ニシタイ 西葛西駅前タイムズ

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AD!Venture 2017.03.16 Hometown Kyoto

dummy-imageKyoto, the historical capital of Japan.
On one hand, Kyoto is a locus of temples and culture. With 17 World Heritage sites, it celebrates a reputation of preserving an older, more “traditional” Japan. On the other hand, Kyoto is a hub of international crowds. Due to this very sense of “heritage,” Kyoto draws tourists from around the world craving a taste of Japanese fair.
I, myself, have been one of those drawn to Kyoto by its reputation for beauty and culture. I spent ten days wandering its streets and temples, taking in its sights through a visitor’s eyes. Ever since, I have wondered: what is this center of heritage like, not in passing, but for its residents? Overcome with curiosity, I reached out to a coworker from Kyoto.

Kindly, at my request, Aka-san of our human resources department sat down with me at lunch, smiled nostalgically, and told me about her hometown.
When were you last at home?
I was born and raised in Kyoto, near Gion. I visit about once a year, when I can, usually at New Year’s break. I did go this year, and my mother and I visited a shrine together.

Aka-san at Kiyomizu-dera

We used to go to this one shrine every year, a local one nearby, but it was torn down a couple of years ago and its sect joined with another. So, now we go to different ones depending, as there are many shrines and temples in Kyoto that specialize in something specific, like love or wisdom. This year I entered into a year of bad luck (note: this is about yaku, which is foretold yearly, like a life-forecast), so we went to Kasuga Shrine in Saiin.
Since Kasuga Shrine specializes in “bad-luck” avoidance, and since a shrine charm normally costs about 300 or 500 yen, we thought I could buy one there. But it turns out that shrine doesn’t sell anything below 3000 yen, which is too expensive. So, we gave up and just prayed for better fortune.
I hear Kyoto has a lot of tourists…
Tourist can be *laughs* well, annoying. At least during Spring and Autumn, which are really popular seasons.
To get anywhere in Kyoto, you have to take a bus, and during these seasons the buses fill up so quickly they’ll often drive past bus stops because they can’t take any more people. They’ll just go right past, even if you’re waiting there. When I was child, I commuted to school by bicycle, so it wasn’t a problem for me, but still, if I could warn people of one thing, it’s the buses. If you come to Kyoto as a tourist, you will have to use them. It’s not the easiest transportation system, so please bring a map and study up.
What kind of food do you enjoy at home?
As for local food, Obanzai is Kyoto’s specialized cuisine. It’s a style of food placed on kobachi and uses local Kyoto vegetables, which are often referred to as kyoyasai. Saying that, many Kyoto people actually eat a lot of bread. Probably twice as much as any other place in Japan, which is why there are so many bread shops. You will hear of people eating bread for breakfast, and then going back to buy more for lunch, a snack, and even dinner.

Photo by Hajime Nakano – Obanzai / おばんざい (2005) CC BY 2.0
As for restaurants, I really like Iemon Café. Both tourists and Kyoto people go there. They have great teas, and delicious foods (that use teas), and you can buy souvenirs. I like the roasted green tea (houjicha) best.
There’s also this fancy starbucks in front of Iemon café. You may not know, but Kyoto has strict rules for colors of buildings so they don’t interfere with the natural scenery. This Starbucks isn’t actually green, but brown and red.
What’s your favorite things about Kyoto?
As someone from Kyoto, I think it's a beautiful place. Growing up, I often played at Kamogawa, where couples go for picnics. The view there is wonderful.

Photo by Chris Gladis – Kamogawa (2006) CC BY ND 2.0
I also often participated in the Gion Festival since I lived near the main event. Last year I couldn’t go because I live in Tokyo now and it’s hard to get the time off, but I still go when I can.
The Gion Festival is one of three famous festivals in Kyoto. The main celebration happens on Shijo Street, where the Ohoko are brought out. There are various Hoko for each God and each neighborhood has their own specialized one. Sometimes festival music (ohayashi) is played on top, by children as well.

Ohoko at Gion Festival 2007
Photo by Chris Gladis – Kikusui Boko (菊水鉾) (2007) CC BY 2.0
Within the hoko, chimaki is sold. Do you know chimaki? The rice in bamboo leaves that is popularly eaten on Children’s Day in May? Well, the chimaki sold at Gion Festival is different. It isn’t to be eaten, but used for decorating, so it isn’t prepared as food. You take it home and lay it on the family shrine, and after a year you exchange it for a new one.  

Gion Festival chimaki
Photo by Yasuo Kida – 粽 霰天神山(2016) CC BY 2.0

Professionals make the chimaki, but neighborhood children usually help sell them. People will usually support their kids, and area, by buying from them. I participated too as a kid. Usually it’s the families that have been in Kyoto for a very long time that do all this, but since I was friends with the children of these families, I tagged along with them and joined in.  
Why did you move away?
Many of my childhood friends have families that run shops like osake-ya or tukemono-ya that have been around a long time. These shops often pass on through family, to sons and daughters, who have grown up with other sons and daughters that inherit. In this way, families mingle, interconnect, and continue their heritage. But, because they have strong roots, few people leave the area. At least, Kyoto has that reputation.
I guess I’m a little different, then, because I came to Tokyo. I just wanted to explore different sorts of opportunities. I started studying English for the same reason, because I wanted to better communicate and see more of the world.
Do you miss Kyoto?

I still love Kyoto, even though I currently live in Tokyo, and I often eat matcha things to remind me of home.
If you have the chance, I highly recommend trying Kyoto’s matcha, well, anything, if you haven’t.

Well...with a fulltime job in Tokyo, I couldn't simply take off to Kyoto...but that did not have to stop me from taking Aka-san's advice.

So, to an Antenna Shop I went to search for a macha, well, anything.

Which, considering the flavor's popularity, did not take long. 

 And, with my macha-cookie prize in hand, I prepared for a taste of Kyoto...

and received a pleasant reminder that sweets are always better complimented with tea.  

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