A Visit to Hiei

December 8, 2013

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

Kyoto Prefectural Botanical Gardens

by Namiho Nakazawa

The Kyoto Botanical Gardens are located directly north of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, on the corner of Kamogawa and Kitayama streets.  The peaks of the Kitayama mountain range can be seen to the north of the gardens, with the Kamogawa river running on their western side.  Recently, these gardens have become quite the focus of attention in Kyoto, as there is a nice residential quarter and a good number of fashionable shops on Kitayama Street where the main entrance is located.

↓This is the main entrance to Kyoto Botanical Gardens.

main entrance to the botanical gardens



Kyoto Prefectural Botanical Gardens were originally intended to be opened as part of an exhibition to commemorate the coronation of Emperor Taisho in 1913.  Omori Shoichi was the governor of Kyoto Prefecture at the time, and he acquired the site in order to hold the Expo there.  However, he was forced to change his plans halfway through.  He finally managed to establish the gardens after receiving a donation from a member of the aristocratic Mitsui family, Mitsui Hachiroemon.  In 1917, work started on the botanical gardens, and following six years of commitment, they were eventually opened to the public in 1924.

the fountain in the botanical gardens


More Details

The gardens cover approximately 240,000 square meters in total area and are home to a collection of about 12,000 types of plants, flowers, shrubs and trees.  There is a vast lawn area here, plus a lot of cherry trees, a rose garden and the forest plant ecological park of Japan.  In April 1992, the huge greenhouse was opened, and is truly the pride and joy of these botanical gardens.

the huge greenhouse

These gardens provide a great place of recreation and relaxation for people living in Kyoto, and they help to raise the general education of the people through appreciation of the plants here.  There is also a real emphasis on research into botany.  The greenhouse also displays an image that is not unlike that of another great Kyoto treasure, Kinkakuji Temple, which is a temple that seemingly floats on a pond.  The total floor area of the conservatory is about 4,612 square meters and rises to a height of 14.8 meters at its tallest point.  The interior consists of nine zones, and the visitor can proceed along a route of up to 460 meters with no steps to negotiate.  The plant exhibits number approx. 25,000 in total, and are representative of around 4,500 species.

a lotus pond in the gardens

Opening Times
Open 9:00 am  –  Closed 5:00 pm (last entrance 4:00 pm)

Greenhouse Opening Times
Open 10:00 am –  Closed 4:00 pm (last entrance 3:30 pm)

Days Closed
December 28 to January 4

Entrance Fees
・ Adults  =  200 yen
・ High school students  =  150 yen
・ Elementary and Junior High School students  =  Free

Greenhouse entrance fee
・ Adults  =  200 yen
・ High school students  =  150 yen
*  People over 60 and the registered disabled  =  Free

There are also group discount fees and multiple-entry passes available


By Subway
Kitayama Subway Station (for the main entrance)
Kitaoji Subway Station, and a 10-minute walk east (for the south entrance)

By Bus
Bus No.1 from Demachiyanagi Keihan Station
From Kyoto sation take the Kyoto Bus to the main entrance (the stop name is “shokobutsuenmae”)

One Day in Arashiyama

A Midsummer Walk in the Serene

 Mountains of Northern Kyoto

by Yuka Yamazaki

Look at around you. What do you see? Through the window might be towering skyscrapers and noisy roads congested with traffic. Your coworkers might be clearing those last stacks of files and shutting down their computers as they get ready to vacate the office, or perhaps a group of screaming, hyperactive kids are playing among a jungle of toys strewn across your living room floor.

Had enough? I know just what you need: a peaceful retreat where you can relax, breathe the fresh air and feel at ease in your mind.

Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan, is a very popular tourist destination, and therefore might not seem to be a place where one can easily relax and escape the hectic urban lifestyle, but I will show you that there is another way to enjoy this beautiful scenic location.

Now, let us begin our day-long midsummer walk in Arashiyama.

We disembark at Hankyu Arashiyama Station and make our way to Togetsu-kyo Bridge, about 10 minutes away. Togetsu-kyo in Japanese means ‘Moon Crossing Bridge’, and was named such by the Emperor Kameyama in the 13th century. It is a famous sightseeing spot in Kyoto, so while the surrounding landscape might be lovely, the sight of so many tourists and vendors on and around the bridge makes you feel queasy. It’s time to take a different route. So, let’s cross the Togetsu-kyo bridge.

