Playdate

Last week my friend and I once more went to the Tamayuran Cafe to see the cats and little Yoshida Kyoichiro in particular. He has grown quite a bit in the last month, and although he is still very small for his age (he’s about 3 months old now), he has developed into a very sweet and playful kitten.

While we were having drinks, we had Kyoichiro play on our table for more than an hour, and although I prefer somewhat older cats because they are generally easier to care for, I cannot deny that I’m totally in love with him.

At the end of our playdate-threesome, he fell asleep in my arms, and although you can’t see it here, I’m just as happy as he is!

Yoshida Kyoichiro the kitten

Summer Greetings

shochu mimaiThe week or two before Obon is considered the height of summer in Japan, and it’s definitely hot enough for it! Although Obon is not a public holiday, many shops and companies, especially the smaller ones, are closed for at least a few days leading up to August 16.

One of the traditional “must dos” during these days is to send shochu-mimai, summer greetings. Just like the kanchu-mimai in winter, these are simple postcards with a suitable motif to wish people good health to get through it all. In Japan, the hot summer days have traditionally been of greater concern than the cold winter days.

Speaking of tradition: These mimai once were actual visits to people in the hottest (or coldest) time of the year, but if you couldn’t visit somebody, it was acceptable to send greeting cards instead. A related custom is the sending of ochugen summer gifts to family and business partners, but this is not as wide-spread nowadays as the still ubiquitous oseibo year-end presents.

a summer greeting cardMaybe because of modern air-conditioning that is taking the edge off the heat, the sending of shochu mimai has declined. I am not sending any myself, but I have received some from friends. Just like the nengajo that are sent for New Year’s Day, these seasonal greeting cards are often handmade by the more artistically inclined people – like my friends. The cat really doesn’t need much explanation for anyone who knows me, and the demon’s face is popular at summery lantern festivals like the Aomori Nebuta Festival.

Eruption

When people hear about a natural disaster happening in Japan, they most often assume that it’s another earthquake. And with an earthquake happening almost every day, they are mostly guessing correctly. What is often forgotten however, is that Japan is also the home of many volcanoes, and most of them are just dormant and can erupt again at any time.

This is just what happened late yesterday night, when Mt. Asama erupted and sent a pillar of smoke some 1800 metres into the sky. Mt. Asama is 2568 metres high and one of the most active volcanoes in Japan; the last eruption was 10 years ago. Since the volcano is on the borders of Gunma and Nagano prefecture, it is a popular hiking spot, but the region is not very densely populated.

Still, the government has forbidden access to the volcano as a whole, and is trying to evacuate all hikers that are in the area. Judging from the youtube video below, taken today, the situation has cooled down a little.

See also this interesting article at Kyodo News, which is relatively level-headed and includes a great map of the many other (and so far quiet) volcanoes in the area and a link to the Japan Meteorological Agency and their volcanic warning page just below the map.

Inspirational

I’m back from my “holiday” that I spent at home – and at a number of cafes just to get out of my apartment for a few hours in the hottest part of the afternoons at least. I was relatively lazy last week (up to 38 degrees didn’t help) but I read a few books, did some apartment maintenance (aka ironing and cleaning), and spent too much time on youtube.

I also got busy looking at color schemes for future website improvement and I now have a new list of “things I’d like to do for What’s up in Kyoto“. As if I needed a new and improved – and significantly longer – list there…

An interesting highlight was meeting a friend of mine and catching up with her. The last time we met was several weeks ago at a small cafe where neither of us had been before, and where they happened to look for part-time staff. Now my friend is working there! She spends maybe half the year abroad, so she needed something flexible, job-wise. Interestingly, she was considering another, more corporate job as a translator as well at the time, but chose the cafe after all. She said she had never worked in a restaurant before and wanted to make that experience and try it out.

We had talked before how I came to Japan and how I left everything behind, and that if it didn’t work out, I could always do something else. So, she knew about my journey to Kyoto. And then she suddenly said: “You inspired me to try something completely new as well!”

I am amazed and humbled and a bit embarrassed to inspire people to do anything. Probably because there are many days when I don’t feel particularly inspired myself.

Week Off

Yesterday morning, when checking my schedule for this week, I noticed that I don’t have a single work-related appointment this week. Even my Japanese teacher has called a holiday. This hasn’t happened since New Year! So, I decided to take the week off. I’m not going anywhere, and there are still a few things I need to do (because it’s the end of the month), but I have decided to take it extremely slowly this week.

