Kyoto family’s cat, missing for half a year, returns home after Osaka earthquake

Recent quake ends more happily than expected for one Kansai resident.

A few days have passed since a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck the northern part of Osaka, sending tremors all throughout the Kansai region which contains neighboring cities such as Kobe, Nara, and Kyoto. The area is still in a state of uncertainty, however, as the possibility that this was just a foreshock lingers.

But for one family in Kyoto, the disaster has brought an unexpected surprise in the form of their beloved pet cat. According to Twitter user Kiyo (@kiyo_ZX10RR), within hours of the large quake striking, the wandering feline returned to the house it had lived in up until six months ago.

▼ “I don’t know if it was because of the earthquake, but my pet cat that had been missing for half a year finally came home! [several crying kaomoji] His feet are jet-black [several crying kaomoji] Now he is eating a lot! [crying kaomoji] Thank god! Thank god! [crying kaomoji]”

After his disappearance late last year, the cat was spotted around the neighborhood, but Kiyo had been unable to find it himself. Months went by with no sign of the cat until a few weeks before the earthquake when sightings began to happen again.

Finally, as if to check up on his family, the cat came back the very same day of the shaking, and Kiyo shared his joy over Twitter. Kiyo also tweeted that the cat is in good health. It appeared to have been well-fed, relaxed, and not really dirty. A triangular section was taken out of its ear, but that was the worst in terms of “injury.”

This scar wasn’t picked up during any kind of catfight though. Rather it is a marking used by groups such as Doubutukikin that trap stray cats, neuter them, and then release them. It looks like they picked up this particular feline during his adventures and finding that Kiyo had already gotten him neutered, just clipped his ears and sent him on his way.

Hundreds of Twitter users were caught up in Kiyo’s heartwarming incident and shared their joy.

“That’s great news! I’m so happy for you.”
“It’s like he was worried about his family and came back.”
“Congratulations! But make sure you get it fully tested. I heard about a cat that returned home but was infected with feline AIDS.”
“That’s such a nice story. Guess he thought it was time to go home.”
“Make sure you spoil that cat rotten!”
“I’m glad I heard this after all that other terrible news.”

Kiyo tweeted that he wanted to share his story so that others who have lost pets in this or other earthquakes don’t lose hope.

For those of us in the area, hope (mixed with a dash of vitriol) is all we got until things gradually return to relative normalcy, so it’s nice to get a big injection of it from this incident.

Source: Twitter/@kiyo_ZX10RR, Togech, Doubutukikin
Featured image: Twitter/@kiyo_ZX10RR

Kyoto yakiniku restaurants offer up blue meat and drinks for Japan’s World Cup fever

Has World Cup madness gone too far for the Samurai Blue?

When you think of blue food, what comes to mind? Probably not much apart from blueberries and blue corn, or those fun blue-dyed pancakes your mom used to make when you were young. However, all of that’s about to change with the latest menu offerings at two sister restaurants in Kyoto near the famous Kamo River.

Yakiniku Bare Yaruki and Ponto-cho Yakiniku Yaruki are in the midst of a promotional campaign to sell blue horumon (beef/pork offal) for yakiniku diners. This limited-time menu is a show of support for the Japanese men’s national soccer team, which is nicknamed “Samurai Blue.” We’ve seen a blue drink and blue curry created in their honor before, but nothing has quite prepared us for the shock of seeing some vividly blue meat:

▼ That blue meat will either drum up your World Cup fighting spirit or send you running to the bathroom in defeat.

You’re probably wondering “how?” at this point. The horumon is seasoned with mint and the shocking blue color is a result of naturally occurring Spirulina, a microalgae which is often consumed as a dietary supplement. The dish goes for 506 yen (US$4.57), a seemingly arbitrary price until you realize that it actually sounds similar to “goal” when the numbers are read individually in Japanese (go-o-roku).

In addition to the meat, the restaurants are also offering blue beer, wine, lemon sours, highballs, and even more beverages for thirsty bar-goers.

