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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cycle Kasuga Shrine Nara

Kasuga Shrine自転車で春日大社

Kasuga Grand Shrine is a Shinto shrine in Nara, the former capital that is located roughly 45 kilometers from Kyoto.

It is one of the most famous shrines in Japan.

It was established in 768 AD and has been rebuilt several times over the centuries.

It is the shrine of the legendary Fujiwara family is well known for its many bronze lanterns.

The Shrine is located in Nara Park, a short ride from the Nara Museum and the center of Nara proper.


6:30 to 17:30 (7:00 to 16:30 from November through March)
500 yen to enter the inner area


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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kyoto Myoshinji Path

Myoshinji Path妙心寺

Myoshinji Temple is one of Kyoto's lesser known gems.

It is a city within walls, a zen temple in which it is possible to spend the night and practice zazen.

Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, it is not nearly as popular as nearby Ryoanji Temple or the Golden Pavilion.

There are more than 40 sub-temples, each of which serves as a residence for the monks and their families.

You can cycle through on the uneven stone paths.


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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chinese Kanji Kuruma Wheel

Kuruma Kanji

This giant kanji painted onto the pavement is "kuruma" or, in combination, "sha."

The picture is taken looking from directly above. The actual kanji should look like this:

It means wheel.

You can often spot it as part of 自動車 (jidosha)- car - that are on signs and roads.

This character however was part of 自転車(jitensha)- bike - and was on the Kyoto (Arashiyama) to Kizu bike trail.

We rode it recently, and continued on into Nara, which is not far beyond Kizu.

In future blogs, that wonderful route will be introduced.


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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kyoto Green Tea Ippodo

Ippodo Kyoto一保堂京都

Ippodo is mecca for Japanese tea lovers.

Though some fans of tea grown in Shizuoka, near Mt. Fuji, will no doubt object, the center of the Japanese green tea universe is on Teramachi, south of the Imperial Palace and near City Hall.

Ippodo was founded in 1717, when Ihei Watanabe created the now legendary tea shop.

The store sells many types of tea and tea utensils.

It is also possible - and highly recommended - to sit and drink tea in the Kaboku Tea Room.


From Oike Dori, walk north on Teramachi (the small street next on the west side of City Hall) for 6-7 minutes. From the southeast corner of the Imperial Palace, Teramachi Marutamachi, walk south on Teramachi. On the east side in a large traditional building with noren curtains.
075 211 3421 


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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tohoku Earthquake Radiation Levels Okinawa Tokyo Hiroshima Kyoto


According to the Ministry of Education, March 25 radiation levels in Tokyo, Okinawa, Hiroshima, and Kyoto are noted below. With the exception of Kyoto, these areas all have US military bases.

Okinawa: 0.021

Tokyo: 0.134

Hiroshima: 0.056

For those in Kyoto, the reading is 0.039.

Results for the entire country can be found here.

Note: there were no results posted for two prefectures: Fukushima and Miyagi.


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Kyoto Myoshinji Temple Drain

Myoshinji Drain妙心寺の下水

While cutting through Myoshinji Temple en route to an area north of Ninnaji Temple, we saw this drain in front of a sub-temple.

Neatly framed by stone, the grated iron is held in place by gray cement.

Two early spring leaves of unknown origin lie on the upper left corner.

The stone of the path itself is large, rectangular slabs. The smaller, rounder stones at the top of the photo differentiates and denotes the entrance to the sub-temple.


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Friday, March 25, 2011

Kyoto Station

Kyoto Station Roof京都駅

Kyoto's massive gateway station building looms large on the cityscape.

Hiroshi Hara's Kyoto Station building opened in 1997 to celebrate the 1,200th anniversary of the foundation of Kyoto (Heian) as the capital of Japan.

The 15-story, glass-plated gray space station has been justly criticized as being inappropriate for the fabric of the city. It looms menacingly over a once elegant city.

Kyoto Station boasts a sixty meter tall atrium and is 470 meters from east to west. The total floor space of the building is 238,000 square meters, which includes a department store, the Granvia Hotel, a theater, exhibition space, as well as many shops and restaurants.

It is possible to walk to either Higashi Honganji or Nishi Honganji from the station.


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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cafe Frosch Kyoto

Cafe Frosch Kyotoカフェ・フロッシュ京都

Not far from Kitano Tenmangu and the geisha district Kamishichiken is a wonderful cafe known as Frosch.

Great bread, a wonderful renovated machiya (town house), and a homey international vibe make it a great place for lunch or a coffee.


557-7 Higashiyanagi-cho, Itsutsuji-dori, Shichihonmatsu agaru, Kamigyo-ku, Nishijin-Kyoto
Tel: 075 205 2703


Tue. - Sat. 10:00 - 21:00, Sundays and holidays 10:00 - 18:00, Closed on Mondays


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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dog at Ninnaji Temple Kyoto

White Dog Ninnaji Temple仁和寺前の犬

On a warm March day, we met this beautiful white dog posing at the top of the steps at Ninnaji Temple.

