Old Schools as the ‘New Kyoto’

August 6, 2018

Background

At present, Japan has an aging population and declining birthrate problem. Therefore, the government has been closing about 500 schools a year. Rather than let these buildings go to waste, the closed schools are being revamped into new places such as welfare facilities, hotels, community centers and so on. The closed school sites are attractive plots of land in Kyoto due to it being a crowded city that sits in a basin. The densely populated situation in the city center means that any large spaces are far and few between. Plus, the school buildings themselves have historical value.

There are 3 main advantages of using old school buildings. First, the ample space can be used effectively, for example, holding seminars in the classrooms and enjoying sports in the gymnasium or outdoor ground. Second, by using existing facilities, new ventures can significantly decrease their costs. Finally, the site of a former school is designated as cultural property as a historic building, so they should be maintained as such. The Kyoto Art Center and Comic Museum in Kyoto are both housed on old school sites. On the other hand, there are demerits too. These old schools need repair work which means they are not always easy to use as a welfare facility or for social gatherings. They also need a lot of money to look after them. As explained, using these sites has various problems which need to be considered carefully.

 

Renovations

Currently, even in the center of Kyoto, there are 10 sites where elementary schools used to be. These buildings have been turned into libraries, hospitals, homes for the elderly, NPO offices, museums, cafés and spaces for volunteer activities. Kyoto International Manga Museum is a famous museum for overseas visitors. Inside there is a café, shop, exhibition room and memorial hall about the old elementary school. Before this site was used as a museum, it used to be Tatsuike Elementary School. The wooden floors and stairs faced of stone and tiles still remain. The floor creaks under your feet when you step on it, giving sweet memories of times gone by but in a modern setting. Moreover, visitors can read various comics and books in the surroundings of an old school. In one of the buildings, there is still the principal’s office. You can see the main terrace by the playground from the window in this office.

Kyoto Art Center used to be Meirin Elementary School. You can see the design of floats that were used for traditional feasts in Kyoto in front of the building. There is a large tatami mat -156 square yards- which adds to the traditional Japanese atmosphere. This facility also has a library, cafe and workspace for art. The management of the facility wanted to revive Kyoto, so they established the center in the old school. In 2008, there was some resistance to use the site as a cultural property, but this school was used carefully for a long time by the people in the neighborhood. Even now, a lot of people go there to learn and see the art, drink something and catch up.

The Department of Administration in Kyoto City Hall has beautifully renovated these old elementary schools into new facilities with thoughtful consideration of the local community. Elementary school buildings create fond memories for many children and adults, so it is important that the new facilities do not destroy old memories.

 

Future of old schools

Finally, let’s take a look at some future plans for reusing old school sites. Until now, old schools in Kyoto have been transformed into new facilities through a careful renovation process that does not break up the existing buildings, creating spaces for bustling communities and thriving cultural exchange. Planners care about the thoughts of the local community more than anything else and intend to continue this way in the future. They have to observe the rules made by the city. For example, stores that are built inside of these old schools must be local business’ that have a link to Kyoto’s traditions. As a result, local people who have affection for the old school buildings agree to the new utilization plans. As an example, there is the case of Rissei Elementary School. It is located in Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto and closed in 1993. This school will be renovated by 2020 and opened as a new complex that includes a hotel, café, library, resident committee meeting space among others with the cooperation of the city, local self-governing associations and real estate companies. Furthermore, a similar cultural complex will be opened in 2021 at the site of Shirakawa Elementary School in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto. In this complex, planners intend to build shops that exhibit and sell Kyoto’s traditional crafts, a garden where local people can feel free to gather, and a hotel where guests can experience Kyoto’s culture. You will be able to see a lot more renovated buildings with new cultural complexes that protect the old school buildings. The purpose of the old schools can live on through these reconstruction projects.

The Hottest Ramen Noodles in Kyoto

by Kensei Iizuka, Yuta Kobayashi, Takanori Tsuhako

As you know, there is a lot of delicious food in Kyoto. In this article, we are going to tell you about the noodles. Kyoto, especially Kyoto City, is one of the most famous places for noodles in Japan. That is why there are a lot of great noodle restaurants here. In this article, we will introduce you to Menya-Kirameki: a really famous noodle restaurant on Kyoto Sanjo and part of the Kirameki chain of noodle restaurants in Kyoto. We will introduce other Kirameki restaurants at the end of this article. If you want to get more information about the Kirameki Group, please check them out.

Menya-Kirameki Kyoto Sanjo 

Taiwanese Spicy Soupless Noodles

The most famous noodle dish in Kirameki is their Taiwanese Soupless Noodles. This dish was born in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture in 2008. It was created from meals that were prepared for the staff of a Taiwanese restaurant in Nagoya. The Taiwanese owner used to serve these soupless noodles only for his employees until one day a customer saw them and asked him to put it on the regular menu. The owner tried to add some spices to make it tastier because it was a simple dish compared to other items on the menu in this restaurant. The dish contains ground meat seasoned with some spices that are placed on the top of super thick noodles. It also has fish meal, leeks, Chinese chives and fresh egg yolk. The way to eat it is straightforward: you just mix all the ingredients to taste them together. You might be surprised by the flavors when you eat this for the first time. However, we are sure that you will like it more and more as you continue to eat. When you have finished eating, it is recommended that you put a small cup of rice into your noodle bowl that still has some flavor from the spices. This is called “shime” in Japanese, and it is meant to refresh your mouth. To put it simply, it plays the role of brushing your teeth. By eating a bowl of plain white rice, you can ‘clean up’ the remaining flavors in your mouth. In Kirameki, you can get a small cup of rice for free when you order Taiwanese Soupless Noodles. It is okay to put the rice into your noodle bowl at the end of eating, and it is great to eat the noodles and rice together. It definitely makes you full and satisfied. But, please take care of the smell of your breath after eating Taiwanese Soupless Noodles! Those are some spicy flavors!

