Illumination in Kyoto

May 15, 2017

by Haruka Onishi and Natsumi Hosono

It has become second nature to enjoy Christmas illumination every winter for Japanese people. How did this come about? According to one research (1), the origin of Christmas illumination dates back to the 16 century , when electricity still hadn’t been developed. In Germany, Martin Luther was impressed to see shining stars in the forest and tried to reproduce the beautiful scenery by decorating trees with candles. Afterward, Thomas Alva Edison started bulb illumination. He decorated his laboratory with incandescent light bulbs to advertise his invention. It is said that his decoration is the first bulb illumination in the world.

About 150 years ago, in the Meiji era, illumination came to Japan. Meijiya, the company that sold foreign goods at the time, started turning on illumination every night from December 15th until Christmas day. This event attracted public attention and people started flocking to see the flashy illumination every year. Now, we can see illumination all over Japan every winter. The warm light heals our heart and gives us a feeling of peace.

Then, we will give you some information about illumination in Kyoto that we recommend to you.

Gojo Street Illumination

Gojo street illumination

Gojo street illumination

The Gojo Street Illumination is put on by the ROHM company, a Japanese semiconductor maker. This display first appeared in 1995 as a contribution to society. It is usually held between November 25th to December 25th from 17:00~22:00 of every year. More than 80 trees are decorated with more than 80,000 light bulbs. The main point of interest in this illumination is a tree-lined road. It is free to see, and people like to go there with someone special.

Arashiyama Illumination


Arashiyama illumination

The illumination display in Arashiyama is called Hanatouro. “Hana” means flower, “tou” means light, and “ro” means road. Its main concept is to color the nights of Kyoto with flowers and lights. This event has been held since 2005. This illumination is held from 17:00 to 20:30 in every year. About 2500 LED bulbs are used in this illumination. Moreover the road is decorated by a lot of flowers and it is beautiful. Moreover, the path through the bamboo forest is also lit up which expresses a sense of the Christmas season in Kyoto. Therefore we can enjoy walking down paths filled with a Japanese atmosphere.

Rurikei Hot Spring Illumination

Ruri Kei illumination

Ruri Kei illumination

The Rurikei Hot Spring illumination is called Illumiere. This term is a combination of ‘illumination’ in English and ‘limiere’ in French, which means ‘light’. They want to give peace and hope to people all over the world from Kyoto through this illumination. It has been held since 2012, from October 29th to April 9th after sunset to 21:30. However it costs a small fee of \1,000 per person. More than 100 thousand LDE bulbs are used, and it is very beautiful.

Joyo City Illumination


Joyo City illumination

The Joyo City illumination is called TWINKLE JOYO and was started in 2002. This event is held from 17:30 to 21:30 in every year. It was originally held at a large park, but the illumination expanded to the city community center and shopping arcade, a sign of its growing progress. This year is the 15th anniversary, and the number of the bulbs is about 700,000. This display gathers illumination design ideas from various groups and companies. Volunteers decorate the illumination. During the display, a variety of events are held, such as the sale of special local products.

In conclusion, Kyoto has a lot of nice illumination spots, not only these illumination written in this article. However, most of these events in this season have been finished yet. If you have a chance to go to illumination next season, we recommend you go there with your someone special.

Getting There

Gojo Street Illumination

This illumination is located around Kasuga Gojo. Kasuga Street is the west of Kyoto station and Gojo Street is north of Kyoto station. If you are in Kyoto station, first you should take the JR Sagano Sanin Line (#33) and get off at the Tambaguchi station. It costs \140. Then you should take a bus (#32, #43 or #75) and get off at the Nishi-oji- Gojo bus stop. It costs \230. It takes about 10 minutes from Kyoto station to the bus stop.

Arashiyama Illumination

Take the JR Sagano Sanin Line (#33) to Saga Arashiyama station. It takes about 15 minutes and it costs \240. If you are near the Randen station, take the train to Arashiyama, which is the last station on the line.

Rurikei Hot Spring Illumination

Rurikei is in Nantan City, which is in the northwest of Kyoto Prefecture. It is quite far from Kyoto City. If you’d like to go to there, you should use a car. It takes more than 1 hour to get there from the city.

Joyo City Illumination

Take the JR Nara Line to Joyo station. It takes about 30 minutes and it costs \360. From there you should take the private bus – called Joyo SanSan Bus Primein – which takes about 10 minutes.




by Mayumi Otsuka, Mai Takezawa, and Kanako Wakamatsu

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

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1. History of Japanese dyeing methods

2. What is Kyo-yuzen?

3. How to dye by using Kyo-yuzen

4. Kyo-yuzen in foreign countries

5. Actual experience of Kyo-yuzen

History of Japanese dyeing methods

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

What is Kyo-yuzen?



