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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jizo Statue Kumogahata Kyoto

Jizo-san in Kyoto地蔵さん雲ヶ畑京都

The small statuettes sprinkled throughout Japan - an in particular, in Kyoto - are known as Jizo, or Jizo-san.

Jizo is a Bodhisattva (in Japanese: Bosatsu): that is, one who "achieves enlightenment but postpones Buddhahood until all can be saved." The "ji" (地) means earth, and the "zo" (蔵) is womb.

These mini-Buddha are beloved and thought to ease suffering.

This one sits in a cemetery in Kumogahata, northern Kyoto.


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Friday, October 29, 2010

Buddhist Symbols Kumogahata Kyoto

Buddhist symbol Kyoto京都仏教の石碑

In the hills of northern Kyoto near a small town called Kumogahata, there are many pleasures to be had.

The area is a rural mountain enclave not far from downtown that is a step back in time.

Temples dot the area, and the several villages retain a Japanese look.

Near Itsukushima Shrine, we found this Buddhist marker and the foot of stone steps leading up to another temple.

The four characters are, clockwise from top: high, zen, cloud, temple.


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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cycling Kitaoji Vivre Kyoto

Vivre Kitaoji Kyoto自転車で北大路ビブレへ

In north Kyoto, not far from the Kamo River or Daitokuji Temple, is an upscale mall: Vivre.

Known locally as Kitaoji Vivre, it features four floors of shopping, all of it located directly above a subway stop and bus terminal.

There is an LL Bean, a large supermarket, mens and womens sections, a good book store, even a snazzy gym.

If you are on your bike, the Kyoto Botanical Garden is just across the river.


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Monday, October 25, 2010

Cycling Ninenzaka Kyoto

Kyoto Goldfish, Ninenzaka

Ninenzaka is one of Kyoto's most beautiful walks.

It is located in Higashiyama in the eastern hills of the city.

The sloped street, which runs from close to Nene no Michi - another beautiful street - up to the area almost to Kiyomizu Temple, is full of traditional shops.

Also nearby are Kodaiji Temple and Ichibei no Koji, the latter a narrow beautiflly preserved alley.

Gion is just south.

Much of this area is best seen on foot. A good idea is to pedal up to Nene no Michi, then park. From there you can walk to most of the temples, shops, and sites.


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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine Flea Market

Flea market, Kitano Tenmangu自転車で北野天満宮へ

Every 25th of the month, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine opens its proverbial gates and hosts a flea market.

It is an interesting mish mash of stalls selling food, fabrics, antiques, plants, etc. There are also some carnival games.

The good stuff gets pored over early, so if you are really interested in shopping for quality - go early.


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Thursday, October 21, 2010

No Cycling Otani University

No bikes sign Otani University自転車で小谷大学へ

Across the street from Vivre, the shopping mall in north Kyoto, sits Otani University.

It is a Buddhist affiliated school, located conveniently near Kitaoji Dori and a subway stop.

The Kamo River is a short walk, and the Botanical Gardens, Daitokuji Temple, and Kitayama are all close.

But don't try to cycle inside the campus.


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Monday, October 18, 2010

Cycling Heian Shrine Kyoto

自転車で平安神宮へHeian Jingu Shrine Torii

On a glorious fall day, we rode over to Okazaki to watch the annual Kyoto Student Festival.

Students from all over Kansai, though mainly from Kyoto universities, performed in dance troops on the street that runs from Heian Shrine, under its massive torii gate, and past several of the city's best museums.

The Shrine was completed in 1895, and was built to celebrate the 1100th anniversary of the city's founding. Its four gardens are particularly beautiful, and cover approximately 33,000 square meters.

It is built in the style of Chodo-in, which was the main building of the Heian capital (the original name of Kyoto).

Admission is free except to the gardens, which cost 600 yen.

Nishi Tennocho, Okazaki, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, JAPAN

Tel: 075 561 6155

A ten-minute walk from Higashiyama subway stop on the Tozai Line, or a 15-minute walk from Sanjo Station on the Keihan Line.


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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Kitaoji Vivre by Bicycle

Vivre Kitaoji Kyoto自転車で北大路通Vivreへ

In north central Kyoto, not far from the Kamo River is an area known as Kitaoji.

Close by, there are a few sites - Daitokuji Temple being the best known - Otani  University, and the river, but mainly it is a quiet upscale neighborhood.

