Traditional yet Modern - Being in Kyōto

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Anna Kovaleva (Russia)


Anna

Anna

the Philosopher’s Path and Kyoto station

The city of Kyōto is famous for its cultural heritage as the ancient capital of Japan for more than 1200 years. During my nine months of internship at Kyōto University (as a JREX research fellow), I was truly embedded in the “peace and tranquility capital” (Heian-Kyo, one of the ancient names of Kyōto). So how is it possible to be in the present day and in the historical past at the same time? Let us raise the curtain on my experiences.

Fortunately, I was living in a dormitory on the Yoshida Campus of Kyōto University. This area is a great place for research and introspection. Every day I saw the hills, covered by picturesque forests. Near one of these hills, close to Ginkakuji Temple (or the Silver Pavilion), starts a well-known walkway, called Tetsugaku no michi (the Philosopher’s Path). It was the custom of Kyōto University professor and Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro to use this path for his everyday reflections. The Philosopher’s Path is an amazing place during any season and at any time of day or night. I usually went there by bicycle when I needed to refresh my mind. It was lovely to see a sunrise or sunset, to trace the moving clouds, or to observe Kyōto from an almost bird’s-eye view while sitting on a bench. Interestingly, at one end of the path you can meet some friendly cats that seem to like communicating with people while keeping their distance. I called them "the philosopher cats". On foot, the whole route takes about 30 minutes along the canal. Along the way, there are a lot of temples and shrines, and cafes or shops aimed at tourists. However, I liked visiting the Philosopher’s Path in the late evening when the feeling of eternity and the spirit of history were especially strong.

Canal by the Philosopher's Path

Canal by the Philosopher's Path

Sunset as seen from the Philosopher's Path

Sunset as seen from the Philosopher's Path

From my point of view, one of the symbols of modern Kyōto is Kyōto Station. I knew before coming to Japan that it represented a contemporary multistory building, but I was pleasantly surprised by the multifunctional concept of the Kyōto Station complex. On the second level, there is some space for temporary exhibitions, so you can see a lot of interesting things just in passing by, coming from or going to a train. In the Isetan department store there are always many different exhibitions taking place. If you are paying attention, you can find the “Happy Terrace” at the top of Kyōto Station, where you can admire the illuminated Kyōto Tower in the late evening and see many other scenic places. In addition to this, I have always appreciated the high level of efficiency of the railway systems in Japan that deliver passengers so quickly. I have visited some places for my research and had some interesting adventures, and the Japanese people always helped me to reach my destination and were very kind to me.

Grand Stairway of Kyōto Station

Grand Stairway of Kyōto Station

So, the Philosopher’s Path and Kyōto Station can be perceived as signs of the eternal and the present. I sensed deeply a moment of particular value after hanami (cherry blossom season), when beauty changes very quickly and you feel how time is passing.

Finally, I found myself in traditional yet modern Kyōto, where anybody can find his or her own lovely moments.


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Nice, Cute and Beautiful Envelopes to Wrap Cash

Consideration when you give money for special ocasion

pochi bukuro (both sides) and noshi bukuro (center)

pochi bukuro (both sides) and noshi bukuro (center)

What is 35,241 yen? One result of a questionnaire put out by the Kyōto Chuo Shinkin Bank in 2015, indicated that this is the average amount of money that children, including college students, received as otoshidama (New Year’s gift). In Japan, this special allowance comes from their parents and relatives during the New Year holidays. Children can expect to receive a gift from each adult of about 3,000 yen if they are elementary school students, 5,000 yen for junior high students, and 5,000 to 10,000 yen for high school and college students. It must be a wonderful New Year’s custom for the children, since the average amount of money they receive from all the adults can be more than 30,000 yen.

This cash will not be handed out “as is” for otoshidama, but will be put in a pochi bukuro (small decorated envelope), and then presented by the adults. You can find many kinds of nicely designed pochi bukuro for sale at department stores and stationery stores. Pochi in pochi bukuro comes from a regional Kansai dialect that translates as “not much”, but when 5,000 or 10,000 yen is put into the envelope, it is no longer “not much”.

In Japan, it is considered impolite to hand out unwrapped cash. When you give money as a wedding gift, for the birth of a child, or for entering school, you must be sure to put the cash in a noshi bukuro (nicely ornamented envelope). Noshi is a stretched, dried strip of abalone; in ancient times, noshi was considered a valuable symbol of a good omen, and used as an offering at shrines, or an engagement gift. Interestingly, abalone is still valuable today, since the steak is very delicious but the price is too high for my taste. Nowadays, the noshi is tucked inside the small ornament attached to the upper right-hand corner of the noshi bukuro. Since this noshi is no longer real abalone, you cannot get a tasty snack even by soaking it in water.