The special blue menu is being offered from June 14 (opening day of the World Cup) for as long as the Japanese team is in action. If you’re feeling particularly “blue” this week, why not toast Japan in their first match against Colombia on Tuesday, June 19 at either of these establishments?

Restaurant information
Yakiniku Bareyaruki Shijo Kawara-machi-ten / 焼肉バルやる気四条河原町店
Address: Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku, Kawara-machi-dori, Takoyakushi-kudaru, Shioya-cho 333-1
Open: 5pm-1am

Ponto-cho Yakiniku Yaruki / 先斗町焼肉やる気
Address: Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku, Higashi-kiyamachi-dori, Shijo-agaru, 3-chome, Zaimoku-cho 182-4
Open: 4pm-12am

Source, images: PRdesse
Featured image: PRdesse

“Ghost photo” shows Kyoto’s breathtaking Fushimi Inari Shrine can be bone-chilling at night

And that flash of light isn’t even the scariest part of the snapshot.

In the span of a few years, Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine has gone from being relatively unknown to foreign travelers to being one of their favorite destinations in Japan. And its popularity is well-deserved, as wandering through the hillside tunnels of thousands of Shinto torii gates makes for a beautiful, unforgettable experience, especially if the late afternoon sunlight is filtering through the gaps in the torii.

However, Fushimi Inari can feel a little less inviting once the sun goes down. Just like many Western horror tales are set in or around secluded churches, Japan has a long tradition of ghost stories that take place at rural shrines. The higher you climb along Fushimi Inari’s pathways, the farther you get from the light of the city, which can make it feel like the world of the living is also growing distant, which brings us to a creepy snapshot taken by Japanese Twitter user @mcoscam.

“I was taking photos at Fushimi Inari Shrine at night, and I ended up with this freaky one…So scared I’m about to cry…”

“What happened?” asked a shocked commenter, to which @mcoscam replied “That’s what I want to know!”

Following the ghostly streak of light its farthest point from the lens, it seems to stop at a hanging lantern, or perhaps the brightest part of the reflection of the camera’s flash. Somehow this light source then got smeared in an undulating arc when the image was captured. That’s got to be what’s going on, right? After all, ghosts aren’t real…

…is what we keep trying to convince ourselves as we look at this subtly startling portion of @mcoscam’s photo, which escaped our notice until another Twitter user shared a zoomed-in version.

Once again, though, this looks to be a trick of the light, though one with a connection to local religious customs. See, each of the torii at Fushimi Inari is paid for by a donor, often a business looking to curry favor with Inari, the Shinto god of commerce. Torii are added as donations are made, which means that adjacent gates may actually have been installed several years apart from each other, and so their paint, metal fittings, and other components will be in different states of weathering and/or disrepair. As a result, the surfaces of the torii tunnels don’t reflect light uniformly, which can cause irregular shapes like the “silhouette” seen in the photos above.

So as spooky as @mcoscam’s photo may be, this probably isn’t concrete proof that the shrine is haunted. As a matter of fact, some of @mcoscam’s other photos from that night show that Fushimi Inari has a unique beauty after dark, which we also saw when we took a look at its midsummer Motomiya Festival.

Still, if you decide to plan your trip to Fushimi Inari for early enough in the day so that you’ll be done before sundown, we won’t blame you.

Source: Twitter/@mcoscam via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@mcoscam
Top, insert images ©SoraNews24

JR West unveils new Japanese long distance train with special features for passengers

This is an extra special rail experience, even by Japanese standards.

We’ve always had a soft spot for Japanese trains, but now there’s a new addition to the rails that’s set to blow everyone away, with stylish interiors, private rooms, bunk beds and break areas designed to provide optimal comfort for long-journey passengers.

Designed by West Japan Railway Company as part of their 2022 Middle Management Project, the new train is a six-carriage remodelled 117 series with all-reserved seating for 90 passengers. The interior design will be based around three themes: Diversity, Casual, and Comfort.

Each carriage will feature a different setup, to cater for passengers with different requirements. In the second carriage, there will be reserved seating for the exclusive use of women, with a bright interior, comfortable chairs, and plenty of leg room.

