from Poland

Kyoto is full of cultural attractions and sightseeing places. However, for me, even the most beautiful temple can lack a certain liveliness. When I really want to feel the spirit of Kyoto I go to Gion where, among well-preserved houses - called machiya - you can catch a glimpse of the past.

Everyone who is familiar with geiko (*1) culture knows that Gion is famous for its geiko districts called Kagai (lit. “flower town”). There are okiya (*2) (geiko houses) and ochaya (*3) (tea houses where geiko geiko entertain their customers) which still operate. I decided to take a walk through the Kagai to understand what it is about Gion that allures me so much. Strolling along Shirakawa Canal, I felt how it must have been in the past, when you could barely see a foreigner and more women wore kimono.

gion maiko

Suddenly I noticed maiko (apprentice geiko) crossing one of the scenic bridges of the Canal. She was dressed in a colorful kimono, tied with a wide obi belt which looked quite heavy for someone of her slight physique. Her walk was made even more authentic - but also difficult - by her wedged-heel shoes. Every tourist who spotted her stopped to take a picture or just to admire the beauty of her traditional, yet labored appearance. Deciding to introduce myself to the young maiko, I walked towards the apprentice geisha and asked for a picture. It's much more polite to ask for such a favor, instead of attacking geiko with camera flashes without warning. After a short conversation I bowed to show my gratitude, and headed towards other parts of Gion.

By this time it was getting dark, however for this part of Kyoto there's no better time to admire its vividness. During the evening most geiko set off for ochaya, and red restaurant lanterns illuminate the streets of Gion. I passed Kaburenjo where you can see annual maiko and geiko dances, during which you can experience the artistic side of the Kagai district. I finished my walk in Yasaka Shrine, which was called Gion Shrine in the past. Here during the evening you can hide from bustling night life of other Gion streets, and rest a bit before heading towards your next destination.

Nowadays Gion is one of the most famous places to visit in Kyoto. Its mysteriousness and splendor attract both the Japanese and tourists. I think the district owes its uniqueness to Kagai which cultivates the traditions which haven't changed much for many years. Among all the cultural sites of Kyoto, Gion is an important landmark on the visitors trail. Maybe you will be lucky to spot geiko walking through Gion one day. It's an unforgettable experience for everyone who would like to feel the true spirit of Kyoto.

*1 geiko : In Kyoto the term geiko is used instead of geisha or geigi.
*2 okiya : A house where a group of geiko and maiko live.
*3 ochaya : A restaurant in Kagai where guests enjoy performances of and maiko.

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Kyoto Asto Dreams

Kyoto Asto Dreams 1
Kyoto Asto Dreams 2
Kyoto AstoDreams 3
Kyoto AstoDreams 4

This year, after an interval of 58 years, a women's professional baseball league has gotten underway in Japan. Although this league has only two teams, one of them is “Kyoto Asto Dreams” which was established in Kyoto. People in Kyoto are so lucky to be able to watch the women's professional baseball team near by, of which only two exist in Japan.

15 players belong to the team. They were selected from among 192 players by the tryout held in last autumn. This time, I interviewed two players, IKARI Mihoko and KAWABATA Yuki. Both of them began to play baseball in primary school. They said “After becoming a professional player, everyday life is baseball. In such a situation, I can feel growth of myself”. I also asked what is so attractive in baseball. They said “Baseball cannot be played by one player. To gather together the powers of teammates is so attractive”.

Now, their challenge has just begun. For Kyoto Asto Dreams to succeed, support by people in Kyoto is needed. If Kyoto Asto Dreams succeeds, it will give hopes and dreams to woman baseball players all over Japan. In Kyoto city, games are played at Wakasa Stadium (*1). The players also said “The cheers by fans are most appreciated”. So everyone, let's go to cheer. And feel the attraction of baseball, as if you are a member of the team.

About game schedule or introduction of players, please refer the web site of Kyoto Asto Dreams.

