The Underground Gourment Heaven

Last September I came to Asia for the first time, and as a study abroad student I began to live in Kyoto. In the United States I took many classes related to Japan, but before I came I really didn't have a true understanding of the country. But, after I came to Kyoto, I saw many things for the first time. Although I think such places as temples, shrines and castles are interesting, in fact my favorite place in Kyoto is probably the basement of Takashimaya Department Store. For Japanese, that fact may seem strange, but because America doesn't have that type of store, and because Japanese department store basements have really delicious food, I think it is a great place.

Currently, because I live with a host family near Hankyu Higashi Muko Station, everyday in order to school I have to go to Hankyu Kawaramachi Station and pass through Takashimaya Department Store. Compared to other department stores, I don't really know whether this department store basement is the best, but for people that use the Hankyu line often I think it is very convenient. Moreover, everyday one can see delicious looking food. Because one can buy various foods, all day long there are a lot of people and it is very lively. Also, food from Takashimaya is good as souvenirs and gifts.

Sometimes even if I am not hungry, because the food looks good, I end up buying something. Even if I don't buy anything, shop workers shout "welcome" with a loud voice. In America, because that kind of custom doesn't exist, at first I thought it was very interesting. Within the department store, my favorite food is a pancake called "dorayaki" that is filled with adzuki bean paste. However, that is not to say that I only enjoy sweet foods at Takashimaya. At lunchtime, other than "dorayaki," I also buy things such as bento and gyoza. If the weather is nice, generally I bring my food outside and eat it next to the Kamo River. But, because there are many discounts at night, I often try to go at night also.

BANKS, Corey

But, regrettably, because I am scheduled to return to America in April, I only have a short time to enjoy the basement of Takashimaya Department Store. But, until that time I want to try to eat a lot of food there. In the future, I hope America can have that kind of place as well.

- BANKS, Corey

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 Sakura Blossoms

Sakura (cherry blossoms) are often regarded as being representative of Japan. From a Japanese perspective, they are also a beautiful symbol of the changing seasons. Yet why is it that even I—an American—look forward to seeing the sakura come into bloom every year?

I was raised together with sakura. When my family moved into a house in the state of Maryland, my parents planted several sakura trees, which grew taller over the years, just like I did. Also Washington DC, which is located close by, is practically overflowing with sakura trees.

Mention this to a Japanese person, and it may surprise them. Yet in 1912, the Japanese government sent 3,020 sakura trees to America, followed by another 3,800 in 1965. Nowadays, one could say that sakura have become part of American culture as well. Those of you who enjoy watching cherry blossoms should think about visiting DC. It's warm and lovely when the sakura come into Sakura Blossoms bloom, and there are plenty of festivals.

And so I would argue that sakura are also symbolic of cultural exchange. Plant sakura in any country, and they'll come into full bloom in the spring. Isn't it wonderful to contemplate the fact that while we gaze at sakura here in Japan this year, people in foreign countries will be admiring their own blossoms, too?

Sakura Blossoms in Washington

- PERRY, Sarah

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 History - Old Kyoto!

Whoever you ask these days will tell you that Kyoto is a historic city, but the truth is that today's Kyoto is very different from the Kyoto of the past. Let me introduce a little bit of Kyoto's history.

Japan's first capital was Nara, founded in the year 710 A.D. But Nara had some problems. The Buddhist priesthood was beginning to seize governmental power. In order to escape the threatening grasp of Buddhism influence, Emperor Kanmu decided to change the capital.

In order to choose the best place for the new capital, Kanmu enlisted the help of fortune tellers and spiritual readers. The place they finally decided on was perfect: to the North, West, and East were mountains, and two southward flowing rivers. The Northeast, where it was said demons were easily able to enter, was the formidable Mount Hiei. According to Feng Shui, one couldn't find a better place.

After the location had been decided, construction began. The construction would last 50 long years. Inside the city there were originally only two temples allowed: Toji and Saiji. Kyoto was built according to the ancient Chinese capital Xi'An: they followed Xi'An's city layout, and built the Imperial palace in the North end. This corresponded to the old Chinese saying that "If the emperor is facing South unto the city, all is peaceful." From the Imperial palace there ran a road all the way to the South gate called Suzaku Dori. This street is now known as Senbon Dori. The streets of Kyoto were built like a grid. You can still see this original grid layout today.

All together, this was called Heian-kyo. Of course, the city has changed through the ages, but modern-day Kyoto has more or less grown out of this layout. If you wish to learn more about the history of Kyoto, please visit the Kyoto Prefectural Culture Museum located at the intersections of Karasuma Dori and Sanjo.

- MAYBURY, Aaron

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 Japanese Classic Literature -
   Murasaki Shikibu and the Tale of Genji

Uji River, East side of Asagiri Bridge
- Monument of the tale of Genji

On the rarely seen 2,000-yen note is a scene from the Tale of Genji as well as a picture of the author, Murasaki Shikibu. As someone who has heard of the book but not much else, I decided to delve a little deeper into the topic.

Murasaki Shikibu was born in 10th century Heian period Kyoto and was a member of the aristocracy. Her real name is unknown but some scholars believe that it was Fujiwara Takako. The name Murasaki comes from a character in her book and may also have been a subtle allusion to her actual name (fuji means purple wisteria). Shikibu referred to her father's position in the state bureaucracy. Her mother passed away when she was a young child and was brought up by her father instead. She was said to have been exceptionally intelligent and she put her gift to good use in writing the Tale of Genji.

The Tale of Genji revolves around Hikaru Genji, a son of the Emperor and recounts his many romantic escapades. It is a literary classic and has been called one of the world's first novels. It continues to influence authors even today. Through this novel, we are able to understand Heian court life, and even the human condition a little better. We may also come to better understand Japanese culture and Kyoto.

- CHONG, Andy

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 "Kafun-shou" - Hay Fever

Your eyes are itchy, your nose tickles, and you've been sneezing. Recently, have you had such symptoms? You probably have a spring allergy, because of dispersing pollen. Your tears fall and your nose runs to remove it. You have to be careful on warm clear days. Advice for protection: do not let pollen stick to your skin and clothes. Put on a smooth fabric jacket and a wide hat when you go out. It might be good to wear a mask and sunglasses in order to prevent pollen from sticking to your skin.


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"Teigaku-Kyufukin" - Supplementary Income Payments

Information from Kyoto City

Kyoto City will provide Supplementary Income Payments. The intent is to provide livelihood support to Kyoto City residents to recover from economic crisis.

Q: Who can receive them?

A: Persons who are registered with alien registration card in Kyoto and persons who are registered as a Kyoto citizen as of Feb. 1st, 2009 (critical date).

Q: How much is going to be provided?

A: 12,000 yen per person. Persons age 65 or over, or persons age 18 or below can receive 20,000 yen.

Q: How can we receive?

A: Kyoto City Government will send an application form during April. Supplementary Income Payments will be paid into your own account from May. You can apply until October 15th, 2009. Please send back the papers below attaching to the application form.
1. Copy of identification card (driver's license, health insurance card etc...).
Alien registration card only for the foreign nationalities.
* You cannot receive if the resident visa is expired before the benefit fixed date. If your resident visa is coming closer, please renew first then apply.
2. Copy of deposit book (two-page spread) or cash card.

contact info for inquiries : Supplementary Income Payments End 075-211-1192

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