NISHIMURA Makoto

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Bōnenkai and New Year Celebrations in Japan

Considering Japanese Year-end parties and New Year celebrations from the point of view of foreigners

bonenkai

Illustration : MIZUE Kanako

Year-end parties and New Year celebrations are perhaps the most common events around the world, and there are nearly as many different ways to celebrate as there are cultures that do it. When I first heard about bōnenkai (forget-the-year party), something that occurs throughout Japan around the end of the year, I thought that this was when people gathered to make friendships (or perhaps romantic partnerships) with others of all ages. After all, the same kanji for bō (forget) and nen (year) are read as “forget ages” in Chinese.

A bōnenkai is a Japanese year-end gathering where coworkers, and perhaps classmates get together and drink; they can get drunk and speak freely, and forget the pains and problems of the past year. From my American perspective, this kind of event seemed a bit odd. After all, why would you want to forget the past year? Would it not be better to look ahead and think about the possibilities the coming year will bring? However, aside from this difference in perspective, the bōnenkai has much in common with American businesses' Christmas parties or New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The other, more traditional Japanese New Year events, as I have heard them described, are a lot like Christmas celebrations in America. The New Year holidays in Japan are a time for family, a time to reflect on the year past and to express gratitude, and a time to prepare for the year to come. These preparations will include cleaning the house to purify the space and welcoming in the spirits of good fortune. New Year’s Eve is often passed with a bowl of soba noodles, eaten as a kind of prayer for long life. In addition, on New Year’s Day itself, it is customary to visit a nearby shrine or temple to receive blessings for the year to come. Coworkers, relatives, friends, and loved ones send nengajō (New Year’s postcards) to one another, and when people first meet in the New Year, they greet each other with the phrase, "akemashite omedetō gozaimasu", the Japanese version of “Happy New Year!”

Nicolle BERTOZZI, WANG Yuewei

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If you want to smoke in Kyōto...

Smoking places in Kyoto

A Smoking Area in the city center (Shijō-Nishikiyamachi)

The city of Kyōto has an ordinance that prohibits smoking in public, and if you are found smoking within certain specially designated non-smoking areas, you will be fined. Those designated areas include the central part of the city, the Kiyomizu/Gion area, and the area around Kyōto Station.

However, this ordinance does not completely prevent you from smoking within the city limits of Kyōto. There are at least eleven public smoking places throughout the city where smoking is allowed. In most buildings, and especially in cafeterias and restaurants, there are specific rules in regard to smoking; usually you may smoke in designated areas or seats depending on those rules. In any case, as long as you smoke only where permitted, you will not have a problem.

To see maps of designated non-smoking areas, locations of permitted smoking places, and get other relevant information, go to the Kyōto city website* (in Japanese), or Kyōto Travel's website** (in English).

* http://www.city.kyoto.lg.jp/bunshi/page/0000027498.html

** http://kyoto.travel/en/traveller_kit/tools_smoking

Sho

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Recycling all paper is now the law

Recycling is each person's responsibility

miscellaneous paper in a bag

miscellaneous paper in a bag

As of October 1 of this year, Kyōto City has made it a requirement for residents to sort and put out paper waste, in order to reduce the amount of household waste. In addition to recycling cans, bottles, PET bottles, and plastics*, residents must now sort and separate all recyclable paper. When putting out the recyclable paper, it should be either tied up with string or put in paper bags. Contractors who collect recyclable paper, are now required to pick up this miscellaneous paper**, which until now has not been readily accepted; this is now indicated by a sign on their vehicles. Previously, most of the miscellaneous paper has been incinerated, but now, separating it will reduce the volume of burnable waste. Some people might be concerned that the household trash (yellow) bags might be opened to see if the paper has been sorted out, but they should not worry. The contractors will simply leave the questionable bags unopened, and will attach a sticker which says “not accepted”. If they are to be opened, it must be done at a trash collection facility, and witnessed by the managers there. Let us improve the beauty of Kyōto by not only reducing waste, but also by increasing recycling.

*For information about recycling, see below:

Web ⇒ http://www.city.kyoto.lg.jp/kankyo/cmsfiles/contents/0000187/187235/tadasii.pdf

Phone: 075-213-4930(Environmental Planning Section of Environment Policy of Kyōto City)

** Recyclable paper means newspapers, magazines, cardboard, and other miscellaneous paper such as flyers, catalogues, envelopes, copy/printer paper, etc.

FURUTA Tomiyoshi

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More Convenient, Safer Kyoto City Subway

Extension of subway operations and installation of automatic platform gates

UZUMASA Rei - publicity mascot for Kyoto City Subway and Bus Lines

UZUMASA Rei - publicity mascot
for Kyoto City Subway and Bus Lines

(image: Kyōto City Transportation Bureau)

Have you ever taken the subway in Kyoto? There are many passengers using the Kyoto City Subway because it is convenient for commuting to work, going to school, sightseeing, and shopping; I commute on the Kyoto subway myself.