 

 

Chicken Bone White Broth Noodles with Soy Sauce

There is a wide range of noodles in Kyoto. Most noodle restaurants in Kyoto specialize in ‘rich noodles.’ Kyoto is called the “Student City” because there are many universities in Kyoto City. Students want to feel full and satisfied for as little money as possible. That is why many noodle restaurants are serving ‘rich noodles’ to make students-the main customers-feel satisfied. Kirameki serves ‘rich noodles.’ The soup in this dish is made from chicken bones. It takes a long time to produce the umami flavors from the chicken bones. Umami is made from the chicken bones and adjusted for taste.When you eat ‘rich noodles,’ at first, try a spoonful of just the soup and enjoy each original rich flavor. Secondly, pick up some of the noodles and eat them together with the rich soup. The noodles are all made from Japanese flour called yumemanten, which is made in Nagano Prefecture. They are really thick and chewy. Most people fall in love with these divine noodles due to their texture. Also, you can enjoy some awesome toppings such as slices of roasted pork, juicy menma (bamboo shoots), shredded green onions, and a slice of lemon. They make these noodles even tastier.

 

Chicken Bone Noodles

As well as their soy sauce dishes, Kirameki also serves noodles that have a delightful salty taste. This dish is very similar to the soy sauce options. However, the color of the soup is a little different. These dishes have a special handmade sauce that contains salt made from fresh sea water from Vietnam and France. You can taste the natural flavor of the salt, which gives you a very different taste to the soy sauce noodles. It would be great to share two noodles with others if you go to Kirameki with your friends. Comparing two flavors is just one way of enjoying noodle restaurants and becoming an expert in Japanese noodles!

 

Golden Noodles with Sesame Sauce

In Japan, especially in Kyoto, the temperature reaches up to about 38 degrees in the summer. It is said that the summer climate in Kyoto is worse than a desert. Someone might say “I don’t want to get hot food on such a humid day.” But, for those people who need to cool down in the coming summer season eating noodles can be a great option. Golden noodles with sesame sauce is a dish of cold spicy noodles. It has plenty of shredded meat on top and also some peanuts. The peanuts play an important role in this dish. The sweet taste of the peanuts balances the spiciness. In Kirameki, this dish is served only in the summer. It would be the perfect noodle dish for anyone who really wants to eat noodles even on a hot day. Although we concentrated on Kirameki noodle restaurants this time, enjoy discovering and experimenting with a variety of noodle restaurants around Kyoto. You may be able to find a special noodle restaurant that your friends don’t know, and can be your noodle heaven.

【Access】

There are six Kirameki restaurants in Kyoto:

1. Kirameki-no-tori

This was the first Kirameki restaurant opened in Kyoto. If you visit Kyoto Imperial Palace, Kirameki-no-tori is nearby. The opening hours are 11:00-15:00, and 18:00-23:00. The telephone number is 075-231-2505.

2. Yuhi-no-kirameki

This was the second Kirameki restaurant. If you visit Ichijoji, or Takaragaike, it is nearby. The opening hours are 11:00-15:00, and 18:00-23:00. The telephone number is 075-746-5388.

3. Kirameki Chicken Heart

This is Kirameki’s third restaurant. It is near Kyoto University of Foreign Studies. If you visit Arashiyama, you can go there by bus. The nearest bus stop is Shijo-kadono-oji, which takes about 15 minutes from Arashiyama. The opening hours are 11:00-14:30, and 18:00-22:30. The telephone number is 075-754-6388.

4. Kirameki ☆ JAPAN

Kirameki ☆ JAPAN, the fourth Kirameki restaurant, is near Demachi-yanagi Station and Kyoto University. Take the Keihan Railway and get off at Demachi-yanagi Station. It is easy to get there. The opening hours are 11:00-14:30, and 18:00-22:30. The Telephone number is 075-741-7174.

5. Komugi-no-kirameki

This is the fifth Kirameki restaurant. The nearest station is Kamikatsura, and Katsura. Kamikatsura is on the Hankyu Arashiyama Line. You could visit here before or after visiting Arashiyama. The opening hours are 11:00-22:30. The telephone number is 075-874-4411.

6. Menya-Kirameki -Kyoto Sanjo Street

This is the sixth Kirameki restaurant and the head restaurant of Kirameki. If you visit Kawaramachi, you can visit here. Head to north from Hankyu Kawaramachi Station. It takes about ten minutes on foot. The opening hours are 11:00-23:30. The telephone number is 075-744-6199.

The History of Movies in Kyoto

Yu Sakamoto & Daiki Tabuchi

The Beginning of the Movie Industry in Kyoto

At the beginning of the 20th century, after the Meiji Restoration was over, people worked hard to make a new Japan. It was around this time that Kyoto became the first place in Japan to enjoy the surprising and exciting technology that created the modern entertainment medium of cinema.

