A Relaxing Day at Kurama Ryokan

from U.S.A

Ms. BOTHRA in the middle

Anjum in the middle

I had my first onsen, or hot spring, experience in Kyoto. Two of friends and I booked a traditional Japanese hotel for one night in a quaint town about an hour away from Kyoto called Kurama. The last time I was here was during the ancient Kurama Fire Festival. At that time, this one street town was insanely crowded with tourists who had come to the festival. On that day, we were packed like sardines in the train. This time around, there were maybe two or three other people commuting with us. After we got off at the station, a Kurama Onsen Van parked outside took us to the ryokan .

As soon as we settled into our beautiful tatami matted room, our hostess served us hot green tea with delicious bean paste sweet and chatted with us. We had three hours before dinner so we decided to explore the nearby hiking trails before dipping into the outdoor hot spring. We hiked up the winding path of Mount Kurama, passing beautiful red toriis , little Shinto shrines, and trees and rocks surrounded by Shinto ropes and white paper on the way. We finally made it up to Kurama Temple, halfway up the mountain, just in time to see the sun sink behind the beautiful mountains in the west, getting a great view of the small town below.

Having built up a sweat, after returning, we headed to the outdoor pool with towels and yukatas (casual kimono, refer the photo), which were provided by the ryokan . We first rinsed ourselves thoroughly at the washing area, which was equipped with stools, soap, shampoo and wooden buckets. Once I got over the initial embarrassment of being completely naked in front of strangers, I began to relax. The soothing hot water of the onsen on my body, washed away not only the exhaustion of the day, but also the fatigue of final exams week at college.

After an hour, we got out, put on our yukatas and headed back to our room. Once we were back, our hostess laid out our traditional Japanese meal brought in multiple courses of the freshest ingredients, Kyoto's locally brewed beer and more green tea. With our stomachs satisfyingly full, we loosened our obis (belt of kimono) a little and went out to the common room which had massage chairs and got a quick 15 minute massage, while the room attendant laid out our futons. After another round of hot tea and sweets, we fell fast asleep in the cozy covers of the futon.

In the morning, after taking a quick dip in the indoor pool, we went down to the lobby for an equally delicious breakfast and checked out by 10. The van took us back to the station, and thus ended my relaxing trip to Kurama Ryokan.

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The cooking of Korea and Japan

Shogatsu is the first day of the year. It is the ceremony that we celebrate the old year coming to an end safely and the New Year beginning. We celebrate flourishingly by decorating for the New Year, holding the New Year's events and eating the New Year cooking.

tteokguk(below), garaettok(above)

tteokguk(below), garaettok(above)

In Japan, the first day of the year is a national holiday. Though we call it “Oshogatu” at least for the first three days, and schools and companies are closed.

Korea is different from Japan in a way that it uses both the Gregorian Era and the lunar calendar. In daily life, we use the Gregorian Era like Japan, but we use the lunar calendar for traditional events, birthdays and festivals. These events are held according to the old calendar. The lunar New Year differs each year and is usually during the end of January through the beginning of February.

There is traditional cooking in Korea and Japan which we have eaten on New Year's day since old times.

In Korea, people habitually eat “tteokguk”(picture below) during the New Year morning. The rice cake “garaettok”(picture above), that is used in the “tteokguk” is said to be a lucky food that increases one's lifespan, because of its length. In Korea, people believe they get one year older by eating “tteokguk”. “Tteokguk” is a traditional food which Korean people eat at least once or twice a year. There are many reasons that Korean people eat “tteokguk” during the New Year. One of the reasons is to congratulate the new birth by eating white food, and the New Year is the day that all things begin anew, so eating must be pure and solemnly. People eat “tteokguk” that is cooked together with “garaettok" in the clear water. Why “garaettok" in that style is because, in poor and severe times, people desired property increase in great quantities to get a rich life. As such rice cake is cut diagonally and becomes the the shape of “koban (gold coin in Edo period)”. And like a white and long cake, there is a wish to live with a pure heart to a ripe old age.

In Japan, there is a food similar to the “tteokguk” of Korea. “ozoni” is a soup cooking including mainly rice cake and many other ingredients. There are many explanations for the origin of “ozoni”, but it's not known for certain.The main ingredients are rice cake, bean curd, taros, a slice or a dumpling of chicken, green vegetables(komatuna, trefoil, spinach), red ingredients used as garnish (carrot, boiled fish paste, shrimp). Ingredients can be very different depending on the region. Because of that, “ozoni” is given as an example that show how food customs are different amongst regions in Japan.

