Kyoto: a Unique City

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Guneshwor OJHA (Nepal)

Guneshwor OJHA

I had visited Kyoto for the first time eight years ago as part of an educational tour by Ehime University. I was spellbound by the spectacular view of Kinkaku-ji Temple. I still retain the image of the temple reflected in the surrounding clear pond. The most striking memory is that we happened to see a maiko-san in the temple garden - a rare occasion!

The sight of Kiyomizu-dera Temple amidst the hillside was stunning. The temple ambience was enchanting, especially due to abundant maple trees with red leaves. As I descended the hill, observing the panoramic view of Kyoto City, people queued to drink the purifying water from Otowa Waterfall. A university staff explained to me that anyone drinking the water will get their wishes fulfilled.

For a long time since then, these memories have lingered in my mind. For me, Kyoto was a dream heaven – a peaceful and beautiful city! With a turn of events, now I live in Kyoto as a foreign student. Its charm never fades!

In the spring, as I bicycled daily to Doshisha University all the way from my apartment in Higashiyama, I passed along the road lined with cherry trees in full bloom! The joy of cycling while inhaling fresh air was intoxicating! I also bicycled many times along the Kamogawa River, spotting fish in its clear water.

Kamogawa River

Kamogawa River

I recently moved to a new apartment near Doshisha University and found that nearby my residence there is a serene temple! I have yet to explore Kyoto, but the city looks quite rich in cultural heritage. No matter where you are in the city, historical monuments are always nearby. I have visited Kyoto Imperial Palace, as it is a stone’s throw away from my university. At one moment you are in a university atmosphere and in another moment, upon entering the vast compound around Kyoto Imperial Palace, you are transferred to a totally different environment. Such is the uniqueness of Kyoto! Here you can share space with history and modernity.

Home to many universities, Kyoto boasts being one of the top learning centers within Japan. My daily experience is of Doshisha University. Its prolific academic ambience, aided by cutting-edge technology, generous learning infrastructure, and dedicated professors possessing high levels of expertise is a blessing to students converging from diverse parts of the world. Seminars, conferences, workshops, and classes addressed by professionals from across the world are regular events at the Graduate School of Global Studies, Doshisha University.

Kyoto has been a soothing respite for my wife, who has joined me lately. She can hardly stand city crowds and air pollution. She is an easy prey to car sickness and thus loathes travelling in cities. To my surprise, she loves travelling by Kyoto city buses. We discovered that her car sickness was caused by fumes emitted by vehicles consuming adulterated fuel. We hope that Kyoto maintains its serenity amidst modernity for eternity!

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Get Closer to Traditional Noh (Part 2)

Mr. YOSHIDA Atsushi

Mr.YOSHIDA Atsushi

In this issue we continue the interview with Noh actor, YOSHIDA Atsushi. In the previous issue (Dec. 2013 & Jan.2014) we asked him about some basic subjects such as what Noh is, how to enjoy the performance, and what representative plays are.

Q. Kan’ami and Zeami were treated very well by the ruling shogun (military governor), ASHIKAGA Yoshimitsu (1358 - 1408), for instance, and Noh is said to be the form of entertainment favored by and put under the protection of the bushi (warriors). What do you think were the reasons for this?

A. It was probably because the bushi style of living matched with the Noh way of thinking. There may have been the influence of Zen Buddhism, the warriors’ religion, behind this, and Noh had seemingly been infl uenced by the philosophy of Zen. For warriors in the civil war period (1493 - 1590), the teachings of Zen soothed their hearts since, on the one hand, it prohibits the taking of life, but on the other hand it teaches that those who were killed would be consoled by mourning for them.

Momijigari Act

Momijigari Act

Besides that, there probably was another aspect of Noh, that was used by the warriors when they needed the infl uence of culture in order to have supremacy over the whole country. Later, it was favored by those who were in power, such as TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi (1537 - 1598) and TOKUGAWA Ieyasu (1543 - 1616), and Noh became a shikigaku (offi cial ceremonial performing art) in the Tokugawa Shogunate period. Noh performers were ranked as warriors at that time, even though they didn't fight.

