Tea Ceremony is a Lifelong Study

flag of Hong Kong

Wai Man Rowena KWAN (Hong Kong)

A hanging scroll in the tea room

A hanging scroll
in the tea room

Tea and seasonal sweets

Tea and seasonal sweets

Life is full of stress in Hong Kong, and everyone is very busy. I was introduced to the tea ceremony 13 years ago by a friend, and started studying it then.

Every time I am in a tearoom, I feel like I am in a different world. I feel happy that I can have some nice green tea and sweets in a friendly atmosphere. My instructor and the older students are very kind, and they teach me the tea ceremony in detail.

I get a lot of questions from my friends about how long I will study the tea ceremony, and I always respond that the tea ceremony is a lifelong study.

I have always been interested in Japanese culture and had the dream of experiencing learning the tea ceremony when I started studying it at a special school in Kyōto*. My dream came true last September; I started to study the tea ceremony at the Urasenke Academy Professional Tea Ceremony School.

Since I began taking classes there, my daily schedule is to wake up at 6 o’clock, clean my room, and then attend practical skills the next day’s classes.

There are various things I am learning in class, and a lot of them are difficult to understand. So, I have to do some research on those things before each class. Even so, I still make mistakes often, and that bothers me.

The instructors and the more experienced students are very nice to me, and whenever I have a question, they always give me a good answer. I really appreciate their help.

Since I started attending college in Japan, I wanted to learn the Japanese language even more, and studying the tea ceremony has really helped me to do that.

I have read a book titled “Nihonjin no kokoro, tsutaemasu”, meaning “The soul of the Japanese, I impart to you” *. The author of the book is Sen Genshitsu, also known as the former Master of Tea Ceremony named Sen Sōshitsu XV.

The book has in it this quote from the Bible: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye (you) shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

This is the kind of feeling that arises in me when I am studying the tea ceremony in Japan. So far, about a year has passed, and my knowledge of the tea ceremony and the Japanese language is getting better every day. I am so happy to be learning the tea ceremony with my classmates and instructors at the school.

*Sen Genshitsu, Gentosha, “Nihonjin no kokoro, tsutaemasu”, 2016.

translated by MIZUE Kanako

* Pronunciation tip: any vowel with a macron over it (ā, ī, ū, ē, ō) has a “long” vowel sound, 1.5 to 2 times longer than the regular vowel sound

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Gozan Okuribi and Obon traditions in Kyōto

Bonfire showing the kanji for

Bonfire showing the kanji for "big"
on the side of Mt. Daimonji

Bonfire in the shape of a ship

Bonfire in the shape of a ship

Bonfire in the shape of a torii (shrine archway)

Bonfire in the shape of
a torii (shrine archway)

One of Kyōto’s famous summer traditions, Gozan okuribi (five mountain send-off fire) is held every year on August 16. Among the mountains surrounding Kyōto, there are five of them that have fire pits built on the sides of the mountains, forming various shapes.

In the summer night sky, when the fires are lit, they highlight the kanji character “大” (pronounced “dai”, meaning large) in two places, the characters “妙” (pronounced “myō”) and “法” (pronounced “hō”) on adjacent mountains, and the outlines of a funagata (ship) and a torii (gate). Preparations for this event usually run throughout the year.

There are several theories about the origin of this tradition; however, it is widely believed that the tradition has existed since Buddhism took root among the ordinary people in Japan’s medieval period. This event is also related to the obon tradition in the middle of August.

The traditional custom of obon, or Feast of Lanterns, honors the spirits of the dead. The ancestors’ spirits are said to come back from the afterlife to the present world; they stay in this world during the obon period, and as it ends, they go back to their own world. In order to welcome them and send them off properly, there are various obon practices, and one of these is to light fires so they will not get lost on the way to this world, and so they can go back to their world peacefully. The fires that serve the first purpose are called mukaebi (welcoming fire), and the ones for the send-off are called okuribi (fire for sending). So, the Gozan okuribi is used to send the visiting spirits back to their world and also marks the end of the obon period.

This year, at 8 p.m. on August 16 (Wednesday), the event will start with lighting up the “ 大” fires on Mount Daimonji, the most famous of this event; the fires on the other mountains will then be lit in order. The website below has a map that shows the locations of these places and describes where each of those fires can be best observed.

The fires lighting up the mountains in the summer night sky have a certain solemnity, as well as a feeling of some nostalgia. How about going to see the Gozan okuribi yourself this summer and getting that kind of feeling?