As for convenience, have you ever thought that the subway service stops too early? In fact, the Kyoto subway used to have one of the earliest final trains of the subway systems in Japan. Starting on October 2, subway operations were extended by 30 minutes in both directions of both the Karasuma and Tōzai lines, but only on Friday nights. So now, the final train of each line on Fridays is 30 minutes later than before. The exceptions will be on the obon holidays and New Year holidays. This new last train is nicknamed “Kotokin Liner”; koto is the word for ancient capital, and kin means Friday in Japanese ). You can check the timetable for each station on the Kyoto Municipal Transportation Bureau website*.

As for safety, in order to prevent accidental falls from the platform and collisions with trains, automatic platform gates have been installed at some stations on the Karasuma Line. The first was put in at Karasumaoike Station on the Karasuma Line, and started in December, 2014. Automatic platform gates began operating in the Shijo Station on October 10, and Kyoto Station (Subway Karasuma Line) will start using them on December 12. The Tōzai Line has had automatic platform doors at every station since it started operations.

How about taking the Kyoto City Subway, either the Tōzai (East-West) Line or the Karasuma (North- South) Line, which is now safer and more convenient, for your next travels around the city?

* http://www.city.kyoto.jp/kotsu/tikadia/tikatime.htm

KANAYA Chinami

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kokoka news * * kokusai koryu kaikan news

Crowdfunding Project:

Generous support from you for our Renewal of the kokoka Exhibition Space will be greatly appreciated!

Crowdfunding Project:

We are hoping to improve and revitalize kokoka's Exhibition Space and gallery as a place for international interaction, where people and art can come together in a more convenient and versatile facility.

Last day for your support: January 31 (Sun), 2016

Our crowdfunding target: 1,400,000 yen

As thanks for your generous support, you will receive these special gifts:

  • For 3,000 yen - kokoka original notepad
  • For 5,000 yen - kokoka original notepad and kokoka EcoBag
  • For 10,000 yen - kokoka original notepad, supporter's name posted on our website (with permission), AND a lunch voucher for the Tsumugi" restaurant

Advance Notice: “Kyōto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum Tour” with kokoka Guide Club

Exhibition Room of the Museum

Exhibition Room of the Museum

Netsuke Netsuke above obi with hanging inrō

Netsuke (Left)
Netsuke above obi with hanging inrō (Right)

Netsuke were invented in the Edo period out of necessity for preventing the loss or theft of items that were carried by people, such as inrō (nested boxes), tobacco, dōran (specimen case), and kinchaku (pouch). People would hang the item from their obi (sash) with a cord, attaching a netsuke to the other end of the cord as a decorative counterweight or tomegu (fastener). Materials such as ivory, wood, stag antler, ceramics, metals, and lacquer were used to make netsuke, and these were finely sculptured with unique dexterity by Japanese craftsmen.

Nowadays there are no artisans in Kyōto who make netsuke, but there is the Kyōto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum in Kyōto, where many types of netsuke can be seen. In February of 2016, the kokoka volunteer group “Kyōto Guide Club” will lead a tour to the museum. The Kyōto Guide Club” regularly offers tours in Kyōto to foreigners. Please visit their homepage to check for upcoming events.

http://www.kcif.or.jp/HP/jigyo/volunteer/jp/club/news/ index.html
Text: Revised from Kyōto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum brochure; kokoka Staff

Images:Kyōto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum

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Library Letter - Kyoto International community House Library

kokoka recommends this book

“HOW LIBRARY WORKS IN JAPAN For Supporting Its Better Use”

HOW LIBRARY WORKS IN JAPAN

Author/Editor: The Japan Foundation Japanese-Language Institute, Kansai
Publisher: Dokusho Kōbō, 2013

There might be some people out there who are thinking “This is the time, in this cold winter! Let's study Japanese at the library!”

So this time, we focused specifically on the library, and if you read this book, you can learn something about the role and functions of the library.

Like all others, the kokoka library will continue to try to do its best to support its users.

By all means, please come to our warm library!

“The Library, A WORLD HISTORY”

There are a lot of wonderful libraries in the world.

In the book “The Library, A WORLD HISTORY” (Publisher: Kawade Shob? Shinsha, 2014), many libraries, from ancient Mesopotamia to the newest libraries of modern times, are introduced, all in color. How about reading this book and going on an “around the world library tour”? We recommend this book.

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Volunteer members of this issue

Members and Collaborators

FUJITA Risa / FURUTA Tomiyoshi / IKUTA Minoru / KANAYA Chinami / Karl JANSMA / MIZUE Kanako / CHEN Muwei / Nicolle BERTOZZI / NISHIMURA Makoto / OHYABU Shun'ichi / OKAMOTO Yuko / SHIOYAMA Satsuki / SU Yang Chun / SUZUKI Shoichiro / SUZUKI Hidetoshi / WANG Xiaoqin / WANG Yuewei / YAMASHITA Motoyo / Yoshinori TAKEDA / YUZAWA Kimio

Editor of this WEB page

SU Yang Chun

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