Iwatayama—Kyoto’s Monkey Mountain

October 16, 2017

By Kazauki Kume and Yoshiki Kawauchi

Arashiyama, in Kyoto, is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Japan. Not only Japanese but also many foreign tourists visit this part of Kyoto city every year. Arashiyama has many different kinds of sights and is famous for temples, shrines, a huge bamboo grove, autumn leaves and the Togetsukyo Bridge. Arashiyama is surrounded by nature and so visitors can enjoy different scenes as the seasons change. In the middle of such a sightseeing mecca, there is a monkey paradise called Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama.

 

Arashiyama Monkey Park

This monkey park was begun after Japanese monkeys (nihonzaru or the Japanese Macaque) living there were fed for research by Kyoto University in 1954. After that, the area became a park and was opened to the public in 1957. Currently, about 120 monkeys live in their wild state. However these monkeys have come to recognize that human beings do not pose a threat to them because there are strict rules for visitors. Therefore, even if humans come nearby, the monkeys are not afraid. But you must not gaze at their eyes or touch them because they recognize these actions as aggressive behavior and will retaliate. In their view, you are taking a threatening attitude toward them.

About Japanese monkeys

Japanese monkeys are well known for appearing in old folktales in Japan. In their natural habitat they live in groups of about a dozen individuals and their life expectancy is said to be around 30 years. Among monkeys, the Japanese Macaque is the northernmost most species. Since monkeys are usually distributed in tropical regions, Japanese monkeys, especially those living in the northern snowy areas of Japan, are called “snow monkeys.” They usually live in deep in the mountains. Therefore, researchers around the world are very surprised because they can see monkeys here.

Access, Fees and Information

The park entrance is about fifteen minutes from the Hankyu Arashiyama and Keifuku Arashiyama train stations. In addition you have to walk a mountain path for about ten minutes from there. You should wear good walking shoes or boots and not high heels. Sports shoes or sneakers are best. There are no free exclusive parking for visitors, but there are pay parking lots nearby the entrance.

The admission fee is 550 yen for each adult and 250 yes for children (children nder three years of age are free). There are a group rates for parties of thirty or more. If the group rates apply, the fee becomes 450 yen for adults and 200 yen for children. If you want to feed the monkeys, you have to pay 100 yen on the top of mountain. You can buy apples, pineapples and peanuts for 100 yen.

The Monkey Park is open throughout the year. However on days of heavy rain days or heavy snow it is closed. If you want to check if the park is open, you can call 075-872-0950. Business hours are 9:00~16:30 in summer (March 15~September 30) and 9:00~16:00 in winter (October 1~March 14). But sometime the monkeys return to the forest later in the day. So you should visit the park at an early time.

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

 

 

Japanese Traditional Fishing Method

by Hosono Natsumi and Haruka Onishi

Cormorant Fishing at Night

Ukai, or ‘cormorant fishing’ is a traditional fishing method using a cormorant bird to catch ayu (sweetfish). The season for cormorant fishing is from the middle of May to the middle of October of each year. Interestingly, ukai is often practiced at night. Fishermen make a fire on the fishing boat because ayu have a habit of gathering in lighted places in the dark. This allows the cormorants to catch the fish more easily. However ukai is never practiced on the night of a full moon, because the ayu do not gather around the light of the fire so well. The people who train and control the cormorants are called ‘cormorant fishermen’. The number of cormorants used at one time differ by region and fisherman, but the average number is five to ten. Cormorant fishermen have to know exactly when cormorants swallow the fish so that they can call the cormorants back to the boat and have them regurgitate the fish into a basket.

History of Cormorant Fishing

Cormorant fishing in Japan has a long history. It is unknown who began cormorant fishing. However, a history book published in 712 A.D. mentions cormorant fishing. This suggests that it has been practiced for at least 1300 years or more. Not only do Japan and China have a history of ukai in their cultures, but surprisingly ukai was practiced as a sport in Europe from the 16th to 17th centuries. The fish caught by cormorants lose consciousness in esophagus of the cormorant without injury. This keeps the fish fresh and uninjured, making them highly valued in the marketplace. However, due to its inefficiency in comparison with standard methods of fishing with nets and hooks, the popularity of cormorant fishing gradually decreased over time. Now, it is mostly done in Japan for the tourism industry.

Cormorants

Cormorant in Kyoto

Cormorants are highly intelligent birds and can understand hierarchical relationships. They are about 80 cm in length and have a sharp crooked bill. Therefore they are suited for fishing. Cormorant craftsmen catch wild cormorants.

Wild cormorants are well-trained. Cormorant fishermen take care of them every day for 2 or 3 years. In general, the longevity of a cormorant is from 4 to 5 years, but the cormorants used in Ukai are treated carefully. For this reason, their lifespan is from 15 to 20 years. Cormorant fishermen do their work with the birds around the noon. This practice is what is often shown to the public.

