Teramachi Street

I have been living in Kyoto since the end of September, and it has been my first trip to Asia. I'm here as an exchange student and during the last six months I have been able to visit a lot of places in Kyoto. When people think about Kyoto they will say that they like Ginkakuji Temple, Kinkakuji Temple or Kiyomizudera Temple, and of course I think those places are amazing, even more so when the sakura trees turn into bloom but for me, my favorite place in Kyoto is definitely Teramachi Shopping street.

The first time that I went there was with some Japanese friends, as they wanted to show me where to shop around Shijo. When I arrived at the entrance I saw the street with the roof. The atmosphere in that shopping street surprised me, it was so different to other shopping streets that I knew.



Even now after going there many times, I'm still impressed by Teramachi Street, my first impression has stuck with me and I love it! What I like in that shopping street is that there are different types of shops, from shoes shops to gift shops you can find everything you want there. The gift shops are really nice to see, they attract you with their colours and curious souvenirs.

People ask me what it is in Teramachi Street that is so different to shopping street I've seen before. There are a lot of reasons for that, first of all Teramachi is quite a narrow street compared to those we have in France, so in a sense it gives an impression of being mysterious yet at the same time lively. Then the shops are smaller so you want to go in because you have the impression that the windows show just a small sample of their treasures. Just walking there is different; when I walk down the street I hear a lot of "irashaimase" and also voices welcoming you in several languages from overhead speakers, even in French. The rest of the time there is music on; it's the first time of my life that I've been to a shopping street that has its own music. In the middle of Teramachi Street there is a temple where people can go pray and this temple fits perfectly with the rest of the street, modernity and tradition are mixed perfectly.

I've shopped in a lot of places in Europe such as Madrid, London, Paris but I can say that for me that Teramachi street surpasses even the Champs Elysée and Oxford street. I will miss this street and its atmosphere so much when I go back to France.


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 Culture - Let's go see the Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival)

Yama and Hoko

Yama and Hoko
© Shi P'ng Ch'ng

One of the festivals during summer in Kyoto is the Gion Matsuri. It's the time when Kyoto City is full of life. As a person who was born and brought up in Kyoto city, when I hear Ohayashi, which is the music of the festival played with gongs, drums and flutes, I get excited and feel like summer has come. I also enjoy going out to Yoiyama (a night before festival) wearing yukata, and looking around the stalls..

Gion Matsuri is held in Yamahoko-cho around Shijo-Karasuma and Yasaka shrine throughout July, and it's known as one of the three biggest festivals in Japan. During the month, there are a lot of events, especially, the biggest event being called Yamahoko-Junko and Sinkosai (both held on July 17) are popular.

The origin of this festival is believed to be in the early Heian period. When people in Kyoto suffered from the plague, the emperor prayed for God to save Kyoto from the disaster. The festival was reestablished in 1500 by Kyoto townspeople of Kyoto (machi-shu), and since then, they've been keeping up this tradition for more than 500 years.

If you want to enjoy the Gion Matsuri, I recommend going to see Yamahoko-Junko held in July 17 and Yoiyama held at night on July 16. Yama and Hoko, which are floats and are the primary pillars of the festival are decorated with gorgeous tapestries imported from China, Persia or Belgium, therefore, they're called "moving museums". When Yoiyama is held at night on the 16th, Japanese lanterns on Yama and Hoko are lit up, and you can see a stunning sight. On this night, Shijo Street becomes a pedestrian street, there are a lot of stalls and you will be more excited to hear the festival music. During Yamahoko-Junko on the 17th, 32 Yama and Hoko are carried by a lot of people and paraded from Shijo Street to Oike Street through Kawaramachi Street, and it has a great impact.

Why don't you go to see the festival to feel the energy of Kyoto?


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Kyoto Guide Club - Meeting at Nanzenji Temple

Nanzenji Temple

Nanzenji Temple
©Takeshi Watanabe

There is Nanzenji-Temple's Chokushimon about ten minutes on foot from Kyoto International Community House. We cannot go through this gate. Going through the side gate, we see San-Mon on the left hand. Walking further along, there is Suirokaku on the right hand and we go to Hojo. Nanzenji-Temple has many highlights. For example, the garden sculptures, pictures and buildings. Whatever one may say, Nanzenji-Temple is the head temple of Rinzai-Nanzenji school.

Kyoto Guide Club is one of the volunteers bodies of the Kyoto City International Foundation. This time KGC is planing to lead a guided tour of Nanzenji Temple to foreigners who live in Kyoto as well as tourists. We will be so happy if they can understand Japanese Buddhism, culture, history, tradition and etc.