Let us follow the river. As you progress farther down the winding path, there are fewer and fewer people around. What a relief! Sit by the bank and enjoy the lush greenery reflected in the river. Perhaps you will catch sight of a crane taking flight.

Continue down the path and eventually you will come across some small stone stairs leading up to Kameyama Mountain. There are some great views from up here. Take a deep breath and savor the scent of fresh, new leaves.

Walk further up the mountain…
Keep going…

…Stop! You feel the presence of someone, something…


You realize that they are welcoming you with spotlights, dancing on the stony path at your feet.

By the time the light show has ended, you have reached the summit of the mountain and another performance awaits you: this time it is the artistic vocals of the hototogisu, the Japanese cuckoo. Time to take a seat on one of the benches. Peer up at the vast expanse of blue sky, down at the boats silently floating along the Hozugawa River from which you have come, and chill to the sweet background music.

Wait a minute! You have noticed something. Is that a little village you see, on the other side of the river?  Let’s check it out. Now this feels more like an adventure.

Let’s go back down the mountain. Can you remember the way you came?

Let’s hope so! Don’t forget to say farewell to the company you have encountered on your stroll.

Head back towards the Togetsu-kyo bridge and cross it. There will be another smaller bridge, named Togetsu-kyo ko-bashi, and next to it a small lane next to that bridge which runs parallel to the river. This dark, mysterious path that runs deep into the mountain entices you. Where does it lead?: Arashiyama Mountain, after which this touristic region takes its name.

You stumble across a strange, handwritten sign with an arrow pointing left. If you can read Japanese, you will know that it says that there is a special viewing point nearby.

According to the sign, the person or group who wrote it goes by the name “Daihikaku.” Who is that, I wonder?

You continue down the lane in the direction of where the sign is directing you and wonder about that strange sign you saw for a while, but very soon you will soon forget about it as you a greeted by beautiful little cascades streaming out from the mountainside.

You continue your leisurely walk down the lane deep into the mountain, taking in the scenery and feeling the light breeze on your face.

This is a small urban adventure in relatively unexplored areas of Arashiyama that you can experience with little effort and, not to mention, courage. All you need is a pair of comfortable shoes and a bit of curiosity to venture off the beaten track!

You might say, “But Yuka, there are no temples or shrines on this walk, and I am in Japan after all!” Well, do you remember that sign you passed earlier? That is an important clue: you have to find out where it leads to on your own!
If you are tired with your daily life, you will certainly appreciate Arashiyama. Enjoy!

How to get there

There are several ways to get to Arashiyama from Kyoto Station.

①    By Train

Take JR Sagano line (also known as JR Sanin line) to Saga-Arashiyama Station (15 minutes). Togetsu-kyo Bridge is a 10 minute walk away.

②    By bus

Take the bus No. 28 to Tenryu-ji Temple. This temple is located in the center of Arashiyama district, and Togetsu-kyo Bridge is close by. However, the journey takes much longer than by train and you may also get stuck in traffic.

③    By bicycle

You can also access Arashiyama by bicycle. There are many shops where you can rent bicycles in Kyoto.

Cherry Blossoms

by Rina Hashiguchi

Cherry blossoms are special flowers for Japanese people and a symbol of spring in Japan. From now, I will introduce cherry blossoms and some places you can see beautiful cherry blossoms in Kyoto.

Why do Japanese people love cherry trees?

This is because ancient people thought that the god of agriculture dwelt in the cherry tree. In addition, the flowering of cherry blossoms was a guide for people to start planting rice. For that reason, people were grateful for the cherry tree and loved it. Another reason is that Japanese people love its evanescent life. Cherry blossoms soon fall, so they think that the life of cherry blossoms resembles the life of a human. Also, cherry blossoms were a symbol of the way of the samurai because they had to die gracefully for their master. Japanese people  love its beauty.

What is ‘Ohanami’?

‘Ohanami’is to enjoy viewing cherry blossoms while drinking and eating with our family, friends, and colleagues under the trees. During the Heian era (794-1185), Ohanami was only observed by the emperor and the nobility. From the Edo era(1603-1868), ordinary people were allowed to take part and people have enjoyed Ohanami every year since then. Generally, people bring their own lunch box and dumplings that have three colors: pink, white and green. The pink represents cherry blossoms that symbolize the coming spring; the white represents snow that symbolizes  the remaining winter; and the green represents a mugwort that symbolizes an omen of summer.  Why don’t you try ‘Ohanami’ next spring?