What is the life cormorant fishing like? In the morning, after checking the condition of their birds, the fishermen decide which cormorant take to fishing. In the afternoon, fishermen give the birds free time to relax in the water. The fishermen don’t feed them so much because hungry cormorants can catch their own fish quite well. In the evening, fishermen take chosen cormorants fishing. It is important not to tie their throat too strongly because it will decrease the birds’ motivation. On the other hand, if the rope is too loose, most of fish get swallowed completely. After fishing, fishermen feed and stroke their cormorants to thank them for their efforts.

Cormorant Fishermen

Most cormorant fishermen are born into their craft via long lines of cormorant fishermen. Still, they need a long training period to become fully qualified. First, they need a strong grip and skillful hand movements because the power of cormorants pulling the ropes is quite strong. In addition, it is difficult to make cormorants eject the fish from their throats. This is done by holding the birds’ throats in just the right way. Although cormorant fishing is done only in during the warmer months of the year, fishermen must still take daily care of their birds year round. They have to feed them, take care of their bills, and clean their cages with love.

Where to Observe Cormorant Fishing

The best ukai season is in the summer evenings. If you are interested in observing ukai, you should reserve an ukai tour in advance because it is very popular and crowded. Moreover the road to the spot is also crowded, so you ought to arrive as early as you can.

In Japan, there are about a dozen famous ukai locations, one of them being Kyoto. Kyoto actually has ukai areas, one of them is near the Uji River and the other is near Ooi Arashiyama. But it is the one near Arashiyama that is the most popular.

Getting to Arashiyama

From Kyoto station, take the JR Sagano Sanin Line (#3) to Saga Arasiyama station. It takes about 15 minutes and it costs \240. From the Randen station (Keifuku train), take the train to Arasiyama station, the last stop on that line. On the other hand, if you have One-Day Bus ticket, take the No. 28 bus, which takes about an hour from Kyoto station.

Reference

Ukai

Arashiyama

Autumn Leaves in Kyoto

by Hikari Yanagihara, Kazuki Nakamoto, and Haruna Masuzaki

Every year in the late autumn, the leaves in Kyoto turn beautiful colors of red, yellow, orange, and brown. This colorful display is called kouyou. At this time of the year, the leaves change with the drop in temperature from autumn to winter, showing the power of nature. Every year the leaves turn different colors. The beauty of kouyou is amazing in some years, but less spectacular in other years. For example, some leaves turn red, while other leaves turn yellow. The resulting color depends on a variety of conditions, such as the species of tree and the conditions in the environment, such as temperature, sunlight, and water. The most important factor is the temperature. When the change in temperature is larger, the leaves become more beautiful. In addition, the quality of color in kouyou can be effected by typhoons from the summer or early fall. Therefore some leaves turn red early, while others later in the season.

The leaves in Kyouto turn beautiful colors of many colors.

Kouyou

Kouyou Charm in Kyoto

Japanese kouyou is famous for its beauty, not only amongst Japanese people, but also foreigners. And one of the most famous places to see the beautiful kouyou in Japan is Kyoto. One reason is because there are so many temples and shrines with gardens in Kyoto. These places are an important part of traditional Japanese culture, so they are protected carefully and taken care of well. Therefore, people love to visit Kyoto in the fall to see the autumn colors and to experience Japanese tradition. When kouyou and Japanese tradition are combined in this way, it makes the experience of visitors much more special. This is something very hard to experience outside of Japan.

There are many places to view kouyou in Kyoto.

Japanese Kouyou

There are many places to view kouyou in Kyoto. For example, visitors can see the beautiful red leaves of trees at the famous Kiyomizu temple at night because they are lit up. It is a special experience. Also, they can enjoy riding a well-known kouyou viewing trolley in the well-known Arashiyama district on the west side of the city. The most appealing points of kouyou are both the variety of tree species, and the way the view is different each year. Much of the beauty of the leaves is difficult to capture in a photo, so you should come to Kyoto to see it with your own eyes.

Autumn Leaf Types

In Japan, there are two different words used to refer to the trees that produce the most beautiful colors in the fall: momiji and kaede, both of which refer to species of the maple tree family. Typically their leaf color is a deep red in the fall.

Momiji (Japanese maple tree)

There are many species of maple in Japan, but one particular species is native to Japan: the momiji (Acer palmatum). Japan is like a treasure house of momiji. In fact, the kanji for kouyou (紅葉) can be read as ‘momiji’ or ‘kouyou’, so momiji are symbolic of the kouyou experience in Japan.

There are many species of maple in Japan

Japanese Momiji

One of the best places to see momiji in the fall is in Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavillion). The best time to see momiji there is generally from mid-November through the first ten days of December, a peak window of about one week. That window depends entirely on environmental factors as discussed previously. If you go to see kouyou too early, they are still green. But the deep red color begins to emerge in November.