The third carriage will have private compartments, where travelling families can relax with their small children. Furnished with a mat that can be used as either a seat or a mattress, these private spaces will be a godsend for parents on long journeys.

The fourth carriage will be set up as a “free space area”,with tables, booths and an open-plan design.

The first and sixth carriages will be designated “green cars”, which offer a more luxurious style of seating. In the first carriage there will be booth-style seats that can be adjusted to form a bed, so you can enjoy a snooze anytime of the day or night.

The sixth car will offer even more luxury, with private rooms that can be set up in a number of different styles, according to your needs.

The fifth carriage will have dormitory-style rooms fitted out with fixed flat beds.

The new long-distance train is set to operate from Keihanshin (the metropolitan area of Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe) out to the San’in and Sanyo districts in Japan’s southwest. Scheduled to make its debut in the spring of 2020, the train will be ready in time to welcome visitors to the country for the 2020 Olympics.

Source, images: JR West Press Release

Arashiyama bamboo forest in Kyoto “crying” as tourists vandalise trees

Kyoto has a heartbreaking message for visitors who carve graffiti on trees in the famous grove.

Kyoto is one of Japan’s top tourist destinations, filled with historic buildings and beautiful scenery, and one of the region’s most famous must-see sites is the mesmerising bamboo forest in Arashiyama.

The grove here is thick with bamboo, creating a canopy of leaves high up above and a serene, zen-like atmosphere below, despite the crowds of tourists that make their way through the area each day.

The future of the trees is now a topic of concern though, after the city of Kyoto, who owns and cares for the forest, discovered that at least 100 of the bamboo have been vandalised by tourists since February.

Instagram Photo

The extent of the damage first came to everyone’s attention earlier this month, when Ebisuya, a company that offers rickshaw rides in Arashiyama and also helps to manage the forest, sent out a message on their Facebook page, saying “Arashiayama’s bamboo is crying”.

In the post, the company says that bamboo which has been defaced will need to be cut down, meaning the number of trees in the grove will decrease and international tourists who come to see the forest will no longer be able to experience it in its full glory. They are calling on people to notify them when they see graffiti, and they request the cooperation of everyone to help preserve the bamboo grove.

▼ According to reports, most of the graffiti is in English, Korean and Chinese characters, but some Japanese characters have also been found on the trees.

Visitors might want to commemorate their trip to the forest by carving their names or initials and the date of their visit into the trees, but Kyoto City officials are urging visitors to stop the practice in order to preserve the forest.

According to a staff member in charge of managing the grove, who spoke to news outlet ANN in the video below, damaged bamboo rots, so the trees that are defaced have to be cut down and discarded. While they’re currently using green tape to help mask the damage and try to ward off rot, it’s only a temporary fix.

As word of the damage spread throughout Japan via national news reports on television, visitors shared some of their own photos of the damage online, expressing their sadness at the situation.

This Twitter user fears that the graffiti will increase even further and wonders if cultural differences might be to blame.

Sadly, it appears that the damage to bamboo in Kyoto is not confined to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, as this Twitter user, who shared these photos from last year, says graffiti can also be seen on trees along a path at the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine complex.

Kyoto’s natural beauty will only continue to exist if we all take care of it, so next time you see graffiti on bamboo in the area, be sure to notify staff in the area, and if you see anyone defacing trees, you might want to confront them about it, and let them know that the trees are crying.

Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun
Featured image: Twitter/@fjthrkmay

Even Japanese people are frightened by the concealed anger in Kyoto compliment foreigner received

African-born president of Kyoto Seika University was told his parties sounded fun, but there was a hidden meaning.

Usually, cultural guidebooks’ dissertations on Japan’s penchant for indirectness over sincerity are exaggerated. The long-winded explanations about tatemae (outward display) and honne (true feelings) often treat the subject as a purely Japanese social convention, as though no one in other countries says “This tastes great” when being served an average-quality home-cooked meal, or “Thanks for inviting me! It was fun,” to spare a host’s feelings after a dull party.