Beautiful cherry blossoms in Kyoto

There are a lot of places you can enjoy viewing beautiful cherry blossoms in Kyoto. I’ll introduce some of them to you.

Maruyama Park

Maruyama Park

Maruyama Park

There is a big weeping cherry tree in this park. The first weeping cherry tree died, so there is now a second tree. During the Ohanami season, it is lit up at night. You can see a fantastic cherry blossom.

Illuminated cherry blossom at Kodaiji Temple

Illuminated cherry blossom

Kodaiji temple

There is a weeping cherry tree in this garden. Illuminations of this tree are very famous and beautiful. Its color and brightness change every few seconds, so you may not be able to take your eyes off it.

Hirano Shrine

Hirano Shrine

Hirano shrine

There are no less than 50 kinds of cherry trees in this shrine. Also, you can see rare cherry trees, only present at this shrine. In the Ohanami season, a lot of outdoor stalls are lined up just as at a festival in this shrine. That’s why it is so lively. You can enjoy viewing, while drinking and eating.

Ninnaji Temple

Ninnaji Temple

Ninnaji temple

There are uncommon cherry trees in this temple. They are called ‘Omurozakura’. Common cherry blossoms come out at the beginning of April, but Omurozakura come out in the middle of April. They come out the latest in Kyoto, so you can enjoy seeing cherry blossoms for a long time.


There are a lot of other places you can enjoy seeing cherry blossoms in Kyoto. I have only introduced some of them. I would like you to enjoy walking around Kyoto while viewing cherry blossoms.

Bridges of Kamogawa River

by Mirai Ikei

The bridges along the Kamogawa River

The bridges along the Kamogawa River

A Special River in Kyoto

The Kamogawa River is the fourth longest river in Kyoto and its source is the 895.8 meter high Mount Sajigatake (located in the northern part of Kyoto). It runs from north-eastern Kyoto and flows down south-west to Katsuragawa River. It is about 33 kilometers long and the basin is about 208 square meters in area. The water is used for both agriculture and industry. A section of the water flows into Kamigamo-Jinja Shrine and is turned into sacred water. People in Kyoto have used the water from the Kamogawa River for a long time.

Five Bridges on the Kamogawa River

In this article, you will find out about five special bridges: Marutamachi-bashi Bridge, Nijo Ohashi Bridge, Sanjo Ohashi Bridge, Shijo Ohashi Bridge and Nanajo Ohashi Bridge, on the Kamogawa River. Can you imagine that you are now walking beside the Kamogawa River in fine weather, such as warm sunshine and soft breezes? The goal will be Nanajo Ohashi Bridge, near KyotoTower.


We are starting off from Marutamachi-bashi Bridge. The Kamogawa River was known for flooding repeatedly in olden times. In those times it was called ‘Abare-Gawa’. Here, on the site of of today’s Marutamachi-bashi Bridge, people built a wooden bridge and crossed the overflowing river. Walking down from Marutamachi-bashi Bridge, you will see Kyoto Gyoen National Garden, which includes court nobles’ houses and gardens, lots of trees, and many people having a rest in such a peaceful place.

Nijo Ohashi

The Misosogigawa

The Misosogigawa

Go down from Marutamachi-bashi Bridge for about 500m, and you will see the next bridge, Nijo-Ohashi Bridge. The Misosogigawa is an artificial watercourse which is located to the west of Nijo Ohashi Bridge. Famous cooling off places along the way are ‘Noryo Yuka’, which are wooden terraces connected to restaurants, where you can eat traditional dishes. People can go there and enjoy their meal in a little more luxury than usual during the summertime. (They are open from the beginning of May to the end of September.) Apart from the Noryo Yuka, let’s have a closer look at Nijo Ohashi Bridge.


Stepping stones across the river

In the past, there was no bridge at Nijo Ohashi. The place was once the site of a battle. A defeated general had his head cut off and his neck was kept on public display with a bulletin board. (The victor was making an impact on people by doing this.) This place is also known for a famous notice board which was written by people who complained about the chaotic government. There are stepping stones across the river. The stones are shaped as plovers, turtles or ships. It is fun to try to cross the river by hopping on the stones.

