Finding Happiness

What I learned in Kyoto

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Juan VACA(Ecuador)


Juan visiting Kibune Shrine

I came to Japan almost two years ago, and have had many experiences here in Kyōto: good and bad, happy and sad, funny and even scary, and I would like to share some of them. It might be useful for those who will be living here for a long time, so they can prepare for some of the challenges that they will face.

In the beginning, I was afraid of everything, as it was the first time I was truly living on my own without my family to watch out for me, and I had no idea what to expect. The very first day, I simply locked myself in my apartment, too afraid to go out, and I could only think about my parents, my country and the life I had left behind.

I started studying at a Japanese language school, I made new friends, and I slowly lost that fear. I took every opportunity I could find to go out and explore Kyōto and the rest of Japan. I looked at every day as a chance to see new places and experience new things; even just a simple walk down the street was exciting for me. I fondly remember those times, and wish it could have stayed like that forever, but after about half a year problems started happening one after another. Difficulties with my studies and my teachers, having misunderstandings with people, my best friends returning home, dealing with a totally different culture, and knowing my family and friends in Ecuador were half a world away – I could never really get used to things like that.

During that time there were some places I would go to clear my mind; I liked to walk around on Kiyamachi, Shijo, and Sanjo streets, where there are many clubs, bars, and restaurants. When I needed to be somewhere quieter, I went to a little park at the Shimogyōku Library, next to my old school, or I walked along the Kamogawa River towards the Shimogamo Shrine, where the rivers from the north join, or do a similar walk along the Horikawa River right in the middle of the city, especially during springtime. But the most beautiful place in Kyōto for me is the road along the waterway that starts at Keage Basin, right next to kokoka. It goes along Niōmon Street, passing in front of the Kyōto City Zoo, and then turns north toward Reisen Street, eventually linking up with the Kamogawa River. During both the sakura (cherry blossom) and momiji (autumn colors) seasons, this route is stunningly beautiful. If I really wanted to get away from it all, I would go all the way to the Kurama area north of Kyōto, only a train ride away from the Demachiyanagi Station on the Eizan Densha Train Line.

I am not the only one who has had problems and it is usually during these times that people go back to their countries, but I did not want to leave Japan so unhappy. Eventually, I changed schools, made some new friends, and found a job that I came to enjoy very much, so I no longer felt the huge pressure of before. I never regretted coming here for a second, even if some of the experiences I had were not good; they still helped me grow up as a person and I am not the same scared boy I was when I just arrived. I still have much to learn but I have already learned so much more about being an adult than I did in my own country. I have met so many wonderful people like my teachers and my friends at kokoka. I can’t help but feel that I want to stay longer, and keep on learning, so to all of you that are still struggling I will say: Stay strong, shiawase ga mitsukarimasuyo (you can find happiness).

translated by SAKAMOTO akemi

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Our Memories of Hyakunin Isshu Karuta

for the Upcoming “Let’s Play Karuta!” Event



kokoka Open Day takes place on November 3 (Culture Day). The “Life in Kyōto” volunteer group will hold a “Let’s Play Karuta!” event with Hyakunin Isshu cards this year also. We explained last year what the karuta game is, and how to play it with Hyakunin Isshu cards*. We will introduce Hyakunin Isshu karuta from a different viewpoint in this issue; the “Life in Kyōto” group members will recall their memories of Hyakunin Isshu karuta.


New Year’s enjoyment

My sweet memories

Many years ago, when I was a child, all of my family members enjoyed playing Hyakunin Isshu karuta every New Year. The reader was my father, while my mother, my siblings and I sat around the grabbing cards which were spread out on the tatami mats, waiting with bated breath and our eyes wide open, for the moment when the waka (poem) was read out loud.

When the New Year comes, I still remember those happy old days with nostalgia as if it were yesterday, and without even thinking, it makes me smile.