And we are in corporation with Nanzenji-office. The other day, we had attended a lecture by Nanzenji-Temple about the importance of Nanzenji-Temple. We will be starting this program from June. We want foreigners to understand Japan through simple explanations. Through this program we hope to improve our friendship with other countries.

KGC invites volunteers who are ambitious. There is no restriction on age, sex, and nationality. If you are interested in the KGC, please join the volunteer orientation which is held at the Kyoto International Community House.

Kyoto Guide Club June Schedule

June 13th, Saturday 3:00pm~
June 20th, Saturday 11:00am~
June 28th, Sunday 11:00am~
Meet at Nanzenji San-Mon (the gateway), Hojo entrance.

- IKUTA Minoru

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Life information - Knack for safe bicycle riding

On a sunny day last August, I rode my bike down the banks of the Kamogawa River for the first time. I'd already walked the same path countless times before, but only when I got on my bike did I feel like I was enveloped in the beauty of Kyoto. For someone who hadn't ridden a bike in almost four years, it felt as though I'd been reborn. Fun, and helpful for my trips to and from school, my bicycle became an essential part of my daily life.

However, when a friend of mine got into a bike accident some weeks ago and broke his leg, I started to wonder if I, too, weren't biking a little dangerously. I don't really pay attention to stuff like bike safety, so it must be pure luck that the same thing hasn't happened to me, I thought. Though I am generally careful, I have the bad habit of thinking things like, "it won't matter if I ride with my umbrella just this once". Thinking that this sort of attitude is no good, I started to pay more attention to the rules.

The rules of bike was made not only to escape yourself from injury, but also to keep safety of other ones.

When you buy a bike, you may also receive a manual. Inside this manual there are explanations of the rules with pictures, but it may all be written in Japanese. In order to make these rules easier to understand, below I will provide the most important ones.

At night, you must turn on your bicycle's light, or attach reflective materials

You must not ride while holding an umbrella

You must not make quick changes of direction or turn suddenly

Two people riding on the same bike is not allowed

You must not ride a bicycle after drinking alcohol

When you are trying to pass through an intersection, you must stop once or lower your speed, and be mindful of cars and pedestrians as you cross

Using a cell phone, headphones, or earphones while riding a bike is not allowed

You must walk your bike in crowded places

You must not ring your bicycle's bell to get people to move out of your way

In areas where a bike lane is not designated, you must ride on the left side of the street

Above are the most important rules from Kyoto Prefecture's bicycle regulations. In a word, one is to avoid creating a nuisance and ride with everyone's safety in mind. Most of the rules are common sense, but no matter which one you break, you may be warned by a police officer or charged with a fine.


There are also places in Kyoto where bicycling is restricted. These places include Teramachi, Shinkyogoku, and Shijo Avenue. Please refer the map. There are signs, but there are many people who don't notice these signs and charge right through, so caution is required.

In order to go on living safely in Kyoto, you must always follow bicycle rules. If you ignore the rules even once, there's a chance you might be in a terrible accident. So, please follow the above rules and enjoy your time biking around Kyoto!


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Shall we Bon-odori?


When we think about summer in Japan, we think of yukata, fireworks and the Bon-odori. The Bon-odori, a dance, takes place in a wide and open space. A wooden scaffold, called a yagura, stands in the middle and musicians and singers perform on it, leading the dance. Participants follow the music and dance around the yagura. It is Japan's midsummer's night celebration.

If there is someone you like that you are having trouble securing a date with and you ask the person to dance with you at the Bon-odori, it will definitely become an unforgettable summer for the two of you! Come on! Summon up your courage and ask?

Event information - Why don't you try Bon-odori?

Date: July 25th, Saturday 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm
Place: Kyoto International Community House
Organizer: Seicho Gosyu Ondo Hozon-kai, Kyoto City International Foundation
Contact: Kyoto City International Foundation Programming Section TEL 075-752-3511

- ITOU Hidetoshi
- Translated by CHONG Andy

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Culture - Let's Do Kimono Day!

When you think of Kyoto, you probably think of its traditional nature and deep history. Fittingly, the city of Kyoto celebrates Kimono Day not just as a holiday, but as something the whole city embraces. From here, I'll introduce how you -as a foreigner- can participate in Kimono Day and tell you some of the things you might not know if you don't read Kimono Day-themed magazines and websites.