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

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

Kyo-yuzen in foreign countries

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

How to dye by using Kyo-yuzen

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

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

Actual experience of Kyo-yuzen

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

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


Kyo-yuzen studio


Kyo-yuzen items

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

Here’s their website:

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

Kyoto City Subway – Karasuma Line

by Yumika Fujii and Erica Wada


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


Karasuma LineThe Karasuma Line

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

Imadegawa Station

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


Connecting to Universities in Kyoto

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


Kitaoji Bus Terminal

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

Karasuma Oike Station

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


Kotochika Karasuma Oikestarbucks coffee

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



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

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




Unique Souvenirs in Kyoto

by Sachina Matsumoto, Shin Okano & Kyosuke Maruyama

Kyoto is a traditional city in Japan. It has a lot of history and culture. Kyoto is one of Japan’s leading tourist destinations. As a result, the souvenir culture has prospered in particular. And when it comes to souvenirs, Kyoto can be said to have more tradition than other prefectures. In this article, we will introduce souvenirs that are uniquely Kyoto-style.

Kyoto Souvenirs You Can Eat

The culture of sweets in Kyoto has grown remarkably over the years. Visitors to Kyoto can choose from a wide variety of edible souvenirs to enjoy and take home with them. Below are some of the most popular.


Perhaps the most famous edible souvenir in Kyoto is yatsuhashi, which is a traditional kind of rice cracker that is classified as a type of confectionery due to its chewy, sweet flavor. It is made with rice flour, sugar, and cinnamon, which results in a sweet dough that is stretched thinly and cut into different shapes. It can either be baked or eaten raw. The baked form is like a hard, sweet rice cracker. The raw form is soft and is often wrapped around red bean paste.

In 1689, during the Edo period, yatsuhashi was first served at the teashop in Kurodani temple, on the east side of Kyoto city. In the Meiji era (From 1868 to 1912), yatsuhashi became very popular and was sold at Kyoto Station. After the Second World War, raw yatsuhashi was invented, and in modern times this raw version is more popular that the original.

A lot of people who visit Kyoto will buy yatsuhashi. There are also a lot of varieties visitors can buy, such as green tea, white sesame, cherry blossoms, chocolate, blueberry, and so on. Tourists can purchase yatsuhashi in sightseeing spots, major train stations, or specialty shops.


The next edible souvenir is called konpeito. It is a colorful, sugary hard candy. The word ‘konpeito’ originally comes from Portuguese. It also has a long history. The way of making this candy was introduced to Japan in the 1600s by Portuguese traders. In 1847, Senkichi Shimizu began a konpeito specialty shop in Kyoto. For many generations, the Shimizu family has perfected the art of making konpeito.

Konpeito is made with simple ingredients: sugar, water, and some flavoring. The candy made by slowing covering a grain of coarse sugar with syrup in a large, rotating gong-shaped tub. It is a slow process, taking 1 or 2 weeks to make a batch of konpeito.

There are now many flavors of konpeito that tourists can buy, such as strawberry, peach, mandarin, apples, giant pine, vanilla, natural water cider cherries, yogurt, coconut, ripe mango, roasted chestnut, muscat, and so on. The flavors are often subtle, not strong.

Like yatsuhashi, konpeito can be found in sightseeing spots or specialty shops throughout Kyoto. But perhaps the best place to buy it is from the original source: the Shimizu family at their shop called Ryokujuan Shimizu, near Kyoto University.


Another edible souvenir from Kyoto is tsukemono, a word which means ‘picked vegetables’. Japanese people eat tsuekmono with many of their meals.

Kyoto’s tsukemono has a long history and has been a part of the Japanese diet for a long time. The roots of tsukemono are not exactly clear. However, many believe that tsukemono originally came from China.

The land around Kyoto is rich, so it is a place that can produce quality vegetables. For this reason, there are many kinds of vegetables to be pickled. In fact, there are more than 800 kinds of pickles in Japan. Most kinds are made with vegetables such as cabbage, white radish, or eggplant. The taste changes according to different factors, such as time, environment, weather and soil conditions, and so on.

And there are various pickling methods such as with salt, bran, and vinegar. Tsukemono can taste sour or salty or both. It depends on the vegetable used and the pickling method.

Most people like tsukemono. It is very tasty, healthy, and colorful. It goes very well with many Japanese dishes and is often served with everyday meals. You can buy tsukemono in most supermarkets and souvenir stores.

Non-Edible Souvenirs


Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth. ‘Furo’ means bath, while ‘shiki’ means cloth. In old days, Japanese used to wrap their pajamas with furoshiki.

The history of furoshiki goes back 1,200 years. Furoshiki were widely used until the end of the Edo Period. During the Nara Period (710-784), furoshiki were customarily used for keeping valuables. The oldest wrapping cloth used in the Nara Period is now in safe keeping at the Shosoin, a wooden storage house at the famous Todaiji-temple in Nara.

While older furoshiki are fairly bland in appearance, modern forms are very stylish and elegant. Designers use auspicious patterns that transmit a historical feeling of Japan.

These days, Japanese people use furoshiki to wrap a gift, like wine, for example. Also, they use furoshiki when wrapping lunch box.

One place where you can buy furoshiki is a store called Kakefuda. This store offers many stylish patterns. If you just want normal Furoshiki, you can get them at most souvenir shops.


Tabi is a traditional Japanese type of sock, originally from the 15th century. They have a separation between the big toe and other toes. Tabi are suitable for wearing with Kimono or other types of traditional clothing. Tabi are worn by both men and women, with sandals like zori or geta, and other thonged outer footwear. Even construction workers wear them with boots on the job.

