Fruit Picking

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Pichaya (Thailand)

orange garden

mikan orchard

I come from Thailand, and I am currently a student at Doshisha University. Because I wanted to study the Japanese language and learn more about Japanese culture, I decided to continue my master’s degree in Japan. It has been almost a year since I arrived here. Unlike most other people who come to Kyoto to look for great sightseeing spots or historical places in the city, Japanese and Kyoto foods are things that interest me the most, because I’m a person who likes eating. I would never miss a chance to go out looking for good restaurants and trying some delicious food. I think that the way Japanese people eat and cook are two of the things that make Japanese culture unique.

Unfortunately, several months after I came to Japan, I had to start a part-time job to earn some money. I would work all day long on weekends and study on weekdays. Thus, I rarely had time to go out and do fun things. But last autumn, my brothers said they planned to visit me for a short vacation, and I got a chance to take a 2 week holiday for my “autumn break”. When talking about autumn in Kyoto, many people may think of Japanese maple leaves (momiji). But one of the activities that truly caught my attention, instead of just visiting the fall color spots in Kyoto, was fruit-picking adventure trips. Fruit picking is one of the activities that everyone who lives in Japan can experience. There are several fruit orchards and vegetable farms in Kyoto that allow visitors to go into the fields and enjoy picking and eating the freshly harvested food. The types of fruits and vegetables that can be picked vary throughout the seasons, but that day in autumn we went to pick Japanese oranges (mikan) and persimmons (kaki).

<i>kaki</i> orchard

kaki orchard

My brothers and I visited a farm named Midorinōen, which is located in Ide-cho town, in the southern part of Kyoto. Because we visited during a weekday, there were not many people around. The farm is surrounded by mountains, which allowed us to experience some beautiful scenery in a peaceful atmosphere. Since I went there with my brothers, we chose a plan that included mikan and kaki picking with a barbeque party. The mikan and kaki picking areas are located on the upper slopes of the mountain, so we had to do some hiking. In spite of the rough path, we were fascinated by the fresh air and greenery along the route to the picking area. After arriving, each of us received a small plastic bag provided by the farm for holding our leftover mikan and kaki peels. We could eat as much as we wanted within the picking area, and were also allowed to bring some back with us. After we had gotten our fill of fruits, we went down to the barbeque camp. Immediately after we reached the barbeque spot, all of the delicious meat and vegetables for the barbeque party were ready to be served.

Pichaya and her siblings

Pichaya and her siblings

I had a lot of enjoyment that day. Even though it was only a short holiday, I could spend my time freely in Kyoto, and I felt like I had rested for a month. Now, Kyoto is no longer just a place where I want to go out and eat, but also a place where I can relax and refresh myself. I feel that there are still plenty of places to visit and things to do in Kyoto. If I can find a bit more time, I’m quite sure that the next place I visit will have a lot of delicious food, with another interesting part of Japanese culture to be discovered.

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The Incline at Keage


Top of the Incline

The Incline, a legacy in the Higashiyama area of Kyoto, was the inclined railway portion of the transport system that carried goods and passengers between Keage in Kyoto and the port of Otsu on Lake Biwa. Cargo and passengers were first loaded on boats that navigated the Lake Biwa Canal (sosui), which was finished in 1890, having a length of 8,444m. Since the Higashiyama Mountains sit between Lake Biwa and Kyoto City, four tunnels having a total length of 3,930m were excavated. Lake Biwa is 85m above sea level, while the elevation at the top of the Incline is 81m, a difference of 4m. Supplies and passengers on the boats floated down the canal from Lake Biwa to the top of the Incline. However, to bring everything down to the elevation of the Keage basin, a drop of 36m, an inclined railway was needed. The loaded boats were transferred onto flat cable railcars that brought them down the Incline, where they were put back into the water in the Keage basin.

Image of the Incline

Image of the Incline 

The Aspen Historical Society (Colorado, USA) has a motion picture on their webpage that shows that a Japanese engineer and his assistant came to Aspen in 1888 to study the incline and hydroelectric power plant (HPP) there. Based on that design, the HPP of Kyoto, Japan was built, and commissioned 42m ASL in 1891; it still stands today. As for the canal itself, Kyoto learned the technology and techniques from the Netherlands. In all, seventeen lives were sacrificed for the successful completion of the entire project.

The peak traffic load on the Incline occurred in 1902; boats carrying cargo numbered 14,647, and there were 21,025 passenger boats. However, the development of land transportation, such as automobiles and railways, resulted in the end of operations at the Incline in 1951, and the remnants of it now remain across the street from kokoka.