He was game and stood still for the photo.

The clouds fluttering by in the background, framed by the wooden pillars, make for a pleasant montage.


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Monday, March 21, 2011

Kyoto Sidewalk Cycling Imperial Palace

In front of Imperial Palace Kyoto京都御所近く歩道で走る自転車

Ah, a lovely spring day for a stroll in Kyoto.

On the left is the 19th century campus of Doshisha University, one of Japan's most prestigious private universities.

On the right is the Imperial Palace, a huge and urban green space.

The sidewalk itself parallels Imadagawa Dori - on which traffic is slowly moving - and is elegant and understated.

Yet here they come, a line of cyclists, ringing their bells.

Riding on this narrow sidewalk - bus stops at intervals on the left, a gutter on the right - is legal.


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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tohoku Earthquake Radiation Levels Tokyo


The Asahi Shinbun publishes radiation levels in every prefecture every day. At roughly 5 pm local time, March 19, the radiation level in Tokyo was (the figure in parenthesis is the average daily peak level):

Tokyo: 0.048 (0.079) This is a .002 decline from the previous day.

Tokyo is two hours and fifteen minutes east of Kyoto on the bullet train.

For those in Kyoto, the reading is 0.040 (0.087). This is a .001 decline from the previous day.


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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tohoku Earthquake Radiation Levels Osaka


The Asahi Shinbun publishes radiation levels in every prefecture daily. At roughly 5 pm local time, March 18, the radiation level in Osaka was (the figure in parenthesis is the average daily peak level):

Osaka: 0.043 (0.061)

Osaka, of course, is a 30 minute ride on JR from Kyoto.

Many foreign embassies have relocated staff from the capital to Osaka.


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Kyoto Roof Gargoyle

Roof Decoration Kyoto京都の鬼瓦

We are actually not quite sure what this is but it is surely a thing of beauty.

On Kyoto rooftops one often finds "oni kawara" (literally, "devil roof tile"), which are gargoyle-like faces carved onto a roof tile and facing the street.

Their purpose is to ward off evil and protect the house.

This gold - gold! - statuette placed on the roof of a recently build traditional home in downtown Kyoto took our breath away.

We assume it is not merely a display of wealth but also serves some "practical" function such as scaring away spirits.


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Friday, March 18, 2011

Tohoku Earthquake Tokyo Evacuation


The Japanese government's evacuation - a 20 kilometer (12 miles) perimeter from the Fukushima nuclear power plant - standard is still in place.

The US government is recommending 80 kilometers (50 miles), but has yet to advise evacuation beyond that.

However, other nations are urging their nationals to leave Tokyo.

Austria has moved its embassy staff to Osaka, south of Kyoto, for the time being.

The government of France has on its web site urged French citizens to head home or to southern Japan.

Australia, Germany, and Britain have advised their nationals to "consider leaving Tokyo." The German embassy has been "partly relocated" to Osaka.

Serbia and Croatia have told their citizens to leave Japan.

3,000 Chinese nationals have left Tohoku for Niigata.


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March Cycling Events Japan


Below is a list of events in late March in Japan related to cycling:

March 21: MTB Touring in Okumusashino (044 811 5277,

March 27: 50th Tokyo Shakaijin Taiko Road Race (03 3843 4484,


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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tohoku Earthquake Radiation Levels Kyoto


The Asahi Shinbun published today radiation levels in every prefecture. At roughly 5 pm local time, March 16, the radiation levels were (the figure in parenthesis is the average daily peak level):

Tokyo: 0.143 (0.079)
Kanagawa: 0.153 (0.069)
Aichi: 0.044 (0.074)
Kyoto: 0.041 (0.087)
Osaka: 0.051 (0.061)
Okinawa: 0.022 (0.058)


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Kyoto Concert Hall

Kyoto Symphony Hall京都コンサートホール

In Kitayama, a fashionable area of northern Kyoto, sits the city's main concert hall.

Kyoto Concert Hall was designed by Arata Isozaki and is home to the Kyoto Symphony.

The hall is a warm and compact, and the sound quality is excellent.

It is adjacent to the city's botanical gardens.


A short walk from Exit 1 of the Kitayama Subway Stop on the Karasuma Line

1-26 Hangi-cho,Shimogamo,sakyo-ku,Kyoto
Tickets Inquiry 075 (711) 3090 / 10:00 – 17:00


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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan Earthquake Relief Efforts


With over 3,000 confirmed dead and more than 15,000 missing - and both those numbers to grow - relief work is in high gear.

Donations can be made to the American Red Cross or, if you are living in Japan, to the Japanese Red Cross.

