“Okini”Kyoto! (Thank you, Kyoto!)

flag of India

Chaitanya Bhandare (India)

Chaitanya Bhandare Chaitanya Bhandare

It’s been almost 7 years since I fi rst arrived in Kyoto (Japan). After spending the fi rst 10 months here in Kyoto, I moved to a nearby coastal town, Maizuru, to start my research work in the fi eld of Marine Fisheries.

I moved back to Kyoto just a month ago after more than 6 years, and felt like this is the place where I am supposed to be if I’m in Japan. In March, I participated in the Kyoto Marathon (full) and completed it within the designated time. I never thought I would be able to run 42.195 km, but the mesmerising beauty of Kyoto City along the marathon course and the hearty cheering of Kyoto citizens minimized the exhaustion and fatigue of not only me but the entire approximately 15,000 marathon runners.

Chaitanya Bhandare

Earlier in April, I was welcomed back to Kyoto City by the elegant blossoming cherry trees. I loved, especially, the light-up of the cherry blossoms at Toji Temple and also walking along the Philosopher’s Path near Ginkakuji Temple. It’s said that the Philosopher’s Path is the most favored path to walk on in Japan.

Ancient Buddhist temples like Kiyomizudera, Kinkakuji (Golden Temple), and Ginkakuji are always in my talks when I visit India and discuss Indo-Japan historic relations. Traditional Kyoto greetings like “Okoshiyasu” (Welcome) or “Okini” (Thank you very much) have a very strong impact on me. I often tend to use, especially, the word “Okini” instead of the traditional “Arigatou” (Thank you).

I have been associated with many social organisations in Kyoto City; the one that I find closest to my heart is “Osouji ni manabu kai” (a volunteer city cleaning group). Early morning on every Saturday, volunteers, including different sections of the society, gather and clean a street. Once a month, the Hon’ble Mayor of Kyoto City also participates in this noble cause. I have a dream of establishing a branch of this group in India. The Mayor has been extremely supportive in making this dream come true. Overall, Kyoto City has been like an institution for me where I get to learn so many things every day. I am looking forward to studying many more things and enjoying the grace and glamour of Kyoto City FOREVER.

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Bright Mission

Human beings rely on visual information. It is said that over eighty percent of the information from our surroundings is received through the eyes. So if this route is affected, it results in a very serious situation.

In Japan, there are approximately 310,000 people who suffer from vision impairment caused by eye disease and are considered as “low-vision”. They are confronted with difficulties in finding normal employment due to their disability.

In order to protect physically or mentally impaired people, including low-vision people, the United States legislated a law in 1990 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.


The reed flutes concert at Sawasawa, where low-vision people are playing. This occasion increases people connection a lot.

Japan enacted a similar law in 2005. In 2011, Bright Mission, a Non Profit Organization was founded in Kyoto, hoping to promote support networks and social participation through employment. In 2012, as a part of its mission, “Sawasawa”, a machiya cafe supporting low-vision people, was opened.

The recommended menu at “Sawasawa” is spicy curry rice with a cup of fresh coffee for only 700 yen. When low-vision people serve customers, some might feel underserviced at first, but all can enjoy the great quality of taste and find that the service that is gracious and considerate.

Address: 648-3 Shimogoryoumachi-cho, Nakagyo-ku Kyoto City,
Phone: 057-744-1417
Opening Hours: 11:30 to 18:00 (Last order is 17:00)

SUZUKI Shoichiro
Translation by FURUTA Tomiyoshi

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Ten Times the Enjoyment!
From 1st until 31st July in the Yasaka Shrine area


Kon-chiki-chin, the sound of festival music

When the traditional yamaboko wooden floats decorated with festive tapestries have been set up and are waiting to join the procession, the festive sound of traditional Japanese instruments can be heard in the streets of Kyoto. The sound of ohayashi, “kon-chiki-chin”, makes me feel that the scent of summer is coming, drifting in the skies of Tsuyu, the plum tree rain. Throughout days and nights of busy festive activities, Kyoto still retains its elegance. In contrast to the courtly and aristocratic Aoi Matsuri, the Gion Matsuri is viewed as a festival for the common people. It is physically and emotionally familiar to all those who live in Kyoto or visit Kyoto: males and females, the young and the old. I want the sound of kon-chiki-chin to bring us into the summer again this year!

OKAMOTO Masanari

The Koi-yama Float (My Recommendation)

Koi-yama is the float made based on the ancient Chinese story called “Toryumon”.