It helps that it’s very hot as well right now. Summer has arrived with about 36 degrees for the rest of the week, so it’s not as if this is a good time to work anyway. I have a few personal projects I’d like to push forward and I’d like to go out with friends. Today I already visited one of my favourite cafes where I did some serious flirting with the cute waiter (who casully asked me to show him on google maps where in Austria I was from, and even more casually mentioned that he was married to the owner of the cafe. Talk about sending mixed signals?) And on Thursday I will be visiting the Tamayuran again to see off Kyoichiro. I’m curious how much he’s grown.

I’m not sure if I’ll be posting the rest of the week (it’s nice to have a break from posting too every now and then), but you can definitely expect a new post next Tuesday. Have a great week too!

Summer!

It’s much later than usual, but finally today we had the first day of summer! It was sufficiently hot (36 degrees), humid (75%) and sunny (I even got a sunburn on my way to the city) to be called a decent summer day. And there was a nice shower in the late afternoon to cool everything down before the evening  – I’m calling this a perfect day!

And it started off well too. I went to one of the museums I’d like to feature as a What’s up in Kyoto monthly highlight soon, and everything went incredibly smoothly. I had my own tour guide even before I had explained why I was coming, everything went easily in English, and when I asked for an interview with the museum’s director I got an immediate “consider it done”. All I need now is to come up with a time and date. Perfect!

Afterwards, I went to a local gallery that has a large rack full of flyers and event advertisements. I only recently discovered the place because it’s a bit out of the way of my usual haunts, but these are the places where I can leave my own postcards for my website. So I went there, scoured the flyers for new ones, and then went to the office to ask if I could leave my own. “Sure,” the man in charge said. Usually, these places have a limit on the number of flyers or postcards they take, but when I pulled out my pack of about 50 cards, he said “oh, just give me all of them, it’s fine.” Perfect!

In the afternoon, I went with a friend of mine to Shimogamo Shrine where the yearly Mitarashi Festival is ongoing. You have to wade through the cold stream, light a candle on the way and place it before the shrine at the end of the pond. It was very nice and refreshing, just as planned. Perfect!

And afterwards, we went to my favourite chocolate place to buy just before they are closing down for their summer holidays in August. We even got 20% off because there are only a few days left and they want to get rid of as many chocolates as possible, obviously. Perfect!

So you see, my first day of summer this year couldn’t have been better. Let’s hope it’ll stay this way!

Ofunehoko

Yesterday, for the second year, I was working as a volunteer at the Ofunehoko, the last big float of the second Gion Matsuri Parade that is taking place on July 24th in the morning.

I felt a bit more confident this year, being there before and most of the things we had to do were the same. This year, the visitors to the second floor of the Ofunehoko house and the Ofunehoko itself had to take care of their own shoes, which was a great relief since this was a very stressful job last year. Also, every one of us could spend some time inside the Ofunehoko house, which meant: sitting down for a while! Even if it’s just sitting in seiza, taking the weight off the wooden geta and not having to stand for 6 hours straight is quite a relief.

Even though there were much fewer people this year (probably because of the bad weather), it was still fun to sell the chimaki and the upstairs tickets and the tenugui… Interestingly, most of the foreigners dropping by yesterday were Italians. Unfortunately, only a single one of my friends visited me, but it was the one who introduced me to the Miyakogusa group and made the whole thing possible in the first place. I felt quite honored that he would come and see me.

A chimaki from the OfunehokoAs a reward for our work, we all received a free chimaki upon leaving – the paper bag that goes with it is almost more interesting. A chimaki is a charm that is usually put up at the entrance door or in the genkan of a Japanese house to prevent evil from entering. Interestingly, there were even young Japanese people who asked about the meaning of the chimaki, which I found a bit odd – it seems such a fundamental thing here in Kyoto that I can’t believe this is not done everywhere else in Japan. I will investigate…

Gion Matsuri

gion matsuri gifGion Matsuri, probably the biggest party in Japan, is going on right now. Today is yoiyama, the night before the big parade with food stalls and music and fun throughout the inner city – and I didn’t go. I guess I’m getting old…

Or maybe it’s because I’m involved in the second half of the Gion Matsuri now myself, or because it really is so traditional that things don’t change anymore, or because I’d like to see a few things I didn’t so far and have to be careful with my work and free time…

However, I am planning to go to town tomorrow evening, when the shinko-sai is taking place and the gods of Yasaka Shrine will be moved to their temporary resting place in the Otabisho. I have an appointment nearby just before and if it is not raining, it will be fun to watch the people of the neighborhoods walking with the mikoshi and yelling “washoi” to spur each other on.