*1 Wakasa Stadium : From Hankyu Nishi-Kyogoku station, 5 minutes by walk.

- SUZUKI, Hidetoshi

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Kokoka Family Program

kokoka family

I knew about the Kokoka Family Program from the Message board of the university by chance, and since then, I have made deep communication with my Kokoka family.

This program lets Kokoka families be supporters in students' mental side as they are advisers for students, and deepen mutual understanding as they spend their time together. I enjoyed the past year with my Kokoka family, enrolling in a lot of activities, such as bowling, walking on Arashi mountain, making Sushi and Strawberry Daifuku and so on. I have increased my knowledge of Kyoto, with a better understanding of the culture of Japan, with the help of my Kokoka family.

Would you want to start international communication with a Kokoka family in Kyoto? Let us enjoy it together.

Kokoka families will be introduced in the Matching Assemblies held every spring and autumn. The application period of this autumn is from September1st to October 10th. For more information, please view the HP of Kokoka family program.

In addition, Japanese families are also wanted. If you want to be a Kokoka family and spend a period of unforgettable time with international students in Kyoto, please attend the orientation on September 5th.

- SHI, Hao

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Seishun 18 kippu - bargain priced tickets

In the Edo period (1603-1868) people travelled by walking. Edo (Tokyo) is 500 kilometers away from the ancient capital Kyoto and it took one month to walk there.

In the 5th year of Meiji (1872) the operation of a railroad started in Japan. In the beginning steam locomotives were imported from England. Since then the railroads have been extended throughout the country. Nowadays, Shinkansen runs throughout nearly the entire Japanese archipelago. It takes only 2 hours and 20 minutes from Kyoto to Tokyo by Shinkansen [Nozomi].

Kyoto city has many sights where you can visit by walking or bicycle. On holidays you can cool yourself in temples or shrines. But be careful of heatstroke please. Many other places also have the beauty of Japanese culture. Trains are convenient to the places where it is too far to walk. During this summer holiday, bargain priced tickets [Seishun 18 kippu] are on sale from JR (Japan Railway Company).

Except for the Shinkansen and limited express trains etc. you can get on every local train. Several years ago I travelled to the San-in area with this ticket. From the train window I enjoyed Mt. Daisen (Tottori prefecture) and the Japan Sea. I visited Izumo Great Shrine (Shimane prefecture) and stayed at a youth hostel. Talking with local people is also a good point of travelling.

With preparation you can enjoy your inexpensive and pleasant tour. It will help you understand more about Japan. For further information, contact "Midori no madoguchi" (lit. Green Window) at JR station.

Seishun 18 kippu - bargain priced tickets (Japanese only)

Japan Youth Hostels, Inc.

- KOMATSU, Takehisa

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The Door within Reach

--Kyoto Prefectural Library's 100th Anniversary

Kyoto Prefectural Library

Kyoto Prefectural Library

A few days ago I went to the Kyoto Prefectural Library with Wang who is a Chinese student and is interested in Japanese cultures and literature. This time Wang took a new step towards the interaction in the Japanese society. The Kyoto Prefectural Library is one of the popular spots near the Kyoto International Community House (a.k.a. Kokoka). Here I want to write about what we saw that day and introduce what is special about the library. Located on the left side of the grand torii of the Heian Shrine, the library finds favor with people because it is a place where positive elements are added to our everyday life, and therefore, every day about a thousand people visit the library, making the place lively. You can make better use of the public facilities there if you also go to the reading room in the Kokoka. Here is some information for users. Your coming is welcome!

map of Kyoto Prefectural Library

map [enlarge]

Open Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday 9:30 am – 7:00 pm
Sunday 9:30 am – 5:00pm
Closed Days:
Monday, The 4th Thursday of every month, National Holidays, Year-end and New Year holidays

For more information, please visit
It has as well Chinese, English and Korean versions.