- PARK, Sungchul
- translated by IKUTA, Minoru

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Kyoto's Shrines and Temples

Kyoto is home to more than 2000 temples and shrines, many of which are associated with historical figures who continue to influence Japanese traditions to this day. Take for example the famous Kitano Tenmangu, dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane. Michizane was a celebrated 9th century intellectual, but he was exiled to Kyushu because of a disagreement with Fujiwara no Tokihira. It's been told that continuous havoc in Kyoto is curse of Michizane. Students now gather at Kitano Tenmangu, his main shrine, to pray for academic success and to pass entrance examinations. As a student myself, I can more than sympathize with the pre-exam crowds.

A five minutes' walk from Kitano Tenmangū sits the Senbon Shakado, a Shingon temple frequented by carpenters. It's a bit smaller, but I think its history as just as striking. According to legend, the carpenter in charge of its construction accidentally cut a pillar too short. Unsure of what to do, his wife Okame made a suggestion concerning how he could make the height of each pillar match and the Shakado was completed. To keep her having given advice a secret she committed suicide the day it was opened, and many carpenters now put a likeness of Okame in homes they build in commemoration.

Seimei Shrine, enshrining Abe no Seimei, is another often visited site in Kyoto. There are many stories about Seimei, who was believed to have had special powers and well liked by women. In recent times he's become a popular figure as a handsome young man in girls' manga, and Seimei Shrine is now frequented by couples and young women. Kyoto is full of such historical shrines and temples still popularly visited in the modern day, and I feel like I discover at least a few I haven't seen before every time I explore the city.

- LELLEY, Daniel

Kyoto Guide Club "Devildom Tour" Information

Kyoto Guide Club is planning to take you to Shrines and Temples in Kyoto. Please call us for more detailed information and apply!

Date : February 27th, Sunday
Meeting Place : Subway Imadegawa Station North Exit at 12:00pm
TEL: 075-752-3511

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Gallery Café

Do you know what “gallery café” is? It's a teahouse with a gallery. You can not only have cake and beverages including coffee and tea but also enjoy art objects such as artwork and pictures there.

Kyoto Selection

map [enlarge

I tell you three gallery cafés which I visited. The first café is “Kyoto Selection”, which is located on the second floor of Kyoto Station Building. You can have a Japanese cake and a cup of Japanese tea including boiled tea and powdered green tea, and look at traditional artifacts such as Yuzen dyeing (printed silk made in Kyoto Prefecture).


map [enlarge

The second one is “Zenkashoin”, a Japanese cake shop, which contains “然(zen)”, the café and gallery 素型(sugata)”. The word “Zen” means “flavor”. The word “素型(sugata)” represents“primitive”and creative”. Confections including Portuguese sponge cake and beverages such as coffee and English tea are served at“然(zen)”.“素型(sugata)” holds a variety of art exhibitions.

Sarasa Nishijin

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The third one is “Sarasa Nishijin”, which is a bathhouse converted into a café. It provides meals including hamburger steaks and omelets, and sometimes holds concerts.

Each gallery café has individual characteristics, and there are several other ones in Kyoto. Would you like to visit a gallery café that you are interested in? I'm sure that you can find your favorite one.

Official Website
Kyoto Selection:http://www.kyoto-selection.jp/
“Zen”, the café:http://www.zen-kashoin.com/cafeconcept.html
“SUGATA”, the gallery:http://www.su-ga-ta.jp/
Sarasa Nishi-Jin:http://sarasan2.exblog.jp/

- WATANABE, Takeshi

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The Bloom of Early Spring

Many might picture cherry blossoms when they think of spring in Japan. Enjoying their bloom in the warm sunlight is something to look forward to. Actually, several kinds of beautiful flowers have already come into bloom in this cold time of the year. Here are some flowers of early spring.

(1) Camellia: Camellias can be found anywhere from the hedges of houses to the gardens of temples and shrines. They have also been used as a Japanese motif often featured in kimono patterns and ceiling paintings among other things. It is said that there are over 250 species of camellias in red, white, pink or some combination thereof. You can enjoy this diversity at Nijo Castle and the Kyoto Botanical Garden, which hold around 90 and 250 kinds of camellias respectively.



(2) Plum: Plums come in red and white with an irresistible aroma. They are not only resistant to the cold but also robust enough to survive even on a severed branch. Amongst the many famous plum viewing sites in Kyoto, Kitano-Tenman Shrine stands out from the rest, attracting thousands to its annual plum festival, “Baikasai,” every February 25th.





