Bird of Uji

Phoenix in Byodo-in Temple

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Phoenix Bird

Phoenix Bird

The city of Uji is a part of Kyoto Prefecture and is located south of Kyoto City. It is a small city that is famous for green tea of very high quality. Besides drinking tea and sightseeing, there is not much to do here, and because of this, students from Uji prefer to go to Kyoto when they go out. I have lived in Uji for several years, and being a student, I don't drink Uji tea every day. I am very busy with my studies and do not pay attention to anything happening here unless I am “bird hunting”.



There is a Japanese proverb: "ashimoto kara tori ga tatsu", which literally means, “The bird takes off from underfoot.” This is an expression for things that happen unexpectedly. Assuming that I use the bird as a symbol for the unknown aspects of daily life, then “bird hunting” is a practice in the discovery of new phenomena.

Crows are a very visible bird in Japan, but they do not arouse any of my interest. Not many people come to Uji looking for crows unless they are involved in “garbage protection”. There are a lot of other types of birds in Japan, but perhaps the most well known bird in Uji is the phoenix, pronounced ho-o in Japanese. This bird has a widespread presence, since two of them are shown on the back of every 10 yen coin, sitting on the ends of the roof peak of the Phoenix Hall at the Byodo-in Temple in Uji. If anyone thinks that the 10 yen coin is not an obvious example, I recommend that they look at the back of a 10,000 yen banknote, and there they can see the same phoenix in much better detail. If you haven’t paid attention to this fact, then you have missed the sense of “bird hunting”, which is to discover new things in daily life.

Byodo-in Temple

Byodo-in Temple

In Japan, the mythical phoenix was adopted as a symbol of the Imperial Household. The phoenix has always been a symbol of longevity and good fortune. It is said to appear during times of prosperity, and signals the advent of good government. The phoenix likes to sit on the roofs of sacred buildings. You may discover it only if you lift your eyes skyward, otherwise you will not see it.

Portable Shrine

Portable Shrine "Mikoshi"

There are also many phoenixes in Kyoto; I have found some at the Kinkakuji Temple as well as at Ginkakuji Temple. Also you can find them in the royal park at the Heian-Jingu Shrine, and on top of the portable shrines (mikoshi) during the Jidai Matsuri Festival. I like the phoenix and I believe that the more sacred birds I find, the more good fortune I will have. Since I started “bird hunting”, I am very proud to live in Uji, the primary habitat of the most famous Japanese ho-o.

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Women-Only Train Car

A Service to Protect Women

Women-Only Train

Women-Only Train

When you rushed to board a train, were you ever surprised to find only women in the car? If you are a man, they might look at you with puzzled eyes. Perhaps you may have gotten on a special train car. In fact, in Japan there are train cars reserved for women only, called josei sen'you sharyou.

Currently, train companies in Japan provide women-only train car service. This is set up using one car as women-only, either for rush hour times, or for the entire day. Since it is not prohibited by law for men to use those train cars, this service works because of the cooperation of male passengers and the train companies.

This service began in December of 2000, when the Keio Corporation introduced it on their midnight timetable. Molestation* and other disturbing behaviors on the trains were frequently reported by the media, and people called for the train companies to take measures to prevent these crimes. This service received much support from passengers and was gradually expanded to train lines in every region of Japan. Currently in Kyoto, there are women-only train cars on the JR Kyoto Line, the Keihan Keishin Line, and the Hankyu Kyoto Line.

Women-only train service began as a service to protect women, but many problems remain. During rush hour, other train cars have become more crowded, and the number of these crimes shows no significant change. Some people say that the service is not effective for reducing these crimes. However, it is also true that others endorse this service as a way for women to protect themselves. The implementation of how the women-only train car, a unique train service in the world, will be expanded and developed in Japan, may be something you want to pay close attention to for the future.

* Molestation: to touch someone without their consent in any way that causes embarrassment or discomfort; considered a criminal act under the nuisance prevention ordinance.

MIZUE Kanako

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Roles of Hanko in Daily Life

Making Your Own Hanko



Do you already own your own hanko (personal stamp)? Here, we will introduce the main roles of a hanko in daily life. Many of you have probably experienced some inconvenience when you noticed that a ginko-in (depositor’s bank stamp) is necessary when you want to open a bank account at major Japanese banks. Although almost all banks in other countries allow you to start making money transactions once your signature has been verified. It is unfortunate that you must follow the custom of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. However, why not use this opportunity to make your own unique, special hanko?