First we applied for the library card. Wang showed the staff his Alien Registration Card, easily filled in some required items on an application form, and had the card made after about five minutes, the application process will be finished. Both of us, a Chinese youngster and a Japanese middle-ager, had a good impression of the staff there and thought that they were kind and nice, and that they were easy to understand.

In the reading rooms on 1F and B1, there are over 80,000 titles of books and magazines on shelf, and the library holds a collection of one million books, which is waiting for your visit. Using the English search service is a quick and efficient way to look for the non-Japanese books. English version is provided. Wang found quickly the book he was looking for by using the library search engine. On 2F, besides reading newspaper, we can also surf on the Internet or watch movies or videos of educational contents in the multi-media reference room. We can even watch videos on a wide LCD screen.

- By MINATO, Masayuki
translated by WANG, Yongcheng

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Kompeito 金平糖

star-shaped crystal by skilled confectioners

What kind of Japanese sweets have you ever tried? Many of them are not only delicious but also beautiful.

Kompeito is a small confection made of sugar. It looks like a star, covered with tiny bulges, "iga ". Kompeito is easily available now. However, they used to be the most precious of Western confections imported from Portugal in the 16th century. It has been also prized as a thank-you-for-coming gift given by the Imperial House of Japan.

Ryokujuan-Shimizu is a shinise (well-established shop), located at Hyakumanben in Kyoto City. It is the only kompeito-specialty shop in Japan, keeping up its tradition since 1847.


[enlarge the map]

Workers do not have a recipe for kompeito. Firstly they put cores of kompeito, called irako, in a tub. Then, they fill the tub with sugar water and dry them again and again. They fully use their five senses to monitor the condition of kompeito, such as concentration of sugar or temperature of the tub. It takes more than two weeks for skilled workers to make kompeito by hand. They broke through the conventional idea that sugar does not crystallize with other ingredients. They have created fifty kinds of kompeito, such as fruit- or vegetable-flavored.

Why not try kompeito when you feel tired of studying or working and want to eat something sweet?

- OKUMURA, Junko
- translated by WATANABE, Takeshi

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kokoka news  * * *  kokusai koryu kaikan news

Kyoto City International Foundation Volunteer Orientation

Why don't you join our volunteer activity to make Kyoto City better city? We will introduce the volunteer activities at the orientation.

DATE:September 5th, Sun 2:00pm - 3:30pm
PLACE:Kyoto International Community House (kokoka) 3F Seminar Room

Kyoto City International Foundation Volunteer Orientation

Do you have any trouble regarding law, visa, tax, insurance or pension system? Do you have any worries? We will provide free counseling service with specialists in each areas. There are also interpreters. Please make a reservation.

DATE:September 19th, Sun 1:00pm - 5:00pm
PLACE:Kyoto International Community House (kokoka) 3F Seminar Room
TEL: 075-752-3511

Overnight Evacuation Shelter Training Program

When an earthquake occurs, where shall we evacuate? Let's learn what we can do at a time of disaster. You can simulate a major earthquake, riding the vehicle that generates a major earthquake. You can also try tasting survival food. Please make a reservation by phone, FAX or e-mail.

DATE: September 25th, Sat 4:00pm - 26th, Sun 10:00am
PLACE: Kyoto International Community House (kokoka)
TEL: 075-752-3511
FAX: 075-752-3510

Kyoto City Hall Flea Market - If you don't need it, give it to someone who does!

When : September 19th (SUN), October 17th (SUN) 10:00am - 4:00pm
Where : On the corner of Kawaramachi Dori and Oikeseihoku, in front of City Hall
Organizer:Plus One Network

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Library Letter - Kyoto International community House (kokoka) Library

Recommended Book

Vegan restaurants in Japan Pocket guide

Vegan restaurants in Japan

Written by Herwin Walravens
Translated by Gonzalez Kuribara
Published from Vegan Japan

If you don't eat meat, do you have trouble having a pleasant meal in Japan? This guide book reviews restaurants throughout the country which serve dishes for Vegans, Vegetarians, Macrobiotic, Organic. Kyoto has the second most restaurants reported after Tokyo. Other major cities have such restaurants too. It is written in English and Japanese. Please take a look at it!

