The Kamo River

flag of China

JIANG Yan (China)

Kamo River

My hometown is located in the center of Mainland China and there are few rivers and lakes in that area, and because of that, I have a special liking for water; especially I love the Kamo River.

When I was in Kyoto for the first time, one of my friends took me all around the city, and we walked along the Kamo River near Demachi-yanagi. I still remember seeing the back view of a man there wearing a Japanese kimono. He was tall and dapper, with a Japanese fan tucked in his Obi (a sash used with a Japanese kimono) in back of him, which impressed me as looking chic and elegant.

Later, when I started living in Kyoto, I visited the Kamo River often, especially if I was depressed, when I was stuck in my studies or when I just didn't feel like doing anything. In springtime, the cherry blossoms surround you, and in the summer you see children playing in the water. The Kamo River in autumn still keeps green grasses on its banks while displaying fall colors in the trees, but you may feel lonely standing there in the winter.

You will usually find many couples sitting on the west bank near the Sanjo street bridge,and you may also find some bands playing music, or groups of boisterous people along the calm river. Near Jingumarutamachi, a group of young people can often be seen very seriously practicing the Kyoto style dances. The sight of the happy-faced young people may remind you of the blossom of youth. For me, I am only watching people jogging, cycling, walking their dogs or playing music, and most often, watching the flowing water. Once I recalled a philosophical saying that “A man never steps in the same river twice.”, which gave me a feeling of peaceful serenity.

I think that the Kamo River provides “a special place”: for couples to go dating, for bands to perform, for young university students to get together, for athletes to run along, and for people like me, to simply calm myself. I believe that the people living in Kyoto are truly blessed to have the Kamo River.

Kamo River

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What are the things you can’t see unless you close your eyes?*

Shodo Lesson

I debated what to teach and what not to teach, but suddenly the day for my departure arrived, so I started for Ishinomaki on April 19, 2012. Twenty people, most of whom were in their 60’s, participated in this first calligraphy lesson. Communicating with them in japanese was a little difficult for me as I could not understand their particular dialect. However, their smiles and gestures gave me the impression that they welcomed me heartily. They said most of them seldom had a chance to use the ink brush after graduating from elementary school, but they were so happy to give it a try once again; I was glad that they found my teaching enjoyable. They even tried writing “Dream” following the character I wrote on the spot.

At the second lesson the next day, there were a smaller number of participants, which allowed us to take more time in writing and talking together. There were six people however who joined both lessons. They wanted to continue learning calligraphy and have actually established a calligraphy circle right there in Ishinomaki. They are now getting together once a month. Thus, a new local community activity was formed through the art of calligraphy and with the support of the members of the organization which had originally planned my visit. Needless to say, they are also very happy with it.

I had been shocked learning through the media about the problems of the people who were badly affected by the disaster. However, visiting them by myself directly through the teaching of calligraphy, I could gain a deeper and clearer understanding of their feelings. Living in Kyoto, it was difficult for me to imagine that some of the people in Ishinomaki, especially those still in temporary houses, were feeling like having fun in their confined lives. The visit to Ishinomaki gave me a wonderfully new experience with human communication. I would like to continue passing the joy of calligraphy on to the people in Ishinomaki in various ways.

*The answer: It is the backs of your eyelids, or dreams.

ODIN, Sylvie
Translated by AZUMA, Keiko

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New Year Celebrations in Japan and China



Time flies! Since I have stayed in Japan for two years, the New Year’s celebration here has impressed me very much with its unique features. In Japan, people start preparing for the new year right after Christmas, sending cards with warm greetings to relatives and friends. On New Year’s Eve, many people go to the shrines, and after midnight, they pray and draw divination sticks, asking for good fortune in the new year. As the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” After having noodles - the traditional New Year’s Eve food - for dinner, and watching the annual male and female popular singers’ contest on TV, my friends and I then went to the Heian Jingu Shrine to pray. I learned how to pray in the proper Shinto tradition and was impressed by the atmosphere there.