Q. Would you please comment on the current status and future prospects of Noh?

A. In the period since the Meiji Restoration, especially after WWII, I think that traditional Japanese performance has faded away from everyday life, as our lifestyles have become westernized. Isn’t it about time to restore the rich Japanese culture to everyday life? As Japan has a long-standing history, Noh includes the mythology, history, and religions of Japan. Recently, I have been trying to improve my performance with respect to preserving the tradition while also leading activities to convey to many more people the magnifi cence of Noh, which is recognized as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage. Taking singing lessons and becoming a student are open to everyone, including foreigners; so, first, please go to a Nohgakudo Theatre at least once.


One comment after a Noh play: When the Noh performer wore a Nohmen mask, he looked like a beautiful young woman and I could feel flowers were swirling around him. I was moved so much!

YOSHIDA Atsushi, a professional main actor of the Kanze Noh School

He was born in 1974 and now lives in Muko city, Kyoto Prefecture. Since childhood he started learning Noh under INOUE Kasuke and INOUE Hirohisa in Kyoto, as well as from his grandfather YOSHIDA Yoshihiro, and his father Kiyoshi. At the age of three he performed for the fi rst time in the hanami (sakura blossom viewing) scene of "Kurama Tengu". During his studies at Doshisha University he became uchideshi (an apprentice) of the Inoue family. In 2001 he was given junshokubun, acknowleging his professional and independent status. He performed in plays such as “Shakkyo”, “Midare”, “Senzai”, “Dojouji”, etc. He is Vice President of “YOSHIDA KAYOUSHA” and, besides his career as a Noh actor, he is a master teacher of Noh singing and dance throughout Japan. In 2011 Muko City awarded him with an honorable "Himawari Prize".

Interviewers: IKUTA Minoru, KAWAI Midori, Koh
Writer: KAWAI Midori, Translated by Sho

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The Manufacturing Culture of Kyoto
  (Advanced digital dyeing technology)

It is said that there exists integrated power in places with long history. Kyoto had been the capital of Japan for a thousand years, and used to be the center of politics and economics. More impressive, Kyoto has made a variety of cultural growths, one of which is the manufacturing culture. During the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the capital was transferred from Kyoto to Tokyo. On that occasion, to help stop Kyoto’s decline, the area surrounding the Kyoto Imperial Palace was transformed into a public garden, Gyoen, around which tourists and citizens enjoy walking. On the other hand, Kyoto University was founded in 1897 as the second imperial university, followed by many other academic institutions, and they have since been able to help support one another.

the advanced digital dyeing technology

(picture1) the advanced digital dyeing technology

Out of Kyoto’s unique manufacturing culture, companies founded in Kyoto, extended their businesses globally, including SHIMADZU Corporation (originally making analytical and measurement instruments); NAGASE Corporation (originally a dyestuffs wholesaler); and KYOCERA Corporation (originally a ceramics manufacturer). All of the companies, making use of traditional industries, grew their businesses by advancing technological innovation. In Kyoto there is a unique cultural climate to accomplish the best achievements in many academic fields. Consequently, there are several Nobel laureates in Kyoto, such as Professors YUKAWA Hideki and MASUKAWA Toshihide in Physics; Professor FUKUI Kenichi in Chemistry; Dr. TANAKA Koichi who is a Fellow of SHIMADZU Corporation in Chemistry; and Professor YAMANAKA Shinya in Physiology or Medicine in 2012.

The Kyoto Municipal Institute of Industrial Technology and Culture (KITC, was founded in 2003 by the integration of the Textile Technology Center and the Industrial Technology Center. KITC continually inherits the manufacturing culture of Kyoto and has the mission to support small and medium industries in the Kyoto area in various R&D issues, ranging from traditional arts and crafts to advanced technology. According to its mission, KITC also nurtures human resources for engineers and craftsmen. In an interview, the KITC Director, Dr. NISHIMOTO Sei-ichi, stressed that there is the spiritual background in Kyoto for making unremitting efforts to generate epoch-making technological innovation and to be superior to predecessors. That's why the manufacturing of Kyoto could mature to the status of a traditional technology that has been inherited for more than 500 years. Dr. NISHIMOTO also highlighted“the advanced digital dyeing technology”among the recent successful topics.