You can buy tabi at most souvenir shops in Kyoto. However, a shop called SOU SOU has more stylish Tabi.

SOU SOU: 583-3, Nakanocho, Nakagyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 604-8042, Japan


What we commonly call the Japanese sword originated in the Heian period. That’s why Japanese swords are so famous in Kyoto. You can buy Japanese swords in any souvenir shops. They are great for interior decoration. Indeed, many Japanese style houses have traditional swords hanging on the wall. If tourists prefer, they can buy Japanese sword-shape umbrellas instead of a sword itself. You can usually find them in souvenir shops, and occasionally convenience stores.

Nanaco Plus+ Souvenirs

Finally, one unique type of souvenir from Kyoto is made of real candy and covered with resin. The candy looks delicious and has a very bright color. You can buy these at a store called Nanaco Plus+. Not only do they sell key rings, but also other things, such as earphone jacks, earrings, and so on. Most of these souvenirs are priced between 540 and 5,400 yen.As you can see, Kyoto is a city with various charms.

Kyoto is very attractive not only for scenery but also for food, festivals, and souvenirs. I think that we should know about Kyoto more, and inform other people who don’t know about the charm of Kyoto. I will be happy if you read this article and you are interested in Kyoto.

Kyoto City Subway – Tozai line

By Yumika Fujii and Erika Wada

In the Kyoto area, there are many kinds of public rail transportation, such as JR (Japan Railways), the Shinkansen, and the Keihan and Hankyu Railways (which connect Kyoto and Osaka). There are also two lines of the Kyoto City Subway system; the Tozai line and the Karasuma line. They travel through 10 city wards, with the exception of Sakyo in Kyoto city, and Uji city, and each of them is used by many people every day for commuting and for pleasure.

Tozai Linemap

The Tozai line was the second subway line to be built in Kyoto city. When the Tozai line was inaugurated on October 12th, 1997, there were just 13 stations, from Daigo station in the east to Nijo station. After that, further stations were added, from Rokujizo station to Daigo station, built in 2004, and from Nijo station to Uzumasa Tenjingawa station, built in 2008. This means there are 17 stations in all now. Each station has a number, from T1 to T17 and all are located near famous and popular places for tourists to visit, or for people to get to their workplaces or school, even from other prefectures. In 2003, the Daigo community bus that is run by local citizens was started, and this also connects with the subway. Moreover, it is possible to use Yamashina station and transfer to the JR Tokaido and Kosei lines, so we can get to Shiga prefecture easily, and Nijo station to transfer to the JR Sanin line. We can also use Rokujizo station to transfer to the JR and Keihan trains and go on to Uji and Nara prefecture, and at Uzumasa Tenjingawa station, built in 2008, we can transfer to the Arashiyama dentetsu train and go to Arashiyama. Travelling east to west or west to east across the city has never been so easy.

macchaRokujizo Station

Rokujizo Station is located in Fushimi, which is in Kyoto City. This station is a hub for 3 different transport options: JR, City Bus, and the Keihan Railway. People can transfer here for Kyoto Station and Uji, which is famous for Japanese green tea.

Ono Station

This station is located in Yamashina, Kyoto, and the number is T04. This is near Kajuji. Kajuji is sometimes called “Kannsyuji” or “Kanjuji”, but Kajuji is the official title. Kanjuji is the temple at which the head priest has always been drawn from the Imperial family or the ranks of the nobility.

Keage StationNanzenji temple

Keage Station is located in Higashiyama, Kyoto City, and the number is T09. This station is very close to Nanzenji Temple. Nanzenji temple was the first temple built at the Emperor’s behest in Japan, making it the highest rank of temple in Japan. Moreover, it is famous and popular for its colored leaves in autumn, which offers one of the best views out of all the four seasons in Japan.

Higashiyama StationHigashiyama

This station is located in Higashiyama, Kyoto city, and the number is T10. To the west side of the station is the crossing at Higashiyama and Sanjo streets, so it is very accessible for tourist spots like Heian Jingu Shrine or Okazaki Park. In Okazaki, there are many cultural delights and facilities, such as the Modern Art Museum, The Municipal Art Museum, The Prefectural Library, Kyoto Zoo, and the Okazaki Athletic Field. Everyone can enjoy sightseeing here, and engage in different activities.

Sanjo Keihan stationSanjo Keihan Station

Sanjo Keihan Station is located in Higashiyama, Kyoto City, and the number is T11. This station is connected to that of the Keihan Electric Railway, which is a private railway line that goes to Osaka and Shiga Prefectures. This station is very convenient for people who want to go to the Gion area, and also Kawaramachi Street, which is the popular downtown shopping street in Kyoto. In addition, there are cafes, convenience stores, ATMs and other shops on the concourse of the station, so people can spend their time comfortably here.

Kyoto Shiyakusho Mae Station

This station is located in Nakagyo, Kyoto City, and the name of the station means “the station in front of Kyoto City Hall”. The station number is T12, and is the next station to Sanjo Keihan. There is only one automatic ticket gate here, so it is very easy to find, even for tourists from other countries. Kawaramachi Street is a short walk from here, but there is also a very extensive underground shopping mall that is convenient when it is raining up top.