Still, it is true that, comparatively, Japan does more to avoid direct interpersonal confrontation than many other countries, and so being able to read between the lines is helpful, especially so if you live in Kyoto.

As the Japanese school year starts, Kyoto Seika University has a new president: Mali-born Oussouby Sacko. Sacko, who is thought to be the first African president of a university in Japan, has lived in Japan for 27 years, becoming proficient in the language while acquiring a post-graduate degree in the country, marrying a Japanese national, and raising two children.

But while he’s firmly integrated into Japanese society now, even Sacko has run into difficulties deciphering the meaning behind some of his fellow Kyotoites’ words. In speaking to reporters from the New York Times, Sacko recalled that after holding a few parties for friends at his apartment, some of his Japanese neighbors commented that they were envious of how cheerful Sacko and his friends were when they got together. Seeing an opportunity to bring his neighbors into this happy circle of acquaintances, Sacko said they should join him and his friends sometime in the future.

However, at Sacko’s next party it wasn’t his neighbors who showed up, but the police, responding to a noise complaint from those very same neighbors.

Yes, the subtle implication behind “You and your friends seem to have so much fun at your parties” was actually “We can hear you and your friends having fun at your parties, even if we’re inside our own homes,” and by extension “Keep it down!”

While some might be tempted to point the finger at Sacko for not being able to take the hint, even a number of Japanese Twitter users felt a chill go down their spines at the thickly veiled complaint.

“Well, that’s Kyoto for you.”
“Man, Kyoto manners are just a pain in the butt to deal with!”
“Geez, that’s sneaky.”
“Even a Japanese person would have gotten tripped up by that.”
“If they wanted him to be quieter, they should have just said so.”

Still, the experience hasn’t soured Sacko on Japan in the slightest, and his unique background should serve him well as president of Kyoto Seika, where foreign-born students make up 20 percent of the student body, roughly five times the national average.

Source: Twitter/@vinumregum, New York Times via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso

Beautiful Kyoto snapshot of graceful heron in a swirl of sakura has much less artistic backstory

Simple urge leads to extremely Japanese photo-op.

For photography buffs, sakura season is really a magical time. Especially when the petals of the cherry blossoms start to fall, the fluttering pink flowers add a breathtakingly ethereal appeal to the surroundings, allowing a talented photographer to capture a singularly beautiful moment.

So when Japanese Twitter user @wdche was walking along a river in Kyoto and saw a gray heron in the water, situated beneath a paper lantern covered with Japanese characters and standing in the center of a whirl of sakura petals, he took aim and started snapping photos. Truly, can there be any more quintessentially Japanese scene than one aspect of nature, an elegant bird, transfixed by the beauty of another, the country’s most beloved flower?

It turns out, though, that that’s not exactly what’s happening here. Yes, the heron is rooted to that spot, but not because of the cherry blossoms. The reason it likes that spot is because it’s directly below the outlet for the exhaust fan of a branch of Tamaran Aje, a restaurant that specializes in yakiniku flat-grilled meats and horumon (organs), as indicated by the lantern’s text, and the bird is enjoying the smell.

But that down-to-earth motivation doesn’t make the aesthetics any less beautiful. Before long, a group of foreign passersby noticed @wdchs snapping pictures and pulled out cameras of their own, so then @wdche decided to photograph the people photographing the bird he’d been photographing moments before.

▼ One of them was even dressed in a kimono, adding yet another layer of Japanese imagery to the scene.

Through it all, the heron stayed in place, unfazed by being the center of so much attention. In Japan, there’s a saying, hana yori dango, “Dumplings before flowers,” which refers to people at cherry blossom parties being more interested in eating snacks than looking at the flowers. But as one commenter pointed out after seeing @wdche’s phots, this heron has gone a step beyond even that, dubbing its philosophy “Dumplings before flowers, but looking good on social media pics before either,” because really, there’s no wrong way to enjoy the cherry blossoms.

Source, images: Twitter/@wdche