For people who want to know more about this Keage Incline Project, how about visiting the Lake Biwa Canal Museum of Kyoto near kokoka? The remnants of the Incline and the old hydroelectric power plant are also nearby. In the season when cherry blossoms in the Higashiyama area are beautifully blooming, many places worthy of a closer look can be found. There will be a “Light-Up” of the area close to the Lake Biwa Canal Museum, and the Jikkokubune Boat Ride on the canal by the museum will be available. The cherry blossom Light-Up will run from March 26 (Thu) through April 12 (Sun), and the boat rides will run from March 26 (Thu) through May 6 (Wed). You can take in the colorful history and nature all at once. By all means, try it!

Jikkokubune Boat Ride webpage:

FURUTA Tomiyoshi
illustration by MIZUE Kanako

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Japanese Customs: Moving and Eating



When spring comes, there seem to be many people who are moving. When you move to a new address, it is good for you to visit your new neighbors in order to start a good relationship with them. Simply introduce yourself and give them a small gift as a greeting. This is important for letting them know who you are, and gives you a chance to get familiar with your new neighborhood.

First, as for places to visit, if you live in a house, you should call on the houses next to yours, and the three closest houses across the street from yours. If you live in an apartment, you need to visit the ones on each side, and the ones above and below your room. Your new neighbors may wonder who you are, so it is recommended that you make these visits on the day you have finished moving, or the next day at the latest. As for the gifts, you do not have to prepare or get something expensive; generally, your budget should be 500 to 1,000 yen per house or apartment. Cookies, hand towels, or laundry soap are typical gifts in these cases.

◎Eating Customs


In many foreign countries, manners require that people should not pick up their dishes when eating. However, for Japanese food, there are times when you pick up the dishware while eating. Different kinds of dishware like donburi bowls*, rice bowls (chawan), other small bowls (kobachi), and small saucers such as for soy sauce, can be picked up. As a rough guide, if the dishware is less than 15 cm in diameter, you may pick it up for eating. If you have trouble eating Japanese food, feel free to pick up the dish in order to enjoy the meal.

Also, people in Japan start their meals saying; “Itadakimasu”, and they finish their meals with the phrase, “Gochisōsama deshita,” bringing their palms together. Even though it seems to be similar to “Saying Grace”, or praying before meals, or to using the French phrase “Bon appétit!”, the meaning is different. “Itadakimasu” is the word used to express gratitude for the vegetables and animals used as ingredients. It expresses a feeling of gratitude toward them as they have given their lives to and for us. “Gochisōsama deshita” is the phrase to express grateful feelings toward those who have prepared the meal, and is a greeting to show appreciation for their work.

*Used for: katsudon, a bowl of rice topped with a pork cutlet; oyakodon, a bowl of rice topped with chicken meat and egg; and tendon, a bowl of rice topped with pieces of tempura.


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How about some bubuzuke?



The story of bubuzuke (a type of rice porridge), also called ochazuke, in rakugo (traditional Japanese spoken entertainment) is quite well known. The story goes like this: a man visits his friend in Kyōto and stays there for quite some time. Finally, the friend’s wife asks the man, “Would you like some bubuzuke (bubuzuke dou dosu*)?” Bubuzuke is a very simple meal, and if they truly wanted him to join them for dinner, they would provide better food, such as restaurant delivery meals.

Therefore, this phrase has a very different implied meaning. When an unannounced guest stays far too long, the host would really like them to leave. However, to blatantly say that would be rude and so the phrase “would you like some bubuzuke?” is used to indirectly ask the guest to leave.

rice serving container

rice serving container

After the guest is asked this question, the old Kyōto tradition is for the guest to get ready to leave. In this story however, the guest does not know the tradition and responds, “Yes, I always wanted to try Kyōto bubuzuke.” The wife is very much surprised at this response; obviously she was not prepared to serve bubuzuke. And so the story ends with the wife showing an empty rice serving container to the guest. I think this story typifies the roundabout way of doing things in Kyoto.

When I was talking about this rakugo story, a foreigner told me that she had the opposite experience. When she was invited by an acquaintance to come visit their home, the foreigner thought that it was proper Japanese manners to politely refuse when first asked. However, she was not asked a second time. Many foreigners would like to visit a Japanese home, but because she had an incomplete understanding of Japanese etiquette, she missed that valuable chance.

By the way, are you interested in visiting a Japanese home? kokoka Kyōto International Community House has a program for short-term visiting foreigners to go to a Japanese home for about 2 hours. If you happen to visit a family living in Kyōto, when you are about to leave, maybe you could say “bubuzuke wa irimasen” (I don’t need any bubuzuke). Referring to this familiar joke may help to create a new friendship. I sincerely hope you can find an opportunity to visit a Japanese home and have a wonderful experience there.

* This is Kyoto dialect for “dou desu ka?” (How about…?)