Karasuma Oike Station

This station is also located in Nakagyo, Kyoto City, and the number is T13 and K07. The station complex is one of the biggest in the Kyoto Subway system, because people can transfer here from the Karasuma Line Subway. There are a lot of buildings, cafes and shops near the station in the business district, and you can enjoy STARBUCKS coffee on the concourse. The automatic ticket gates are provided on the basement level, the platforms for the Karasuma Line are on the 2nd basement level, and the platforms for the Tozai Line are on the 3rd basement level.

NijojoNijo-jo Mae Station

Nijo-jo Mae Station is located in Nakagyo, Kyoto City and the station number is T14. The station name means “the station in front of Nijo Castle”, so it is very convenient for tourists going to the castle. In fact, you can walk there in just a few minutes, and you should take Exit 1 for the easiest access. In addition, this station is on Horikawa Street, which is one of the main streets in Kyoto, and transfers to many city bus routes can be made here.



In conclusion, Kyoto City Subway system Tozai Line is a very convenient and reliable mode of travel within Kyoto City. If you visit Kyoto, you should be sure to make the best use of this form of public transportation to reduce your travel times, and make your stay more enjoyable.


Talking to a Rickshaw Driver

by Mayu Kuwahara, Karen Takeda and Yuri Nonaka

Rickshaw Driver Yoshito Ayata

Rickshaw Driver Yoshito Ayata


Rickshaws in Japan

The Japanese-style rickshaw was invented by Kosuke Izumi, Kosuke Takayama and Tokujiro Suzuki in about 1868. When they went to Tokyo, they saw carriages and inspired by them to develop a jinrikusha or rickshaw. It is one kind of vehicle that has been used as a means of transportations in Japan. A rickshaw has a covered seat set between two wheels, and is pulled by a “driver.” People who pull rickshaws are called “shahu.” Rickshaws are still used in many tourist areas for sightseeing, especially in Kyoto. When customers hire a rickshaws, the rickshaw driver is expected to tell stories about local history and give advice about popular stores or restaurants because they know the best places in Kyoto.


Rickshaw Driver Youshito Ayata

We interviewed a Japanese rickshaw driver named Yoshito Ayata. He works at Ebisuya, which is a rickshaw company located near Arashiyama Station in Kyoto. He is a 20-year-old student and goes to Ritsumeikan University. He has been driving rickshaws for about one year, so he talked about his job.

Karen: Why did you decide to start working at Ebisuya?

Yoshito: It has been my dream job since I was about nine years old. When I saw the rickshaw for the first time, I thought it was super cool. Ever since that day I decided to do this job after I graduated from high school.

Mayu: What have you learned by your experience as a rickshaw driver?

Yoshito: I learned a lot of things—not only how to drive the rickshaw but also how to show hospitality. And it is very good exercise for me and I can practice foreign languages with my customers.

Karen: That is great. What do you consider when you interact with foreign customers? Is there any difference between Japanese and foreign customers?

Yoshito: There is so much difference between Japanese and foreign customers. Some foreigners think that the rickshaw is just a cheap means of transportation like in India or Thailand, so they will be surprised when they see the price. One more example, when I give them a guided tour about one area in Kyoto, most of them don’t know about the Tale of Genji nor Hyakunin-isshyu, so it is a bit hard to explain about the history.

Yuri: I see. It is so interesting.

Karen: Yes. Even Japanese don’t know a lot about Japanese history, so it must be harder to explain about Japanese history to foreign customers.

Yuri: By the way, why can you speak English so well?

Yoshito: Oh, I studied abroad in New Zealand for one year when I was a high school student. That is why I speak English better than the other drivers, so I mainly deal with foreign customers. My boss always passes them to me. But many times I interact with Chinese customers too, so I would like to improve my Chinese language. It is the hardest thing for me.

Yuri: Do you have anything that you think about concerning this job? And also I’d like to know how you felt when you drove a rickshaw for the first time.

Yoshito: I think a lot about maintaining a healthy condition, especially in the summer time. And also in the rainy season! It takes about 40 minutes to polish my rickshaw when it rains. And balancing the rickshaw for the first time was the hardest thing for me. Also the rickshaw is categorized as a light vehicle such as bicycle or scooter, so you have to follow the traffic laws, and you have to speak to the customer at the same time.

Yuri: I never thought about it. You have to run with the road traffic! So interesting.

Mayu: That is so scary!….haha. Okay then, what is the most precious thing for you when you are working?

Yoshito: When my customers could enjoy my ride from the bottom of their heart. I like their smiles very much.

Karen: Okay thanks. It’s the last question. What are the attractive points of Kyoto when being viewed from a rickshaw?

Yoshito: When you ride the rickshaw, everything seems attractive, because you can see the town from a different perspective. And I highly recommend the path that goes through the bamboo forest here, especially in the early morning when nobody is around.

Mayu: I don’t know about rickshaws much but really want to ride one someday.

Yoshito: Please come to Ebisuya!

Yuri: Yes! Thanks!