Sanjo Ohashi

Sanjo Ohashi Bridge

Sanjo Ohashi Bridge

Now we pass Oike Ohashi Bridge and onto the next bridge, Sanjo Ohashi Bridge. Beloved by Kyoto people, it was built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi (a famous general in the Sengoku era [16th century]). Have you ever read the funny story ‘Tokaidochu Hizakurige’ written by Jippensha Ikku? The Sanjo Ohashi Bridge is the start point of the western part of Tokaido Gojusantsugi which are the 53 post stations of the Tokaido. (The Tokaido was one of the five highways in the Edo era [1600-])

Yaji-san and Kita-san

Yaji-san and Kita-san

There are two statues of Yaji-san, and Kita-san who are the main characters from ‘Tokaidochu Hizakurige’ near the bridge. Besides these ‘Yaji-Kita Statues’, there is a stone, called ‘Nade Ishi’. People who stroke the stone will find good fortune. Let’s walk across the bridge and experience the feeling of standing at the crossroads of people’s lives in old Kyoto city.

Shijo Ohashi



The fourth bridge is called Shijo Ohashi Bridge. Everyone must have walked across this bridge when they visited Kyoto. It functions as an entrance to downtown Shijo Kawaramachi. There is one practice hall for Maiko and Geiko at Pontocho Street. In May, the event ‘Kamogawa Odori’ (traditional dance performance by Maiko and Geiko) is held. Their performance is so beautiful, like a dream. If you walk down east a little more, you will see Yasaka Jinja Shrine. It is a major sacred place of the Gion Matsuri which is a famous festival held every July. Yasaka Jinja Shrine is also famous as a place which is used for other important rituals – people grieved here and held memorial services for those who had died of plague because of the repeated floods. We could say that Shijo Ohashi is a bridge that connects people who are alive and the spirits of people passed away.

Nanajo Ohashi.. and five more

Finally, we will talk about the last bridge, Nanajo Ohashi Bridge. Before starting this, I want to tell you, briefly, about five more bridges which we have been skipping.

Oike Ohashi: built in 1964

Oike-dori is the street which connects Shinsen-en Temple. In the past, the pond of Shinsen-en Temple never ran dry so people called it Oike. (In Japanese, Oike means a ‘Great-pond’.)

Donguribashi: built in 1963

This bridge’s name originates from a big chestnut (a chestnut means ‘donguri’) tree. The Ayu-fishing begins in July.

Matsubara-bashi: built in 1959

Benkei and Ushiwakamaru

Benkei and Ushiwakamaru

Originally, here was the ‘Gojo Ohashi’ which was moved south by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. In the Heian-Era (about A.C.794-1192), it was called Gojo Dori where the Matsubara-bashi is located today.

Gojo Ohashi: built in 1959

The place of the famous episode of Ushiwakamaru (Yoshitsune Minamoto’s childhood name) and Benkei (followed Yoshitsune after this battle)

Shomen-bashi: built in 1952

The name came from the street, Shomen Dori, which is located in front of the Daibutsu-den (Great Buddha Hall) of Hoko-ji Temple. (By Hideyoshi Toyotomi)

*all of the years indicate the latest year of rebuilding

'Secession' style. A pattern with arrow motifs

'Secession' style. A pattern with arrow motifs

Shall we go back to the story of Nanajo Ohashi Bridge? Nanajo Ohashi is the oldest of all of the bridges on the Kamogawa River. It dates from 1913. It has been renewed once and the design of the handrail is based on Sanjusangen-do Temple’s first ‘bow-pulling’ of the year. If you walk down south a bit more from here, you will see Kyoto Tower, one of the most popular tourist spots in Kyoto.

Our Suggestions

Now, we have talked to you mostly about our favorite bridges. Thank you for reading to the end. Lastly, we have a few suggestions for you before you start your own exploring. Here you go:

Mind the birds!

Mind the birds!

  1. Please look at the nature beside the river.
  2. Get some background information before going. It will make your walk more fun!
  3. Mind black kites, the birds flying over your head. They might snatch your lunch from you. One of us lost his lunch after just one bite.


Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

by Maki Mitsumata and Nami Murakami

What is Bamboo?

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove 1 Bamboo is found in regions with a warm climate. It exists from the north of Hokkaido through to Northern Australia, and west to India and the Himalayas. It also exists in central Africa. It is not so common in North Africa, Europe, or North America. Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. Some species can grow up to 100 cm in a day! The number of species differs according to various sources. It is said that there are approximately 600 to 1,200 species in the world, while in Japan there are between 150 and 600 species. Dry bamboo is hard and flexible, and is used in various ways. For example, paper is made from bamboo fiber. It is also used to make vinegar and charcoal, as well as for building and industrial arts materials.