Kaede

Kaede is a more general term for ‘maple tree’ in Japanese language. It can refer to all maple trees, including the momiji. However, the term ‘momiji’ typically refers to maple leaves that are small, sharp, and 5-pointed. On the other hand, ‘kaede’ often is used to describe maple leaves that are larger and 3-pointed, like a frog’s hands. In fact, the origin of the word ‘kaede’ means ‘frog’s forlegs’.

Kaede is a more general term for maple tree.

Japanese Kaede

There are a lot of kaede – along with a few momiji – in the world famous Kiyomizu Temple complex. The scale is huge, with more than 1,000 trees. The best time of the year to see kaede at Kiyomizu Temple is from the middle ten days of November to the first ten days of December. What is special about this collection of maple tree is that visitors can view them at night because they are lit up from November 15th to December 8th. However, because Kiyomizu Temple is such a popular destination for tourists, it is very crowded during kouyou season.

Best Places to View Kouyou

There are many temples and shrines in Kyoto, but some in particular are better for viewing the autumn leaves than others. Below are 3 places we recommend for experiencing the beauty of kouyou.

Hosenin

Hosenin is a small temple complex outside of Kyoto in the hills north of the city. Because of its distance from the city center, not many people know about this temple. There is also lot of nature in Hosenin, making it a great place to see the momiji in the fall. The kouyou at Hosenin is really beautiful. In the garden, sightseers can see bright kouyou, and can view them while drinking powdered green tea and eating cakes. The fresh green bamboo of the garden and the contrast of the red autumn maples are very beautiful. Moreover, the place is lit up in the night, so it’s just too good to pass up. Visitors can see the green bamboo and kouyou, which seem to float in darkness. Also visitors can be healed by the sound of a water harp. Visitors find it hard to take their eyes off of the view of kouyou reflected on the surface of water in the pond. It is mesmerizing.

This is a small temple complex outside of Kyoto.

Housenin

Access:
From Kyoto station, you should the train bound for kokusaikaikan and get off kuramaguchi station.Then, walk about 6 minutes straight.

Enkoji

For tourists interested in taking photos, we recommend Enkouji Temple. Enkouji reflects the changes of each season well. The kouyou colors in the autumn are especially beautiful in the gardens of the temple. In fact, the gardens there match well with the outside scenery, so we can take beautiful photos. Many gardens of Kyoto are too crowded with people, so it is difficult to take good pictures. However, at Enkoji, monks keep certain areas of the garden clear of people, so visitors can take beautiful pictures. Moreover, the kouyou at Enkoji are varied, so people can see many different bright colors, making for a fantastic view. One of the gardens is named “Garden of Ten Cows” and had particularly bright kouyou. Also, Enkoji is known for its fallen kouyou. Even after the leaves have fallen onto the ground, it is still very beautiful. For this reason, many people visit Enkoji een after the kouyou have fallen.

For tourists interested in taking pictures.

Enkouji

Access:
From Kyoto station, you should take the bus of the five section.

Kiyomizudera

Kiyomizu-dera temple is perhaps one of the most famous temples in Kyoto and in Japan. It was originally constructed in 798 by Sakanoueno Tamuramaro, and is known for its large wooden balcony. The main hall of the Buddhist temple, which stands up upon a cliff in the hills east of the city, was rebuilt in 1633 by Iemitsu Tokugawa. From this location, visitors can get a magnificent view of the whole city of Kyoto. Kiyomizumeans “pure water.” The water at the temple is said to have the power to heal the soul and also to make the dreams come true of those who drink it. The kouyou at Kiyomizu-dera temple are very beautiful. Every year lots of people visit during the autumn season. The foilage is also lit up at night during the kouyou season, which is beautiful, like a dream. So, not only can visitors get a nice view of the city from the great balcony, but also we can see the temple surrounded by kouyou in full color from a different view. It is a scene right out of a painting.

This is perhaps one of the most famous temple in Kyoto.

Kiyomizu temple

Access:
From Kyoto station, you should take the No,206 city buses bound for higashi-dori-kitaoji bus terminal.

Kamogawa River Wildlife

by Koudai Kobayashi & Akari Mihashi

KamogawaThe Kamogawa River is the fourth longest river in Kyoto, with a length of 31 km. The source of the Kamogawa is Sajikigadake, which is located in the northern part of Kyoto prefecture. The water from the Kamogawa is mostly used for agriculture. In addition, there are five famous bridges crossing the Kamogawa, lots of beautiful views, and many kinds of animals living there.  Furthermore, if you stroll along the banks of the Kamogawa, you can feel the spirit of traditional Japan, not only in its scenery, but also in its atmosphere.

Animals of the Kamogawa

Many kinds of animals inhabit the Kamogawa River. There are not only fish, birds, but also, surprisingly, mammals. For example, from any bridge over the water, you can see various types of fish swimming below, such as ayu and the Japaense Catfish (zacco platypus). You can also see birds almost anywhere along the river. In addition, there are several species of rare wildlife that you seldom see in Kamogawa River. Now, we will introduce some rare wild animals.

