, it’s the sound ofkoto, which is played without proper tuning, by somebody who is not good, but does not know that herself. Or it’s the voice of the people who are chatting loudly in the other rooms while we are hosting our guests. – Episode 92

Among these episodes, some of them tell us about the atmosphere of ancient Kyoto. For example, there is a chapter describing the time when Sei Shounagon visited Fushimi Inari shrine, which is located in the south east part of Kyoto city. She says,

I thought I should visit Fushimi-Inari and actually went to the shrine. But I was exhausted in the middle of the approach. When I was taking a rest and regretting my foolhardy attempt, an older lady in casual dress went passed me. That was impressing. -Episode 152

Sei Shonagon

Sei Shonagon

It seems like making a circuit around the Fushimi Inari shrine was a hard job for Heian people. It is the same for many of us living in modern times. Considering the fact Sei Shounagon had to walk all the way from the palace, which existed near what is now Marutamachi Station, there is no wonder she ran out of energy on her way. Through her words, we can see what the Heian people were thinking. Some people might find it similar with what they are thinking now. Sei Shonagon shows us a different world through her book, but also tells us that the way we feel is not too different from what people felt a thousand years ago.

Hanatouro

August 13, 2005

by Akiko Kagawa; Fumiaki Kai

What image do you have when you think of Kyoto? Is it the three big festivals such as the Aoi Festival, Jidai Festival, and Gion Festival or famous temples like Kiyomizu Temple or Kinkakuji Temple? All of them are part of the tradition of Kyoto. Now, a new history is being born. Why don’t you be a part of that history?

We would like to tell you about Hanatouro. This event started only three years ago in 2003. If you come to Kyoto during the middle of March, you can see beautiful lighting and flower lanes and other amazing sights. Because of these fantastic lights, you may never want to go home. (Actually, we helped with this event as volunteer staff.)

The Hanatouro is 4.6 kilometers long, and there are six kinds of lamps. At the entrance, we can see kinzoku-kougei., which are bigger than others. And we can see kyogoku-kougei-roji at only ishibori-koji (It’s a very short street near Nene’s Street). These two lamps are rare, so if you want to find them, please ask the staff where they are. Hanatouro stretches from Shoren-in Temple to Kiyomizu Temple, and it takes more than 30 minutes to walk it. If you want to see all of the lamps, maybe it will take more than one hour. However, I suggest you start around Gion and Maruyama Park, because those places are the main spots, and they also have very good access to public transport. When you feel tired or cold, you can relax at a rest stop, which provides seats and hot Japanese tea You can have a conversation with other people there, too.

This chart shows the famous temples and shrines around the area where Hanatouro is held.

Temple Picture Admission Fee Time Others
Chion-in Adult \500 Child \300 5:30 p.m~9:00 p.m It was built in 1954. One of the National Treasures.
Entoku-in Adult \500 Child \200 5:00 p.m~9:30 p.m Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s wife lived here.
Houkan \400 10:00 a.m~4:00 p.m It is a symbol of Higashiyama. It was constructed by Ashikaga Yoshimasa who was the sixth shougun in the Muromachi..
Shoren-in Adult \500 Child \300 6:30 p.m~9:30 p.m It is connected with the Imperial Family.
Yasaka
Shrine
Adult \500 Child \300 10:00 a.m~4:00 p.m This is one of the National Treasures. This is the center of Hnatouro
Koudai Adult \600 Child \250 5:00 p.m~9:30 p.m You can see bamboo being lit up. It is really fantastic. In this temple there are many historical sites like jizou (a stone statue).
Kiyomizu Adult \400 Child \200 6:30 p.m~9:30 p.m One of the most famous temples in Kyoto. You can enjoy beautiful scenery in each season. In spring cherry blossoms, in fall red leaves, and in winter a beautiful snowscape.

In addition, there are many events each day connected to Hanatouro. Usually, we can enjoy the dance of maiko, apprentice geisha who are trained to entertain men with their conversation, dancing and singing. (Actually, I worked at Marudaiji Park near Yasaka Shrine as a guide for both Japanese and foreigners.) There we can also enjoy many events such as:

Takeakari-Yugennokawa

During this event, we can enjoy lamps lit inside bamboo at Maruyama Park. There are about one thousand lit bamboo. Even on a rainy day, we can experience a beautiful scene.
Higashi-Daikokusochou, Washi (Kouka)
We can view marvelous washi named kouka. Washi is traditonal Japanese paper, made by combining man-made skill and nature.

Ikebana Promenade

This is an exhibition of ikebana, or flower arrangement. This ikebana is bigger than usual, and it is held in cooperation with the Kyoto Ikebana Association. Everyday, the ikebana is changed, so you can see new flower arrangements every time you go there.