Hiring a jinrikishya in Kyoto will become one of your best memories. They are not at all like a bus or a taxi. Not only as vehicle, but also as an activity, you can get closer to Kyoto, learn about recommended places, touch culture and history, and find new attractive points from the new perspective of rickshaw. Try and go around Kyoto with Jinrikisya!!!

Arashiyama Station

Arashiyama Station


1 Passenger

– 1 block tour (1200m, 12min) – 3,000yen

– 2 block tour (2200m, 22min) – 5,000yen

– 30 minute tour  – 7,000yen

– 45 minute tour – 10,000yen

– 60 minute tour  – 13,000yen

– 120 minite tour – 23,500yen

– 180 minute tour – 32,500yen


2 Passengers

– 1 block tour (1200m, 12min) – 4,000yen

– 2 block tour (2200m, 22min) – 7,000yen

– 30 minute tour  – 9,000yen

– 45 minute tour – 13,500yen

– 60 minute tour  – 17,500yen

– 120 minite tour – 32,500yen

– 180 minute tour – 47,500yen

* cash only, credit cards not accepted


More information  ↓Please cleck here↓


Spooky Places in Kyoto

by Hayato Tochimori and Yuta Sakurai

Summer in Kyoto is very hot. The average of maximum temperature is somewhere between 30 and 35 degrees. Ways of keeping cool are using air conditioners, eating ice cream, swimming in a pool, watering down a path, and so on. However, there is another way of keeping you cool in Japan. It is called kimodameshi, which means a test of your courage. Some people (especially young people) go to psychic spots at night because they can feel cool naturally with fear. Below are three recommended spooky places in Kyoto that are sure to send chills down your spine.

The Kiyotaki Tunnel

The Kiyotaki Tunnel

The Kiyotaki Tunnel is located in the Ukyo Ward of Kyoto city.  This spot is very scary, so already some TVs and magazines have introduced it to the public.  It became psychic spot because it was once an execution site, and a number of people have since committed suicide inside the tunnel.  In the distant past, the tunnel used to be for trains of Atagosan Railway line only.  Eventually, the railway closed for business just before the Second World War.  After that, the tunnel was designated for use with cars.

There are some rumours about this Kiyotaki tunnel.  First, do not enter the tunnel when the traffic signal is green.  When it is green, it means that spirits welcome you.  If you enter it when the traffic signal is green, female spirits will appear in front of you.  So, if you see a green light when you arrive at the entrance to the tunnel, you should wait for the traffic signal change to green again after red.  Second, there is a facing down mirror after you go through the tunnel, but do not look at it recklessly at night.  If you look at the mirror, you see yourself as a dead person.  If you look at the mirror and you do not see your own figure, you die in a few days.  Third, you might hear shrieks of women.  Fourth, if you go through the tunnel by car, you might see handprints on the hood of your car.


The map shows where the Kiyotaki Tunnel is.  You can go to this spot by Kyoto bus.  From Kyoto station, please use No.72 or 84 bus.  From Hankyu Arashiyama station, please use No.62, 64 or 94 bus.  Then, please get off at Otagidera-mae.

Map of the Kiyotaki Tunnel

Midorogaike Pond

Midorogaike Pond

Midorogaike Pond is located in the Kita Ward in Kyoto city.  This spot is the scariest in Kyoto, so a lot of Kyoto citizens already know about this pond.  Midorogaike pond is designated by the government as a natural monument to conserve the plants and animals of the pond.  It became a spooky place due to several widespread rumours. First, there is one story of a taxi.  The taxi driver picked up a woman at one night, and she asked him to take her to the Midorogaike pond.  The driver wondered why she wanted to go there at such a late hour, but he went ahead and proceeded to take her to the pond anyway.  When the taxi driver arrived at the pond and looked back, the woman had disappeared and the back seat was wet.  After this incident, some taxi drivers in Kyoto have agreed not to take passengers to the pond at night.  Second, it is said that spirits wander around the pond.  There used to be a mental hospital near the pond and some of the patients had drowned themselves there.  There is belief that a lot of drowned corpses are sunk deep within in the pond because condition of the pond is bottomless.  If you fall into the pond, it is difficult for you to get out because of the vast amounts of mud.  Some eyewitnesses have said that they have seen spirits and human souls around the pond.


The map shows where Midorogaike Pond is.  You can go to this spot by underground or Kyoto city bus.  If you go by underground, please get off at Kitayama station and walk 15 minutes.  If you go by city bus, please get on No.4 bus at Kyoto station and then get off at Midorogaike.

Map of Midorogaike Pond

Map of Midorogaike Pond

Ushinokoku Mairi

Ushinokoku Mairi

Finally, I am going to write about ushinokoku mairi. It is the ritual of laying a curse on to another person. The term ‘ushinokoku’ refers to the time between 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. in Japan. Mairi means going to worship. It is said that this ritual was completed in Edo period (1603~1867). In this ritual, a person who wants to put a curse on someone else nails a straw doll (similar to a voodoo doll) on a tree. It is common to perform the ritual wearing white clothing and wooden clogs, with disheveled hair and a whitened face. The person who is cursed gets sick from the same organ into which the nail was put into the doll. This is a very scary cultural practice. However, nobody must see a person performing this ritual because it is believed that the performer will get the curse back on him or her, and the performer should kill the witness if the performer is seen to perform the ritual. Therefore, please be careful not to observe this ritual. It is a dangerous ritual, but it is a really interesting part of Japanese culture.