Fish

There are many fish in Kamogawa River, for example, the Pale Chub (zacco platypus) the Japanese Catfish. The adult of the Pale Chub grows to about 15 cm in length. And on the spawning male, you can see a beautiful design along the length of their bodies. The female is slightly smaller, and the color of their bodies is silver and silver-white. There are many Pale Chub in the Kamogawa, so you can see schools of them in the shallows. In the winter, Pale Chub are targeted by fishermen for their tasty meat, which is usually grilled. It is very delicious. However, we recommend that you just watch them and enjoy the nature.

In case of the Japanese catfish, the length of their body ranges around 40 cm.  They are good eaters, so they gobble up any food you give them.  Japanese catfish can’t be usually seen, so you should try to observe them when you have an opportunity to go to the Kamogawa.

Pale Chub (zacco platypus)

Zacco playpus

Japanese Catfish (Silurus asotus)

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Birds

There are also many fish in Kamogawa River, for example, the Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and the Grey-headed Lapwing (Venellus cinereus). The Great Cormorant is a bird, which has recently increased in number. The adult of Phalacrocorax carbo grows to about 80 to 85 cm in length, and their wing span is about 31 to 34 cm. The female is slightly smaller, but it’s hard to make out the difference. It look blacks on the surface, but basically its color is emerald green.

The Grey-headed Lapwing is as big as a pigeon and it has long feet. The color of its head is a mottled grey and their beak is bark-colored. When they are flapping, we can see the beautiful contrast of black and white. In Japan, they make their habitat around the Kinki area.

The Great Cormorant
Phalacrocorax
The Grey-headed Lapwing
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The Giant Salamander

Giant salamanders can be seen in the Kamogawa sometimes. The length of their body ranges from 50 to 60 cm. They have many bumps on their head and slimy skin. When they are irritated, they excrete a sticky liquid, which has a peculiar smell. They appear in the upper stream of the Kamogawa and are registered as a nationally protected species. Originally, giant salamanders didn’t exist in this river. The reason why they inhabit the river now is because someone introduced giant salamanders from China. Originally they were brought over for food, but now they are getting wilder. Moreover, the genetic crossing between Japanese giant salamanders and their Chinese counterparts has become a big problem. So in the Kamogawa, there are now three kinds of giant salamander: those indigenous to Japan, those that came from China, and genetic crosses between the two.

However, now almost all giant salamanders are mixed breeds, because their genes are strong. According to a recent survey, of 11 recently captured giant salamanders, 13% were of Chinese origin, while 44% were mixed breeds. So the problem is the decreasing the number of giant salamanders of purely Japanese origin. Japanese giant salamanders are conserved and displayed in the Kyoto aquarium, and there you can experience the true character of a giant salamander.

Giant salamander

Black-headed gull

Along the Kamogawa you can find black-headed gulls during certain times of the year. The length of their body is around 40 cm, while their maximum wind span reaches 100 cm.  They have a red beak and red feet. Interestingly, their heads change to a blackish brown color when summer comes. However, their heads turn white when winter comes. That’s their peculiar characteristic. Black-headed gulls arrive to the Kamogawa at the end of October, and they stay to the beginning of May. They are famous as seasonal tradition. Usually we can’t see black-headed gulls, but you occasionally see them when winter comes. But long ago, we could only see at most 10 black-headed gulls along the Kamogawa River. Nowadays, we can see over 5,000 black-headed gulls. That’s a rapid increase. The food shortage in the winter is a big threat for migratory birds. However, because of urbanization the birds are now fed in the winter by Kyoto residents. That’s why black-headed gulls have increased along the Kamogawa River recently.

Black-haded gull

Nutria

Nutria are similar to beavers. The difference between nutria and beavers is the size of the tail. Nutria’s tail is rounder and not as flat as beaver tail. In fact, nutria seem to be more like big rats than beavers. The length of their body is around 80 cm. They are mammals, who are good at swimming. They can hold their breath under water for over 5 minutes. They have orange-colored front teeth and small ears. That’s how you can distinguish between a nutria, beaver, and muskrat. Recently, the number of nutria has been increasing. It is in fact an invasive species. So since 2014, in a strategy of capturing nutrias had started in earnest.

nutria

Recommendations

As you can see, in addition to its beautiful views, there are also different types of wildlife inhabiting the Kamogawa River. When you come to Kyoto, you will be satisfied with seeing just the Kamogawa River itself. But we recommend that you try to observe some of its rare birds, mammals, and other nationally protected species with your own eyes. That would be a fantastic experience, and one that you will enjoy for sure. Come to see what kind of animals inhabit the Kamogawa River by all means.