YAGI Teruo

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Get Goshuin for Good Fortune



An event called “Red seal collection at 16 Kyoto shrines” was recently advertised in a local Japanese newspaper. When you go to a shrine, you can get a goshuin (red seal) at the shrine office. Originally, a goshuin was stamped on a written prayer note as proof of dedication to that shrine. Today you can get a goshuin even without the prayer note, as a memento of your worship visit. The combination of, and contrast between the white Japanese paper, the black ink, and the red seal look truly beautiful. Furthermore, the unique design of the seals from different shrines creates an elaborate, elegant effect. It is said that visitors to a shrine usually keep their goshuin safe at home for good luck.

Here is a list of the kinds of good fortune you may receive at the following 16 shrines.

Awata ShrineBlessing for departure and a safe, happy journey
Ichihime ShrineDrive out and ward off evil spirits, for women
Kamigoryo ShrinePacification of heart and mind
Fujinomori ShrineBetter luck at winning
Kishoin Tenmangu ShrineSuccess in examinations and tests
Nyakuoji ShrineImproved academic ability and business success
Kasuga ShrineSafety in traffic; recovery from illness
Nagaoka Tenmangu ShrineImproved academic ability
Okazaki ShrineBlessed with having children
Ima Kumano ShrineMaintain healthy function of digestive system
Gokou no Miya ShrineEasy delivery at birth; recovery from illness
Rokusonnouji ShrineCareer advancement; serenity within the home
Kumano ShrineGood chance to meet the right match; easy delivery at birth
Toyokuni ShrineCareer advancement; good chance to meet the right match
Imamiya ShrineLong healthy life; better chance to meet a good match
Wara Tenjingu ShrineBlessed with having children; easy delivery at birth
Okazaki Jinja

Okazaki Jinja

Making a pilgrimage to those shrines for your good fortune will surely help you get around Kyoto, since they are spread all over the city. How about putting a smile on your face by going out on a nice sunny day and getting some goshuin for good luck?

For more details, go to:


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Yasurai Matsuri Festival

Hanagasa procession

Hanagasa procession

The region around Imamiya Shrine, in Rakuhoku, is called Murasakino. It was adjacent to the great palace of Heiankyō, and northeast of Mt. Funaoka. In the past, it was a shimeno(*1) of the Imperial Court, a place for hunting and sightseeing.

Long ago, ekishin(*2), the god of pestilence, was enshrined in Murasakino. Therefore, it became a custom to visit the shrine to ask for relief from diseases and disasters, and pray for peace. In the latter part of the Heian period, diseases and disasters were common and they troubled the people of Kyōto. As a result, goryōe(*3) were held in the surrounding region to reduce them, and the Murasakino goryōe was held in Murasakino to pacify the ekishin. At that time, shrines were being newly built, and the one in Murasakino was named Imamiya Shrine.

The Yasurai Matsuri Festival is a festival to calm and pacify the flowers, and the centerpiece of this festival is a hanagasa, a big umbrella (about 2m across), decorated with cherry blossoms, camellias, Japanese roses, and other flowers. People dressed as ogres with black or red hair beat drums and gongs to send the ekishin to the hanagasa with the words “yasurai bana ya” (flowers, be calm). As the cherry blossoms flutter, the procession moves toward the Imamiya Shrine, and people pray to pacify the ekishin on the hanagasa, and to prevent diseases and disasters.

The Yasurai Matsuri Festival has a long and honorable history, and it is one of the three most eccentric festivals of Kyōto, along with the Hi Matsuri (Fire Festival) in Kurama, and the Ushi Matsuri Festival (currently suspended) in Uzumasa. Also, the Yasurai Matsuri is the first festival of the year held in Kyōto, and it is said that all of the festivals in Kyōto will be sunny when the day of the first festival is sunny.

The Yasurai Matsuri Festival procession leaves Kōnenji Temple (about 100m from Imamiya Shrine) at 12 p.m., and proceeds through the town. It arrives at Imamiya Shrine around 3 p.m.

*1: A private reserve owned by the Emperor, not open to the public
*2: A god that spreads epidemics
*3: Festival to appease vengeful ghosts and the god of pestilence

IKUTA Minoru
translated by KANAYA Chinami

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LIK Recipe: Dashimaki tamago for kōraku bentō

Dashimaki tamago

Dashimaki tamago

The months of April and May are called kōraku shīzun, which means tourist season. This is a great time for cherry-blossom viewing or going on a picnic, because the weather gets warmer and warmer. You can usually see kōraku bentō everywhere; it is a special lunch box that you take outside to eat while enjoying a nice view of nature. They are sold in department stores, supermarkets, and even convenience stores at this time of year, and there are so many varieties.

But why not make a special lunchbox yourself? Wouldn’t it be fun to have a picnic with your own homemade kōraku bentō? So, we would like to introduce you to an easy recipe for dashimaki tamago, a Rolled Dashi Omelet, (serves 2-3) that is a popular food to have in a kōraku bentō in Japan.

