Overnight Evacuation Shelter Training

YANG, Ruili
from China

I came to Japan from Nanjing, China and spent a year in Kyoto. During this time, I participated in various activities sponsored by the Kyoto International Community House. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot. One activity that especially stands out as a great experience was volunteering for training at a disaster relief shelter on September 25th and 26th.

Ms. Yang working on translation

Ms. Yang working on translation

We were only training, but everyone took it seriously. Volunteers were broken up into three teams: a management team, information handling team, and a translation team which I worked with. Of the six of us on the Japanese-to-Chinese translation team, I was surprised to find that three were Japanese. They had been to Shanghai before, and could speak and write Chinese very skillfully. I never thought that there were so many Japanese fluent in Chinese.

Our tasks as Japanese-to-Chinese translation team were to sort information from earthquake struck areas, translate it into Chinese, type and input the translation into a computer, and make fliers. We then circulated the fliers amongst acting evacuees at the disaster relief shelter, while answering questions to make the evacuees feel safe. When asked questions we couldn't answer, we corresponded with experts in order to provide the best responses possible. I was impressed that despite the fact that it was just training, the staff and volunteers worked hard to address every little detail. Just like the Chinese saying "xìjié juédìng chéng bài", which means "it's the little things determine success or failure", I believe that paying attention to the little details will ensure success.

Japan has many volcanoes, and is blessed with many beautiful lakes. Yet Japan also has a lot of earthquakes. For that reason, the Japanese know how to cope with disasters. It seems, however, that most people who come to Japan from other countries have never experienced an earthquake. According to a report compiled by the NPO Nationwide Multicultural Management Conference, at the time of the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the Chuetsu Earthquake, there were many dead and injured among foreigners who couldn't understand Japanese. Because of that, the Kyoto International Community House has in recent years made efforts to communicate to foreigners how to cope in the event of an earthquake. Through the disaster prevention training, I could see Japanese people's kindness. Not only do they wish for peace in their everyday lives, they also reach out to the international community to ensure their peaceful lives as well.

For a year in Kyoto, I breathed its clean air, walked along the quiet Higashi Oji Dori full of beautiful flowers, and enjoyed the tranquility of each day. I'm really fortunate to have had this experience, and I want to do what I can to help others in the world experience the same peaceful lifestyle.

- translated by Lilley, Daniel

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Christmas in Japan

December has brought Christmas decorations to town. On Christmas Eve, Christmas cakes sell well, and children fall into a sound sleep hoping for presents from Santa Claus. Young couples plan dates more formal than usual.

Are there really so many Christians living in Japan? They make up around one percent of the population. Then why is Christmas so widely celebrated in Japan? People do not participate in the religious aspect, but rather enjoy the festive atmosphere. Most Japanese seem to take Christmas as one of the many annual events (New Years, Admiring cherry blossoms, Star Festival, etc). Japanese people don't feel uncomfortable imitating foreign religious festivals, which may seem strange to foreigners.

How is it that Japanese people can adopt Christmas as their own holiday? The late Mr. Yamamoto Shichihei, who was a researcher on Japan, said “Japanese who have been born and brought up in Japan are believers of Japanism. This religion is so completely infiltrated that the Japanese themselves are not aware of it.” In daily life, most Japanese people unconsciously act in a way peculiar to Japan. They attend Buddhist funeral services even if they are not Buddhists. That is the traditional way, perhaps originating in the Japanese heart that values harmony. Similarly, on New Year's Day, they visit shrines even if they are not Shintoists. This does not mean that Japanese do not have religious faithfulness. They adhere to Japanism unconsciously, adapting to situations they come across. In this way Japanese participate in originally religious celebrations as annual festivals. Therefore they do not hesitate to imitate a Christian festival such as Christmas.

Jingle Bells resound in town this year as well. After that come traditional Japanese events, such as the Year end and New Years. Through these experiences you can understand Japan more profoundly.

- KOMATSU Takehisa

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Why do Japanese People Eat Soba on the Last Day of the Year?

To this day we have a custom of eating soba, Japanese noodles made from buckwheat flour, come the end of the year. We call this Toshikoshi Soba, but it also has other names like Toshitori Soba, "Aging Soba", Ōdoshi Soba, "New Year's Eve Soba", and Ōtsugomori Soba, "Last Day of the Year Soba". The origins of these names aren't clear, but there are various explanations.

1. Theory for Luck Soba:
 During the Kamakura period, a temple at Hakata distributed soba-mochi, buckwheat flour cake, as Yanaoshi Soba, literally "Social Reform Soba" to tradesmen who couldn't properly see in the New Year. The following year, luck turned to the tradesmen and the people adopted the custom of eating Un Soba, "Luck Soba".

2. Theory for Mikado's Luck:
 During the Muromachi period, Tamibe Masubuchi, on the three wealthiest men in the Kantō area, recited the following poem at the end of every year to celebrate the health and longevity of his family: Yonononaka ni medetai mono wa soba no tane, hanasakimi nori mikado osamaru, "In this world the seeds of buckwheat are a joyous thing, blooming crops pacify the triangle." Mikado, the triangle, references the fact that buckwheat seeds are triangular, and it was believed that triangles removed evil spirits. Mikado is also a phonetic equivalent for the Emperor.