Sources
http://gw-daisen-hiruzen.com/tt/hanzaki/han2.htm
http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/kamogawa/1232411453216.html
http://kasenseitai.nilim.go.jp/index.php/%E3%83%A6%E3%83%AA%E3%82%AB%E3%83%A2%E3%83%A1
http://www.kc-center.co.jp/suishitsu/column/kamogawa/

The Kamogawa Delta

By Mao Osako and Yuina Terasaki

Most people think of Kyoto as a place to see temples, shrines, and geisha. However, Kyoto is more than that. In this article, we will introduce a place that many tourists don’t know about: the Kamogawa Delta. After describing its history, we will tell you how to enjoy it. We hope that after reading about it, you will want to visit it yourself.

History of the Kamogawa Delta

Kamogawa Delta form is triangle.

The Kamogawa Delta is in the shape of a triangle (source).

 

The Kamogawa Delta is a part of the Kamo River, the main river in Kyoto that runs from the north to the south, right through the center of the city. From its source in the mountains north of the city, it runs for 31 km to the south, where it merges with the Katsura River in Fushimi Ward. The Kamogawa Delta is located at a place called Demachiyanagi, where the Takano River meets the Kamo River in their journey southward.

The word ‘delta’ means ‘triangulation point’, and indeed a triangular shaped piece of land between the two rivers is the result of many centuries of water flow. The delta was formed gradually by sand carried from the upper stream of the river being deposited where the two rivers merged. Over time, the deposited sand got hard and became solid ground.

The Kamogawa Delta is home to the forest of Tadasu of the famous Shimogamo Shrine. This place is sometimes called the ‘tip of a blade’ because the Y-shaped resulting from the two merging rivers is similar to the point of a sword. Historically, the river north of the delta was written with different kanji (賀茂川), whose name derived from the Kamo Clan, whose home was in mouth of the valley in the north, leading into the city in ancient times. Meanwhile, the southern portion was written (鴨川), meaning ‘wild duck river’. Both kanji compounds are pronounced in exactly the same way.

The Kamogawa Delta Today

As you may know, Kamo River is a really famous landmark in Kyoto. However not only the river, but also the Kamogawa Delta is a popular place. Local students and residents often use it as a place of rest and relaxation. On the weekends, they enjoy playing musical instruments, practicing sports, or doing something what they want.

Another common name for the Kamogawa Delta is simply, Demachiyanagi.  It is located next to two train stations, one on the Eizan Densha line and the other on the Keihan line. Both are named, Demachiyanagi. From there, you can easily find the triangular shaped delta just a few meters to the west.

One of the most interesting things you can do at the Kamogawa Delta is walk across the river on stepping stones. Even more intriguing is that the stepping stones have differing levels of difficulty, with some stones being more challenging than others. So if you are confident in your sense of balance, you should try stepping on the more difficult ones. If not, then it would be wise to stick with the easy ones. Also, you will find some of the stones in the shape of turtle, if you look closely.

Kamogawa Delta have stepping stone. There are famous some movies and animations.

Kamogawa Delta have stepping stone. There are famous some movies and animations (source).

 

In addition to being filming location for the occasional scene in a Japanese movie, the Kamogawa Delta is also an active spot for visitors to the annual Daimonji festival in Kyoto each summer. On August 16th, thousands flock to the delta to get a good view of the bonfires set into the mountains surrounding the city, all in the shape of a meaningful Japanese kanji. The name of the festival is the Great Bonfire Event on Five Mountains in Kyoto (五山の送り火). From the Kamogawa Delta, you can get an unforgettable view of several of the fires. That is why the Kamogawa Delta is so crowded on the 16th of August each year.

If you find yourself at the Kamogawa Delta, don’t forget to visit the nearby Shimogamo Shrine which is famous throughout Japan. It is a shine built on the delta itself, just north of the confluence of the two rivers. The Shimogamo Shrine is famous as a place that can help you realize your dreams and wishes. The shrine even appears in The Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book, both famous classical novels written over 1,000 years ago.

Because Kyoto’s land slopes downward from the north to the south, the best way of walking in Kyoto is to start at the north and make your way south. Along the way, you can enjoy memorable seasonal scenery as you walk along Kamo River. When you reach the Kamogawa Delta, you can stop and enjoy the scene. Now you can understand why the Kamogawa Delta is so wonderful. Why don’t you visit this unique area during your visit to Kyoto?

Access

By train: Get off at Dematiyanagi station of Keihan and go to Exit 3

By bus: Get off at Kawaramachi imadegawa. You must ride No.3, 4 or 102 .