A mitome-in (ready-made stamp) is often used in daily life. For example, when you write a resume to apply for a new job, or when you receive registered mail, you use your mitome-in on the applicable papers. Low-priced mitome-in can be found easily at stationery stores if your name is a common Japanese name, like “Tanaka” or “Suzuki”, because the shop sells mitome-in with more than 10,000 different Japanese family names. However, don’t be disappointed; even if your name doesn’t sound like a Japanese name, you can take time to enjoy having a custom mitome-in made exclusively for you at a reasonable price. You can convert your alphabetic name to kanji characters by using them as written symbols representing the phonetic reading of your name. These characters:恵美利伊 (read as e-me-le-e) could be used for the name Emily, or the characters: 富夢 (read as to-mu) for the name Tom, are some examples of this. This personalized type of mitome-in can also be used as a ginko-in.

A jitsu-in (registered stamp) is required in certain circumstances. When you purchase some real estate or an automobile, you will be asked to apply your jitsu-in to the necessary documents. In order to make your hanko a jitsu-in, you need to have your hanko registered at the local government office (yakusho) where you live. A hanko made using alphabetic or katakana characters (as well as kanji characters) can be registered. We recommend that you go to some places such as the kokoka Information Counter, and ask for advice when you need to make a jitsu-in.


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Let’s use the Youth Action Center!

A Place for Human Exchange

Fushimi Youth Action Center Lobby

Fushimi Youth Action Center

Fushimi Youth Action Center Sports Room

Fushimi Youth Action Center
Sports Room

The purpose of the youth action centers is to provide a place and support for youths to grow and interact.

There are 7 centers in the city (Kita, Higashiyama, Yamashina, Shimogyo, Minami, Fushimi, and Nakagyo).

The centers are primarily focused towards people under 30, but are also open to everyone else. They also offer some sports equipment, drum sets and so on ※1 at reasonable prices. We would like to introduce some of the facilities they offer at the each location in Kyoto.

Kita Higashi
Minami Fushimi Naka
Seminar Room Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Japanese Room Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Cooking Room Y N Y N Y Y N
Sports Room N N Y N Y Y Y ※2
Training Room N N N N N N Y
Lesson Studio Y Y N Y N Y Y
Music Studio Y Y N Y N N N
Tennis Court N N Y N Y N N
Workshop Studio N Y N N N N N
Judo Room N N N Y N Y N

※1 Equipment offered may vary at each center. Please contact each center individually for further information.
※2 The Sports Room in Nakagyo Youth Action Center may be reserved from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays only.

Each center has an activity theme. At the Fushimi Youth Action Center their theme is international interaction. They have Japanese language classes and the Fushimi International Cafe to encourage interaction with foreigners.

Why not use these centers also? You can go with friends or meet new people at the center and spend a wonderful time. At these centers you can meet new friends through sports and cultural exchange and have an even better time.

Kyoto Youth Action Center Collective Website

Photos and information are provided by Fushimi Youth Action Center

Fushimi Youth Center location:
Fushimi-ku, Takajo-cho 39-2, Fushimi Sogo Chosha (Fushimi Ward Office) 4 F

YAGI Teruo
translated by TAKEDA Yoshinori

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Drawn Outside by the Gion Bayashi

Sound of "Konchikichin" from Hoko and Traditional Townhouses

Yama-Hoko Junko Procession and the Gion Bayashi

Yama-Hoko Junko Procession
and the Gion Bayashi

There is no argument that the biggest summer event in Kyoto is the Gion Matsuri Festival. From the yama and hoko floats, the unique rhythmic sound of "konchikichin" can be heard. This festive music is known as the gion bayashi; the instruments used to perform this are the fue (flutes), taiko (drums) and sho (bells). The performers are all male from children to the elderly. These people are not professional musicians, they are just residents of the area. In order to pass on the gion bayashi to future generations, practice starts from childhood, and they begin practicing first with the sho.

