Noh Dream Stage

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Ferdinand Schellenbacher (Austria)

Ferdinand Schellenbacher

Ferdinand Schellenbacher

During my time as a foreign student in Kyoto, I've been very eager to absorb all things Japanese, wherever I could find them. Then came the teaching career at the university, when my time became limited and I had to confine myself to a very small number of interests beside my duties. I found no more time to expand my knowledge of the traditional Japanese arts.

However, recently – relieved now from day-to-day business – I had a series of encounters with Tea Ceremony, Nihonga, Ikebana and Noh. I became particularly fascinated by Noh – of which I had very little knowledge so far. All the recent encounters with Noh fuelled my interest in this very peculiar Japanese art, but one encounter became quite decisive. Let me tell you about it.

I had just arrived back in Kyoto from my annual ‘vacation’ back home in Austria, when I heard about a performance of the Noh play “Tomoe.” I went to see it, and had one of the finest of my experiences of Japanese culture. Of course, the play as such is fascinating; it's a heartbreaking story of the female warrior Tomoe and the warlord Yoshinaka, her master and lover.

As their army was being defeated, Yoshinaka was wounded in retreat, and circumstances were such that he had no chance for escape. In this situation, the only honorable thing to do was to commit seppuku (ritual suicide), and for Tomoe it seemed a matter of course that she would stay with him and do the same. However, Yoshinaka refused to let her do so and ordered her to escape. She had to obey his order, but she never overcame the despair of not being allowed to die together with him. Her soul could not find peace and she continued to wander about the world of the living as a ghost.


It was not just the story, but also the season, the setting, and the ambience, which impressed me so much.

The performance took place on November 22, when the burning red colors of the maple leaves in Kyoto's Eastern Mountain area had just reached their peak. The Noh stage stands in the middle of a beautiful garden, with maple trees shining from behind. There is a straw thatched entrance gate to the garden and a beautiful tea house within. When the performance started, it was still daylight, but soon the sun set, and torches on both sides of the stage were lit. With night falling, the illumination and the scent of burning pine logs gave the scene a mystical aura that perfectly fit the play.

The actors performed so well in that atmosphere that I could feel the grieving of the heroine right under my skin. The play climaxed with the ghost of Tomoe reliving the battle scene where she fought off a number of pursuing enemies with her lance - a seriously intense Noh dance! Finally, really touching the hearts of the audience, Tomoe has to leave her dead master, departing with a piece of his clothing as a token. It was fascinating to see how the actor could express Tomoe's deep grief simply by the way she was holding that cloth.


I love the play, and also the stage and the garden ever since that performance – even more so after I learned the history of the stage itself. However, I won't reveal that story here. If I have stirred your curiosity, just venture up there to the garden of the Kansai Seminar House of the Japan Christian Academy. It is a neighbor of the Manshuin Temple in Ichijoji, east of Shirakawa Dori Street. Turn north (left) at the main temple entrance and go past the Manshuin parking lot on your right. Ask at the reception area of the Kansai Seminar House for permission to see the garden and the Noh stage (free of charge). And if you are interested, you may ask them about upcoming Noh performances – and the history of the stage.

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Go for J League : Amitie SC Kyoto

Amitie SC Kyoto


This is the year of the Football World Cup, and in Japan, football is a very popular sport. Football in Japan consists of many leagues; J League is at the highest level. The Regional League is one of the lower level leagues, and there are 9 Regional Leagues. In Kansai, the Regional League is called the Kansai Soccer League, which has 16 teams, divided into two divisions. I would like to introduce you to one of the Kyoto teams, known as Amitie SC Kyoto, so I went to see one of their recent games.

Amitie SC Kyoto joined the Kansai Soccer League in 2010, and in 2012 they won the championship! They are a very good team and always have good results. The difference between Amitie SC Kyoto and other teams is that all the players are coaches at sports schools as well. The players are usually instructing the children, and through their own games, showing the children how to play. The players’ ability can then be the aim of the children. It may be the secret of their strength.