Nishikyogokusogo Athletic Park

Nishikyogokusogo Athletic Park

Ikki Kato, Sota Mori & Makoto Hachiya

The Park

This park is located in Ukyo-ku in Kyoto. It is roughly 180,000 square meters in size, and there are various buildings related to athletics: an athletic field also used as a football field, Wakasa stadium, a sub-athletic field, Kyoto Aqua Arena, and the Kyoto City Gymnasium. The athletic field is also used as a football field and the sub-athletic field is used for track and field, soccer, rugby, and American football. There are many competitions held here, including the home games of Kyoto Sanga Soccer team, Japan rugby top league games, Kansai student’s American football league games, and so on. However Wakasa stadium is only used for baseball. The Kyoto City Gymnasium is used for tennis, table tennis, badminton, basketball, and futsal. We can take classes at this gym, which includes tennis, table tennis, badminton, dance, etc. Kyoto Aqua Arena has two purposes, and the use of this facility changes by the season. It is used as a swimming pool in the summer, but in the winter, the main pool and jumping pool are converted into ice skating rinks. The main pool also meets the criteria for staging world level swimming events. In addition, there is an archery field range in a park called Green Hill, and this is free to use. You can see many people running or training here, but there are also many people walking with a dog or strolling, so the park is a place of recreation and relaxation for citizens. Nishikyogokusogo athletic park has actually been designated as a refuge in case of natural disasters, and can accommodate 36,000 people. The park was designed as an athletic park in 1930 to celebrate the marriage of the Showa Emperor. At present, it helps citizens lead a healthy life and makes the Nishikyogoku area very lively. Do you want to visit now?

The Main Stadium (above and right) and Wakasa Stadium (below)

IMG_1201 The Main Stadium (above and right) and Wakasa Stadium (below)

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Actions of the park for the environment

According to the Kyoto-shi Physical Education Association (managers of the Nishikyogoku General Exercise Park), many actions for the good of the environment are carried out in the facilities of the park. I will introduce some of the actions carried out here:

The park installed a box called “Eco station” from 2009 to collect PET bottle caps, paper packs, dry cell batteries, and tennis balls. 430 plastic bottle caps are worth 10 yen, and the caps money is donated to buy polio vaccine, which costs 20 yen for one dose. 9,550,111 caps have been collected between February, 2009 and May, 2014, raising enough money for 1,166 polio vaccine doses.

The park also collects used tennis balls and sends them to schools, where they are set on the legs of desks and chairs to reduce noise. 75,680 tennis balls have been sent to facilities such as schools between September, 2008 and May, 2014.

6,223 paper packs, such as milk cartons, have been collected between August, 2009 and May, 2014, and this is the equivalent in recycling terms to 1,037 rolls of toilet paper.

In addition to this, the park installed a box to collect used small consumer electronic items and this contributes to the recycling of rare metals.

A great and rare thing I also found when I walked in the park was a box to collect dog poo with a plastic bag.

All these ideas really help the users of the park and make the facilities more comfortable. It also makes sure the users’ cooperation is vital to keep the park a happy and fun place.

Dog poo collection box

Dog poo collection box

Kyoto Sanga

Nishikyogoku sports park can be used for many kinds of sports such as baseball, track-and-field, and of course, soccer. A professional Japanese soccer team named “Kyoto Sanga” uses a facility here as its home stadium.

Kyoto Sanga is a team now in the Japanese professional soccer league. They are the oldest team in existence since the Japanese professional soccer league was organized. The club was founded in 1922, but at first the name was different. The club’s former name was Kyoto Shikou Soccer Club, and Shikou meant purple light. That’s why the color of their uniform is purple. In 1993 they changed the name to Kyoto Purple Sanga after a popular vote. The word purple comes from Shikou, and Sanga is from Sanskrit (in Sanskrit Sanga is Samgha) and means buddy. Sanga also means rivers and mountains in Japanese. Especially in Kyoto, there are some clean rivers and a lot of beautiful mountains, which represents Japanese nature.

Kyoto Sanga is now fighting for the people of Kyoto and for the people who cheer them on. Their original mascots, Pasa-kun and Kotono-chan also cheer for them. They are not purple though, but red. You may think, why are they red? The answer is the color red stands for passion and the ability to take action. This is based on the actual spirit of the team and their motto, “Never give up to win”. Of course their staff and players still wear the purple uniform. Also a very famous Japanese company is supporting them, because Nintendo is their sponsor. Many people love the team, Kyoto Sanga, and they are trying their best to respond to their fans’ hopes and dreams.

Access

By bus

From Kyoto Station C5 bus terminal: Take Kyoto Public Bus No.73 to “Nishikyougoku-sougou-undou-kouen-mae”. Approximately five minutes’ walk from the bus stop.

From Uzumasa Tenjin-gawa bus terminal: Take Kyoto Public Bus No.80 to “Nishikyougoku-sougou-undou-kouen-mae”. Approximately five minutes’ walk from the bus stop.

From Shijo-Kawaramachi No.9 bus stop: Take Kyoto Public Bus No.32 to “Nishikyougoku-sougou-undou-kouen-mae”. Approximately five minutes’ walk from the bus stop.