The gion bayashi is one type of ohayashi (Japanese orchestra); ohayashi means “to add spice”. Instruments used in ohayashi are utai (voice), fue (flute), otsuzumi (knee drum), kotsuzumi (shoulder drum), taiko (drum) and shamisen (lute). Ohayashi performers usually wear black kimono and stay on the side of the stage, but those on the floats wear casual yukata. Because there are a lot of lanterns illuminating the floats, you feel energized. The special features of the gion bayashi are: all performers are male, and the unique sound of "konchikichin" from the bells.

The Gion Matsuri Festival lasts for one full month, starting from July 1. From July 14 and up to the 16, in the evenings, they perform the distinct sounds of "konchikichin" near the floats and makes us restless with excitement. On the morning of 17 and 24 of July, the "yamahoko" passing through the main street, is one of the major highlights of Gion Matsuri Festival. In early July, you may hear the sound of flutes, drums, and the “konchikichin” sound of bells coming from the second floors of the historical, traditional townhouses on Shijo Street. They practice for the gion bayashi in the evenings, and they sometimes open their rehearsals to the public. You may have the chance to have a one-day experience to play the instruments of the ohayashi. Try searching for these opportunities in June. In Japan, there are many opportunities to learn to play piano or guitar, but chances to practice the ohayashi are limited. You can feel the common townspeople’s culture of Kyoto, which is very different from the glossy images of the maiko.


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Enjoying Calligraphy

Writing a Personal Message with Your Own Distinct Style of Penmanship

Raibaru Kangei

"Raibaru Kangei"
(Rivals are Welcome!)

(Meaning) If you want to master something you should have a rival to compete with.

Many Japanese people enjoy spending time dipping a brush in black ink and applying it to a piece of hanshi (Japanese writing paper), calmly creating characters. Sho (calligraphy) is the practice of using ink and brush to put text on paper (or other materials); it originated in China as a means of recording things, creating art, communicating, and so on. Eventually, it came to Japan, and enabled the creation of hiragana (the Japanese syllabary characters) and helped to expand familiarity with calligraphy in the Japanese population.

Nowadays, computers are very convenient for writing letters, but handwriting is valuable in conveying the feelings of the writers.

The fudepen (Japanese pen with a brush-like tip), has come into use in recent years, and is widely available in stores, making it simple to write with a brush, and it is very convenient. In addition, it is said that sho is an art because of the arrangement of letters, brushwork and other factors. Therefore, there are many people who devote themselves to writing their favorite sentences.

Especially in Kyoto, sho is used for signs in shrines, stores, and other places. Therefore, it is fun to take a look at them because they were made by elaborating a good plan. Calligraphy exhibitions are often held in Kyoto. Every year, calligraphy exhibitions between Kyoto and China are held in Xi’an, a sister city with Kyoto, and in Kyoto alternatively. In Xi’an, you can see remnants of calligraphy by famous literary people.

Calligraphy Class

Shodo Calligraphy Clas

There are many calligraphy schools in Kyoto. Some of them can instruct calligraphy in Chinese and English. There is a school named “Calligraphy Kyoto Chifumi Shodo”. For details, please check the website*.

How about writing a personal message with your own distinct style of penmanship?

Special thanks to the“Calligraphy Kyoto Chifumi Shodo” studio for providing us with a calligraphy example and a photo.


FURUTA Tomiyoshi
translated by KANAYA Chinami

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The Scouts are Coming to Kyoto

Comming to the World Scout Jamboree

Do you know what a Boy Scout is? A “scout” is a person who seeks, and Boy Scout has the meaning of boys who are opening up a new path in life and who want to lead social development. In 1907, Lord Robert Baden-Powell conducted an experimental camp at Brownsea Island, U.K., bring together 20 boys on the island; this was the beginning of the Boy Scout movement. Boy Scouts has 5 age levels, and participation by girls began in 1995. They have a lot of outdoor activities together, and learn many things for creating a better world. If you want to know more about the Boy Scouts in Japan, please go to their website*.

This summer, about 30,000 Scouts from 162 countries and regions will come to the World Scout Jamboree, which will be held in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The participants will be scouts from 14 to 17 years old and their leaders. The Jamboree will be from July 28 (Tue) through August 8 (Sat), and more than 10,000 foreign Scouts will be visiting Kyoto before and after the Jamboree**.