Tamayuran

This afternoon I had my weekly English class, and we usually meet in the shopping mall next door. As I mentioned before, the mall is being extended, and many shops are closed, even at parts of the mall that have nothing to do with the extension. They want to have the big “renewal open” in December, and I’m looking forward to it! At the moment the place looks like a ghost town with large parts dark and closed off. It’s not a nice place to have English classes …

Additionally, today it was very noisy, so we decided to go elsewhere. My student/friend suggested to visit the Tamayuran, a small cafe near Kyoto University. The owner rescues cats of all ages, and my friend picked up a 10 year old cat there a couple of months ago, which is how she got to know the Tamayuran in the first place.

So, we went to see cats. And: I’m in love! It is the season for baby cats, and there were six or seven in the cafe, from youngsters who are a couple of months old and very playful to a tiny little one that’s probably less than four weeks at the moment. Here is little “Kyoichiro Yoshida”:

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【たまゆらん保猫園】吉田 京一郎 生後3ー4日の仔猫がポトンと落ちていました。 周りに母猫や兄弟猫の気配もなく… 本当にポトンと… 保護し、お店に連れ帰ってます。 へその緒もまだついてる、目もあいていない子。 体温が低いので、かなり心配な状態です… 柄が独特。綺麗なアメショ柄になりそうな男の子。 吉田 京一郎くん。 今日からミルク頑張ります。 #京都カフェ #今出川通り #北白川通り #おうちごはんcafeたまゆらん #たまゆらん #看板猫のいるお店 #たまゆらん保猫園 #仔猫 #保護仔猫 #京一郎成長記

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He’s a bit bigger now, some two handfuls of kitten, but sooo cute and lovely and he was first sleeping and then crawling around in the big box he was in and when I picked him up he started crying but then he liked being stroked and got cuddly and he’s so tiny still with blue eyes and …

*cough* Sorry.

So yes, he’s very cute, but already spoken for! Somebody from Tokyo will come down next month and get him. Personally, I like cats of all sizes, but I think grown-ups are easier to care for, especially if they are potty-trained already. But since I’m not allowed to have cats here anyway, the point is rather moot.

Even without the cats, the cafe is definitely worth visiting. I had a wonderful milk tea and my friend and I shared a enormous peach parfait. It was delicious! The Tamayuran is open from 12:00 – 18:00, closed on Wednesdays. They serve a daily lunch, toast and sandwiches, and the seasonal parfaits are to die for (says my friend). I will definitely visit again, I think what the owner is doing is commendable and I’m happy to support her.

Find lots of pictures of the Tamayuran – with a certain focus on cats and food – on their instagram page above.

KimOhNo!

As you probably know, a certain self-absorbed woman (whom I shall not name) from the US has recently announced a new line of underwear that she wanted to name “kimono”, of all things. I’m definitely not one who’s waving flags on the “cultural appropriation” bandwagon, but even I would say that was a bad idea to begin with. And as if it couldn’t get worse, said self-absorbed woman from the US had plans to get the name trademarked. Don’t even get me started on that one…

Anyway, the idea caused a veritable shitstorm on the internet, and many of the people involved were Japanese, who otherwise let foreigners get away with murder. But not with naming stuff “kimono”, apparently. The outcry was bad and loud enough that even Daisaku Kadokawa, the current mayor of Kyoto got involved in the issue. Even though modern Japanese don’t wear kimono in their daily life anymore, and many of the cheap summer kimono are now made in China, Kyoto is still the main producer of high-end kimono in Japan. As in former days, the Nishijin district where kimono are painted and obi are woven is still a major part of Kyoto’s industry.

So, it is only natural that the mayor of Kyoto got involved, I think. Especially since he is one of the few men who are still wearing a traditional kimono every singe day. And in the end, he – and all the other Japanese who complained – won an earned victory. Of course, part of the appeal of modern society is that you do things publicly, and therefore, he posted a number of letters pertaining to the affair on his facebook page. Here are four letters, in English, and in chronological order, the last one a letter to the League of Historical Cities, which is interesting in itself.

Ms. Kim Kardashian WestKimono Intimates, Inc.I am writing this letter to convey our thoughts on Kimono and ask you to…

Posted by 門川大作 on Friday, June 28, 2019

Ms. Kim Kardashian WestKimono Intimates, Inc.Dear Ms. Kim Kardashian West,I greatly appreciate your decision that…

Posted by 門川大作 on Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Dear all Kimono lovers around the world,I heartily thank all of you who love Kimono and its culture for your great…

Posted by 門川大作 on Tuesday, July 2, 2019

About our message to the LHC member citiesconcerning” KIMONO” trademark issueThe City of Kyoto has served as the…

Posted by 門川大作 on Wednesday, July 3, 2019