The Most Famous Bamboo Grove in Kyoto

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove 2 There are many bamboo forests in and around Kyoto. The most famous bamboo grove in Kyoto is in Sagano, near the famous Arashiyama region on the west side of the city. This bamboo grove has a road that runs through it for about 100 meters, from Nonomiya Shrine to Okochi Cottage. If you walk slowly down this path, you can smell the scent of bamboo and feel the rays of sunshine that come from down through the foliage above. You can forget how time flies while walking through the bamboo grove, or you can just walk there without thinking about anything in particular. The path through the bamboo grove is flooded with many tourists on holidays. Therefore, you should go there on weekdays so that you can walk slowly and in peace. If you plan to go on holidays or weekends, an early time would be best.

In addition to the lovely sights, the rustle when the wind goes through the bamboo grove is a very pleasant sound to Japanese people. In fact, the Japanese Environmental Agency chose this as part of its list of 100 selections of Japanese sound scenes to be saved. Therefore, the bamboo grove is one of the most poignant symbols of Japanese sensibility. You can listen to this pleasant sound in the following video:

Currently, this famous bamboo grove is maintained and supported by a managing group of people who own property there. Kyoto city also helps to manage it.


Arashiyama Bamboo

by Chee Hian

The Kyoto-Arashiyama Hanatoro Festival is held in mid-December around Sagano and Arashiyama. In this festival, about 2,500 oriental lamps are lit and people enjoy the night walk. This is a sightseeing event on the theme of ‘light’ that started in December of 2005. It had over a million visitors in 2011. Many temples and shrines are lit up, as is the bamboo grove road running between Nonomiya Shrine and Okochi Cottage. These nighttime lights create a fantastic scene.

If you go there in person, you can see experience much greater beauty than these photos represent. Moreover, you can sample delicious Japanese cuisine nearby. If you are interested in bamboo forests, why don’t you go with your family, friends, or special someone?

Iwatayama Monkey Park

by Mayo Yoshikawa; Yuka Minato

Iwatayama Monkey Park:
Kyoto’s Wildlife Haven

Do you like monkeys? If so, you’ll love Iwatayama, the mountain which rises from the riverside in picturesque Arashiyama, a popular spot in western Kyoto. You are guaranteed to see numerous monkeys up there!

◆ Our Story

We went to Iwatayama in early July, under a cloudless blue sky on a very hot day. Climbing up the mountain, we became wet with perspiration. Along the path, we saw signboards (see details below), some with quizzes and others with information about Japanese macaques — the monkeys we would soon meet.At the summit, we found a large troop of macaques, and there was a rest house. Walking inside, we were still dripping with sweat, but the staff gave us cold towels so we could cool down.We bought sweet potato, and from inside the building we fed it to the monkeys through the windows. When we got close to the monkeys to feed them, they reached their hands towards us again and again. Even when they were eating, they extended fingers towards us, eager for more food.Outside the house, many monkeys were grooming each other. And some monkeys were drinking water from a pond or swimming in the pond, like you can watch in this movie.


◆ Quiz signboards

As we said, along the path there were three quiz signboards. We took a picture, and here is a translation.
Q1: Which of these is the rare thing that monkeys living in Iwatayama eat?

① Stone ② Soil ③ Chilopoda (Centipedes)

Q2: In which area are there no Japanese monkeys in Japan?

① Okinawa ② Kyushu ③ Shikoku

Q3: How many kinds of foods do monkeys living in Iwatayama eat?

① 50 ② 150 ③ 200
Sorry, but we don’t remember the answers clearly! If you are interested and have a chance to go there, please check the answers yourself by pulling the black handle-grip.

◆ Information on Japanese macaques

You will see a sign like this.This signboard explains the monkeys’ emotional signals. Japanese monkeys have a human-like, hairless face and expressive eyes. In the picture on the left, the monkey is angry and in the right one it is scared. Please be careful to observe the monkeys’ facial expressions. Again, here is a translation.

  • Don’t stare into the eyes of the monkeys.
  • Don’t touch the monkeys.
  • Don’t feed them outside.
  • Don’t leave any items unattended outside.