From a few days after Christmas, when you walk through the streets of Kyoto, you will surely notice decorations on the gates, doors, and doorways of the houses and buildings: the braided straw ornaments with oranges, lobsters, kelp, and other foods attached to them. There are also some bamboo or pine branch ornaments. All of these decorations symbolize welcoming the Gods of the New Year.

new year scroll

new year scroll

Compared to Japan, the New Year’s celebration in China is somewhat different. For example, the last day of the year in the Chinese lunar calendar, is called “chuxi”, and in Chinese, it means leaving the old year behind. It is similar to the Japanese word “oumisoka”, meaning ‘big disappearing day’. So in China, on that day, the New Year scrolls with greetings for the year are pasted on the doors in the afternoon. In addition, on the windows, the character “fu” is pasted upside down, meaning that good fortune is coming (the Chinese pronunciation of “come” and “upside-down” are the same). Later, all the family members have dinner together. The variety of dishes depends on the families, but fish is a must-have dish for every family! Why? Since the pronunciation of “fish” in Chinese is the same as “surplus”, this means we hope to receive some surplus of goods or wealth throughout the year. After dinner, people enjoy watching the New Year’s TV program together.

For the New Year’s arrival, every household will set off firecrackers, as this is a custom in China. Everyone greets and welcomes the New Year with bustle and excitement. On the first day of the New Year, after eating boiled dumplings, people wear new clothes, then go to see their relatives to make a ceremonial call for the New Year. During those visits, children receive gifts of money from their elders, which is a delightful thing for both generations. The atmosphere of the New Year lasts until the Lantern Festival, which is on the 15th day of the first lunar month.


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Kozmoz Japan

Cozmoz Japan

Tucked away in the historic sake brewing district of Kyoto is a quaint cafe serving authentic American foods called "Kozmoz NY Coffee”. What makes this cafe especially unique is that all the staff are volunteers bent on making the world a better place and that 100% of the proceeds go to support the local Kozmoz Second Harvest Food Bank.

So what is the Food Bank? What are its aims and why is it needed?

The realisation that Japanese society has poor and homeless individuals and families usually surprises foreign visitors. High prices, a populace renown for being hard working and for producing world famous technologies are not factors one would immediately associate with poverty and homelessness. Still, a not insubstantial section of Japanese society—maybe around a million individuals, many of who are children—find daily life a struggle. But they are not alone.

Kozmoz Japan, whom your correspondent has recently been involved with, are working very hard to make a difference and to provide real help where it is most needed.

Cozmoz Japan

Working 365 days a year, Kozmoz Japan, a not-for-profit registered charity, administer the Second Harvest Food Bank initiative in Kyoto and Osaka, being just one of the activities they undertake in alleviating the difficulties faced by society’s less fortunate members. The idea is simple: secure food and give it to hungry people. The idea is a simple one, but actually realising that idea requires a lot of hard work on the part of the dedicated team of Kozmoz volunteers.

Since 2004 in Kyoto, and 2000 in Japan, the dedicated individuals at Kozmoz have been collecting donations of food from wholesalers, restaurants, producers and supermarkets and redistributing it to where it is needed. Donated food items are collected by the Kozmoz volunteers and taken to the sorting centre, where they are sorted and repacked before they are delivered, usually all in the same day. Bread, fruit and vegetables are the staples of a healthy diet and constitute the bulk of the relief Kozmoz delivers to the orphanages, homeless centres, elderly care centres and domestic violence shelters in and around Kyoto and Osaka.

“Poverty never takes a day off, and neither do we,’ says Barry Wyatt, Kozmoz’s inspirational founder, “but there’s always more we could do if we had the people.”

Food Bank is just one of Kozmoz’s initiatives, if you want to get involved, do your bit for humanity and meet new people, then there is definitely someway you could help. Check the website at or visit the Kozmoz cafe in Fushimi on 59-2 Hirano Chou Fushimi Ku Kyoto (by the Otesuji Shopping Street) and get involved. You too can make a difference.