Donations are being collected on street corners around Japan and via the large mass media conglomerates.


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Adult Tricycle Kyoto

Adult Tricycle Kyoto大人用三輪車

On the way back from a trip downtown Kyoto on Sunday, we spied this woman out and about on her three-wheeler.

The adult tricycles are quite popular among Kyoto's elderly.

They are quite stable, easy to ride, and good for shopping.

The woman had probably been shopping along Horikawa, and was pedaling home through the "Gothic Quarter."


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Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan Earthquake Data Update


March 14 earthquake data:

Magnitude: 9.0
Confirmed Dead: between 1,300 - 1,700
Missing in the town of Minami-Sanrikicho: 10,000 (of a population of 17,300)
Number stranded in Miyagi Prefecture: 20,000+
Number of People Exposed to Radioactivity: 190
Number of power plants "in trouble": four
International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale: Level 4 (same as Three Mile Island)
Insured losses: $15 billion USD
Number of troops ordered to area for relief: 100,000

Prime Minister Naoto Kan: "I think that the earthquake, tsunami and the situation at our nuclear reactors makes up the worst crisis in the 65 years since the war. If the nation works together, we will overcome.”

American ambassador to Japan John Roos: "No other evacuations have been recommended" (beyond the 20 km from the reactors).


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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan Earthquake Tohoku Sendai


Three days after a massive earthquake struck northern Japan - followed by a devastating tsunami - between 1,200 - 1,700 are presumed dead.

However, there are according to NHK as of 5 pm local time Sunday March 13 more than 10,000 people still missing.

Japanese Self Defense, police, and rescue squads are being joined by help from around the world: teams from South Korea, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, the United States, Turkey, and many other nations are pouring in.

Western Japan was spared any damage. Osaka experienced small tremors, and in Kyoto it was a day like any other. No tremors, no shaking, nothing. It was a beautiful early spring day.

Back in the northeast of Japan, more than 200,000 people are thought to be staying in 1,350 temporary shelters.

Perhaps the most ominous news is the release of radioactive material following an explosion at a Fukushima nuclear power plant.


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No Parking Bicycle Sign Sakai Osaka

No cycling Sakai自転車放置禁止区域境

On a recent trip to Sakai to visit the Bicycle Museum, we strolled around Daisen Park and an imperial tomb en route.

On the way, one sign caught our eye.

"No motor scooter or bicycle parking"

This was on the sidewalk from Mozu Station to the Museum.


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Friday, March 11, 2011

Jizobon Nijo Area

Jizobon Kyoto地蔵盆二条城三条会

Kyoto is dotted with mini-temples, often tucked into space between buildings.

The structures house Jizo-san, a bodhisattva worshipped in East Asian Buddhism.

The Jizo is usually depicted as a Buddhist monk, and is believed to protect children.

The small statues are found throughout Japan.

In Kyoto, in particular, these statues are ubiquitous. Following the annual Bon Festival - which celebrates the once a year return of one's departed ancestors in August - Kyoto neighborhoods come alive with Jizobon festivals.

These festival are for children. Games and gifts mix with song and religious undertones.

The Jizo pictured here will be taken out of the temple on that day and set up on a temporary altar that will be the centerpiece of a two-day festival. Once finished, the Jizo is returned to the temple for another year.

What caught our eye were the tiles on the outside of the structure, giving it the feel of the interior of a public bath.


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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chagetsu Sushi Delivery Bicycle Kyoto

Sushi delivery bike茶月寿司配達自転車

Along the Sanjokai shopping arcade, a sushi delivery bike stood at the ready.

A simple sturdy black mama chari bike with no gears, the bike sports a large carry case.

The contrast of the bulky white carry case was striking.

With the distinctive 茶月 (chagetsu = tea moon) company logo on the side, the delivery vehicle cuts a dashing figure as it makes its rounds.

Online and phone-in orders are both possible.


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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bicycle Museum Cycle Center Sakai

Sakai Cycle Museum自転車博物館サイクルセンター

Due south of Osaka, hugging the coast of Osaka Bay, is Sakai.

In places, it is grim: an intensely industrial port town.

However, it has lots of history and more than enough to see to merit a visit.

The city flourished in the past primarily because of its location. Among other industries, ship building, armaments, cutlery, and bicycle manufacturing have been based in Sakai. (Ironically, bicycle manufacturing in Sakai has its roots in gun production.)

Japan's Shimano company - yes, that Shimano (think derailleurs and other high quality parts) - is from Sakai.

Shimano has financed and built an interesting museum in its hometown dedicated to the bicycle.

The Bicycle Museum Cycle Center has three floors of bikes, bikes, and more bikes.

The basement, 1F, has a storehouse of many bicycles and an auditorium where videos can be watched. The second floor documents the history of the bicycle - from 19th century models to a racer used in the Beijing Olympics. The third floor is dedicated to the environmental benefits of the bicycle.