Kyoto Gozan Okuribi website by Kyoto City Tourism Association
https://www.kyokanko.or.jp/okuribi/index.html (in Japanese)
Information and locations for the Gozan okuribi are on this page:
https://www.kyokanko.or.jp/okuribi/enkaku_e.html (in English)

Photos and Info: Kyoto Gozan Okuribi Association


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Helpmark, for those who may need help

Helpmark poster produced by Kyoto Prefecture

Helpmark poster produced
by Kyoto Prefecture

Helpmark symbol

Helpmark symbol

September is the month dedicated to supporting and improving employment for disabled people. It was developed for helping them to be more independent by increasing their opportunities to work. This month in Kyōto, there will be a number of events for employment of disabled people.

In this article, I will introduce the “Helpmark”, which you will probably see at some of those events or in the downtown area. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health created the Helpmark system for those people who need some help, even though it may not be obvious (e.g. people with physical disabilities, serious medical conditions, or in early pregnancy). Having and displaying this highly visible tag makes it easier for them to get support by informing people around them that they may need some kind of help. Helpmark stickers are also used to show situations or locations where people may need assistance. In addition, there are places where Helpmark publicity posters have been put up, providing more details about the Helpmark system, and you may have seen these lately around Kyōto.

If you see anyone with a Helpmark, we kindly ask for three favors from you.

1. Please give up your seat to them on the train or bus.
2. Please be considerate and ask them if they would like some help, in train stations, at bus stops, in busy or crowded shopping areas, and other places, such as street crossings.
3. Please support their prompt evacuation to safety in times of disaster.

If you would like to have a Helpmark tag for yourself or someone in need, you can get one at any city or ward office, at health and rehabilitation centers, and other places. For more information, please go to the websites below.

Kyoto Prefecture (Japanese Only)
Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health, Tokyo Metropolitan Government (Japanese Only)

KANAYA Chinami

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Futsal in Kyōto – Go, BAMB GREEN PARK Ladies!



Have you ever played futsal? Here in Japan, futsal was originally called “mini soccer”. From around 2002, when the World Cup of football (soccer) was held in Japan, people also became interested in futsal, and the number of futsal players increased. The national futsal league, called “F League”, was established in 2007.

Along with that, the number of futsal courts has also grown. Even in Kyōto, there are a few futsal courts, and one of them is BAMB GREEN PARK in the Fushimi Ward. In addition to managing the courts themselves, BAMB GREEN PARK also manages a women’s futsal team called the BAMB GREEN PARK Ladies. Recently, I went to watch this team’s regular practice and an actual game.

Practice game (scrimmage)

Practice game (scrimmage)

The BAMB GREEN PARK Ladies team belongs to the Women's League of the Kansai Futsal League, the highest league in Kansai. Currently, the team has twelve players ranging in age from 21 to 36 years old. They practice twice a week on weekdays, and play match games on weekends. Some players originally played football (soccer) and changed to futsal, but about half of them started playing futsal after school graduation. Since every player has a job, they practice futsal at night; on the evening I went to see them, they practiced shooting and passing, and played a scrimmage (practice) game for a total of two hours.

The next week, the team played a Kansai Futsal League match game. The opponent that day was the SWH Ladies, a team from Ashiya City in Hyogo Prefecture. In the first half, the score was 0 to 0, but unfortunately, in the second half the BAMB GREEN PARK Ladies allowed two goals, and lost the game. It was the first time I watched a game, and since the futsal court is smaller and played by fewer players compared to football, the movements of the ball and the players, and the changes of offense and defense seemed very quick. I felt as though the speed of the game was just like basketball or ice hockey.

Actual match game in progress

Actual match game in progress

After the game, I interviewed Tabata Mari, the team captain, and Yoshida Chizuru, the vice captain. In the interview, when I asked what they like most about playing futsal, they said, “The best thing is winning the game”. Also, they said, “When we practice, because the manager gives us precise instructions, we not only move our bodies, we practice our thinking, and that is so much fun”. So when I asked what appeals to them about futsal, they said, “It can be played more casually than football. And because the court is small and there are fewer players, we feel as if everyone is in unity playing offense and defense”.

As these two players said, futsal is a sport that you can start playing easily. If you would like to try futsal, but don't have anyone to play it with, I recommend that you try the “personal exchange program” at BAMB GREEN PARK, held every Thursday. You can join this program and enjoy playing some practice games with other people. You don't need a reservation. For details, please inquire at the BAMB GREEN PARK homepage below.

http://www.bgp-futsal.com/ (in Japanese)
Tel: 075-925-0255

SUZUKI Hidetoshi

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Creative kimono artwork designs

Shall we decorate a room?

Shall we decorate a room?

Painting the pattern of choice

Painting the pattern of choice

I visited an interesting kōbō (workshop) recently where customers can choose from various patterns or outlines of kimono decorative artwork, and then paint in the colors they like; these designs are done on sheets of special paper the size of a large postcard.