From Shijo-Kawaramachi No.3 bus stop: Take Kyoto Public Bus No.80 to “Nishikyougoku-sougou-undou-kouen-mae”. Approximately five minutes’ walk from the bus stop.

By Train

Take the Hankyu Railway Kyoto Line to “Nishikyougoku” station. Approximately 5 minutes’ walk from “Nishikyougoku” station

Takaragaike Park

 

Marino Takeuchi & Nao Mochizuki

 The History of Takaragaike and the Park

Takaragaike is a small artificial lake made in the middle of the Edo period, and its original purpose was for drawing water into the surrounding fields. At first, it was only a small pond, created by damming spring water, but it is said to have become as large as its present size by the end of the Edo period. During World War II, a plan for the development of Takaragaike Park was made. The park area was originally planned to be a Bouku Ryokuchi, or an evacuation area, for people to avoid air raids and to prevent fire from spreading into urban areas. In 1958, bicycle racing, which had been held at the Kyoto Bicycle Racing Track here, was discontinued and instead the playground “Paradise for Children” (Kodomo no Rakuen) was built on the site. In 1961, the construction of the Kyoto International Conference Center was decided upon, and after that many facilities such as the Forest of Rest and Relaxation (Ikoi no Mori), the Forest of Wild Birds (Yachou no Mori) and the Forest of Cherry Blossoms (Sakura no Mori) were introduced. Today, the grounds including these facilities and the lake is called Takaragaike Park, and covers an area of 62.7 hectares.

The Lake

The Lake

Facilities in the park

The “Paradise for Children” playground (Kodomo no Rakuen) is a place which is surrounded by a thickly wooded area and is a special place for children. There are three areas for youngsters here:  the playground which is set up with playground equipment and a sandbox, a large open space with grass and a rest area, and an experience area, where people can touch a lot of living things and plants. This park can only be used by young children and their parents, and people who are more than junior high school student age (except children’s parents) may not enter.  The Forest of Rest and Relaxation (Ikoi no Mori) is a place where one can observe wild birds and was formerly the home for a racing stable exclusively for the use of the Heian cavalry.  The stables of the Kyoto Prefectural Police Department are here now, and you can see horses which are used for patroling and traffic safety campaigns. There is also an experience of riding the horses on offer to children up to nine years old.

Takaragaike    

This lake is surrounded by a lot of nature even though it is inside the environs of Kyoto city. In the lake, there are creatures such as turtles, carp, frogs and birds. Various plants border the water’s edge, and you can enjoy seasonable scenes whenever you go. Especially in spring, many people come here to view the cherry blossoms and the park becomes quite crowded. There is a promenade around the lake, and many people like walking, jogging and running marathons. You can rent a rowing boat or pedal boat, and buy food to feed the fish at the shop near the lakeside.

Koi carp

Koi carp

The Promenade

The promenade

 Surrounding area

Located on the edge of the park are some famous buildings such as the Grand Prince Hotel Kyoto and the Kyoto International Conference Center where the Kyoto Protocol was signed. There are also a lot of eating places, such as cafés, restaurants and so on.

Access to Takaragaike park

The closest station is Kokusaikaikan Subway Station, on the Kyoto City Karasuma subway line, which is located right outside the north entrance to the park. It is also about 10 – 15 minutes north on foot from Matsugasaki station on the same subway line.

Ohara

 

Akiho Kamijo and Shiho Iwasaki

Ohara Area

The Ohara area of Kyoto is about one hour by bus from Kyoto Station. It lies in the western foothills of Mount Hiei, one of the holiest mountains in Japan.There are a number of famous temples here, and the scenery changes by the season. In the spring, the cherry blossoms are incredible, and in the autumn the leaves offer a riot of vivid color. We will now introduce a few of the most interesting aspects for tourists to see and discover.

Sanzen-in

Sanzen-in

Sanzen-in

Sanzen-in, a temple of the Tendai Buddhist sect, is located here, and is famous for its elegant beauty and peaceful atmosphere. It was founded by a very famous monk called Saicho, and is a Monzeki temple, which means it was connected to the Japanese royal family. In the temple grounds, there are three distinct and important buildings; Ojo Gokurakuin, Shinden and Kyakuden.

The Ojo Gokurakuin Hall

The Ojo Gokurakuin Hall was first built at the end of the 10th century and is the oldest building in Sanzen-in. It was rebuilt in the 12th century, however, and this is the structure you can see today. The most important treasure of Sanzen-in is housed here, and this is the statue of Amida Buddha. There are also two other very important statues of gods that accompany Amida in the hall, and they are Seishi and Kannon.

The Shinden Hall

This is the main hall at Sanzen-in, and there is also another statue of Amida Buddha here. There are also two more statues to the left and right of him, and these are of Kannon and Fudo Myo. Outside of this hall is a spectacular moss garden, with Ojo Gokurakuin in the center.