3. Theory for the long and slender shape:
 Because soba is made long and slender, people believed it an omen for the continuation of family fortunes, the extensions of life spans, and longevity of family assets. In different districts, Toshikoshi Soba is called Juumyō Soba, "Lifespan Soba", in Sado City of Niigata Prefecture, and Nobi Soba, "Extend Soba", in Echizen City of Fukui Prefecture.

4. Theory for the fragile form:
 Because soba is easily broken, people eat it to dispose of the hardships and misfortunes of the year. Enkiri Soba, "Separation Soba". Toshikirisoba, "Year Ending Soba".

- IKUTA Minoru

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Osechi Ryouri - a special New Year's food

Osechi on a dish

The dish of Celebration for the New Year's Holidays (January 1-3) is called OSECHI RYOURI (special season's food), and will be prepared on New Year's Eve Day(December 31). Various dishes are packed into a JUUBAKO (nest of boxes). A lot of wishes for the coming year are put into the OSECHI RYOURI. For instance, the GOMAME (dried, cooked sardines) is a wish for good harvest, KAZUNOKO (herring roe) for descendant's prosperity and KUROMAME(black soybeans) for health and diligence. Just as the nest of boxes is built up, the good wishes accumulate; the wishes for long life, success and good fortune seem not to change over the years.

Among the various OSECHI RYOURI, I like KURIKINTON (chestnuts on sweet potato paste) I first boil sweet potatoes to make the paste, and then put in the chestnuts to complete it. The wish symbolizes the chestnuts as gold nuggets among the richness of the sweet potato paste. In old times, the good fortune of winning was associated with Samurai eating chestnuts as food for the battlefield. When I lived with my parents, I used to cook it after everyone was asleep, as I was the only one in my family who liked it. My family's tastes are varied, we also prepared lobster, thick seaweed rolls and sweet egg roll omelets, but there were usually some boiled carrots and potatoes remaining in the JUUBAKO.

Osechi in JUBAKO

Since my Grandmother's time a lot of food was put on the kitchen table in the morning of New Year's Eve, and Grandmother would cook many kinds of dishes throughout the day. My Mother has joined in this tradition since retiring. They prepared the JUUBAKO with 3 steps or layers. Generally, in the first (lower) box they put “Good Wishes” food, red and white boiled fish paste and KURIKINTON. In the second (middle) box there would be a vinegar dish, grilled and boiled food. In the third (top) box, they dished up beautifully cooked vegetables of the season. As the third generation in this family, I usually worked that day and sometimes went to a “Countdown Concert” on New Year's Eve. On the day after New Year's Day, I would make KURIKINTON and cooked egg roll-ups, and would usually eat pasta and bread, a little of the traditional Japanese dishes. This year, I will challenge myself by making OSECHI RYOURI dishes cooked with Dashi(stock or broth) in addition to cutting the KAMABOKO. (blocks of boiled fish paste).


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Hastumoude - Which Shrine will you visit this New Year? -

After the clock has just turned twelve on the last night of the year, how do you celebrate the New Year? In Japan, the temple bells are rung on the night of New Year's Eve. After listening to the bells, people visit Shinto shrine with family, friends or lovers. It's hatsumode.

Generally people visit a shrine during the first three days of the year. Which shrine they choose to visit depends on the people. Some pray at the same shrine every year, while others with special wishes decide depending on which god is worshipped at the shrine.

Why don't you also search which shirine's god would fulfill your wish, and go to Hatsumode? Get your wish for the coming New Year!

Kamigamo Shrine: God who removes misfortunes --- City Bus: Kamigamo Jinjamae
Kitano Tenmangu: God of Learning --- City Bus: Kitano Tenmangu
Fushimi Inari Taisha: God of Fortune --- JR: Inari Station
Jisyu Jinja: God of Love --- City Bus: Gojozaka

- SEKINO Masako

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Kotatsu: to stay warm in winter

What a cold winter in Kyoto! The AC doesn't keep the room warm enough! If you think so, you can use a kotatsu to stay warm. A kotatsu is a heating device many Japanese people use in their homes.



As you can see in the picture, the kotatsu is a table covered with a futon, a blanket. A heater attached to the underside of the table keeps your legs warm. With their legs under the kotatsu, people often watch TV, read a book, or have a meal. Once you put your legs in the kotatsu, it is hard to leave its warmth of kotatsu. If your family and friends get together around the kotatsu, you will enjoy the winter in Kyoto with your mind and body warm.