When I was there seven women guests, all wearing kimono, were starting to work. After looking at some design samples of flowers and grasses, they talked about what they wanted, and then chose what they each liked. They then started applying their favorite colors of paint on the sheets with fude (brushes).

Since the outlines of each design are already faintly printed on the sheets, it is not difficult for guests to follow the process. They do not have to bring any materials with them because everything they need is already there in the kōbō. Even if guests don’t know what to do next, they don’t have to worry, because Mr. Kojima, who has over forty years experience as a yūzen painter , is kind enough to help them.

It took about two hours for the guests to finish painting the patterns, and they were finally complete when put into frames. The guests said that these works could easily be used for interior decoration art in any room. You could also give one of these works as a gift to someone important to you by adding a message to it, and it could be a unique memory of Kyōto. If you are feeling a bit creative sometime, you may want to go with some friends to try this kind of artwork.

For contact information, location, business hours, and prices, please visit their homepage below.


FURUTA Tomiyoshi

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kokoka news * * kokusai koryu kaikan news

Multicultural Parenting Festival at kokoka

Anyone who is raising children in Kyōto, foreign nationals or Japanese, is welcome to participate in this event. We will provide you with plenty of useful information about child raising and will have some interesting events for you to attend with your kids. There will be free gifts, too!

QR code for the festival

English and Chinese interpretation will be available during the events.

Registration is required, but there is no charge to attend.

  • When: Aug. 27 (Sun.) 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Where: kokoka Kyoto International Community House, Special Conference Room
  • Please apply here: http://www.kcif.or.jp/HP/jigyo/sodan/jp/gyosei/event.html

Kyoto City Comprehensive Disaster Drill 2017

We would like to invite everyone to the Kyoto City Comprehensive Disaster Drill on September 2, to prepare for various disasters. Please check the website below, and apply now!


Exhibition of Children’s Illustrated Storybooks from Around the World, and Live Storytelling Corner

Looking at an illustrated picturestory book

Looking at an illustrated
picturestory book

This Exhibition will give you an opportunity to learn about different cultures of the world through illustrated books.
This year we will present more than 100 books and Kamishibai (picture-story show materials). Please come and see!

  • When: Aug. 2 (Wed.) through Aug. 6 (Sun.) 2017 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Where: kokoka Kyoto International Community House, 2F, Sister Cities Corner Exhibition Hall.

During the exhibition period, we will hold the following events:

  • - Illustrated books and children of Sri Lanka
    When: Aug. 2 (Wed.), 2 p.m. - 3 p.m.
    What: A talk about the daily life of children in Sri Lanka and a picture-story show.
    Speaker: Mrs. Krishani, from Sri Lanka
  • - Kamishibai (picture-story show) and illustrated books, what are the differences?
    When: Aug. 5 (Sat.), 2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
    What: A presentation and show by Mr. Kim, author of children's books
  • - Let’s go to Australia!
    When: Aug. 6 (Sun.), 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.
    What: Experience Australia from different angles in English and Japanese!
    Speakers: Kara & Jacoba, from Australia

Participation is free, no reservation required.

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Library Letter - Kyoto International community House Library

“Folk Arts in Swedish Daily Life"

Folk Arts in Swedish Daily Life

Authors:AKECHI Naoko
AKECHI Noritake
Publisher: PIE International, 2014/p>

Hey everyone, how about if we have a soothing look at some fancy decorative Swedish folk art? This book introduces many types of folk art from various places in Sweden; they are very colorful and quite detailed, making it impossible to help but appreciate them. It may also be fun to compare them with those from Japan or other countries. Reading this book will make you feel like you are visiting all kinds of different areas of Sweden, looking around at their fascinating folk art.


How about learning kanji by solving puzzles and quizzes? We recommend the book “KANJI PUZZLES & QUIZZES” (Author: AOYAMA Mika, Publisher: The Japan Times, Ltd., 2016). Even for those people who don’t like learning kanji, this book will turn it into their study favorite. Now, let’s try this question; take a guess!

Question: What kanji character will go in the blanks to form 6 complete kanji compounds?

外_ / _際 / _差 / _替 / _換 / _流

To find the answer, please visit the kokoka library to get this book.

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Volunteer members of this issue

Writers, Editors and Contributors

FURUTA Tomiyoshi / IKUTA Minoru / ITO Hidetoshi / KANAYA Chinami / Karl JANSMA / LIN HSIU FENG / MARUYAMA Toru / MIZUE Kanako / SUZUKI Shoichiro / SUZUKI Hidetoshi / YUZAWA Kimio

Editor of this WEB page

SUZUKI Hidetoshi

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