On a snowy day in 1895, cinematography invented by the Lumière brothers was used for the first time by Kyoto Dento. It was shown on a screen in the courtyard on the company’s building. This was the first time these people had seen a movie. Today, in this spot, there is a signboard that marks this event and the beginning of the movie industry.

Uzumasa is a district in western Kyoto that was once called the “Hollywood of Japan.” During the height of Japanese filmmaking in the 50s, Kyoto was a bustling film center. This movie industry created a lot of economic vitality and developed into one of Kyoto’s major cultural sectors.

In the golden years of Japanese film from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, the Kiyamachi area was dotted with inns where screenwriters stayed and worked. The hotel where one of Japan’s top film directors, Masahiro Makino (1908-1993), regularly stayed was also here. The area was also known for the many bars where movie people hung out.

The Famous and Historical Movie Studios in Kyoto

Toei Studios, Kyoto

With an area of more than 66,000 square meters, Toei Studios is the biggest movie studio in Japan. In the 1950s to the early 1960s, Toei Studio film companies in Kyoto had to produce more than 60 films every year. The staff used Sundays and holidays, often working throughout the night on weekdays as well. The Kyoto studios were filled with energy. Everyone said that the workers of the Toei Studios were so busy that “no one was walking, they were always running.”

Shochiku Studio

Uzumasa, the capital of the movie industry, started producing new types of movie studios. Shochiku Studio is one of these famous movie studios in Kyoto and has a long history. It was created by Makino Takei in 1935. It has experienced a lot of ups and downs, even today. Most of the works shot here are very familiar, including TV dramas.

Famous Movie Shooting Methods of Akira Kurosawa in Kyoto

Today, many people all over the world watch movies for entertainment. People who watch movies are fascinated by many factors. In particular, the methods used for shooting movies is one of the most critical factors for making enjoyable experiences for moviegoers. It is no exaggeration to say that the evaluation of a film depends on the shooting methods.

Therefore, most film directors are particular about shooting methods and have their own specializations. Akira Kurosawa is the most famous director who shot movies in Kyoto using innovative and bold shooting methods, attracting a lot of attention from overseas. He has two renowned shooting methods.

First, his movies are famous for their bright backgrounds. It is said that his backgrounds sometimes stand out more than the actual people in the picture. This is because he used pan-focus shooting. Pan-focus shooting focuses on everything in the picture. When the camera focuses on the subject in front, the background becomes blurred. Today, this work is easy because all the work is done automatically by the camera. However, at that time, it was necessary to adjust all the lighting and focus. Therefore, pan-focus shooting required a lot of money, time and labor. But thanks to pan-focus shooting, he could shoot some great movies. Even now, many film directors and researchers praise his vivid backgrounds.

Multi-cam shooting method used by Kurosawa

Kurosawa was the first person to use this technique that has multiple telephoto lenses. Multi-cam shooting has the advantage of taking various angled cuts with one shot. However, it is a problematic shooting method when at the actual location of the filming. This is because the condition of lighting and background must be considered depending on the position of the camera. However, the scene shot in this method is very powerful. Today, many film directors use this method.

There are other famous shooting methods besides these. For example, Rashomon was filmed using mirrors instead of reflectors to take advantage of the natural light while directing the camera to the sun, which was considered taboo at that time. In the first scene, Kurosawa used hoses and water mixed with black ink to shoot a powerful image of rain in monochrome. This method was also used in the battle scene of The Seven Samurai.

As you can see, movies and Kyoto have had a deep connection from when the movie industry started in Kyoto. The beauty of Kyoto fascinated many film directors and people involved in movies. There are more than a few masterpieces that were born in Kyoto. If you visit Kyoto, visit not only major tourist attractions but also these fascinating movie spots too.

Great Bread around Karasuma Station

by Kensei Iizuka, Yuta Kobayashi and Takanori Tsuhako

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

Sizuya

 

 

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

Shinshindo

 

 

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

 

Grandir Kyoto


 

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

 

Kin-iro Kyoto

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

Kyoto Bakery Market

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

【Information for Sizuya】

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

【Information for Shinshindo】

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

【Information for Grandir Kyoto】

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

【Information for Kin-iro Kyoto】

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

【Information for Kyoto Bakery Market】

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

 

 

Public baths in Kyoto

Yu Sakamoto and Daiki Tabuchi

Today Japanese culture is evaluated from abroad in every aspect. Especially in Kyoto, there are many cultural places to attract visitors from around the world. And Kyoto is also famous for hot springs. But this time I would like to introduce public baths. Because hot springs are already famous among many tourists, so this time we want to reveal the charm and history of public baths and how they are different to hot springs.

What are public baths and hot springs?

Firstly, let’s take a look at the features of public baths and hot springs. As the name suggests, the public bath is just a bath for the public. They began in Kyoto in (794-1185). It is said that they spread throughout Japan with Buddhism. On the other hand, hot springs have natural water. If the water temperature of the hot spring source is 25 degrees or more, and it includes any one of the 19 designated ingredients of the hot spring law in the country, it is regarded as a hot spring.

 

 

 

 

 

The differences between public baths and hot springs

There are two significant differences between hot springs and public baths. First, hot springs use natural water from springs, while public baths do not. Second, public baths have no special rules because the water is not directly from a spring, so it is checked for safety already. In other words, since hot springs use water that is drawn from nature, they are concerned about sanitation, so they must be well managed by the law under the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to ensure that they are safe for customers.