Vegan : people who don't eat meat, fish, egg, milk, dishes with meat extract or fish broth, nor animal food such as butter, honey, dairy products, mayonnaise, etc.
Vegetarian : people who take meals consisting mainly of vegetables.
Macrobiotic : A way of eating, in principle brown rice is the staple food and vegetables, pickles, dried goods are for side dishes; keeping a balance of ingredients and recipe based on the principles of Yin and Yang.
Organic : organically grown or organically grown farm products.

Nara - 1300th anniversary

Now Nara is celebrating 1300th anniversary after the transfer of the Capital to Heijokyo. Our library has “Nara - a cultural guide to Japan's ancient capital” “A guide to 30 sightseeing spots in Kyoto and Nara” etc. As in Kyoto, you can find something good in Nara too.

1300th anniversary : A festival in commemoration of the year 2010 as the 1300th anniversary after the transfer of the Capital to Heijokyo (now Nara city)

The following books are also available.

Books for foreigners to help their daily life in Japan.

Learn Japanese, law, visas, Japanese culture, sight seeing in Kyoto, newspapers of the world.

Books for Japanese to know foreign countries.

Travel overseas, Long stay, Study abroad, Working holiday, Volunteering.

Kyoto International Community House (kokoka) library

[Hours] 9:30am ~ 8:30pm
Closed on Mondays & last day of every month
[TEL] 075-752-1187
[FAX] 075-752-3510

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Japanese Tutor Class

Japanese Language Tutor Program by voluntary groups.

Schedule Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
10:30-12:00 Yes Yes   Yes Yes  
13:30-15:00 Yes Yes       Yes
19:00-20:30   Yes Yes Yes    

Fee: 50 yen / class
Place: 3F Volunteers' room in Kyoto International Community House
No class: Aug.9th - 31st, Sep.21st,

For the people who think "I'm not confident in Japanese", here is the information about Japanese Class. What does "Sukasuka" mean? How do you read "753"? Which direction does "agaru" mean for a Kyoto address? Daily use Japanese is quite difficult for foreigners. Join Japanese class and learn them one by one. It is a great place for those who cannot read, but willing to learn Japanese conversation. Japanese tutors will guide you step by step according to your level. No reservation necessary. Just come by.

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Notice Board

Useful Guides - You can get at KCIF

"Easy Living in Kyoto" & "Earthquake/Emergency Action Manual"
- free multilingual information booklets for foreigners living in Kyoto

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

Useful Links

Message board:

Useful Kyoto Information:

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 send us an e-mail:

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

* Publisher : Kyoto City International Foundation
TEL: 075-752-3511 Fax: 075-752-3510 e-mail:
〒606-8536 2-1, Torii-cho, Awataguchi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Japan
6 min walk from T09 Keage Station, Subway Tozai-line
Open Hours : 09:00-21:00
Closed : Monday (Open on Manday and closed on Tuesday, when Monday is National Holiday.)

* International volunteers wanted
If you are interested in...Writing articles, conductiong interviews, translating, proofreading, photographing, and accomplishing LIK with us, please don't hesitate to cantact the office. Life In Kyoto is put together by various nationalities' philanthropy.

* LIK months
Even month when you can get the latest LIK!
* We update the Chinese, English, Japanese and Spanish version on the net as well.

* Member
IKUTA Minoru / WANG Yongcheng / OKUMURA Junko/ HAO Shi / KAWAMOTO Eri / KOMATSU Takehisa / SUZUKI Hidetoshi / JIANG Yan / SEKINO Masako/ CZAPSKI Michal / HAGIHARA Yasue / MATSUYAMA Tomoko / MINATO Masayuki / YAMASHITA Motoyo / LIU Xiaoqing / WATANABE Takeshi

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