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Tea Ceremony at the En Tea House

The other day Wang and I were lucky enough to receive an invitation from Kokoka to visit a chashitsu (tea house) and have the opportunity to attend a Japanese tea ceremony. Walking through a narrow alley beside the front approach to the Chion-in, we arrived at the petit Japanese machiya called En which is a tea house mainly for foreigners and tourists. The teishu (owner of a tea house) Akiko-san gave us a warm welcome and led us to a tea room four and a half jo large (about 8 ㎡). Akiko-san told us about the kakejiku (hanging scroll) and the chabana1, which should be a reference to the seasons. First I thought I felt it might be too austere, but after listening to Akiko-san's explanation, I understood that in such a place isolated from the complex outside, things kept to their original simplicity, in reverse, exert stronger resonance in our minds.


from left: Chawan, Chasen,
Chashaku on Natsume

We sat on the tatami with our legs folded, and watched Akiko-san make matcha. Every utensils such as chashaku (teaspoon), natsume (matcha powder container), chawan (bowl), etc., must be cleaned by a fukusa(napkin for tea ceremony) before they are used. I was totally mesmerized by the serene rhythm and the tranquil atmosphere inside, regardless of some disturbing numbness from my legs. Moreover, Akiko-san's concentration on perfecting every single detail in the tea-making process really struck me, and provoked thoughts about the ultimate goal of pursuing chado (tea ceremony).

Probably the essence of chado (tea ceremony), as Akiko-san said, lies in the mu-no-jotai (status of zero). On the other hand, the fact that En tea house has been dedicating itself to serving tea to many people from all over the world, with different languages, cultures, religions and ethnicities, is an enhancement of the tea ceremony terminology-- ichigo-ichie -which means every encounter in the tea room is tantamount to a lifetime chance.

All in all, I learned much from the ceremony this time, like manners, designs on the utensils or the wa-keisei-jaku2 philosophy, but additionally, it was one of Akiko san's words that impressed me most and still stays with me now. That is “We humans are the same”.

1 chabana : flowers that are arranged in a vase for tea ceremony
2 wa-kei-sei-jaku : harmony, respect, purity and tranquility

- WANG Yongcheng

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kokoka news  * * *  kokusai koryu kaikan news

Counseling day for non-Japanese residents

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. Interpreters are available. Please make a reservation.

DATE:December 4th, Sun 1:00pm ~ 5:00pm
PLACE:Kyoto International Community House (kokoka) 3F Seminar Room
Phone: 075-752-3511
FEE : Free

Next counseling day is Sunday Feb. 20th, 2011 !!!

Job Fair for International Students Friday Dec. 10th, 2011

Please apply from web-site of Kyoto City International Foundation.


Legal Seminar for foreigners

Let's learn about parental authority, the expense of bringing up a child, settling properties etc... when confronting a divorce. Please make a reservation beforehand by e-mail or phone.

DATE:January 22nd, 2011, Sun 2:00pm ~ 4:00pm
PLACE:Kyoto International Community House (kokoka)1F 1st & 2nd Conference Room
FEE : Free TEL: 075-752-3511
E-mail : office@kcif.or.jp

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

When: December 5th (SUN) 2010, January 30th (SUN) 2011
Time: 10:00am - 4:00pm
Where : On the corner of Kawaramachi Dori and Oikeseihoku, in front of City Hall
Organizer:Plus One Network Phone:075-229-7713

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Library Letter - Kyoto International community House Library

The Recommended Book

The Rules of Living in Japan

Translation by Fuhito Shimoyama
Publisher: Gakken 2008

The Rules of Living in Japan

Have you had times when you wonder what to do in a particular situation?
This book introduces social manner and rules of conduct peculiar to Japanese society with concrete examples that are easy to follow. It is a good way to learn about the disposition of Japanese people. Being informed of these things will enable you to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings or trouble. This book would be informative even for Japanese people! It is written in both English and Japanese.

The Hokkori Book Café - Sunday, February 27th, 2011

The Hokkori (relax) Book Café will be held at the reference room in the Library. Topic will be water and foods. Please come and join!

We are looking forward to meeting you all!

following books are available - those books are not available for check out

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

Open Hours: 9:30am ~ 20:30pm
Closed on Mondays & last day of every month
Phone: 075-752-1187
FAX: 075-752-3510
Homepage: http://www.kcif.or.jp

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Kyoto International Community House OPEN DAY 2010

Open Day

On November 3rd, the volunteers of “Life in Kyoto” showed the visitor round this event. World food Ecology stalls were established at the Square of KOKOKA. Many worldwide foods were served at the stalls. Furry's act performed juggling and a stunt using three chairs on Round Stage. Small djembe (the drum used in West Africa) and violin concerts and an Indian dance were performed at Lobby.

by WATANABE Takeshi

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Notice Board

Useful Guides - You can get at Kokoka (Kyoto International Community House)

"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: http://www.kcif.or.jp/msb/

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

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: office@kcif.or.jp

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: office@kcif.or.jp
〒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 Monday and closed on Tuesday, when Monday is National Holiday.)

* International volunteers wanted, if you are interested in ...
Writing articles, conducting interviews, translating, proofreading, photographing, and accomplishing LIK with us, please don't hesitate to contact 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 / KOMATSU Takehisa / SUZUKI Hidetoshi / JIANG Yan / SEKINO Masako/ HAGIHARA Yasue / BOTHRA Anjum / MINATO Masayuki / YAMASHITA Motoyo / LELLEY Daniel / WATANABE Takeshi

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