A large carp swimming up a waterfall can be seen on the top. The sides of the float are decorated with some Belgian tapestries brought to Japan about 400 years ago.

You must go to see the beautiful Koi-yama, which will bring you good fortune.

Toryumon :
Due to the rapids in the Ryumon Valley, no fish can swim up them. It was said that fish that do swim up the rapids would have spiritual power, and transform into a dragon. Refer map ①

NODA Yumi, Translated by Koh

Me and the Gion Festival

When you visit the various floats' "homes" during the short period before the actual parade, I recommend you to go see the “KAMAKIRI FLOAT” (“TOROYAMA”). Up until about 30 years ago, it had not participated in the parade for 100 years. In our lifetime, it was repaired and added to the festival with much excitement. About the same time, I had completed a woodblock print of a praying mantis.

I was inspired to have a poem written on the print, so I asked a famous Kyoto calligrapher who lived in my neighborhood to do this. He was very happy to comply with my strange and sudden request. I then bought a very expensive, gold frame, and presented our artwork to the float's management.

It is currently displayed on the side of the float as it travels through the city on Gion Matsuri day.



Rainy Festival

Six years ago, my co-workers hustled to a plan to wear summer kimono (yukata) for the Gion Festival. However, unfortunately, it rained on that day. It also rained the next year if I remember correctly.

Three years ago on the last day of the festival, I was watching a portable shrine with an umbrella, again. Let’s make a plan checking the weather forecast!


“Mugon-Mairi” (Visit and pray in silence)

After the Yamaboko Junko, the three Mikoshi portable shrines are to be placed at “Otabisho” set up at Shijo-Teramachi, from July 17th through 24th. Visit the place to pray to the Mikoshi, and your prayer will be heard. However, there is one strict rule: you should not talk at all before you reach your home. Late in the evening may be the best time for the visit so as not to see any of your friends. (Refer map ⑥)


lantern lantern lantern

A little-known good place to watch the floats

The main event of the Gion Festival is the Yamaboko Junko (a parade of the floats). Many of you would like to watch the moments when the floats are going around the corners in their unique way. Shijo Kawaramachi is the most popular place for the scene, and it is the busiest and most crowded area. Now, let me tell you about a better place: Kawaramachi Oike, the south-east corner of Kyoto City Hall. Not known by most of the tourists, you can easily secure a great viewing spot. If you go to watch Yamaboko Junko, just check it out! (Refer map ③)

NAGATAKE Yoshinobu

Visiting The Festival With Newcomers

When I think of the Gion Festival, the first memory to come to mind is the time when my students from overseas and I, went to watch the parade. I was a tutor for their Japanese courses. As part of the class, all the teachers and the students went to the parade together.

Since I live in Kyoto, the parade is quite familiar to me; but students watched and commented with much excitement on the yamabokos' with the various gimmicks and the artistry. While sharing our impressions of the parade, I felt like I had also seen the festival for the first time and saw the festival with a new perspective.

So this summer, why not you take your friends who are new to the festival to see the parade? Even if you have seen the festival many times, you may also find something new and exciting that you have never noticed before.


The Mitama-utsushi

Have you ever heard of a ritual called “the Mitamautsushi”? It is held annually as part of the Gion Festival on the grounds of Yasaka-jinja Shrine at 8 p.m. on July 15th.

It is a holy ceremony to resite the three Holy Spirits to each portable shrine. All of lights in the precinct are suddenly turned off at once. Then, in the darkness and silence, these spirits are led to the three portable shrines by Shinto priests.

I recommend you feeling the close presence of Gods through this fantastic Shinto ritual. (Refer Map ⑤)


Ato no Matsuri

There is a famous Japanese proverb: 'Ato no Matsuri.' Actually, it derives from the Gion Festival. Before 1966, when the Gion Matsuri Festival consisted of both the 'Saki no Matsuri' (July 17th) and the 'Ato no Matsuri' (July 24th), each with the Yamaboko Junko.

The 'Ato no Matsuri' had a much smaller parade of floats, so it was not as fun to go watch it. As a result, people started using the phrase "Ato no Matsuri" as an "it's too late." These days, I hear that the 'Ato no Matsuri' will be revived. I am really looking forward to it.