The Kyakuden Hall

Built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, this is really a guest hall for receiving visitors, and is the first main building you go through when entering the temple. There are some beautiful examples of Japanese artwork and calligraphy on hand, especially the Fusumae, which are paintings or calligraphy on sliding doors. It is also possible to view the impressive Shuheiken Garden from here, which features a rather lovely pond.

 

Other Temples

momiji

Two of the many other interesting temples in the Ohara area, are Jikko-in and Shorin-in. Jikko-in is actually a sub-temple of Shorin-in, and is most notable for its gardens. These gardens feature elegantly shaped ponds, and have some very rare trees and plants in them, including Fudan-zakura, an exquisite variety of cherry blossom. Shorin-in is also known as Motoji Temple, and has a strong connection to traditional Japanese music. There are many historical documents and artifacts related to this temple, but the most valuable treasure here is probably the Bonsho, or Buddhist temple bell, which hails from the Fujihara era and is recognized as an Important Japanese Cultural Property.

Ajisai Matsuri (Hydrangea Festival)

ajisai

The Ajisai Matsuri, or Hydrangea Festival, is held annually at Sanzen-in from mid-June to mid-July. More than 3,000 blooms are on display each year, and there are many varieties in a host of different colors. Although this event takes place at the height of the rainy season, it is worth the trip from Kyoto City, as the flowers can look even more impressive in a light rain or drizzle. There is an entrance fee to the gardens, but no reservation is required.

Oharame

Oharame was the name given to the women of Ohara who used to sell their farm products in the surrounding areas, and Kyoto City, using a rather unique method of delivery. Basically, they would carry everything on their heads, from firewood to flowers to vegetables. This custom lasted for about 800 years, from the Kamakura Period to the early Showa Period. It was not unusual for these women to walk over 20 kilometers in a day often with loads of between 30 and 50 kilos. They were most distinctive, however, for the dark blue kimono they wore, with the sleeves tied up with ‘tasuki’, a special kind of string.

Ohara is a small, but very interesting hamlet just outside a major city, and with all the hidden delights on offer, is a really cool place to visit for a day, or even overnight. There are several places where you can stay here, and they have hot spring baths! Please take the time to come and enjoy Ohara.

Access

From Kokusaikaikan Station on the Karasuma Subway Line – Take the Kyoto Bus No 19 to Ohara (approx. 20 minutes)

From Kyoto Station – Take Kyoto Bus No 17 to Ohara (approx. 60 minutes)

 

 

A Visit to Hiei

by Airi Kinoshita

About 1200 years ago, when Emperor Kammu established Heian-kyō (the former name of Kyoto city) as the capital of Japan, Mt.Hiei in the northeast of the city was regarded as the only defect in the city‘s wealth of natural advantages. No one would come near to the wild mountain as it was rumored that demons and evil spirits were hanging out there, so Emperor Kammu ordered the building of Enryakuji temple to appease or expel these demons and strengthen Kyoto’s defenses. Northeast is believed to be an unlucky direction in the Shinto religion, which accounts for why people often built temples or shrines in the northeast to create barriers against anything evil.

Now, Mt.Hiei is no longer the horrible place that troubled Emperor Kammu so much, rather, it has become a popular tourist spot. Many hotels and restaurants have been built in neighboring areas, and there is a cable car and a ropeway service also available. You will find many options open to you on your visit, but I would like to introduce two that I think are quite special.

The Garden Museum


The first spot is The Garden Museum on Hiei. The museum grounds are designed using the artworks of French and Dutch impressionists like Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh for inspiration. Visitors will be welcomed by about 100,000 flowers of 1400 varieties including roses, lilacs, water lilies, daffodils and so on. One of the most popular gardens is the Water Lilies Garden, which was inspired by the artwork of Monet. Monet admired Japanese sense of beauty so much that he made a great Japanese style garden, including a lake with floating water lilies, around his residence, and drew several pictures of it. I am sure you will understand why this type of garden fascinated Monet so much when you visit here. Afterwards, when you got tired of walking, you can always stop in at Café de Paris and enjoy a drink from their selection of herb teas. Moreover, Maison de Fleur, a souvenir shop in the museum, not only sells French general goods or aroma oils but also provides workshops on how to make original herb soaps.

The Cafe de Paris


The second spot I feel is most worthy is Hiei-zan Enryakuji. I have already introduced the origins of the temple, but now it has become a far more visitor-friendly place. The temple welcomes visitors who lead busy lives and are in need of some peace and quiet, and allows them to experience zazen or shakyo. Zazen is a style of meditation done in a cross-legged position, and shakyo is the transcribing of sutras. Both require you to put all other thoughts out of your mind and concentrate on self-identification. In the clean, fresh air and nature of Mt.Hiei, you will be able to forget all that troubles you in daily life and feel as if you are reborn.

Enryakuji Temple

Hiei autumn colours