Additionally, there are Korean players on the team; I interviewed one of them, Kim Su Gyu. Kim Su Gyu was born in Kyoto, and as a child, he was influenced by his elder brother to start playing football, and has continued to play football as an adult. Last year, after graduating from university, he joined Amitie SC Kyoto, which is in his hometown. Kim Su Gyu said, “Even if a player doesn't have a good physique, depending on their own efforts, he or she can improve and aim to move to the upper stages. That is the fascination of football." Regarding his own play, Kim Su Gyu said, “I have confidence in my strong heart and the stamina to be able to run more than other players.”

Now, to describe the games: the hand-painted banners, which were made with love by the fans, were hung around the stadium, and the fans were cheering loudly. I heard that usually, about 200 fans come to their games. Their mascot “Gaotaro” entertained everyone. After the game, the players and fans spent time taking commemorative photos together. The players and fans are so close, the atmosphere felt like they were one big family.

Someday, Amitie SC Kyoto could be promoted to the J League. Why not go yourself to watch the games of Amitie SC Kyoto? To see the schedule of their games, please visit the Amitie SC Kyoto website.

Amitie SC Kyoto website:
Kansai Soccer League:

SUZUKI Hidetoshi

Amitie SC Kyoto

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Gion Matsuri Festival 2014
– Revival of the Ato Matsuri and Ofune-hoko

Yama and Hoko

I work in an office located in the Shijo Karasuma area, in downtown Kyoto. Around the office, there are many Hoko towns (*1) for the Gion Matsuri Festival (*2). Since “reassembly” starts on July 10, I can see the Yama and Hoko (*3) being assembled in each Hoko town if I leave the office and walk a little. Also, if I go to Shijo Street in the morning on July 17, I can see the Yama and Hoko procession, which is the climax of the Gion Matsuri Festival, right before my eyes.

The Yama and Hoko procession this year will be different from last year in two ways. One is the revival of the Ato Matsuri. Because of its revival, the Yama and Hoko procession will be held on July 17 (Saki Matsuri) and July 24 (Ato Matsuri). From the year the Gion Matsuri Festival started, until 1966, the Yama and Hoko processions were divided into the Saki Matsuri and Ato Matsuri processions, but the Yama and Hoko procession was held only on one day, July 17, from 1967 until last year. Since the Ato Matsuri is being revived, you can enjoy seeing the Yama and Hoko procession on two separate days again.

Yama and Hoko

The other difference is that the Ofune-hoko (large boat float), one of the Yama and Hoko, will be seen again in the shape of a Hoko. Although the Ofune-hoko was first built in 1441, it has burned three times because of civil wars and a major fire. Whenever it has burned, the Ofune-hoko was rebuilt and took part in the procession again. In 2012, at last, the Ofune-hoko was part of the procession in a design called Karahitsu Junko, the float being the shape of a Chinese-style 6-legged wooden chest. A mask, which symbolizes the Shinto deity, is placed in the Hoko, and this design will again participate in the Gion Matsuri Festival this year. Each Yama and Hoko of the Gion Matsuri Festival has a specific meaning, and the Ofune-hoko symbolizes a ship returning after a victory in war. Significantly, the Ofune-hoko is the final Hoko in the Ato Matsuri procession.

Because I know that I can enjoy this year's Yama and Hoko processions in more different ways than last year, I really want to see the procession this year.

*1 Areas where Yama and Hoko used in the Gion Matsuri Festival are stored
*2 Festival of the Yasaka Jinja Shrine, held in July
*3 Types of floats named differently depending on their size and other factors

Special thanks to the Shijo-cho Ofune-hoko Preservation Association for providing photos and information

KANAYA Chinami

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The Kyo-Machiya Changes Its Clothes

Kyo-Machiya are traditional wooden houses or merchant houses in Kyoto. Many Kyo-Machiya have been renovated, but some Kyo-Machiya still survive now, in their original form.