GREEN, Kieran

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Rakugo Short Story Geta



Formerly geta were worn by most Japanese people. Half a century ago, as a boy I used to walk to the nearby public bath on geta. In those days, we had fun with weather forecasting by geta. We would kick off one of our geta up into the air, saying “I wish tomorrow will be fine!” The landing position of the geta indicated the weather for tomorrow. Right-side up position meant “Clear weather” and upside-down meant “Rain”.

Once when I kicked off one of my geta. It flew up and through the open window of a room upstairs. As it was my brother’s room, I dashed upstairs but couldn’t find the geta. So I asked my brother, “Hey, did you see my geta fly in here?” My brother replied, “Oh, yes, I did. It came in and landed by the radio to hear the weather forecast.”

 Japanese traditional footwear made of wood, which were convenient in the old days to walk through rough dirt and muddy roads with two high risings on the back.

KOMATSU, Takehisa

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kokoka news * * kokusai koryu kaikan news

KYOTO Touch Course " Tea Ceremony Class"

This is an excellent chance to learn more about Japanese culture, and to introduce Japanese culture to other foreigners while gaining a deeper understanding yourself, so why not give it a try?

    tea equipments
  • ◆Dates: From January 8th, 2013, Tuesday to March 26th, Tuesday 12 classes, 1 per week
  • ◆Place: kokoka Kyoto International Community House Annex
  • ◆Fee: (Foreigners) 6,000 yen,  (Japanese) 20,000 yen
  • ◆TEL: 075-752-3511

Apply at the kokoka counter (first come, first served)

Kyoto City International Foundation Volunteer Orientation

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

  • ◆Date: January 16th, Sat, February 11th Mon, Holiday 2:00pm - 5:00pm
  • ◆Place: Kyoto International Community House (KoKoKa) 3F Seminar Room
  • ◆Fee: Free

Apply from kokoka web site

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

  • When : December 9th (Sunday), January 20th (Sunday) 10:00am - 4:00pm
  • Organizer : Plus One Network
  • Where : On the corner of Kawaramachi Dori and Oikeseihoku, in front of City Hall
  • TEL : 075-229-7713

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Library Letter - Kyoto International community House Library

kokoka recommends this book


Published by Kodansha International


The days are getting cold and chilly and we hope you have not caught a cold.

During the year-end and the New Year’s holidays, it seems that many people can be seen walking out on the streets. Especially during the New Year’s holidays you will see many of them wearing Kimonos. Have you ever thought about wearing a Kimono yourself?

The first time you wear one, it may seem uncomfortable or strange to wear a Kimono. However, once you get used to it, you will find yourself enjoying wearing a Kimono with an Obi and other accessories.

“The New Kimono from vintage style to everyday chic” provides a good explanation of how to dress yourself in a Kimono. In addition, it shows how some people are bringing the wearing of a Kimono into their everyday lives, and gives you some ideas on how to coordinate a Kimono with an Obi, and describes various accessories for the Kimono.

If you become interested in Kimono

You can have a glimpse into stylish and elegant world of the Japanese Kimono through this book, and if you become interested and would like to find out more, “The Kimono History & Style” may be a helpful next reading. You can learn about the Japanese ceremonies in which most Japanese will be wearing Kimonos, such as “Shichi-go-san*” or a traditional Japanese wedding, and in traditional theatre arts, like Kabuki and Noh. This book also has many beautiful photos of the history of the Kimono.

*Shichi-go-san (November 15):
 The “Seven-Five-Three” Festival when parents having: boys of age five, or girls of age seven, and either boys or girls of age three dress their children in festive Kimonos, and take them to shrines where they pray for their children's future.

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Volanteer member of this issue

Editors of paper edition


AZUMA Keiko / IKUTA Minoru / JANSMA Karl / KOMATSU Takehisa / SUZUKI Shouichirou / SUZUKI Hidetoshi / SEKINO Masako / TAKII Tomoko / NAGATAKE Yoshinobu / HIGASHIDA Miyuu / FUKUSHIMA Asuka / LIANG Shan / Mine Kaori / YAMASHITA Motoyo

English proofreading collaborator


Designer of WEB edition

SUZUKI Hidetoshi

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