For shoppers, though, the Vivre mall full of stores of good quality. The mall is located at a bus terminal and a subway stop, both of which are below the mall.

It has an LL Bean store, a good supermarket, and an excellent book store on the fourth floor.

Other nearby areas of interest are the Kyoto Botanical Gardens, and the even more upscale area of Kitayama.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cycling Le Petit Mec Cafe Kyoto

Le Petit Mec Cafe Kyoto

Located on Imadegawa Dori west of Horikawa, Le Petit Mec serves fantastic coffee and mouth-watering bread in a cafe that could be in the middle of Paris.

Le Petit Mec is close to Nishijin and near many places you may be riding to or from:

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
Imperial Palace
The Golden Pavilion

Very highly recommended.


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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Japan Coast to Coast Charity Ride


Japan Coast to Coast grew out of one man's epic 6-week bike ride chasing the cherry blossom front along the length of Japan in 2000. Along the way, Lowell Sheppard discovered a statue of the 19th-century missionary Walter Weston on a semi-abandoned coastal road. Weston was the man who introduced Japan to the concept of mountaineering and research into his life and writings led Lowell to plan another bike ride - following Weston's trail across the Japan Alps and between the northern and southern coasts of the main island of Honshu.

Inspired by Lowell's bold plan, two friends agreed to join him on his weeklong journey and Japan Coast to Coast was born. Planning and physical preparation meant that the ride went well, and the rider's camaraderie and resourcefulness made event the occasional setback just another part of the fun and adventure. That ride, early June 2010, took in such spectacular scenic highlights as Kamikochi, Norikura and Hakuba and many warm and friendly encounters with locals not used to seeing foreigners, let alone three of them on bikes.

The scale of the challenge was a big motivation in itself, but what really made the trip - and the whole JC2C concept - all the more worthwhile was the fact that it was a fundraiser for the great aid work done by HOPE International Development Agency. Lowell is the Asia-Pacific Director of HOPE and his advice and experience helped them team raise over ¥600,000 in donations, funds that went directly to build wells that now provide clean drinking water for many families in Cambodia.

A second ride the following October saw the group grow to nine riders and a support vehicle. This ride was shorter at two days, and didn't have any major mountains along the way, but it provided quite a challenge for the less experienced cyclists.

The plans for 2011 are more ambitious still, with a JC2C challenge featuring more riders (probably in teams) and lots more fun! We are always happy to hear from cyclists across Japan who are interested in joining us.

Contact Japan Coast to Coast:

See us on Facebook


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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cycling Nishijin

自転車で西陣へJofukuji Dori

Kyoto's Nishijin is the city's weaving area.

Located north of Imadegawa, west of Horikawa, and extending roughly to Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, it is a large neighborhood.

And very good for cycling.

Aside from the large boulevards noted above, Nishijin is mainly narrow north-south, east-west streets with wooden homes and weaving companies.

The area contains a few small temples, narrow old streets, and a weaving center (to the right in the above photo).


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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bicycle Friendly Cities


According to Tourism Review, the top five cycling cities in the world are:

1. Amsterdam
2. Copenhagen
3. Bogota
4. Curitiba, Brazil
5. Montreal

An interesting and diverse selection.

No surprises with the top two, but Bogota and Curitiba?

Only 13% of Bogota residents own a car, which means that a lot of the traffic and trips in the city are done on bicycles. The South American city is also apparently devoting a lot of its resources to ensuring those rides are pleasant and safe.

As for Curitiba, it is Brazil's best planned city, and its bike infrastructure is excellent.

Kyoto officialdom, are you listening? You just lost out in one important index of level of how civilized an urban area is - cycle-friendliness - to Bogota and a city you have never heard of in Brazil.


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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jintan Street Sign Kyoto

Jintan Street Sign仁丹の標識

Kyoto has the largest collection of Jintan signs in Japan.

Jintan, a small pharmaceutical company based in Osaka, used to post these ads/street address signs on houses in the early part of the 20th century.

They all have the British (?) officer at the top, followed by the Jintan companycharacters (仁丹), and then finally the street address.

The decades old signs were often tacked onto houses on corners, however they can be found on homes in the middle of blocks.

Perhaps the greatest concentration of the signs can be found in the city's "Gothic Quarter," west of Horikawa Dori.

Recently the signs have become prized as collector's items, and there has been some theft. When many of the older homes are torn down, the signs are often lost.

The Jintan Corporation also recently announced that it would add another 25 new signs in various locations throughout the city.


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