The history of public baths

 People do not know how the tradition of public baths in Japan began. However, according to “Keityoukenbunroku”, a book written about the history of Japan, published in 1614, Ise Yoichi built the first public bath in 1591 on Zenigamebashi, which is in Ibaragi prefecture. People were joyous, and his public bath was very popular. In the 17th century, public baths became popular and could be found in a lot of towns. The bath of this era was a kind of steam bath. Water was put in the bottom of the bathtub. A door was placed in the entrance of the bathroom to prevent the steam from escaping. However, it had one problem. When people opened and closed the door, steam did escape. So, some people solved this problem by making a type of bath called zakuroguchi. They put a bathtub in a small room covered by a wooden plate, then dropped the board low from the entrance ceiling to prevent steam from escaping.


 

 

 

 

 

 

The water bath was developed at the end of the Edo era. This bath was called sueburo. It became popular among ordinary families. In this era, people needed to put hot water in the bathtub, but after that, they developed a way to heat up the bath water by placing a tube of iron under the tub that was connected to a fire. In the Edo era, the public bath was mixed bathing, meaning men and women could bathe together. However, the inside of zakuroguchi was dark because there were no lights, so many problems occurred involving sex. This type of problem was not easily reformed, so between 1841 and 1843 there was a severe crackdown. After that, many public baths changed the rules. They put a wall in the center of the bathtub to separate the genders, and they made separate times for men and women to take a bath. Other public baths became single-sex.

Famous public baths and hot springs in Kyoto

Now, let’s look at some famous public baths and hot springs in Kyoto. First of all, the famous hot spring in Kyoto is Arashiyama Hot Spring. You can see the famous Togetsu Bridge and the beautiful views of Arashiyama from the outdoor hot spring. Also, there are various kinds of hot springs and many sightseeing spots around there. A famous public bath in Kyoto is Nishikiyu which is located very close to the Nishiki market located in the center of Kyoto City. This is very popular among tourists. The building is large, and it’s retro style takes you back in time. In Nishiki, there are also various events, such as live music, rakugo (a short Japanese comedy story), and places to buy kimonos and yukatas cheaply. As well as the public bath, you can enjoy the local charm and lively atmosphere around Nishiki.

Characteristics of Kyoto’s public baths

Currently, there are about 150 public baths in Kyoto. Many places use traditional building methods and are set in kyomachiya, which are traditionally built townhouses. Kyoto’s public baths have three features.

  1. Tile pictures

When you imagine the Japanese public bath, I think you will imagine a Mt.Fuji picture above the tub. Kyoto’s public baths are decorated with various tile pictures. In addition to the main bath, you can also see tile pictures attached to the upper parts of the dressing rooms. These tile artworks are the original style of Kyoto’s public baths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tile picture of Mt.Fuji

  1. Groundwater

Public baths in Kyoto have a well, so using groundwater is another major feature. Kyoto is blessed with good water.

  1. Noren shop curtains

These shop curtains can be seen hanging at the entrance of shops and public baths in Japan. There are three styles of shop curtains: Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo. The Kyoto style is divided into three, and it has an extended length with a break in the middle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noren

As you can see, public baths have a long history and original culture, and there are also the differences between public baths and hot springs. However, what they have in common is that they can both relieve tiredness, so both types of bathing places can be a great way to relax and experience a Japanese tradition.

 

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Blanketed by Night in Gion

By Takumi Abe

 

Gion

When you walk in the Gion district of Kyoto, you have time-traveled back into the olden days of Japan. You will see traditional style house alsos and people wearing kimono. You can enjoy seeing not only such scenery, but you can enjoy Japanese foods such as matcha green tea, Japanese sake or sukiyaki. A river along one street in Gion is lined with stones and many willows, giving you a feeling of exoticism. After the sun goes down, you will be fascinated by the new mood of Gion. It has a relaxed atmosphere. laughter emerges from the old-style houses. I decided to record this special night mood through photographs.

 

The History of Gion

Gion was created in the late 1600s and prospered as a town that had developed near the gate of Yasaka Shrine. At this time, many beautiful women stood in front of the stores to attract customers. In the Meji period, from 1868-1912, the Gion area was expanded. Furthermore, Many famous Japanese writers loved Gion in this period. Eventually, Gion changed into the amusement and nightlife district it is now. Now, the northern area of Gion sparkles with bright neon lights. In the southern part of Gion, there is soft lighting and it is very quiet.

 

Gion Night Scenery

  • Yasaka Shrine

 

Yasaka Shrine

This shrine is the symbol of Gion, which extends out west from its base. This area prospered from people who came to worship at this shrine. Now, the gate is lit up every night.

 

  • Northern Gion

Northern Gion

In northern Gion, there are bars, snack bars and nightclubs. Many people go there to enjoy drinking and the nightlife. On Friday night, lots of taxis are coming and going.

 

  • Gion-shinbashi

 

Gion shinbashi

In northern Gion, glittering neon signs illuminate the streets. However, if you continue to walk north out the the more lively streets, there is an old Japanese-style district that has a quiet atmosphere. This area’s streets are covered with stones. You can enjoy the atmosphere and sophisticated Japanese restaurants.

 

  • Shijo Boulevard

 

Shijo

The Shijo Boulevard is the main busy street in Kyoto and in Gion. There are many people here for shopping, commuting, dining and drinking, going back home or just out walking. Shopping is the biggest reason that people come to Shijo, because there are so many different and attractive stores there.

