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

Wild boars tear up Kyoto neighborhood, injure five, flee after 10-minute battle with carpenter

These not-so-little piggies went “wee, wee, wee” all the way on a bloody path of destruction.

On a tranquil Saturday morning at about 11:25 a.m. two wild boars described as a parent and child appeared in the Honmachi area of Higashiyama Ward in Kyoto City. It’s not clear what initially set off the animals, but as we shall soon see: Once you get a wild boar agitated, there isn’t much you can do to stop it.

At this time, a call came into the Kyoto Prefectural Police that a “high school girl was rammed by a wild boar.” According to witnesses, the larger boar was about one meter (three feet) long.

The attack prompted a small panic in the streets and sent the boars running for cover at a nearby elderly care facility, where they rammed into the front door, puncturing it.

In an effort to protect their residents, two staff members, a 43-year-old man and 35-year-old woman, attempted to contain the animals. However, the beasts proved too strong and ran back towards the street after leaving the workers with bites and scrapes to their legs.

▼ A news report showing the damage and blood stains of the elderly facility attack

Next, the boars encountered an 81-year-old resident and rushed her. As a result, she fell down and received several injuries including a fractured right wrist. A nearby 71-year-old retired police officer gallantly tried to intervene and subdue one of the boars by putting it in a headlock. It was a noble but futile effort though, as the animal wrestled free, leaving the man with bites and scratches to his arms and legs.

By this time, a party of four men was assembled to do battle with the boars once and for all. According to one warrior, an unnamed carpenter in his 50s: “I fought the wild boar for about 10 minutes with a two-by-four, but it didn’t give an inch. It was scary.”

Despite much of the incident taking place near popular sightseeing spot Tokufu Temple, no one managed to record the incident on video. Luckily, we managed to track down an accurate reenactment of the final battle.

In the real event, the boars fled the scene and returned to the mountains, thus depriving the men of a possible Stout Bone or Beast Tears. In their wake the five victims mentioned above were sent to hospital for a range of injuries.

According to the locals, boars are known to pop up in town from time to time during the early spring to snack on the bamboo that grows around there.

So, if you happen to be visiting Kyoto during this season and spot a boar, make sure not to do anything to set them off. By “anything” I mean make eye contact, move suddenly, make loud sounds, um, breathe… Pretty much anything will piss them off, and since Epitaph Blades are banned in Japan, your chances for victory are slim.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun, Otakomu
Top image: Wikipedia/Show_ryu

Sweet Japanese spring is in full bloom at Kyoto confectioner Gion Tsujiri!

Colorful spring creations from Kyoto green tea confectioner are not only sweet to taste but a delight to behold!

It may not quite yet be cherry blossom season in Japan, but it certainly looks like spring has arrived at Japanese tea and confection specialty store Gion Tsujiri. The 158 year-old Kyot0-based confectioner, known for their unique tea-themed sweets (and even beauty products), have just released a new line of mouth-watering seasonal spring treats. Let’s take a look at their eye-popping new offerings:

● Nene Float (780 yen [US$7.34])

This matcha-based dessert beverage features green tea topped with soft serve matcha ice cream and sprinkled with small colorful rice crackers known as “bubu” crackers in Kyoto. The treat is completed with a serving of dango dumplings in three colors and a dollop of red bean paste. The limited edition item is available at the Gion Tsujiri group’s Saryo Tujiri Kōdai-ji location.

● Spring-colored Soft Serve Ice Cream (Haruiro Soft) (650 yen)

This beautiful offering in delicate pastel colors is made with Gion Tsujiri’s popular matcha soft serve ice cream covered in a generous serving of sakura-flavored whipped cream, all topped with colorful dainty konpeito sugar crystals, green tea-flavored castella sponge cake, and a lovely pink-colored cracker with Gion Tsujiri’s logo printed on it. The tempting sweet is available at Gion Tsujiri’s main branch in Gion.

● Sakura Soft Serve Ice Cream (470 yen) and Condensed Milk Sakura Soft Serve Ice Cream (520 yen)

Who doesn’ love the cold sweetness of soft serve ice cream? This season, Gion Tsujiri is serving up the treat in a simple sakura flavor or with a serving of condensed milk and matcha green tea cream poured on top of it. The brightly colored ice cream is available at the Gion main branch and Kyoto Station Hachijo Exit branch.

So, do the new items make you hungry for sweets? All three offerings are now on sale but for a limited time only, with no announcement on how long they’ll be available, so you’ll want to check them out sooner than later if you’re in Kyoto and looking for a taste of Japanese spring!

Related: Gion Tsujiri website
Source, images: PR Times

Japanese youths anger police by sitting at kotatsu table at busy Kyoto intersection【Video】

Locals say it’s all part of a Kyoto University tradition.

While most people in Japan don’t like to be the “nail that stands out“, seeing as it inevitably gets nailed down, when you’re young and carefree, it can be tempting to test the boundaries and toe the line of what’s considered acceptable in society.

For those straddling the gap between high school and working life, especially in an environment like the one at Kyoto University, where graduates regularly dress in cosplay for their graduation ceremonies, crazy stunts can be a last hurrah before joining the workforce and transitioning from the senior role of easygoing sempai to overtime-working, bottom-of-the-rung office junior, or kohai.

▼ Kyoto University students get dressed up for their graduation ceremony.

