Kyoto Prefectural Library

June 22, 2015

by Yuya Fukuda

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

Modern Western style Architectures in Japan

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

Why does Kyoto have so many western style buildings today?

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

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

Kyoto Prefectural Library

Kyoto pretectural Library

Kyoto pretectural Library

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

Goichi Takeda

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

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

Tel : +81-75-762-4655

Website :



by Sae Nagata and Maiko Hotehama

Kyoto is famous for Tea and Temples but we researched about Tatami, because there are used a lot of structures and is closely connected to Tea room.

What is Tatami ?
Tatami is one of the materials used in Japan from ancient times. It did not come from China, but originated in Japan. You can see Tatami in Japanese style room. Tatami has an important role in houses in Japan.

Tatami has a long history. It’s history goes back to Jomon era, 13,000 years ago. People would lay straw and board on the floor in their pit dwelling. After that, in Heian era, the original form of Tatami was made, and in Muromachi era, spreading tatami all over became common among people. In Azuchi-Momoyama era, behavior and manner in Japanese style room was established because of tea ceremony, one of the traditional cultures in Japan. The ordinary people came to use Tatami, so consumption of Tatami increased in Edo era. Now, in modern society, western style houses are more common than Japanese ones, but almost all of the houses in Japan have at least one Japanese style room.

They are a lot of kinds. For example, Edoma and Kyoma. Kyoma’s size is 955mm×1910mm. It arise at Kyoto and expand to Kansai region. Next,Edoma expand around Kantou region. Edoma’s size is 880mm×1760mm. Recently, we can choose material, color, and size ourselves.

Traditional material are rush and straw. Tatami’s structure divide into large two parts. There are Waratoko and Tatamiomote. Waratoko is a wick and made of hard rice. It include Tatamitoko at traditional Tatami. But, recently we get difficult to material and careful about hygienic. So, we use compress wood chips and Styrene more and more. Tatamitoko is most important part, made of dried straw only. Tatamiomote means surface. It is made of rush and straw.

First, we measurement of Tatamiomote and Tatamitoko, same sizes. Second, we cut these and cloth together neatly. Third, we sew up edge.
The thread we use is either hemp or silk. Recently, we use kind of propylene and vinyl. Fourth, we staple at corner. Finally, we sew up there. It’s complete.
The materials change, but the method does not. So everyone can use Tatami safely. The tatami edge has a lot of patterns and luxurious ones are sewn with a very complex pattern. They must not break when spread all over them. So, we are careful about sewing up the edge. This is one of amazing part about at a manufacturing process.

Traditional respect
Traditionally, the master usually sits higher than his or her retainer place. So Tatami are put on high place. There is one type of room at Nijo castle. You can see it in this picture.
So master can look down retainer, but it use for Emperor and Emperor’s messenger sometimes. Then, Master doesn’t sits high place. It expression of respect for master and Emperor. Next, we don’t step edge. There are 3 reasons.  First, it means one of discipline in tea ceremony. Next, we step there is rude to ancestor because, sometimes these edge patterns are family crests. This picture is edge patterns.


Final, they are damaged easily. So we need to take good care for Tatami.These are manners. And above mentioned show consideration for each other.

Tatami is elastic, absorb sound about sound steps. And they have absorbent and gush moisture. So, they are cool at summer and warm at winter. They can reduce toxic substance in the air. They are nature color, so we can sight relax because it smells good. They include ingredient same such as Tea and Vanilla. It is called Natural aromatherapy. Some people believe that Tatami can promote children’s concentration.

Young generations are decrease about opportunity for feel Tatami but, a lot of Japanese honor the Tatami, which has continued to take over tradition and we never walk on it with our shoes. In fact, there are many historically important scenes where we see Tatami. Tatami have a long history, a lot of type and merit.
I think they can reduce toxic substance in the air, and the like CO2. They are wonderful things. Recently, Tatami are become popular over the world. So, some Tatami’s shops are started conduct to overseas company.  We should use Tatami more and more.


by Shiho Tanaka and Keita Matsui

Live Fugu

Fugu in a tank

Fugu is a fish known as ‘blowfish’ in English.  There are about 120 types, but we can eat only Torafugu and Mafugu.  However, they have poisons in different parts of their bodies, so people who don’t know about this may have health problems if they eat it.  Fugu is usually caught in winter, but now the technology for freezing and cultivation is very good, so it is possible to eat fugu in every season.

History of Fugu

Fugu has been eaten in Japan since about B.C 10,000, but people didn’t really know how to cook it in this era. This means they probably ate the dangerous parts of the fish when they broiled or boiled it back then.  From about 1570, after a fair number of people had died from eating fugu, General Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a great leader of the time, banned consumption of the fish.  It wasn’t until around 1870 that people started to eat it widely again, and it then became a real delicacy or high-class food.

Names of Fugu

In Japan, there are different names for fugu depending on the area.  In Kyushu, for instance, it is called ‘Fuku’, and in Osaka, it is known as ‘Teppo’.  Teppo means gun in English, which obviously refers to the deadly nature of fugu and the many people killed by its poison long ago.  In Nagasaki prefecture, people call it ‘Ganba’, and there is also ‘Nagoyafugu.

Fugu sashimi

How to Eat Fugu

People eat this fish in a variety of interesting ways, but the most popular way is as sashimi.  Sashimi is sliced, raw fish, and in the case of fugu it is widely known as ‘Fugusashi’.  Raw fugu is sliced thinner than usual sashimi, because the flesh is harder than that of other fish.  Another famous way to eat it is in ‘Nabe’.  Nabe is a dish in which a variety of ingredients are boiled together in a communal style pot.  In Japan, there are lots of types of nabe, for example, Kimuchi, giblets, vegetable, and fugu. ‘Fugunabe’ includes vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, and of course, fillets of fugu.  There are other names for Fugunabe, too, such as ‘Techiri’ and ‘Fuguchiri’.  Fugu flesh can also be eaten fried, along with some of the internal organs of the fish, and the texture is rather creamy and quite delicious.  However, eating these parts can be quite dangerous, as there are certain toxins or poisons present, which can cause serious health problems for the diner, especially when eating the liver.  Therefore, it is not advisable for a layperson to try and cook the fish themselves, but rather they should visit a restaurant that has qualified chefs up to the task.  Not all restaurants are able to offer this, so one should be careful when selecting a place.  This is what makes fugu dining a high class or gourmet event, and sometimes quite expensive.

Fugu nabe

Deep fried fugu

High Class Fugu Restaurants

There are a number of high-class Japanese style Fugu restaurants in Kyoto, and we would like to introduce two here.  The first is “Fukushin” (  This restaurant was established in 1947, and uses natural and high quality fugu.  The lunchtime menu is relatively cheap, so this might be the best time to visit.  Also, “Suehiro” ( is another good choice.  This place has a 63-year history and is located in a thriving and happening area of Kyoto.  If you want to go here, the best time of year is between October and March, when the fish is of the best and freshest quality.