 

  • Snowy Downtown

 

Snowy Downtown

When January arrives, it brings snow to Kyoto. The citiscape is changed by snow. People might think that temples or shrines covered with snow are beautiful, but the collaboration between snow and Gion is even more magical. You can see that old houses and streets are dressed in new snow.

 

  • Hanami-koji

 

Hanami koji

Hanami-koji is the main street of southern Gion. Red Japanese lanterns have images of dumplings printed on them. Gion was started with dumpling and green tea shops. In Japan, drinking Japanese tea while eating a dumpling is one of our favorite customs.

 

  • Rainy Gion

 

Raining in Gion

After a rain in Gion, the wet streets reflect the lights brilliantly. Those lights are white, red or brown. The pitter-patter of rain and the sound of footsteps fill the air.

 

  • Kennin-ji Temple

 

Kennin-ji temple

If you walk further south on Hanami-koji Street, you will see the traditional gate of Kennin-ji temple, Kyoto’s first Zen temple. You can experience the culture of Zen (禅) here and see beautiful fusuma and byobu paitnings and a Japanese garden.

 

  • The traditional pagoda

 

Yasakanoto

Yasaka-no-to is a three-story pagoda between Gion and Kiyomizu Temple. The presence of this pagoda is very photogenic. This is one of Kyoto’s most famous places, so many people come here and see it. At night, this area is so silent that you can hear your own footsteps and breathing.

 

  • Sakura

 

Sakura

Maruyama park stetches out in back of Yasaka Shrine. This park is famous for its cherry blossoms and there is one big cherry tree at its center. Regardless of age or sex, many people are attracted by this famous tree.

 

  • Under the trees

 

Enjoy Hanami

Many people enjoy viewing cherry blossoms with good food and alcohol. When people are under the trees, they feel delight. This is one way to have fun at night in Gion..

 

The Atmosphere of Gion

 

Gion is famous as a traditional Japanese entertainment district. However, the old structures coexist with modern bars and concrete buildings. So this area looks a little bit messy, but in fact, the long history of Gion remains intact. The area that has a long history is attracting many more people these days and they enjoy the nighttime with alcohol. It is good that people can enjoy and go a little crazy even in front of the holy shrine. When night comes, most people go to sleep at their hotel or guesthouse. If you have time or are not able to sleep, I recommend you go to Gion at night. Gion then has a bustling and buzzing face in addition to quiet and calm face along the river. You can feel this original atmosphere. Gion is both loud and quiet.

Another Kyoto: Modern Buildings in the Ancient Capital

By Takumi Abe

 

Kyoto

 

If  you have interest in Japan, you may know that Kyoto was the ancient capital for many centureis. Many tourists come to Kyoto to see the traditional temples and shrines, or Japanese houses built from wood. However, if you spend any time in Kyoto, you will also find some contemporary architecture. For example, when you walk along Sanjo street, you will encounter many modern buildings. Furthermore, there are more modern buildings in Kyoto than you probably expect. These structures are completely different from traditional Japanese-style houses. Do you know why such structures as these exist in the old city Kyoto? On this page, you can find another Kyoto.

 

Sanjo Moderns

Modern Buildings on Sanjo

When you walk down on Sanjo street, you will discover several modern buildings. Many date from the Meiji and Taisho eras (1868-1926). The most famous structure is the former branch of the Bank of Japan. Now it is used as the Museum of Kyoto. This building is covered with red tiles, so you feel like you are in Europe. It was built during the Meiji period when Japan brought in many things from the Western cultures in Europe and America.

 

the Museum of Kyoto

 

Another building that resembles the museum is the central post office. This post office was built in 1902 and it has been used ever since then. The roof and the exterior walls have been preserved.

the Nakagyo post office

 

The SACRA building was used to be the branch of a bank. The building reflects some Renaissance-style architecture. It was built in 1916.

 

 

 

In this building there are beautifully designed arches that appear on the façade. This building was built in 1890 and is the oldest building that was privately built in Western-style commercial construction.

 

 

The1928 Building was built in 1928, and it was used as a branch office for the English edition of the Mainichi Daily  newspaper. Nowadays this building is home to a gallery, restaurant and free space.

 

1928

 

 

At the Sanjo-Rougaemachi intersection stands another modern building that is registered as an important cultural property. This building is a wooden western-style building. It contains shops such as a kimono boutique, a restaurant and cosmetic store.

Modern building stands at the Sanjo-Ryougaemachi intersection

 

 

On temple grounds

Nanzenji temple

In the back of Nanzenji temple, you will discover an elevated aqueduct built of red bricks. You might feel strange when you see this because it looks out of place on the temple grounds. You can see the traditional temple and Roman style architecture. This aqueduct has been in use since it was built in 1888.

 

What you can see from modern buildings

Sanjo

 

Now the Japanese capital is Tokyo. However, before that, the capital of Japan was Kyoto. It was capital for about 1000 years. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), Japan tried to be like Western countries. That’s why there are many modern buildings in Kyoto. Moreover, when the capital was moved, Kyoto was on the edge of a cliff. The emperor moved, the nobility moved, the artisans that made things for the Imperial family moved. Kyoto had to find new life. Therefore, Kyoto people made Kyoto great without the emperor. Kyoto city residents made a plan to become great again by embracing the new scientific innovations that were invented in the late 1800s, including gas lighting and the introduction of water- powered electricity. The aqueduct at Nanzenji was but one part of this large plan to modernize the city. You can see from these modern buildings the efforts and strength of Kyoto residents and the city government of Kyoto. From Kiyomizudera temple and Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, you can see the ancient Japanese faith. However, if you stand in front of a modern building, you may change your previous ideas about Kyoto.