In Japan, people do something called “Koromogae,” which is changing their wardrobe for the season. Moreover, people who live in Kyo-Machiya change the fittings inside, such as shoji (sliding paper screens) and fusuma (sliding doors), etc., twice a year - at the beginning of summer and at the beginning of fall. Geographically, Kyoto is located in a basin, and the earth there was damp ground before people constructed the ancient city of Heian-Kyo. So summers in Kyoto are very hot and humid, and we compare this kind of nasty weather to being boiled in oil. A famous Japanese essayist in the Kamakura period (12th to early 14th century), YOSHIDA Kenko, wrote about houses in "Tsurezuregusa" (Essays in Idleness). This book says that, "If you want to build a good house, you should focus on living comfortably in summer, because you can live in any house in winter." For the purpose of living a better life in hot, sticky weather, Kyo-Machiya have been built according to the wisdom of its ancestors.



other seasons

other seasons

In the rainy season, tatami mats absorb moisture and become sticky to the touch, creating an unpleasant feeling. Right before the Gion Matsuri Festival, people in Kyo-Machiya take out the shoji and fusuma, and then put sudo (sliding doors made of bamboo or reeds) in their place. People finish the "Kyo-Machiya for summer" by putting ajiro (rattan rugs) on the tatami floors and by hanging sudare (bamboo blinds) between the rooms.

Kyo-Machiya have two types of gardens. One is the “Back Garden,” (*1) a garden in the sun; the other is the “Inner Court” (*2) or "Spot Garden", a garden in the shade. The temperature difference between the garden in the sun and the garden in the shade makes the air flow naturally. The air flows through the sudo and sudare to the inner rooms, lowering the room temperatures and reducing humidity in the room. You can also enjoy the cool sensation of sitting, lying or walking on the ajiro.

Kyo-Machiya were built on long, narrow lots, so due to the long narrow design of the house, it is sometimes called an “eel's bed.” Kyo-Machiya are also designed for good air circulation and for receiving a lot of sunlight.

During the Gion Matsuri Festival, another event called the “Byobu Festival" is held in the center of Kyoto. During this event, you can see many beautiful byobu (folding screens), which have been handed down through the generations, at some Kyo-Machiya or other buildings in Kyoto, and you can also see and go inside some Kyo-Machiya. People in Kyoto value each season's atmosphere. Please enjoy feeling this Japanese appreciation for the seasons.

※1 Back Garden: This garden provides a good view from inside a Japanese traditional tatami room, and is designed for good ventilation and lighting. Other Kyo-Machiya have back gardens, too, and those gardens also serve as greenbelt areas.
※2 Inner Court: This garden is designed for ventilation and lightning inside of the Kyo-machiya , especially those built on long, narrow lots. When water is sprinkled on the garden, it creates a flow of cool air to the inner rooms.

IKUTA Minoru
translated by OKAMOTO Yuko

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Observe the Bicycle Rules

Bicycles are convenient for personal transportation in Kyoto. Not involved in vehicle congestion, bicyclists can smoothly navigate the narrow streets. Compared to automobiles, the price of a bicycle is much cheaper and it is environmentally friendly because they do not require gasoline. Electric-assist bicycles use a battery/motor to help the rider pedal; they are designed for safety, with a speed limiter.

As a bicycle is considered to be a vehicle, bicyclists must observe the traffic laws as automobile drivers do.

They must obey the same traffic rules and regulations, including stopping and using lights from sunset to sunrise.