You can reach the monkey park by walking approximately 15~20 minutes up the trail and then you can watch monkeys, including tiny infants playing. Inside the house, you can feed them, and buy monkey’s feed. It is safe to feed them, because the outside walls of the house are covered with wire fencing, so monkeys can insert only their fingers. There are three types of monkey feed: sweet potato, cucumber and peanuts. Each bag costs 100 yen.Usually, monkeys are inside and humans are outside in a zoo, but at Iwatayama you are inside the house and monkeys are outside when you feed. It is unusual, isn’t it? As if we were caged animals and the monkeys were free.And they are completely free to go anywhere. These are wild monkeys, and this is no zoo; it’s a wildlife haven. Japanese macaques live in many mountains of Japan. On the other mountains, they can be dangerous because hungry monkeys looking for their food come down from the mountaintops and sometimes they romp and take food out of human’s hands.At Iwatayama, the monkeys may be dangerous, too, but if you conform to some rules, you can enjoy these animals very safely.In addition, you can see great views of Kyoto from a high vista point. Let’s look down at Kyoto in this next photo. Do you see any well-known places?

◆ General Information

This monkey park opened in 1957. There are about 150 monkeys. It costs 550 yen for entry fee. Many foreigners come here in every season.

◆ Access

Arashiyama is a very famous tourist scenic spot. The monkey park is a short walk over the famous Togetsukyo bridge across the Katsura river. Here are two ways to get to Arashiyama:
From Kyoto Station, take the JR train on the Sagano Line.When you reach Saga Arashiyama Station, get off the train.It takes 15 minutes to walk from JR Saga Arashiyama Station to Iwatayama.
From the front of Kyoto Station take the Kyoto City Bus No. 28 to Arashiyama. And you can reach a spot near the foot of the mountain Iwatayama.There are also stations on the Keifuku Railways and the Hankyu Arashiyama Lines.Do you like monkeys? If so, you’ll love Iwatayama, the mountain which rises from the riverside in picturesque Arashiyama, a popular spot in western Kyoto. You are guaranteed to see numerous monkeys up there!

Riverside Platform to Enjoy the Breezes

by Mia Kyutoku

When you visited Kyoto, did you ever hear the word 納涼床 (Noryodoko)? What is noryodoko? What’s its purpose? 納涼 (noryo) is a cool evening breeze and 床 (toko or doko) is floor. They are platforms set up to enjoy cool evening breezes along the river.

The platforms were first set up in the Edo period (1603~1867). They were made by people who lived near the Kamo River (鴨川). The river was wider then than now, and it was divided into many streams. The Kamo River runs between Kawabata Street (川端通り) and the Ponto District (先斗町).

In the Edo period, the platforms were set up on the riverside all year round, but in the latter half of the 18th century, the platforms on the east side were removed because of construction of waterways. In addition, the platforms were abolished in the 19th century because a train line was built. So from then, a new type of platform was invented, which was higher.

In the Edo period, people used the platforms for entertainment like 猿楽能 (sarugakuno) and 歓進田楽 (kanshindengaku). “Sarugakuno” was a traditional performing art which existed from ancient times to the Middle Ages. 猿 (saru) is a monkey; 楽 (gaku) is enjoying; 能 (no) is a kind of stage art. It included 雑芸 (zatsugei) which was acrobatics, magic, humor, singing and dancing, and old folk songs. “Zatsugei” came from 散楽(sangaku) which was also a traditional performing art and 雑芸 (Zatsugei) from China. 歓進田楽 (Kanshindengaku) was a type of performance which was held during a temple or shrine festival. 歓進 (kanshin) is helping poor people; 田 (den) is a rice field; 楽 (gaku) is enjoying.

The riverside platforms were also used for entertaining visitors, and because many people lived near the Kamo River, they started businesses, such as tea rooms and stalls. They sold foods like watermelons; ところてん (tokoroten), which is like an agar and is made from seaweed and is shaped like noodles; and 田楽豆腐 (dengaku-tofu), which is a sauce made from miso paste and is delicious. And they performed びいどろ (bidoro), magic, and walking on a tightrope. びいどろ(bidoro) is a toy which has a long stem and a glass ball. To play bidoro, you blow into the long stem and then the glass ball sounds.

A long time ago, the platforms were an original idea. People enjoyed eating or doing business on them. But now, the platforms are set up just in memory of the past. It is too sad. Even though we visit Kyoto, we can’t see those memories. We can just sit on the platforms and watch the Kamo River while eating. All the restaurants are very crowded, so it’s not very cool. If you go to the platforms, you should take a folding fan.