To help them feel that Kyoto is a great city, we have a request to make. If you see boys or girls in Scout uniforms here in Kyoto who appear to need some help, please ask them, “May I help you?” Various volunteer groups in Kyoto will be providing homestay and sightseeing arrangements for the Scouts.


KANAYA Chinami
OHYABU Shun'ichi

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LIK Recipe: Enjoying Early Summer
  - homemade umeshu and non-alcoholic ume sour

Making Drink Using Ume

Ume Blossoms

Ume Blossoms

In Japan, if you ask about flowers, many people first think of sakura (cherry blossoms), but the ume (Japanese plum) is also a well-known flower since old times. Ume blossoms are in full bloom around the month of March, and they make people aware that spring is coming; we can buy ume in the supermarkets in and around June. Ume are often made into umeboshi (pickled ume) or umeshu (plum wine). In this issue, we would like to introduce you to recipes for home made umeshu and non-alcoholic ume sour.


1 kg ume, 1 kg rock sugar, and 1.8 liters white liquor (a type of shochu ) for the umeshu or 1 liter vinegar for the non-alcoholic ume sour


  • Wash a 3-liter glass container and dry it thoroughly.
  • Remove the stems from the ume using toothpicks, and wash them with plain water. Wipe the ume with paper towels to remove the moisture.
  • Make an even layer of rock sugar in the container, and then make a layer of ume on top of the rock sugar. Continue alternating layers until you use up all of the rock sugar and ume.
  • Pour the white liquor into the container (or the vinegar for making non-alcoholic ume sour).



You can enjoy the umeshu when the rock sugar has completely dissolved; it usually takes about 3 months. However, I recommend that you wait for at least 6 months to a year, to get the best flavor. You can enjoy your umeshu on the rock, with club soda or soft drink mixers, or with hot water.

You can make umeshu with green (unripe) ume or yellow (ripe) ones. Also, you can use brown (unrefined) sugar instead of rock sugar, or use some other liquor* like rum, vodka, or whiskey, to enjoy other interesting flavors.

For people who don't care for alcohol or those under the drinking age, I recommend making the non-alcoholic ume sour. For that, you just use vinegar instead of white liquor in the recipe for ume liquor. You can use komezu (rice vinegar), ringo-su (apple vinegar), or some other type of vinegar.

You can enjoy the non-alcoholic ume sour after the rock sugar dissolves completely; it usually takes about 10 days. Since it will be quite sour straight out of the container, it’s best to make about a 1 to 4 ratio mix with water or soda / sparkling water.

During the rainy season, it’s easy to feel a bit melancholy. Therefore, it’s good to find some kind of seasonal pleasure. I recommend that you make some of this umeshu, and see the rock sugar dissolve day by day and look forward to the ume turn to umeshu. Alternatively, you can make some non-alcoholic ume sour and enjoy its fresh flavor as it refreshes your mind.

Do you want to learn to cook some Japanese dishes? Please tell us what you would like to make!

According to Japanese law, when you make umeshu, you must use some strong alcohol (at least 20% alcohol by volume).


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Library Letter - Kyoto International community House Library

kokoka recommends this book

“The Sento ~Japanese Public Bathhouses in Kyoto”

The Challenging Daily Life

Publisher:College of Policy Science, Ritsumeikan University, 2009

Soon it will be a muggy summer in Kyoto. In this sweltering season, why not try going to a sento, a Japanese public bathhouse, to wash away the sweat and feel refreshed?

There are many types of baths in a sento besides the usual hot water bath, such as an electrified bath, a cold-water bath, and an herbal bath.

In some sento, you can also have a light meal. How about relaxing in a sento sometime, instead of your bath at home? And it is great to enjoy some “coffee-milk” right after taking a bath!

We hope everyone can find a favorite sento!

“Japan's Hidden Hot Springs”

For sento lovers, we also recommend going to an onsen (hot springs). “Japan's Hidden Hot Springs” (Tuttle, 1995) introduces the more secluded onsen all over Japan.

If reading this book arouses your interest, how about travelling around Japan to visit those onsen?

And going to the onsen and the sento is not only for wintertime; it also feels great in the summer!

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Volunteer members of this issue

Members and Collaborators

IKUTA Minoru / WANG Xiaoqin / OHARA Manabu / OHYABU Shun'ichi / 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

KANAYA Chinami

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