They are also expected to cycle at the right speed, not to turn the handlebars sharply or suddenly, and to avoid sudden stops. A cyclist who is transporting a child is highly recommended to put a safety helmet on the child. The traffic laws were revised as of December 2013. As for bicycles, riding against the flow of traffic was prohibited by the revision. Any traffic violation can result in a fine of tens of thousands of yen and/or going to jail for a number of months. In the case of cycling under the influence of alcohol, violators can be fined up to one million yen. According to the statistics of bicycle accidents reported by the Kyoto Prefectural Police, as of 2013, 60% of bicycle accidents happened at intersections and 80% happened through collision with cars. Even though automobiles are equipped with mirrors, keep in mind that there are blind spots where drivers can't see. Bicycles must stay principally on the road but in some areas there are bicycle lanes on the sidewalk where you can cycle more safely. When cyclists travel on certain sidewalks, they need to get off and walk their bicycle. On the sidewalks, pedestrians are prioritized, which obligates cyclists to pay attention specifically to old people, children, and handicapped people.

Although bicycles are convenient, Kyoto City has had problems with many bicycles being left for long periods of time or completely abandoned. For the purpose of achieving a better environment, a law to prevent this was enacted in 1985. If the city judges that bicycles left unattended cause an inconvenience, the city has the power to remove, keep, and, after a certain period of time, dispose of them. If you want to get your bicycle back, you must pay 2,300 yen. Thankfully, the city has legislated to build parking lots for bicycles. There are plans to build more public parking lots near subway and train terminals and in big facilities. Although these types of lots are occupied when holding events, usually you can find parking close by. It is advisable to utilize such lots. It is regrettable to see bicycles left in areas that they are not supposed to park. All people in Kyoto, visitors and locals, should utilize the designated parking areas. Even if temporarily you park on the sidewalk, select a parking place to not to interfere traffic or pedestrians. In order to prevent accidents, it should not be neglected to maintain bicycles. Please be advised that before a ride: look all around the bicycle, check height of saddle, pressure of tire, and chain. Right after riding, check any vibrations or shaking, and operation of brakes. Whenever you find anything unusual, consult experts or a bicycle shop for advice. Observe the rules and become a good cyclist.

FURUTA Tomiyoshi

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Watch the World Cup Games
at kokoka Kyoto International Communtity House!


We will replay all the games on the big TV in the Lobby. You can see the games you missed, or see again the ones you liked!

Check the schedule for show times:

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 be available. Advanced reservation is required.

◆When: June 21st (Sat.) 13:00 - 17:00
◆Where: kokoka Kyoto International Community House, 3F, Conference Room
◆Reservation by phone: 075-752-3511

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Library Letter - Kyoto International community House Library

kokoka recommends this book

Wonderful Planet

Wonderful Planet

Tweets and Messages from NOGUCHI Soichi
Photography: JAXA / NASA
Published by Shueisya International

In this Letter we would to introduce some photography collections for a change.

The first book contains photographs of the Earth taken by Japanese astronaut NOGUCHI Soichi during his stay in space. The pictures show you many views that cannot be seen from the Earth.

Is there anyone who has seen Niagara Falls or Mt. Fuji from so far above? These views are very different from those which you can see by visiting those places or on TV.

You may be able to find out about something new by simply changing your viewpoint.


Another photography collection is called “UNDERWATER DOGS”. Just as the title implies, it is a book full of photos of dogs underwater. Dogs are usually cute, but when diving into a pool to chase a toy or a ball, some of them look like monsters.

Seeing these dogs swimming comfortably, you will feel like you yourself are enjoying a cool bath.

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Volunteer members of this issue

Members and Collaborators

FURUTA Tomiyoshi / IKUTA Minoru / Juan VACA / Karl JANSMA / KAMEDA Chie / KANAYA Chinami / Kevin ROBERTS / Megan ROBERTS / Michiru ONIZUKA / NAKAGAWA Satomi / OHARA Manabu / OKAMOTO Yuko / SUZUKI Hidetoshi / SUZUKI Shoichiro / YAMASHITA Motoyo / YUZAWA Kimio /

Editor of this WEB page

SUZUKI Hidetoshi

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