Michinoza

Street performances like juggling and singing are held in front of the shidare cherry tree, which is very famous in Japan, and Kiyomizu Temple twice a day.
Daigakunomachi Kyoto, Dentounoakariten
There are many universities and students in Kyoto. In this event, four universities cooperate with one another: Kyoto City Art University, Ikenobou Junior College, Kyoto Saga Art University, and Kyoto Saga Art Junior College. Jinnrikisha, which can be seen at tourist sites in Kyoto, is a carriage pulled by a man. In this event, maiko ride in the jinrikisha which are pulled from Gion to Koudaiji Park and Jingu Street.

Hinayoujin Ohayashi-gumi

During this period, children walk from Shoren-in Temple to Kiyomizu Temple singing Warabeuta, which urge people to be careful with fire.
Hanatouro has many interesting events, not only to see it but also to feel it. There are no other events like this is Japan. Why don’t you come and be a part of hanatouro in Kyoto?

Yoshida Shrine

April 13, 2005

by Tomomi Nakamura; Yuka Edohata

“Tsurezurenaru mamani higurasi…”
Have you ever heard this famous beginning line from Japanese literature? It was written by Kenko Yoshida, a famous literary man in Japan and author of a collection of essays, “Tsurezure gusa.” Most Japanese read from his book in our Japanese language class when we are junior high school students. So we have taken this literature as the most historical literature from when we are children. He was born in 1283, at the end of the Kamakura era, about 720 years ago. However, we will continue to cherish his writing throughout the ages.

Now we would like to tell you about Yoshida Shrine. The reason why we mentioned Kenko Yoshida is that his family was connected to the shrine. So this shrine is very famous because of him. But there are plenty of other sights to see there.

First, Yoshida Shrine is famous for driving away evil spirits. It is said the first shrine of driving away evil spirits is here. And this is the only shrine where you can worship at all the Japanese shrines. Takemikazuchi, Iainushi, Amenokoyane, and a god of Hime are the main Gods at Yoshida Shrine.

Yoshida shrine is located on Mt. Yoshida in the eastern section of Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan a long time ago, so the people of the past thought they had to protect their city, and then they made Yoshida Shrine on this mountain.

There is one main shrine, Hongu, and ten other shrines in Yoshida Shrine. It is interesting to walk around and visit these shrines.

Setsubun Festival

Yoshida Shrine is famous for a grand festival called Setsubun held yearly from February 2nd to 4th. Setsubun is February 3rd, and is defined as the day before the beginning of spring and was New Year’s Eve according to the lunar calendar. It is a Japanese custom at Setsubun to scatter roasted soybeans while saying “Fukuwauchi, Oniwasoto” which means “Hapiness come in! Demons go out!” And then we eat the roasted soybeans, the same number as our age so we will not suffer from any illness during the year. Originally, soybeans symbolized “peace.” So we hope we can live peacefully, and we throw them with wishes for peace and happiness.

This festival has been held more than 500 years. Ever since Kengu Yoshida established Daigengu, one of the shrines in Yoshida Shrine, in the Muromachi era, this festival has been held every year. Daigengu is a national treasure now.

Schedule for Setsubun Festival

February 2nd open 8:00 (1)
Ekijin Festival
18:00

(2)Tsuina Ceremony

3rd open         8:00
23:00

(3)Karo Festival

4th open         9:30
13:00

(4)Drawing for Prizes


(1) Ekijin-Festival: Ekijin means “petrel,” a type of God who brings bad luck. This festival is held to wish that petrels will not be in a bad temper and will be calm in the mountains and rivers.

(2) Tsuina Ceremony: Tsuina means “to drive out evil spirits.” This festival has been held since the early Heian period (from 794 to 1192) following the ancient customs and exhibiting a Heian flavor.
(3) Karo Festival: Karo means “the place where you can make a fire.” The bonfire consists of piled timber, 5 meters in height. As the flames reach up to the sky, spring comes.

(4) Drawing for Prizes: During the festival, you can buy packets of Fuku Mame (roasted soybeans with a ticket for the drawing) for 200 yen each. You have a chance to win a prize from a variety of goods during the drawing.

There are about 1,000 stalls set up selling snacks, sweets, juice, and household items. Please try and enjoy the Japanese food sold there

Natsugoe Daifutsu Cceremony

Another ceremony is held on June 30th. Natsugoe means “the passing of summer,” and Daifutsu means “to wipe out.” On this day at the middle of the year, visitors pass through a large thatched ring built in front of the torii (the gateway at the entrance) three times in order to purify themselves and to wish that the rest of the year will be calm. About 1,000 visitors come to this ceremony every year. You will receive a small thatched ring for free as a talisman.

Access:

By Kyoto city bus No.17, 102 or 203 to the Kyoto University of Agriculture bus stop. By Kyoto city bus No.31, 65, 201 or 206 to the bus stop near the gate of Kyoto University. Or by Keihan train to Demachiyanagi station, and from there walk for about 15 minutes.
Open: 9:00~16:00
Admission Fee: Free