Ingredients and frying pan

Ingredients and frying pan

First, you will need: 3 eggs, 15cc of shirodashi stock (available at supermarkets), 60cc of water, and 1 or 2 tablespoons of salad oil. You will also need a rectangular omelet frying pan, cooking chopsticks, and a spatula/ turner. The steps are: 1. Mix the eggs, shirodashi stock, and water thoroughly with cooking chopsticks. 2. Put some salad oil in the frying pan, then onto the stove, set on medium heat. 3. Let the pan heat up first, and then pour a small quantity of the egg mixture into the pan. Once the egg mixture becomes half-cooked, roll it up into a log shape from the front of the pan to the back with cooking chopsticks or a turner. 4. After rolling, pour another small amount of salad oil into the pan, to prevent the next portion of egg mixture from sticking. Then pour in another small amount of egg mixture, allowing it to “connect” with the rolled up cooked egg mix. 5. Once that egg mixture becomes half-cooked, roll it up from the “rolled-up” part to the other end of the pan. If it is hard for you to roll the egg mixture, we recommend that you turn the pan around. 6. Repeat this process until the egg mixture has run out. 7. Then, put the roll on a dry cutting board, and cut it crosswise into 2cm wide slices. It is then ready to serve!

For best results, start rolling before the top of the egg mixture (not the sides) becomes very well cooked. In addition, you can cut the roll better and more easily after putting it on the cutting board, and letting it cool a bit.

Let’s enjoy making some kōraku bentō and go on a spring picnic!


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kokoka news * * kokusai koryu kaikan news

Welcome Party and Information Seminar for Foreigners

For all foreigners who recently came to Japan, kokoka will hold a seminar where much useful information about living in Kyoto will be provided. A welcome party with friendly Japanese people will be held after the seminar. Presentations will be in Japanese, Chinese and English.

Participation is free (party only participation fee is 500 yen), reservation is required.

QR code
  • ◆When: April 26 (Sun) 2015 2:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
     (Party starts at 4:30 p.m.)
  • ◆Where: 3F kokoka Kyoto City International Community House
  • ◆Participants: foreigners new to Kyoto
     (Japanese people are welcome to attend the party)
  • ◆Reservations: please apply on the kokoka web page:
Advertise your activities at kokoka !

Promote your events, restaurants, language classes and so on in kokoka!

Rent a box in the First Floor Message Corner, fill it with your promotional material, flyers, and the like, so all of the people who come to kokoka will see it! We can also publish your advertisement in the kokoka newsletter "Life in Kyoto"! For more information, please contact the kokoka Kyoto International Community House Information Service staff by phone or e-mail.

TEL: 075-752-3511 E-mail:

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Library Letter - Kyoto International community House Library

kokoka recommends this book

“The Challenging Daily Life or how I came to love Japanese culture”

The Challenging Daily Life

Author: International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA)
Publisher: Bunkakobo, 2011

If you have come to Japan recently, you may have some difficulties until you get used to living in Japan. Therefore, we recommend that you read this book.

In this book, they: show how to rent an apartment, give advice for starting work, explain the use of IC cards, and suggest what to do in the rainy season.

You will enjoy reading this because you can see these daily scenes shown as comics. They will provide a lot of useful information for your new life.

Then whenever you have any problems, you are welcome to ask us here at kokoka Kyoto International Community House.

If you want to learn more about Japanese culture

If you want to learn more about Japanese culture, we also recommend the book “Visual Encyclopedia of Japanese Culture” (Editor: Kondo Tamami, Publisher: Ikeda Shoten, 2008).

This book describes life styles, foods, and modern culture, such as karaoke, and shows monthly events and festivals in English and Japanese. In April, we have hanami (flower viewing), and the Boys’ Festivals are in May; please enjoy them.

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Volunteer members of this issue

Members and Collaborators

IKUTA Minoru/ WANG Xiaoqin / OHARA Manabu / OKAMOTO Yuko/ KANAYA Chinami / KAMEDA Chiaki / KUMAGAI Takuya / SAKAMOTO Akemi / Shioyama Satsuki / SUZUKI Shoichiro / SUZUKI Hidetoshi / TSUBOI Moeko / NAKAGAWA Satomi / NISHIMURA Makoto / NISHIMURA Yuko / HAGIHARA Yasue / FUJITA Risa / FURUTA Tomiyoshi / MATSUNAGA Yuko / MIZUE Kanako / YAGI Teruo / YAMASHITA Motoyo / YUZAWA Kimio / Karl JANSMA / Yoshinori TAKEDA / Juan VACA

Editor of this WEB page

SUZUKI Hidetoshi

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