Hamo (conger eel)

conger eel

Among the most popular summer festivals in Kansai area there are the Gion Festival (in Kyoto) and the Tenjin Festival (in Osaka). One of the indispensable parts of these festivals is the conger eel, called “hamo.” People who live in the Kanto area might not be familiar with the hamo. Why do people who live in Kansai eat hamo during this season? The hamo looks quite grotesque and one might try to bite at the cook even after its head is cut off. People say that eating a tough fish like the hamo is good for building energy.

One problem with cooking this fi sh is that they have so many small bones throughout their bodies. To solve this problem, a specific technique, “honekiri”, was developed. This method is to make 24 cuts in each 3cm of length along the body, taking care to not cut through the skin.

IKUTA Minoru,
Translated by SUZUKI Takeshi and TANAKA Rikako

The Gion Festival and Otomo no Kuronushi

Otomo Kuronushi

When I looked around at the Gion Festival, I found that Otomo no Kuronushi, one of the six selected outstanding poets of the Heian era, was enshrined as a float (Kuronushi-Yama) and statue. (Refer map ②) The photo shows his statue and a beautiful tapestry. A short poem, composed by him, reads:

In Omi
Since Mount Kagami was formed
We have longed to see over long time
May my Lord’s reign last
For a thousand years

This poem was included in the “Kokin-Waka Shu”. He most likely had some connection with the Imperial Court and Omi (now Shiga prefecture).

FURUTA Tomiyoshi



Festival Prices

For the people who go to watch the Gion Festival, something not so nice are the “festival prices.” During the Gion Festival, prices at many restaurants and hotels are higher than usual. I heard that some coff ee shops sell a cup of coff ee for 1,000 yen! I guess they think the customers will come to eat or stay in spite of higher prices since the Gion Festival attracts a large amount of people.

SUZUKI Hidetoshi

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kokoka news * * kokusai koryu kaikan news

Counseling Day for Foreign Residents

Do you have any questions or troubles regarding the law, visa, taxes, insurance, pension, etc? Would you like to discuss your issues or concerns with professionals? Professionals in these fields will be offering advice, guidance and support to foreign residents. Translators will also be available. Advanced reservation is required.

  • ◆When: Saturday, June 8th (Sat.) 13:00-17:00
  • ◆Where: Kokoka Kyoto International Community House, 3F, Conference Room
  • ◆Reservation by phone: 075-752-3511

Be Water, My Friend—Fortieth Year Memorial Exhibition of the 20 Century pioneer, Bruce Lee

An exhibition in memory of the fortieth year of Bruce Lee’s passing away. This exhibit includes a collection of over 500 articles, posters, art, and various later documents.

  • ◆When: Wednesday July 17th (Wed.) - 21th (Sun)
  • ◆Free admission, no reservation required

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

  • When : June 16th (Sunday), July 7th (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

“Furoshiki Tsutsumi” (A Complete Guide to Furoshiki)

Furoshiki Tsutsumi

Written by YAMADA Etsuko
Published by Banana Books

In Japan, we use a piece of square cloth called “Furoshiki” to wrap things to carry around or protect things against damage during transport. This book teaches several basic ways how to wrap using Furoshiki. Starting with the “Otsukai tsutsumi” and “Yotsu musubi” methods, with practice you will be able to wrap a bottle of wine or a watermelon!

Only a piece of cloth, Furoshiki can conveniently wrap things of various shapes, square, circle or slender. Using Furoshiki, one can even carry the package on your back or shoulder. When not in use it can be folded and easily carried in your bag. Why not have one?


Another sheet of cloth, “Tenugui”, is also commonly used in Japan. “Tenugui zukushi” (The Complete Guide to Tenugui, written by OSAWA Mikiko and published by Banana Books in 2005) describes the major patterns, the history and even the dyeing methods of Tenugui, and you may want to buy one for yourself.

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Volunteer members of this issue

Editors of paper edition

shine shine monk

AZUMA Keiko / Chaitanya BHANDARE / FURUTA Tomiyoshi / IKUTA Minoru /KAKU Nana/ NAGATAKE Yoshinobu / NODA Yumi / OKAMOTO Masanari /Richard STEINER / SAWAMURA Kaori / SUZUKI Hidetoshi / SUZUKI Shoichiro/ SUZUKI Takeshi / TANAKA Rikako / YAMASHITA Motoyo / YUZAWA Kimio

English proofreading collaborator

Karl JANSMA / Sandy LEE / Michiru ONIZUKA

Designer of WEB edition

OHYABU Shunichi

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