DENATEX workshop at NAGASE Corp.

(picture2) DENATEX workshop at NAGASE Corp.

The Kyoto colors, in addition to the four seasons of nature, can be seen in various costumes, which are dependent on a high quality dyeing process. Along with the beautiful dyeing technology, there has been a recent demand for development of zero-emissions technology, which allows complete elimination of wastewater in the dyeing process. KITC manager, HAYAMI Tadashi in R&D, has applied a principle of color laser printing to digital dyeing technology (picture 1), which is shown to have practical use for the apparel industry. This dyeing equipment was already commercialized in Kyoto and is requested for from other areas.

Japanese traditional paper umbrellas

(picture 3) Japanese traditional paper umbrellas

The DENATEX workshop (picture 2) at NAGASE Corporation has performed a joint research project with KITC Manager HAYAMI, to develop a digital dyeing system with high quality, low cost, and zero-emissions that is used for apparel and wagasa, or Japanese traditional paper umbrellas (picture 3). NAGASE Manager, OSAKO Kazuhiro, said that, combined with its original products of toner, NAGASE has a business strategy to expand the market of polyester nonwoven fabric and film.

It would be great to see this new promising class of dyeing technology expanded, by injecting innovation into the traditional manufacturing of Kyoto.

FURUTA Tomiyoshi

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Minamiza and Kabuki Museum


The annual Kaomise
kabuki performance 2013

Minamiza Kabuki Museum

Minamiza - Kabuki Museum

The beginning of kabuki is said to have stemmed from kabuki odori, which was performed by a woman called Izumo-no Okuni at Shijo Gawara in Kyoto. Since then, Kabuki has been refi ned up to the present time while gradually changing its style and being infl uenced by other performing arts.

The Minamiza is one of the seven theaters that was built near kabuki’s birthplace and was given the bakufu's (feudal government) official approval in the early Edo period.

While some of the seven theaters burned down and others closed, Minamiza remaines the only one that continues performing kabuki until today and was given a status of Registered Tangible Cultural Property in 1996.

Minamiza will be marking its 400th anniversary in 2018. This April, the theater will present again an event called “Kabuki Museum”. LIK members were able to participate in "Experience the Stage of Minamiza”, held last autumn. In this program, we received an explanation of kabuki’s unique stage mechanisms such as mawari butai (revolving stage), seri (lift), hanamichi (runway through the auditorium that connects to the main stage) and could actually go on to the stage, experience these mechanisms, and take pictures there.


"Kanjincho" play
by ONOE Shoroku

Even for people from overseas with little fluency in Japanese, this event will definitely be a precious moment. Experiencing the revolving mawari butai, seeing the audience from the stage which you cannot usually do, and feeling the intensely hot stage lighting, all has its own unique atmosphere, which will move you beyond words.

Scheduled Events at Minamiza
between March and April

Mar. 2nd - Mar.26th:
  Kabuki Program: "Sangatsu Hanagata Kabuki"
  Cast: Onoe Shoroku, Onoe Kikunosuke
   matinee from 11:00, evening show from 16:00

Apr. 24th - Apr.29th:
  Kabuki Museum (exhibits and guided tour)


Special thanks to SHOCHIKU Co., Ltd for providing photos and information

OHARA Manabu, SUZUKI Shoichiro

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The horse of the New Year may bring our dreams to life at a fast trot!

2014 is the Year of the Horse


The sexagenary cycle, originated in ancient China, is a combination of ten Heavenly Stems and twelve Earthly Branches. The twelve Earthly Branches correspond to twelve animals, which are assigned to each year in turn. In Japan, according to this cycle, we use ornaments that have a motif of the animal of the year as New Year’s decorations, or draw the animal on New Year’s cards.