In the very north part of Kyoto city, there is a shrine related to ushinokoku mairi. It is called the Kibune shrine. It is famous for the God of marriage, but is also known for the birthplace of ushinokoku mairi. This shrine has a set of stairs made of rock, and there are many red lanterns hanging on both sides, so the scenery is very beautiful. Therefore, you can enjoy these spots in Kibune shrine, while thinking about the scary culture of ushinokoku mairi. However, just be careful not to go to Kibune shrine between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m.


The map shows where Kifune shrine is. The way to go to Kifune shrine is to walk from Kifuneguchi station. It is the nearest station from Kifune shrine. From Kyoto station, you can go to the station by bus and train. First, please use a train bound for Kokusaikaikan, and then, please use a bus bound for Kifuneguchi station.

Map of Kifune shrine

Map of Kifune shrine


So those are three scary places in Kyoto. Is it spooky enough for you? Such a strange way to make us cooler in the heat of the summer is such an interesting part of Japanese culture, isn’t it? If you want to overcome the really hot temperatures of the Kyoto summer, then visiting these places is indispensable. Moreover, it is better for the environment than just using an electric air conditioner. Let’s enjoy our summer in Kyoto with these three not only interesting, but also scary places.

The Layout of Kyoto City Streets

By Mai Takezawa, Kanako Wakamatsu, and Mayumi Otsuka

grid pattern

Kyoto’s Grid Pattern

The most characteristic point of Kyoto city is its grid pattern of streets. Kyoto city’s streets are constructed by North-South lines and crossing East-West lines. This grid pattern looks like Igo, the Japanese board game of capturing your opponent’s territory. The board is like a grid. It is called “Goban”, and from that it is called Gobannome in Japanese. The main streets in Kyoto run East and West are are named in numerical order, from one to ten, Ichijou to Jujou. The North and South streets are named by each street. It was too complicated to remember the whole name of the streets for people who lived in old days because they do not have convenient tools like the Internet. Therefore, the Warabe uta, which is like a children’s song, was made to remember it easily. Hokkaido and Tokyo are also cities in Japan using the same grid pattern style.


There are various theories about origin of the grid pattern. One of the most popular theories is the imitation of the old Chinese capital city, also based on Chinese fortune telling. In the old days, people’s houses were similar. They were called Machiya, so individual houses were hard to recognize. However, setting up a grid pattern and named every streets provided people distinction of individual houses more clearly. Moreover, for military aspect, arranging the roads this way made it easy to move a large number of armed forces. And if a fire happened, people could escape easily. Also the grid pattern deters the fire from spreading.

Machiya house

Machiya house

Main Streets in Kyoto

Karasuma Street is one of the most well-known streets in Kyoto. It is a causeway which starts from Imamiya Street in the north to Kuzebashi Street in the south. The length of this street is about 6.6 kilometers. In the old days, traffic jams often occurred. However, in 1981 they started the subway service between Kitaoji Street and Kyoto station. Because of this, the problem of traffic jams was solved.

The historical place of Karasuma Street is Kyoto Gyoen. It is a national park that contains Kyoto Gosho, Sentou Gosho, and the Kyoto state guest house. This area has about 63 hectares. Especially, Kyoto Gosho used to be an imperial house before the Japanese capital city moved to Tokyo. Sentou Gosho is the house for the emperor when he retires. Sentou Gosho was built in 1627. In the east part of Sentou Gosho, there is a garden with a huge pond. Kyoto state guest house was built in 2005 to give foreign visitors a hearty welcome and to make their understanding of Japanese culture and become friendlier.

The mood of Karasuma Street is different in the northern side than it is south of Marutamachi. The northern side has a lot of historical and religious places, while the Southern portion is basically a business district with many office buildings.

Kawaramachi Street is another such street. It is not only historical, but also highly commercial. The history of Kawaramachi started about 300 years ago. During the summertime Gion festival, the yamaboko – which is kind of sacred portable shrine – goes through Kawaramachi Street. The name ‘Kawaramachi’ comes from the Kamogawa River. “Kawara” means riverbank in Japanese. Nowadays, for Japanese people, Kawaramachi is famous for shopping and there has many cafes and restaurant, so it is really good place to hang out.

Kyoto Gyoen

Kyoto Gyoen

Main East-West Streets

The most famous street running East and West in Kyoto is Shijo Street. Our school (Kyoto University of Foreign Studies) is on Shijou Street. Shijo starts from Yasaka shrine in the East and runs all the way to Matsuo Grand Shrine in the West. The length of this street is about 7 kilometers. The history of Shijo street goes back to the past of Heiankyo. The intersection of Shijo Street and Karasuma Street is called ‘Shijo Karasuma’. In Shijo Karasuma, there are many department stores, for example, Daimaru, and if anything, it is more for adults rather than young people. This is because there are a lot of famous brand shops. Therefore, it is said that it is like the center of Kyoto city. On the other hand, there are serious traffic problems in and around Shijo Karasuma. The expansion the of sidewalk was completed in 2015. As a result, the sidewalk was certainly expanded, but it means the roadway has become narrower. Because of this, traffic jams occur frequently, so complaints about this from residents have been increasing rapidly.

sijou street

Shijo Street

Advantages for Tourists

If you lose your way in Kyoto, you can use the grid street pattern to help you find your way. For example, if you can find the name of the street you are on, it is easy to recognize where you are. And even if you cannot find the name of the street, you can turn every corner three times and can go back to the place where you were. The structure of the streets is very simple, so tourists can arrive the place where they want to go by using a map. When you take a cab, it is easy to tell the driver where you want to go by just giving street name.