Kyoto City Zoo

by Tomoya Hirao; Yoshimi Morino; Yuki Fukuhara

Entrance   Simple Map
The Kyoto City Zoo is the second oldest zoo in Japan. It has been more than 100 years since it was established. It’s very old. Actually, not only local people but also tourists visit there all the year around. In Kyoto, there are a lot of tourist attractions, ruins, temples and castles to visit, but if you come to Kyoto, you should visit the Kyoto City Zoo because it is very attractive. If you visit the zoo, you can push unpleasant things out of your mind and your feelings will be running high because of the various kinds of animals. So, we are absolutely sure that the Kyoto City Zoo will help you deal with your feelings about uncomfortable issues and make you happy.
First of all, let’s look at the Kyoto City Zoo’s history. On April 1, 1903, the opening ceremony was held. In those days, there were 61 species of animals and the number of animals in the Kyoto City Zoo was 238. The zoo had fewer animals than now. Today, the Kyoto City Zoo has 170 species of animals. But actually, the number of animals in the zoo has been further increasing. To us, it’s a piece of good news. We love animals and the Kyoto City Zoo, too. Animals in this zoo were and are really loved. In 1910, two lions were born in the zoo, which were the first born in Japan. The lion is a large powerful animal of the cat family. Lions could be very dangerous, that’s why you can’t touch one in the zoo. In 1913, the tenth birthday of the zoo was held. Many people came over. At that time, the Kyoto City Zoo had 156 kinds of animals. The number of animals in the Kyoto City Zoo was 274. So, there were indeed more animals than at the opening ceremony. In 1933, a hippopotamus was born in the zoo, which was the first one in Japan. Not only the staff of the zoo but also local people were glad of the birth. But sad to say, the hippopotamus baby died soon. Regrettably, no one could save its life. In 1944, because of World WarⅡ, the Japanese army forced the zoos throughout Japan to kill some kinds of animals. At that, the Kyoto City Zoo was forced to kill all bears, lions, tigers, leopards, etc. That’s because such ferocious animals as lions and tiger could be very dangerous and might attack people if they escaped from the zoo. Many animals in the zoo were killed. That’s too bad. Anyway, the number of animals in the Kyoto City Zoo decreased suddenly in 1944 to 1945 but after the World WarⅡ, the number of animals in the zoo has gradually been increasing. In 1970, a gorilla was born in the Kyoto City Zoo, which was the first one in Japan. The gorilla was called “Mac”. The 100th birthday of the zoo was held on a grand scale in 2003. On that day, the local newspaper had a long report on it. In fact, many people celebrated it. At that time, the Kyoto City Zoo had 175 kinds of animals and the number of animals in the zoo was 721.
Needless to say, there are a lot of animals in the zoo, but let’s focus on the most popular ones. An interesting vote was conducted recently. According to the vote, the lesser panda, or red panda, is the most popular animal in the Kyoto City Zoo. Certainly, a lesser panda looks really cute and lovely. Many people do love it. Lesser pandas like eating fruits and some kinds of insects. As they are nocturnal animals, they often sleep during the day. Then, it seems that the amur tiger is the second most popular animal in the Kyoto City Zoo. An amur tiger looks wild and awful, but we love it, too. What a cool animal it is. Amur tigers are meat-eating animals and can be dangerous. Indeed, some people say that they are the strongest animals in the world. They are powerful! Next, the giraffe is the third most popular animal in the Kyoto City Zoo. As everyone knows, a giraffe has a very very long neck. Such a long neck looks so attractive that many people, especially children, like it. In addition, giraffes have a tongue long enough to take leaves from a tall tree. Their favorite foods are fruit, carrots, and leaves. According to the vote, the Asian elephant is the fourth most popular animal in the Kyoto City Zoo. Asian elephants are the largest animal in the zoo. When you come to the zoo, it is worthwhile seeing them. Finally, it seems that the Brazilian tapir is the fifth most popular animal. The tapir is an animal like a pig with a long nose. Wild tapirs mainly live in Central and South America and South East Asia. Full-grown tapirs are more than two meters long. They are much bigger than human beings. In the Kyoto City Zoo, there are not only famous animals but also rare animals such as tapirs.