(3) Peach: Everybody loves eating peaches, yet few know about their lovely pink and white flowers in March. They are the festive flowers for the March 3rd Dolls' Festival, also known as the seasonal festival of peaches. While they first resemble cherry blossoms, peaches bloom directly on the branch. Kyoto Imperial Palace has beautiful peaches.



(4) Daffodil: Daffodils have such pretty white and yellow blossoms. Their sweet aroma is so attractive that it is even used in designer perfumes. If you are lucky enough to find one on the roadside, go ahead and give it a whiff!


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Get Together Mothers

mother and children

To mothers who take care children hard as it for the first time in the area you are not familiar with. To deliver multilingual childen information, "Jafore" was established in 2010, supporting families whose mother tongue is not Japanese. They offer information mainly of Sakyo ward at their web site at http://kyoto-playground.blogspot.com/.

In Feburuary 14th, first gathering "MULTILINGUAL CHILDREN CARE PLAZA" will be held in Demachiyanagi at "HOKKORI HEART DEMACHI". Japanese and foreign mothers who take care children will come together. Let your life in Japan fill up with reading picture books, talking and making friends. Also, your experiences shared at the plaza will be published as "MULTI CULTURE CHILDREN CARE HANDBOOK". The relationship with people living in Kyoto gives you the local information and some good ideas of the child care. Let's enjoy growth of your children.

"MULTILINGUAL CHILDREN CARE PLAZA" will be held on every second Monday from 10:30am to 11:30am. It is a good opportunity to link the territorial bonding.


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kokoka news  * * *  kokusai koryu kaikan news

Kyoto City International Foundation Volunteer Orientation

Why don't you make a contribution to internationalizing Kyoto City Area? Please apply from kokoka website.

DATE : February 11th, Fri. Holiday, March 6th Sun 2:00pm - 4:30pm
PLACE : Kyoto International Community House. ( KoKoKa ) 3F Seminar Room
TEL: 075-752-3511
URL: http://www.kcif.or.jp/jp/jigyo/volunteer/toroku/orientation.htm
FEE: Free

Kyoto Housing Fair for Internatioanl Students

At Kyoto Housing Fair for International Students there will be inexpensive and good-quality demised premises introduced. We are holding this fair with the aim of interaction among international students, Japanese students,landlords and school offi cials. Please come!

DATE : February 12th, Saturday 1:00pm - 4:30pm
PLACE : Kyoto International Community House (kokoka)
FEE : Free

Counseling day for non-Japanese residents

Do you have any trouble regarding law, visa, tax, insurance or pension system? The specialists in each area will give you advices. Can you sleep well? Are you lazy about going out? Do you feel stress with your life in Japan? A female counselar will listen to your anxiety. Please feel free to contact us and make a reservation.

DATE:February 20th, Sun 1:00pm ~ 5:00pm
PLACE:Kyoto International Community House (kokoka) 3F Conference Room
TEL: 075-752-3511
FEE : Free

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

When: February 20th(SUN) If it rains 27th(SUN),  March 6th (SUN) If it rains 27th(SUN)
Time: 10:00am - 4:00pm
Where : On the corner of Kawaramachi Dori and Oikeseihoku, in front of City Hall
Organizer:Plus One Network
URL : http://www.plusone.ne.jp/fm/fm_shiyakusho1.html

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Library Letter - Kyoto International community House Library

The Recommended Book

The Complete Guide to Finding a Job in Japan

Written by Kazuyo Nozawa, et al
Publisher: Bonjinsha 2009

The Complete Guide to Finding a Job in Japan

Looking for a job in Japan? If you have faced any of the following issues,this book will provide you with some helpful answers to your questions and concerns!

  • What kinds of professions make me applicable for a change in residence status?
  • What kind of students do Japanese companies want?
  • What's the best way to respond when asked about returning home in an interview?
  • What should I do if I can't find a job in time?

The book also includes useful information and stories of job hunting experiences.
Check this out in our library.

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

Our chat event,“Hokkori Book Café”on Sunday, February 27th is coming soon! We will be discussing water in Kyoto, water in the world and all sorts of things regarding water. Hope to see you there!

The following books are also available - 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 ~ 8:30pm
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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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

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

Message board: 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 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
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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.

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* Member
IKUTA Minoru / WANG Yongcheng / OKUMURA Junko / HAO Shi / KOMATSU Takehisa / SUZUKI Hidetoshi / JIANG Yan / SEKINO Masako / TAKII Tomoko / HAGIHARA Yasue / HAMAMOTO Makiko / BOTHRA Anjum / MIKAZUKI Asako / MINATO Masayuki / YAMASHITA Motoyo / LELLEY Daniel / WATANABE Takeshi

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