Disadvantages for tourists

On the other hand, the grid pattern has disadvantages. If you want to go somewhere located diagonal, you have to go a long way round. However, most of Kyoto city’s streets are one-way. It means if you use the bus and you get involved in a traffic jam, it will take a lot of time. Furthermore, Kyoto city has regulations about the exterior color of houses and buildings. For example, McDonald is famous for yellow and red, but in Kyoto city, it is painted a sober brown or tan color. For this reason, the streets look similar, so it is easy to confuse where you are.

If you decide to go to Kyoto city, we recommend you to study about its grid pattern before you travel. It make you trip more enjoyable if you understand how it works.

Yokai Street

By Ayano Seguchi  and Emiri Masunaga

The city of Kyoto has been called Kyoto-Makai for about 1,300 years now. ‘Makai’ means the world of spirits in English. This is because Kyoto has been related to ghosts and evil spirits since ancient times. In Kyoto city, there is a street named Ichijo on the northern edge of Heian-kyo in Kamigyo Ward. It is located in the center of the city. Ichijo is one of the biggest streets in Kyoto and corresponds to the same Ichijo-oji street of Heian-kyo (from 794 to 1191). The east-west streets which run every four cho (approximately 436 m) were called Ichijo-oji, Nijo-oji and so on, while the north-south streets were called Ichibo-oji, Nibo-oji and so on.   It has been said that Ichijo Street is a boundary line between the external world and the real world. Because of this, Ichijo has been famous as a typical example of Kyoto-Makai. It was said that Ichijo was the place where people met with evil spirits and Ichijo-dori Street was the way of Hyakki Yagyo, which is a mysterious legend. Hyakki Yagyo literally means ‘Night Parade of One Hundred Demons’ is like a procession of hundreds of demons and ghosts that wander about streets at midnight. Later, people gave the name ‘Yokai Street’ to a portion of Ichijo Street at the Taishogun shopping area. This revitalized the area in 2005.

Ichijo Hyakki Yagyo

At Yokai Street, Hyakki Yagyo is performed once a year in October. At the time of a day when the sun sets, it gets completely dark. Then it is said that ghosts and evil spirits start to wander about the street at the time. Therefore, people who disguise themselves as ghosts appear and proceed to the sound of whistles and drums in a line. It creates a very vibrant and colorful scene. The participants make a strange atmosphere by making the sounds of whistles and drums. The situation is appropriate to the name ‘Hyakki Yagyo’.   Many tourists form Asian countries such as China, Taiwan, South Korea, come to enjoy Hyakki Yagyo every year. This is because it is such a unique festival. However, children are scared of the people who disguise themselves as ghosts and they begin to cry. It is often too scary for children to see. There are large crowds of people during the procession. And as a result, it can be very difficult to walk around. You can probably guess that the day Hyakki Yagyo is held is much more vibrant than usual at Yokai street.

Mononoke Ichi

Also an important feature of the Ichijo Street region is the Mononoke Ichi, which is similar to a ghost-themed flea market. This shopping district voluntarily holds photo exhibitions of ghosts and various other events. For example, the sellers disguise themselves as ghosts and sell many kinds of food. Also, many of the stores in the area are decorated in a ghost or demon themes. In addition, many ghost researchers and writers from the all over Japan gather at this free market They sell many fine goods and unique articles, such as stuffed toys, accessories, convenience goods, masks of ghosts, ghost figures, ghost mango, and so on. In addition, there is also a place for cultural exchange, which attracts many Yokai fans from all over Japan. They look forward to it every year and buy many goods that they want. Whether they like ghosts or not, all people can come to enjoy Monoke Ichi.

Yokai Noodles

The most famous of local culinary specialties on Yokai Steet is Yokai Noodle. The color of the noodles is purple, while its soup is black. In addition, its ingredients are leeks, roast pork and red paprika. This gives Yokai noodles the appearance of a hell as a motif. The reason why Yokai noodles are black is to contrast the noodles with the color of ghosts. The noodle is stained with the ink of squid, while its soup is dyed with the seeds of a gardenia. Contrary to its dreadful appearance and color, its taste is very light. People who visit Yokai street eat it. You can eat it at a restaurant called ‘Inoue’. It is located in Tenjinbashisuji, Higashi-iru, Ichijo onmae-Dori, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture. The cost of Yokai Noodle is 750 yen. You can also eat various kinds of dishes such as gyoza, tonkatsu, fried cartilage and a chicken cutlet.Tuesday is regular holiday. It is open from 11 to 14:30 and from 17:30 to 21:00. Kitano Hakubai-cho bus stop is the nearest bus stop. It takes a few minutes from the bus stop on foot.