Koh, translated by OKAMOTO Yuko

Old Japanese waka and new English verses

Waht I felt through translation

I first saw the Hyakunin Isshu karuta card game about 2 years ago; the waka (poems) were difficult to read and understand, because the words used were archaic. When the waka were explained in modern Japanese, I could see the beauty in the original verses, and felt the writers’ emotions through them. A Kyōto Hyakunin Isshu expert provided the historical settings of these waka, and I gained more understanding.

Later, I reviewed an English translation of these waka for the “Life in Kyōto” newsletter group to use in their kokoka Open Day event. This translation was obviously done by someone with good understanding of the original language, and some poetic ability. If the translation had been done strictly and literally, the result would not be nicely flowing verses. This English version of the Hyakunin Isshu is a great translation, but the original waka convey a timeless feeling not found in modern language.

Karl Jansma

A reunion with the Hyakunin Isshu karuta

I was able to reunite my long lost friend too.

A short while after I came to live in Kyōto, I acted as a guide for my friend whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. When we got to Chorakuji Temple, which has some connection to the Emperor Sutoku, he told me that this emperor composed a waka that was selected for the Hyakunin Isshu. The Emperor wrote “Se wo hayami, iwa ni sekaruru takigawa no, waretemo sue ni, awan to zo omou,” which roughly translated means: swift shallow waters are baffled and split into streams by the rocks, but, as they merge again, we shall get together eventually. And that was how I was able reunite with both my friend and the Hyakunin Isshu.

FURUTA Tomiyoshi

Old karuta filled with childhood memories

I found karuta filled with childhood memories

Recently, I was clearing out some of my old items from my parents’ house, and I found a set of old karuta cards that my brother, sister, and I used to play with when we were kids. Some of the cards were missing, and I thought about throwing this old karuta set away, but decided to keep it because of the cute pictures and great memories.



"Let's Play Karuta" 2013

Hyakunin Isshu karuta is an enjoyable game that every Japanese person knows. The waka were composed in ancient times, but they have something in them that still moves our hearts today. Would you like to play Hyakunin Isshu karuta and learn some waka? By all means, please come to the kokoka Open Day event!

  • kokoka OPEN DAY 2015
  • When : Tuesday, November 3, 2015 (National Holiday) 10:00 - 16:00
  • Where : kokoka Kyōto International Community House
  • LIK project "Let's Play Karuta!" - 3F Study Room
  • HP :

Besides karuta, many events will be held. Please come and participate!


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The “Waste Nothing” Spirit and PET Bottles

How to reuse PET bottles

There is a tradition in Japan of wasting nothing. Even though there are many items sold in stores that are disposable, Japanese people do not discard very many of them. As one example, many people use PET bottles over and over again; you can see puseeople carrying PET bottles refilled with their favorite drinks, such as tea. PET bottles are made to be recycled, but many people wash and reuse them several times before recycling them. Beverage cooler type (insulated) bottles are not cheap, and they are bulky and heavy, but a PET bottle can be conveniently carried in your bag without those kinds of worries.

PET bottles Re-using Example 1 PET bottles Re-using Example1

Examples of re-using PET bottles

If you put a freezable PET bottle in your freezer, it can be used as a handy cold pack, and you can still have a cold drink, even after carrying it around for a long time. Bring one with you in the summertime for sports and outdoor activities, and you can cool down your flushed body with it. You can also use frozen PET bottles to keep foods cold and prevent them from spoiling. PET bottles can also be used to store seasonings in the refrigerator. Put green peas that you intend to keep for a long time in PET bottles, and put them in the freezer for convenient storage, since they will not take up much space.

Look at the all of the PET bottles lined up in the stores; there are many different sizes and shapes. Japanese people seem to look for the spirit of "hospitality" and “beauty" even in containers, such as PET bottles. You could use a PET bottle as a flower vase, taking advantage of its size, shape, and color. You can use them in a variety of ways, depending on your imagination. If it were you, how would you reuse PET bottles?