The city of Kyoto celebrates its Kimono Day campaign from 2/13 until 3/31, but according to the city's official Kimono Day magazine the best time to wear kimonos is between 3/13 and 3/22 so you can receive special privileges. These dates might change year to year, so be careful!

kimono3 kimono1 kimono2

If you decide to get involved, first you need to have a kimono. If you're someone who only will use this kimono once a year, I recommend renting rather than buying one. If you're within the city, department stores and even smaller kimono-themed shops offer rentals. However, please be careful about which kimonos you look into, since they vary based on gender. Both include a kimono, obi, and geta, but the men's version has one more essential part. On the kimono, you put on "hakama" (skirt-like pants).

After you purchase your kimono, look for a Kimono Day-themed magazine. For those who don't know how to put on a kimono or do their hair for the occasion, you should go to special assistance shops between 3/13 and 3/22. During this time if your kimono tears or gets undone, you can go to these same shops to get it fixed. Since it's a service, all assistance is free!

During the Kimono Day campaign, there are many fun places with free entry. Especially worth noting are museums (historical and art), shrines, and temples. Because entry is free, pick your favorite place from a Kimono Day magazine and go sightsee! There are 5 "must-go" places (in no particular order):

Heian Jingu (Go until Higashiyama Eki)

Nijo Castle - See the nighttime light show! (Nijojo Mae Eki)

Kyoto International Manga Museum (Karasuma Oike Eki)

Kitano Tenmangu (Shiroumemachi Eki)

Kyoto Present-Day Art Museum (Keihan Gion Shijo Eki)

On top of that, if you're wearing a kimono and have a coupon from within the Kimono Day magazine, you can ride all public transportation free. Just pick your place and ride there at no cost!

If you want to participate in Kyoto's traditional culture, next year during the Kimono Day campaign put on a kimono and try a historically-oriented life for a day!

- Christopher Bral

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Library Letter

Book introduction

This time, Ryoko Okamoto and Chris Bahr introduce the books they recommend.You can read both books in the library of Kyoto International Community House.

Sekaiwo kaeru okaneno tsukaikata

Editor: Ryoichi Yamamoto & Think the Earth Project
Publisher: Diamond

If you have one coin of 100 yen in Japan, you can buy what you want at 100-kin store, where all goods are sold by 100 yen there. But, behind that circumstance, it is said that there're many people of developing countries, who are forced to work for low wages, coming up to the standard. We seems like we can provide each 20 street-children in Bangladesh with a cup of milk by 100 yen, even though it is the same "100 yen". We, consumers, should be conscious that actions of "buying" mean " voting" for the society or companies. I feel that there're still few Japanese consumers, who imagine how the money they paying is used after they buy. It is easy for you to read concrete proposals summarized in two facing pages with color photos. In addition, you can also be interested in the columns, which give us many suggestions.

- By Ryoko Okamoto

Kansai Japanese

Author: Peter Tse
Publisher: Tuttle Pub

When I went shopping to buy foods at the supermarket, the clerk said "Ohkini". But, I couldn't understand its meaning, so I was surprised. Peter Tse introduces the world of Kansaiben (a dialect in Kansai region) in his books "Kansai Japanese". Japanese aren't taught Kansaiben at their schools, but 21 millions of Japanese speak Kansaiben; for example in Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Nara. The author introduces many concrete examples and stories of Kansai in this book, which are written both in English and in Japanese. I felt Kansaiben was mysterious a long time ago. Please make sure to read this book!

- By Chris Bahr

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Notice Board

Useful Guides - You can get at KCIF

"Early Living in Kyoto" & "Medical Handbook" - free multilingual information booklets for foreigners living in Kyoto

Kyoto Life Map "Guide to Kyoto" 400 yen - A useful map with the index of public institutions, schools, etc. in Kyoto

Useful Links

Medical Handbook: http://www.kcif.or.jp/en/benri/kenko/medical-hb/

Useful Kyoto Information: http://www.kcif.or.jp/en/benri/

Message board for information exchange: http://www.kcif.or.jp/msb/

Life in Kyoto is a free newsletter

Life in Kyoto is a free newsletter trying to support residents in Kyoto with providing information. As we always want to know what you want to know through LIK, please tell us at mailbox in the lobby or office@kcif.or.jp

LIK Back Issues: http://www.kcif.or.jp/en/newsletter/lik/index.htm

International volunteers wanted

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Event Calendar


Changes on the dates and details of events can happen without notice. Please ask directly.

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