The horse and Ema prayer boards in Japan



This year is the Year of the Horse. Everyone has his/her own image of a horse. Elsewhere in the world the horse has been worshiped as a sacred animal, maybe because horses have been playing an indispensable role in people’s lives. In Japan as well, people treated the horse as a messenger of the gods, from which a custom to devote horses to shrines was derived. In the Shoku Nihongi, a Japanese history text from the Nara period, there is mention of an offering of a horse to a shrine as a messenger of the gods. However, this custom imposed a heavy burden both on the dedicators and on the shrines. To simplify the custom, the ema prayer board was invented and people came to devote wooden ema prayer boards instead of real horses. Thus, the custom to dedicate the ema prayer board to shrines when one offers a prayer, or when a prayer is received, was developed. If you have been to Japanese shrines, you must have seen various ema prayer boards with pictures not only of a horse but also of a fox, for example, at Inari shrines, where foxes are worshiped, or of historical fi gures at the shrines where they are enshrined.

Getting your Ema prayer board blessed

It may be a good idea to visit a shrine to offer a prayer to achieve a goal for the new year, and use an ema prayer board to write your prayer on. This year is the Year of the Horse, and therefore your ema prayer board may bring your prayer to the gods in higher spirits than usual.

translated by Kei
illustrations by YEHUA

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kokoka news * * kokusai koryu kaikan news

Marriage Matchmaking in kokoka

Happiness is waiting for your call!!

koko kon

◆Date & Time: Sunday, March 9th, 14:00 - 18:00
◆Location: Kyoto City International House
6 minutes walk from Keage Sta on the Tozai subway line, Kyoto
◆Participants: Single people in their 30's and 40's, both Japanese and foreigners, 50 men and 50 women
◆Requirments: Foreign applicants must live in Japan. Japanese applicants must reside or work in Kyoto. if the number of applicants exceeds the limit, participants will be selected by lottery
◆Content: Workshop, quiz, games and party Cover charges: 3,000 yen including snacks and drinks
◆Cover charges: 3,000 yen (including Snacks and Drinks)

Apply by Feb 14th, 2014 to: kokoka Kyoto City International Foundation
TEL 075-752-3511, e-mail:

Free Counseling Day for Non-Japanese Residents

Looking for legal advice, visa, tax, insurance or pension information? Or, do you have a need for mental counseling? We have experts and multi lingual interpreters to help you during our free counseling day. Please register ahead of time.

◆Time: Sunday, Feb. 23rd 1:00 - 5:00 PM
◆Location: Kyoto City International House 3F Meeting Room/ Counseling Room
◆Registration is available by phone: 075-752-3511

Your voices are welcome!

Your voices abou this website are appreciated! Any critics, new ideas, or your interests are precious input for us to improve this website.


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Library Letter - Kyoto International community House Library

kokoka recommends this book

“Kyoto SAKURA-Cho” - The Cherry Blossoms Guide in Kyoto

Sakura, cherry blossomes

Photos by HASHIMOTO Kenji

It may be said that the cherry tree is the tree loved most by the Japanese. In spring, when cherry blossoms are in bloom, not only Japanese people, but many people from outside of Japan come to view them. There are many notable places in Kyoto to view cherry blossoms, and people gather from all over Japan to see them. In the neighborhood of kokoka, Nanzen-ji Temple, Kyoto Incline, Heian-jingu Shrine, and the Philosopher's Path are famous places to view cherry blossoms.

The book we recommend has a map, making it easy to find a place to view the cherry blossoms. It also includes information about nice cafes where you can take a little break and good shops to buy souvenirs.

When the cold winter is over, let's go to the various places to see the long-awaited cherry blossoms!

Cherry blossoms in Kanto area

Besides Kyoto, there are many beautiful places to view cherry blossoms in Japan. In this book, the author,OHNUKI Shigeru, describes the best temples and parks in the Kanto (Tokyo metropolitan area) to view cherry blossoms.

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Volunteer members of this issue

Members and Collaborators

AZUMA Keiko / Daniel SETTELEN / FURUTA Tomiyoshi / IKUTA Minoru / Karl JANSMA / KAWAI Midori / Megan ROBERTS / Kevin ROBERTS / Guneshwor OJHA / OHARA Manabu / OKAMOTO Yuko / SUZUKI Hidetoshi / SUZUKI Shoichiro / TOMITA Minori / YEH Tzuju / WU Yingxue / YAMASHITA Motoyo / YUZAWA Kimio / Michiru ONIZUKA / Juan VACA

Editor of this WEB page

OHYABU Shunichi

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