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Something on Your Mind but too Afraid to Ask?

Let’s Use a Washing Function Equipped Toilet!


Many of you haven’t used the buttons that you often see in toilets at train stations or in department stores. There is no explanation on them and you might be afraid to ask someone how to use it. The buttons are for using a toilet which can wash your bottom with a spray of warm water and dry it with warm air after you use the toilet. These are generally known by the licensed brand names such as Washlet ® (TOTO Ltd. product), Shower Toilet ® (LIXIL Corporation (INAX) product) and others.

I will explain how to use one. First, adjust the water pressure with the “弱” (weak) or “強” (strong) buttons under the “水勢” (water pressure) label/mark. Push the “おしり” (bottom) button to start washing your bottom. When done washing, push the “ 止 ”(stop) button to stop the water spray. Either use some toilet tissue to dry yourself or push the “乾燥” (dry) button for warm air drying. Explanations for the button functions are in the illustration.

When you use this toilet, make sure not to push the “呼出” (emergency call) button by mistake. Use this button only when you feel sick or need someone’s help; an attendant or police officer will come to the bathroom to see if you are okay.

MIZUE Kanako

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The Old Roads of Kyōto (Walking the Kurama Kaidō)

You can find many attractive spots along Kurama kaido.

Kurama Street

the Kurama Kaidō

From ancient times, the roads networking Kyōto to other areas have been called the Seven Roads (kaidō). One of them is the Kurama Kaidō, named after the Kurama area in the Kitayama Mountains of Kyōto. It starts at the Kuramaguchi Station of the Subway Karasuma Line. From there walking east, you get to the Izumojibashi Bridge over the Kamogawa River where you can enjoy a panoramic view. Walking farther east, you get to Shimogamonakadōri Street, close to the Shimogamojinja Shrine (a World Heritage Site). Turning north, crossing Kitayamadōri Street, a very chic area, then passing through the intersection by the Mizorogaike Pond, and moving up the slope, you get to Entsuji Temple, which is famous for its “borrowed scenery”. Keeping Mount Hiei on the right, keep following the winding fudō (Prefectural) Route 40, and you will get to the junction with fudō Route 38 from Kamigamojinja Shrine. Keep going along the river gorge route and you get to Kibuneguchi. From there to the Kibunejinja Shrine, Japanese maple trees (momiji) are lined up alongside the stream. In summer, you can enjoy the cooling and elegant atmosphere on the kawadoko (the terraces above the river). Going back to Route 38 and following it farther, you will get to the Yukijinja Shrine (close to the Kuramadera Temple) that holds the Himatsuri (Fire Festival) every year on October 22. How about trying a walk on the kaidō sometime?

FURUTA Tomiyoshi, illustration by MIZUE Kanako

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kokoka news * * kokusai koryu kaikan news

Counseling Day for Foreign Residents

Do you have any questions or concerns regarding legal issues, visa problems, taxes, insurance, your pension, etc.? Are you worried about something? Professionals in those areas can discuss any of these with you. Interpreters will be available on request. Advanced reservations are required. We will protect your confidentiality.

  • ◆When: Saturday, September 19, 13:00 - 17:00
  • ◆Where: kokoka Kyōto International Community House, 3F, Conference Room and Counselling Room
  • ◆Reservations: phone 075-752-3511

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Information from Kyōto City Hall

“Temporary Welfare Benefits”
“Special Benefits for Child Rearing Households”

Since April of last year, the consumption tax rate was increased. And this year also, the City of Kyōto will provide “Temporary Welfare Benefits” to low-income earners (persons not subject to municipal inhabitant's tax in 2015), and “Special Benefits for Child Rearing Households” to people who are raising children (those receiving child allowance payments in June, 2015).

There are conditions that must to be met in order to receive these payments. Please inquire to the appropriate Call Center (see Contact Information below) for a detailed explanation of the requirements.