The Museum is close to the Tomb of the Emperor Nintoku and the Sakai City Museum, all of which can be visited in a day.


18-2 Daisen Nakamachi, Sakai City, Osaka
Tel: 072 243 3196
Open 10 - 4:30 pm (last admittance 4 pm)
300 yen for adults


JR Hanwa LIne from Tennoji Station. The local train takes about 20 minutes to Mozu Station. From there it is a ten-minute walk.


Sakai Cycle MuseumCycleKyoto Home Page


Monday, March 7, 2011

Very Small Funky Kyoto Bicycle

Small Funky Bike Kyoto小さくてお洒落な京都自転車

Around the corner from Kyoto Daimaru department store - and more or less at the entrance to Nishiki food market - was this tiny bicycle.

We believe it is a folding bike.

We also believe it is ridable, and not merely an ornament placed in front of the boutique.

Check out the kickstand, which must have been manufactured in Lilliput.


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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Blimp Over Kyoto

Blimp over Kyoto京都上空の気球

Last week a blimp advertising an insurance company huffed and puffed over western Kyoto.

Near Ryoanji Temple, the blimp flailed against winds, going in tight circles above gawking tourists.

The insurance giant Alico's name is pasted on the side of the blimp.


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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bicycle Towing Warning Sticker Osaka

Osaka Bicycle Towing Tag自転車撤去ビラ大阪

The dreaded towing sticker.

Fear not illegally parked bike blocking the way for children, older people, and the handicapped.

This is just a formality, a warning.

The bike oji-sans - middle aged guys hired by the city - stick these labels on bicycles parked where they should not be. However, the bike is not likely to be towed anytime soon.

In Kyoto (this photo was taken in the Minami Horie area of Osaka), this would merely symbolize irritation on the part of officialdom. Actual towing takes place on pre-determined dates, and those dates are announced - with yet another type of flyer.

As long as an A4 poster with the date boldly noted is not found nearby, you are ok.

Please feel free to leave the bike for weeks, in the rain, taking up half of the sidewalk.


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osaka bicycleTags

Friday, March 4, 2011

Kyomachiya Townhouse Coffee Kobo Teramachi

Kyoto machiya京町家珈琲工房てらまち

Kyoto's signature pre-War home building style is the "machiya," or town home.

A typical Kyoto machiya is a long and narrow home that stretches deep into the city block (taxes were in the past assessed based on the width of a property). These structures often contain courtyard gardens.

The front of the home or business often served as space for a shop, with a noren curtain and sliding shutters.

Many remain - unlike all other major Japanese cities, Kyoto was spared US Air Force bombing during the War - but from the 1950s onward they came to be perceived of as dark, dank, cold, passe.

As a result, many were torn down and replaced by faux western-style homes - and the cityscape of Kyoto was rendered in most areas ugly and banal.

Roughly 28,000 of the buildings remain, and a bit of a rethinking of the importance and liveablility of the buildings is under way.

This fabulous coffee ship is located on Sanjo Shotenkai (shopping arcade). In addition to serving really, really good coffee, Coffee Kobo Teramachi is housed in a building that is wonderful. Built in the early 1900s, it is warm and inviting.

Both photos were taken from the second floor.

Telephone: 075 821 6323

Kyoto Machiya©

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Osaka Woman and Bicycle

Osaka Bike and Woman大阪女と自転車

A bottle blonde mod in leather cruises past a fixed-gear bike chained to a barrier separating the street and sidewalk.

The bike awaits its owner's return; the woman is moving full speed ahead to Midosuji, in downtown Osaka.

The blue saddle, blue front tire, and darker blue chain offset her dye-job.

The black roots that are just starting to peek out match her jacket.

In a final piece of unintended artistry - and in keeping with the blue theme - there are two blue Chinese characters on the telephone pole.

禁止(kinshi)= banned, forbidden


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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Osaka No Bicycle Parking Sign

Osaka No Cycling Sign大阪自転車放棄禁止区域

In a long pedestrian underpass - which runs directly under the JR lines into and out of Osaka Station - is a beat up but charming "No Bicycle Parking" sign.

Like many official proclamations in Japan's second city, it was ignored.

It was so done by the homeless men who appeared to be living and working there.

The men were selling comic books they had placed on the sidewalk. Each man had a bike, always a mama chari beater, that was used to get around and,  no doubt, to get their goods to and from market.

And customers, mainly middle-aged guys, were buying.

A brisk business was taking place on a narrow sidewalk adjacent to a busy road - pictured below left - that runs under many, many train tracks. These entrepreneurs sleep rough and use old bikes to get around Osaka to buy and sell their wares.


Osaka Street UmedaCycleKyoto Home Page