Dreamton Village

by Kanon Knamaru, Yukiho Sawauchi

Do you know “Dreamton village”? It is located at Kamaoka in Kyoto.

Dreamton village is a little tea room which recreates British streets.

There are a restaurant, lodging facilities, a church, a saloon and general store, so only 5 buildings into there. It is very small place with an area of one hectare. Their garage can park 110 cars.

We enjoy British style “omotenashi ”. Omotenashi means heart-warming treatment in Japanese.

Village

If you arrive at Dreamton village, you will see a British store at first. It is the entrance. In there, you can order some dishs and have wonderful British meals.

However, customers must order all dishes which they want to have at once because the system in here is one-order. Please be careful.

After ordering, you go out the entrance. Then, a beautiful view spreads in front of your eyes. And you are welcomed by PONT-OAK staffs. Then, there is a general shop so you can buy some goods and souvenirs. Streets and views are very beautiful. That’s why those who visit there have fun taking pictures.

PONT-OAK

PONT-OAK is a restaurant and serves British cuisine which you can order.

In there, staff wear classic maid clothes and serve some dishes.

   These are enjoyable dishes, for example, fish and chips and tea set.

There are some types of food. One type is everyday dishes. These include fish and chips, roast beef, pasta, sandwich and so on. You can eat these whenever you go.

There are also many side dishes available, for example, salad, garlic baguette and soup. The soup changes every day, so please ask some staff for the soup of the day.

Second, there is a lunch special. These are menus available only on weekdays. These are served from opening time to 2 o’clock. If you make a reservation at least two days before you go, PONT-OAK will make sure that you are served an original luncheon.

Third, there is the “Tea set”. We enjoy British afternoon tea set. Tea is served with pound cake, ginger cookies and so on. For afternoon tea, delicious treats include original scones, ginger pound cake, finger sandwiches, cookies and meat pie.

No matter what  you order, there is a pot of tea and you can choose your favorite tea leaves.

“Dessert Cakes” are rich and delicious, of course. Ginger pound cake is moist and fragrant and full of ginger flavor. Furthermore, there is rare cheese cake, and apple pie. However, only ginger pound cake can taken out.

Needless to say, there is scone with original cream and jam. It is an original and popular dish in PONT-OAK.

Finally, there is “Ice cream”. In PONT-OAK you can have cold ice cream and ice cream served with hot sauces. For cold ice cream, you can choose berry sauce or sugar syrup while hot sauces include hot ginger sauce, earl grey and peanuts sauce, which are poured over your ice cream.

How to get there

Dreamton village is very far from the city and what is called a little-known spot.

If you go to Dreamton village, at first you take JR Saganosanin line and get off at “Kameoka” station. After arriving at Kameoka station, you can continue on by taxi or by bus. Because the route is very complicated to get there, we recommend taking a taxi. It costs about 3,000 yen.

The other way is by bus. However you must change buses once. First, you get to Kameoka station, you take a bus and get off at “Kyotogakuenmae”. Next, you take another one and get off at “Okuno ”. You should take a bus whose number is “F21”. This route costs about 500 yen but it takes an hour or more. Furthermore, Dreamton village is located far out in the countryside, so you may lose your way and it is difficult to access Internet too, so we recommend to take a taxi.

Of course, it is also possible to drive your own car to Dreamton village.

Other options

Dreamton village has lodging facilities. It is called “B&B”, which means Bed and Breakfast. You can stay at 1 room 2 persons in there. It costs 28,000 yen on weekdays and 30,000 yen on weekends. Whenever you lodge in the village, you can eat an English breakfast.

People can hold a wedding ceremony here if they make an appointment in advance. Staff prepare a pastor, make-up assistants and cameramen.

We think if you come to Japan, you are looking forward to going some popular temples, shrines and so on. However Dreamton village is a good spot not many people know. So, many Japanese people may not know about there. Is such a place on your mind? If you are interested in it and have time, please go to Dreamton village!

Accommodation in Kyoto

by Miyabi Saeki, Natsumi Awa and Saki Hirobayashi

When you go abroad, how do you decide which hotel to stay in? In Kyoto, there are three main types of hotels, such as western hotels, ryokan (traditional Japanese style inns), and the cheaper, but more casual guest houses. Do you know the differences between the three of them? Of course the styles are different, but the price, service, food and location are all also different. You should know the differences so that you can find the kind of hotel that will work best for you.

In this article, we will explain in detail the three types of accommodation in Kyoto, and give you an example of each one that we recommend.

Western Hotels

Foreigners who aren’t used to sleeping on futon or don’t want to stay at a Japanese style hotel should stay at a Western style hotel. They are familiar to almost all foreigners and they are the most common style of hotel in the world. You can relax as if you were in your home country.

Many of the Western hotels in Kyoto have a certain style. For example, the interior design, food, and overall atmosphere may be inspired by Kyoto’s culture. In addition, there are many attractive places scattered across Kyoto City, so you can often find a hotel that is near some of the tourist sites that you want to visit during your stay. There are a range of expensive to cheap Western hotels, so you need to find one that fits your price range.