Yokai street is about 400 meters away from the Kitano Hakubai-cho station on the Keifuku train line. It is also 200 meters to the east of the Kitano Hakubai-cho bus stop, and 250 meters to the southwest of the Kitano-tenmangu bus stop.


Taishogun shopping area

Traditions of the Kamogawa

by Erica Wada, Yumika Fujii & Konomi Shinbashi

Kyoto is one of the most popular prefectures in Japan these days because it has a lot of famous places. The length of Kamogawa River is 31 kilometers, and it is home to such wildlife as great salamanders, black-headed gulls, sweetfish, and so on. In this article, we are going to introduce four traditions related to the Kamogawa: kawadoko, kyoyuzen, kabuki, and couples sitting on the riverbank.


kawadokoOne of these traditions takes place in the summer season, and is called noryodoko (納涼床) or kawadoko (川床). Noryodoko or kawadoko is basically an outdoor wooden deck that is made on the river to offer food to customers for a limited time, between May to September. There are 96 restaurants in just 2 kilometers between Nijo bridge in the north and Gojo bridge in the south. People can enjoy eating and drinking on the noryodoko belonging to each restaurant. The entire region of restaurants is divided into four areas: Kamikiyamachi, Pontocho, Nishiishigaki, and Shimokiyamachi. The restaurants are not only Kyo-ryori (Kyoto cuisine) restaurants, but also other kinds of restaurants, such as Chinese, French, Italian, Korean and so on. There is even a kawadoko in front of Starbucks facing the river, so tourists can enjoy drinking coffee outdoors while seeing the beautiful views. Tourists from foreign countries can enjoy their food at these kinds of restaurants, too.


kyouyuzenAnother tradition that is associated with the Kamogawa River is kyoyuzen. (京友禅) Kyoyuzen is the dyeing that was devised by Miyazaki Yuzensai in the Genroku period, and it is one of the traditional craftwork products of Kyoto. People once did yuzen nagashi (友禅流し) which they soaked kyoyuzen in the Kamogawa River, but that tradition had stopped because people thought it might cause water pollution.


kabukiIn addition, the part of the river near Shijo bridge is said to be the birthplace of kabuki. Kabuki is the theater peculiar to Japan, and it is one of the Japanese traditional performing arts. Kabuki odori (Kabuki performance) which is the origin of Kabuki, spread in popularity because the female entertainer, Izumono Okuni, performed on the riverbank of Kamogawa River. Today, tourists can see a bronze statue of Izumono Okuni near Shijo bridge, where her first dances were done.

Couples Sitting on the Riverbank

riversideThe last tradition that we want to introduce is the phenomenon of multiple couples sitting along the riverbank of the Kamogawa. On weekends particularly, there are a lot of people sitting there, especially from early in the afternoon to the night because the riverbed between the Sanjo bridge and Shigo bridge is so close to downtown. The spaces between the couples are always regular, so the phenomenon is called “The law of the regular intervals” in Japanese. What is interesting is that the spaces between couples or groups are always at the same intervals, even if the number of people sitting beside Kamogawa increases. The number of couples starts to increase at about 3:00 pm, and then the spaces get smaller and smaller because the couples or groups gather beside the river in order to rest, drink some coffee, and so on. Couples sit together in regular intervals because they do not need to care about nearby people. They simply enjoy talking with their boyfriend or girlfriend, or other friends. Each group of people has their own personal-space. This is why couples or groups sit together in regular intervals. In addition, Kyoto natives say they care about others more than people from other prefectures, so that is also a reason why they sit together beside the Kamogawa River in regular intervals, too.

This phenomenon of couples sitting in intervals has been happening in Kyoto from the early 1970s. There are various rumors as to why this happens. One of them is that there are ghosts or spirits that existed many years ago. They fought in a big terrible war, and a lot of people died. And now those people exist in-between couples sitting on the Kamogawa as ghosts or spirits, so it is said one of the reasons why people are sitting in the regular intervals.

We conducted a simple survey of university students about sitting on the Kamogawa. About 57% of the respondents said they have never sat beside Kamogawa River. We asked the respondents who answered to the question “Who did you sit together with?” 40% of the respondents answered “With boyfriend or girlfriend.” 60% of the respondents answered “With friends.” It means that sitting beside the Kamogawa is not only for couples, but also for groups of friends.

It also seems that the way people sit is changing these days. Then we asked the respondents the question about “What did you do while sitting beside the Kamogawa?” They reported that they sit to rest, drink some Starbucks coffee, and especially to talk with girlfriend/boyfriend, friends, or others. We also asked them “Why did you sit beside the Kamogawa?” Someone said, “There are no particular reasons, but it is just a nice space where I can sit down and get some fresh air.” Another person said, “The Kamogawa River is a sightseeing spot in Kyoto, so I can take good and memorable pictures.”

As you can see, there are four traditions which are related to the Kamogawa in Kyoto. Not only are these Kyoto traditions popular amongst Japanese people, but they are also becoming more and more popular amongst foreigners. If you visit Kyoto, why don’t you experience these Kyoto traditions through the Kamogawa river?