○ Kyōto City will send application forms to those who are eligible.

“Temporary Welfare Benefits” will be sent in a blue envelope. Fill in the form and sent it back in the envelope included by February 4, 2016. Postage is not necessary.

“Special Benefits for Child Rearing Households” application is made when preparing the form used for the child allowance payment status report. On the bottom of the form is a place for a hanko stamp; either stamp or sign there to apply. Send the form in by December 1, 2015Kyōto City will review the application, and for those who are approved, the benefits will in turn be transferred to the applicant's bank account. Postage is required.

○ Kyōto City will review the application, and for those who are approved, the benefits will in turn be transferred to the applicant's bank account.

Contact Information:
Kyoto City “Temporary Welfare Benefits” Call CenterTel:075−251−2360
Kyoto City “Special Benefits for Child Rearing Households” Call CenterTel:975−251−1255

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Revised Road Traffic Laws

Bicycle rules became much stricter

Did you know that the bicycle traffic laws were amended on June 1 of this year? The new laws are much stricter, to better manage and control unsafe riding.

In this revision, bicyclists who were ticketed more than twice in three years, or who caused a traffic accident, will have to take a special class (5,700 yen, 3 hours); they must take this class within three months after receiving notification from the local public safety commission. Also, if they ignore this notification, they must pay a fifine of up to 50,000 yen. Listed below are the violations that require taking this class*.


1. Ignoring a traffic signal

2. Riding in prohibited areas

3. Riding unsafely on the sidewalk

4. Riding against the flow of traffic

5. Obstructing pedestrian traffic

6. Entering a closed railroad crossing


7. Failure to yield the right-of-way

8. Obstructing an intersection when turning across oncoming traffic lanes

9. Riding unsafely in a rotary or roundabout

10. Failure to stop at a crosswalk or roadway

11. Failure to observe and concede to pedestrian safely

12. Riding a bicycle with malfunctioning (or no) brakes


13. Riding a bicycle when drunk

14. Failure to ride a bicycle safely Although bicycles do not require a license to ride, and are very useful, they can sometimes be dangerous; please do not ride in an unsafe manner.

Separately, on July 1 the city of Kyōto became much stricter on the removal of illegally parked bicycles, and the prohibited bicycle parking areas were expanded. If you park a bicycle in one of these areas, it may be removed very quickly. Please check the Kyōto City website** for more details.


KANAYA Chinami

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Library Letter - Kyoto International community House Library

kokoka recommends this book

『The Book of INCENSE』

The Challenging Daily Life

Author: MORITA Kiyoko
Publisher: Kodansha, 2006

It has been really hot recently!

In times like these, why not try some o-ko (Japanese incense) and feel refreshed? Burning incense makes the air seem fresh, and it feels less stuffy. It might be good to have some days when you don't run the air conditioner, and light some incense instead.

Japanese incense comes in different scents and shapes. It could be fun to try out different kinds of incense to find out which are your favorites.

How about taking a look at the traditional culture of aromas in Japan?

Why not try learning Japanese in our cool library during this hot weather?

There are many textbooks for learning Japanese in the library. For example, you can study natural-sounding Japanese phrases with this book: "200 Quick and Easy Phrases for Japanese Conversation" (Publisher: J Research Press, 2014). This would be better than spending time loafing around and watching television at home, don’ t you think so?

Please feel free to come to the well-air-conditioned library and do some serious studying.

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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 / SAKAMOTO Akemi / SHIOYAMA Satsuki / SUZUKI Shoichiro / SUZUKI Hidetoshi / TSUBOI Moeko / NISHIMURA Makoto / FUJITA Risa / FURUTA Tomiyoshi / MIZUE Kanako / YAGI Teruo / YAMASHITA Motoyo / YUZAWA Kimio / Karl JANSMA / Yoshinori TAKEDA / Juan VACA

Editor of this WEB page

SU Yang-Chun

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