Hotel Monterey Kyoto

Hotel Monterey Kyoto is located on Karasuma Street, which runs north to south in central Kyoto. It is a highly recommended hotel, with a 4.5 out of 5 star evaluation on Rakuten Travel’s website. It takes about 2 minutes to arrive from Karasuma Oike Station on foot, and it takes about 8 minutes from Kyoto Station by car.  Around the hotel there are many shrines, temples, and famous sightseeing spots. For example, if you plan to go to Higashi Honganji Temple, it takes less than 20 minutes by bus. In addition, there are some bus and train stations very near, so the location is very convenient for tourists.

       

The hotel is not only reasonably priced, but also has luxurious interior decorations. The rooms offer a chic and gorgeous design. It is popular with people from different age groups. You can enjoy either a Japanese or Western style breakfast, or Obanzai, which is a traditional style of Japanese cuisine native to Kyoto. It is made of simply prepared local vegetables and seafood. Rooms cost from 7,990 to 19,200 yen per night. The hotel is not so expensive, and it is in a good location. It is also equipped with free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, a restaurant, a bathtub in each room, a paid parking area, laundry room, spa, and a bar.

Ryokan

When you want to experience traditional Japanese culture, you should stay at a ryokan. While there are many ryokan in other prefectures, Kyoto is well known for its own ryokan. Many ryokan have tatami, which is a traditional Japanese straw mat flooring; futon, which are Japanese style bedding; and public hot spring baths. The price is different at each ryokan, so you can go cheap or expensive depending on what you want.

Nishiyama Ryokan

Nishiyama ryokan is located in Nakagyo Ward, which is in central Kyoto. It takes 15 minutes from Kawaramachi Station on foot, and it takes 15 minutes from Kyoto Station by taxi. The hotel’s average evaluation is 4.5 out of 5 stars on Rakuten Travel’s website, and it is easy for people to book rooms from the hotel’s website in English. Around the hotel there are a lot of places of interest. For example, Heian Zingu and Nijo Castle are both only about 1.7 km away, and the Kyoto International Museum is about 0.6 km away. In addition, Sanjo Station and Karasuma Oike Station are nearby.

     

The ryokan’s rooms are all non-smoking. The price is about 22,000 to 42,000 yen. It is more expensive than many hotels or guest houses, but you can experience true Japanese atmosphere at a ryokan because there are tatami rooms and Japanese-style banquets. You can choose from 2 styles of room, Japanese style or Western style. Nishiyama Ryokan is equipped with free Wi-Fi, free laundry, air conditioning, deposit baggage, and ironing services are also free. Moreover, you can rent bicycles. Staff provide kind and welcoming service, so you can relax every day during your stay.

Guest Houses

If you want to save as much money as possible, you should stay at a guest house. These are the cheapest kind of accommodation in Kyoto. They usually cost less than 5,000 yen per night. They are more casual, but the rooms are just as clean as the others. The guest houses in Kyoto are affordable for tourists and allow them to interact with the local people and other tourists.

Len Guest House

Len Guest House is a very good guest house at a great location. It is located in Kawaramachi, which is in central Kyoto. This hostel looks like a mountain hut, and has the appearance of old Kyoto. It overlooks the mountains of Kyoto. You can get there from Kawaramachi Station in 8 minutes on foot, so you can go to the downtown shopping and eating area easily. There are also many famous temples and shrines near this guest house. Therefore, you can enjoy sightseeing, shopping, and the atmosphere of Kyoto. This guesthouse has a hostel, bar, cafe, and dining.

A lot of different people stay at the Len Guest House. On the one hand, it is for tourists, but locals also visit for the café and bar. The concept of this guest house is “a place where people can gather, crossing every boundary.” There are two kinds of rooms in the hostel: dormitories and private rooms. As for the dormitories, there are two types; mixed rooms and women-only rooms. The room rates are about 2,600 yen to 3,000 yen. It is very reasonable. The rooms are very clean, and they have many kinds of amenities. The common space has a kitchen, a library, and a bathroom. You can cook in the kitchen, as there are a lot of cooking tools. Also, many events are held every month such as jazz concerts. If you are interested in this hostel, please check the website.

Conclusion

Now you should know a little more about accommodation in Kyoto. Which type of accommodation do you like the best? Having good accommodations while in Japan will make your trip much better. Have a nice trip!

Access

Hotel Monterey Kyoto

From the Hankyu Train, get off at Karasuma Station and go North up Karasuma Street. 5 minutes on foot from Exit 22 of Karasuma Station on the Hankyu Kyoto line or from Shijo Station on the Karasuma Subway line.

Website: https://www.hotelmonterey.co.jp/kyoto/

Nishiyama Ryokan

From the Hankyu Train, get off at Kawaramachi Station and go North up Kawaramachi Street. It is near the Kyoto city hall.

Website: http://www.kyoto-nishiyama.com/

Len Guest House

From the Hankyu Train, get off at Kawaramachi Station and go south down Kawaramachi Street. It is near the Kawaramachi Matsubara bus stop.

Website: https://backpackersjapan.co.jp/kyotohostel/

Kameoka Trip by Train

by Kensei Iizuka, Yuta kobayashi, Takanori Tsuhako

Kameoka is a city located to the west of Kyoto and is the third most populated city next to Kyoto and Uji. Even though it is famous for Japanese tourists, it is not so popular with foreign tourists. Kameoka is quite a unique and relaxing place because of its nature, such as beautiful mountains and rivers. In addition, there are some good hot springs in Kameoka. In this article, we will introduce these famous spots in Kameoka and suggest a model route for seeing them.