Asian elephant
Brazilian tapir

Amur tiger                                   Lesser panda


Finally, if you want to visit the Kyoto City Zoo, the zoo is open 9:00 a.m. and closes at 5:00 p.m. from March to November. From December to February, it is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This zoo is closed every Monday, but open Saturday and Sunday.
Here are some more pictures of the zoo.


by Masaki Fukushima&Mamiko Tsunai
What is Your Fortune?
Every Shinto shrine in Japan, without fail, sells omikuji. You can often see them tied to the branches of a tree or bush on the grounds of a shrine, making the plant almost appear to be blooming in white flowers. Sometimes omikuji are tied to a stand. But what are omikuji? And what is their purpose?

Omikuji are paper fortunes from a “sacred lottery,” fortunes which foretell one’s good or bad luck regarding something that one is praying about to the god of the shrine they are visiting. Japanese people love omikuji, and foreign visitors can enjoy them too, especially if they can read Japanese or have a bilingual Japanese friend read and translate their omikuji for them.

There are two methods for receiving omikuji. In one, you first shake a box containing numbered sticks. When a stick comes out through a slot, you pay the shrine attendant for the paper slip of the same number. Another method is simply to pick one from the many folded fortune papers which are in a box. The methods, which always use random chance, depend on the particular shrine. In addition, some Buddhist temples offer omikuji. In any case, your general fortune is usually written in one of seven categories:


The character 吉 (kichi) means good fortune and 凶 (kyou) means bad fortune or curse. 大 (dai) means big or great. Therefore 大吉 is the best fortune, and 大凶 is the worst. In addition, omikuji foretell in detail one’s individual fortune in such matters as money, a trip, health, an expected visitor, or something you are searching for.

Because the deity that is enshrined in each place of worship is different, the contents written in the omikuji slip will vary greatly from one place to the next. For example, the god of the marriage is enshrined in Jishu Jinja Shrine, so one’s fortune in love and the marriage is written on the paper slip.

Since the words printed on the omikuji are considered a sacred message from the deity, you should take them home to advise you, without regard to the good or bad luck of the fortune which you drew. However, there is a custom in Japan of tying the paper slip to an appointed place without taking it home. If you drew a good luck fortune, it will be achieved and if you drew bad luck, it’s believed that your wish that it be turned into good luck is granted through this act.

Even if you are impatient, and want to have your fortune told once again because you are not satisfied with the result of your omikuji, it is not such a good idea to draw one again immediately. You must wait at least for two hours. Actually, you had better wait about two weeks if possible.

In addition to omikuji, Japanese amulets such as omamori (お守り) and plaques called ema (絵馬) are sold at shrines and some temples.


The Japanese verb mamoru means “to protect.” People make wishes on omamori hoping to become able to get their heart’s desire and/or to protect themselves or their loved ones from misfortune. There are various kinds of these amulets in every Shinto shrine and in some Buddhist temples. For example, there are talismans for success in love relationships, easy delivery of a baby, good health, safety in traffic, protection from fire, good luck in business and for passing an exam. Therefore you have to purchase the ones which answer your purposes. To receive their grace, it is necessary to carry about the purchased omamori or to keep it somewhere appropriate (home, car, etc.). And it is important to think that “the god always watches.” In addition, the validity of the divine favor of a lucky charm is one year as a general rule. It is customary return to the shrine where you purchased the omamori with a feeling of thanks when one year has passed if a wish has been accomplished.

絵馬 EMA

Ema are small wooden tablets or plaques on which we write a wish or prayer to the deity. The name combines the character 絵 (e )which means “picture” with 馬 (uma) which means “horse,” and many ema are painted with votive pictures of horses (or other animals). This is because in old Japan real horses were often given to shrines by rich people in exchange for blessings or wishes granted.

You write your name and wish in the blank space and backside of the ema. You may generally write any wish, though the specific wish or prayer often relates to the god who is enshrined in each shrine. Then the finished plaque is tied with string to a kind of framework and displayed there. Look closely at these and you may well find a few written in English by overseas visitors to Japan.

Even if you believe in another religion, the Shinto gods in Japan will deal with you equally. As you have learned in this article, omikuji, omamori and ema can all be enjoyed by foreign visitors. Recently there are some omamori which are even used as necklaces. And nowadays, some of these charms are worn like fashion accessories. We’re sure that you will make yourselves and others happy if you come in Kyoto and buy them as souvenirs of your visit. May your wishes also come true!