Kameoka Station is the point of entry for a trip to Kameoka. This station looks very small compared with Kyoto station, but there is an information center for visitors. If you don’t have a plan for your visit to Kameoka or if you have some questions, you should stop by the information center to get plenty of beneficial information. It takes about 20 minutes from Kyoto station by rapid train to get to Kameoka Station. Trains that reach Kameoka on the JR Sanin line have a very convenient timetable, which is consists of five trains per an hour. The train fare is 410 yen.

Sagano Romantic train (Torokko train)

For tourists who want to enjoy a a more leisurely way to get to Kameoka instead of taking a boring express train, we recommend the Sagano Romantic Train. This train is not the normal train you often see in most stations. By taking it, you can enjoy the natural beauty of the Hozu River canyon on an open-air train through the mountains. You can experience the Japanese sense of shiki (the four seasons) because cherry trees are in bloom in the spring, bright green leaves are out in the summer, and beautiful autumn-colored leaves appear in the moderate temperature of the fall. Furthermore, you can have a memorable experience with the extreme white landscape of winter, even though it is super cold. Tickets are 620 yen for adults and 310 yen for children. All seats are reserved. Tickets are available at Torokko stations and also JR West ticket counters. Please check the official website of this train to get latest information, such as its operating schedule.

Hozugawa-Kudari (River Boat Ride)

You are tired of sightseeing various kinds of famous temples and shrines located in the center of Kyoto, aren’t you? There is no place to be active in nature so much in the big city. Therefore, you should go to Kameoka to do Hozugawa-Kudari, which is a river boat ride going down a beautiful emerald green river surrounded by a steep tree covered canyon. This is completely exciting and makes you feel like you are riding on a roller coaster. You can enjoy shiki on this activity, as well as the Sagano Romantic train. Visitors can ride on the boats at the dock located just a 10 minute walk from the north exit of JR Kameoka Station. Boarding time is 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:30. You should check the official website before going there because this activity is easily influenced by the weather.

Izumo-Dai-Jingu

Izumo-Dai Jingu is getting popular among young people as the one of spiritual places in Kyoto. It is believed that there are gods regarding marriage, longevity and money residing here. People who are interested in them come to the shrine and pray to the gods. Especially, it is said that god of marriage is very strong. If you really want a boyfriend or girlfriend or to get married, this is a highly recommended place. It is located approximately 6 km from Kameoka station, so you should take a bus bound for Izumo-Shrine mae at the Kameoka station bus terminal.

The Vestige of Kameyama Castle

Mitsuhide Akechi, one of the most powerful rulers in Japan in the 16th century, built Kameyama castle to rule Tanba region. Unfortunately, however, visitors cannot experience it in its full splendor because it was burned down in Taisho-era. Now, all that remains are just part of the moat and castle base. They remind visitors of the form of the defunct castle structure. This site is a 10-minute walk from Kameoka station. Entrance is free of charge.

The Recommendation of Restaurant

Daikoku Burger

There is a fashionable and sophisticated restaurant with bright orange and white colors in Kameoka. It is called Daikoku Burger, which is basically a hamburger restaurant using local food. The most popular hamburger in this restaurant is the ‘Daikoku Burger’. It is made with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and very juicy meat with creamy mayonnaise between soft buns using a plenty of rice flour. Most of its ingredients are made right here in Kyoto. It must be delicious! It is also a 10-minute walk from Kameoka station.

Model Route

  1. JR Kameoka Station

↓ (10 min. Walk) Heading to South of the station. Walk along the river beside the castle.

  1. The Vestige of Kameyama Castle

You can see a fixed stone wall. You can also walk around the garden if you get permission from the staff.

↓ (10 min. Walk) Heading south. The road doesn’t have sections for pedestrians, so you need to be careful of cars.

  1. Tanzan Sake Brewing

It is a sake manufacturer. You can buy freshly brewed sake. You can also tour the factory, so you can understand how it is made.

↓ (15 min. Walk) Walk along the machiya, which is Japanese traditional wooden townhouses. You can see old Japanese houses built over one hundred years ago.

  1. Namba Soy Sauce Brewing

It is a soy sauce manufacturer. This manufacturer makes soy sauce in a traditional brewing method. You can buy those nice soy sauces at good prices.

↓ (10 min. Walk) On the way to the next spot, you can see storages for yamahoko, which is a festival float mounted with a decorative halberd used in Kameoka festival every year.

  1. Honmachi Machiya Café

The house of Honmachi Machiya Café is over a hundred years old. Once you are in the house, you can feel how old the Japanese house really is. The taste of the drink and food are nice as well, so why don’t you take some rest here?

↓ (10 min. Walk)

  1. Seki Sake Brewing

This is also a traditional sake manufacturer. When you visit here, you will see a chimney made of bricks. You can feel mixture of both Japanese and Western styles here.

↓ (15 min. Walk) You walk along a large road.

  1. Gentaro Tanaka’s Old Mansion (Rakurakuso)

It is a traditional Japanese-style hotel. The garden is beautiful, so make sure you see it if you visit. Gentaro Tanaka is known as the person who brought the railway to Kyoto.

Many tourists don’t visit Kameoka so often, but there are a lot of nice places there. Why don’t you put Kameoka into your trip plan?