As the March graduation season closes in upon us, locals in Kyoto are preparing themselves for unusual scenes around the city’s university, but they certainly weren’t prepared for what they saw at the nearby Hyakumanban intersection late last month.

▼ The intersection is located at one end of Kyoto University.

According to reports, a group of youths decided to sit themselves down in the middle of the busy crossing, and to add to the spectacle, they brought with them a kotatsu, a low, heated table commonly used inside Japanese homes. Sitting cross-legged around the kotatsu, which was unheated at the time, seeing as it wasn’t plugged in to an electrical outlet, the youths caused a scene that attracted the attention of bystanders and annoyed drivers who were forced to manoeuvre their vehicles around them.

▼ This video, filmed by a bystander, shows the scene as it took place.

Witnesses say the young men and women in the group, some of whom were wearing hard hats, also had a nabe hot pot with them, another item commonly used by families eating dinner indoors while seated at the kotatsu.

▼ The kotatsu, before it was taken out to the middle of the road.

The group sat down around the table at the intersection and refused to budge, despite the constant traffic moving around them.

▼ After about ten minutes, police arrived at the scene, scolding the group for their behaviour, and forcing them to pack up and leave.

Witnesses say the young men and women headed towards the direction of Kyoto University after the incident, suggesting the members of the group were students there. Local police say they want this type of life-threatening dangerous behaviour stopped, and are currently investigating whether Kyoto University students were actually involved.

While the group’s motivation, and their speech through the loudspeaker, remains unclear, locals say students have been setting up kotatsu tables on roads within the university grounds for many years. It seems that this unusual tradition is now being taken outside for public display, and the following night, a couple of youths were seen recreating the events of the previous day at the same spot, despite warnings from police.

Kyoto Prefectural Police have now stepped in to express their anger at the incidents and are looking to press charges if traffic laws are found to have been violated, saying the actions of these people could have caused a serious accident.

With the university’s graduation ceremony coming up in the next couple of weeks, let’s hope the students stay safe and keep their traffic-stopping cosplay on the grounds of the campus and away from drivers on the roads. After all, nobody wants to see a giant salmon head go rolling.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun via My Game News Flash
Featured image: Twitter/@Minami5003 

This beautiful Kyoto dry landscape garden…is part of a Starbucks?!?【Photos】

The coffeehouse carries on Japanese traditions in Uji, the country’s most famous tea-growing town.

With so many sites of historical significance in Kyoto, it can be tempting to try to stuff as many into your sightseeing itinerary as possible. But many would argue that to truly experience the allure of Japan’s ancient capital, the best thing to do is slow down. Find a beautiful garden, take a seat next to it, and spend a few moments, or many even, contemplating its beauty and design, perhaps while sipping a soothing beverage.

We recently found a lovely little garden in Kyoto’s Uji, and although it’s less than a minute’s walk from Byodoin Temple (famously depicted on the back of the 10-yen coin), this dry landscape isn’t on the grounds of a Buddhist or Shinto enclave. And while Uji is renowned for its production of matcha, the garden’s proprietors will just as happily serve you a cup of coffee as one of tea, since its part of the local Starbucks.

This branch of the coffeehouse is located along Byodoin’s sando, the promenade that leads into a temple or shrine. For centuries, sando across Japan have been lined with shops and vendors selling refreshments to footsore or thirsty travelers, a tradition that Starbucks is happy to carry on.

In order to blend in with the preexisting surroundings, Starbucks’ building makes use of a wooden exterior, and while the chain is popular enough to fill up locations with multiple floors of seats, this branch has just one story, so as not to stick out and overwhelm the scenery.

Large glass windows mean that even if you’re seated inside, you’ll have a view of the garden. We say the best thing to do, though, is to take you drink outside and sit along the nokoshita, an aspect of traditional Japanese architecture Starbucks incorporated into the design with an outdoor seating area beneath the outstretched eaves of the roof.

When we visited, the garden’s plum blossoms, a winter favorite of flower lovers in Japan, were starting to open, but this is someplace we could see ourselves happily spending time during any season of the year.

Cafe information
Starbucks Coffee (Kyoto Uji Byodoin Sando Branch) / スターバックス コーヒー(京都宇治平等院表参道店)
Address: Kyoto-fu, Uji-shi, Ujirenge 21-18
京都府宇治市宇治蓮華21の18
Open 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Website

Photos ©SoraNews24

Kyoto-made green tea-infused coffee combines Japan’s two favorite relaxing beverages

Why choose between coffee and Japanese green tea when you can have both in one cup?

Coffee and green tea fill similar roles in Japan. They’re both drunk as morning eye-openers, excuses for mid-workday breaks, and to cap off satisfying meals.

So it’s usually an either/or sort of question as to which to drink. Unless, that is, you’re talking about the hybrid beverages from Nagi Kyoto.

Nagi Kyoto takes green tea leaves from Kyoto’s Uji, one of Japan’s most respected tea-growing communities, and grinds them together with internationally-sourced coffee beans roasted in Kyoto’s Nishijin district. When brewed, the mixture combines the qualities of coffee and tea for a uniquely satisfying blend.

Four varieties are offered, starting with Houji, a relaxing and fragrant mix of hojicha (roasted green tea) and medium-roasted coffee. Sen combines sencha, an early-harvest, comparatively sweet variety of green tea, with a tart, light-roasted coffee.

Ban is a fusion of late-harvest bancha tea leaves and coarse-ground coffee. Finally, Mugi blends decaffeinated coffee with mugicha (barley tea) from Kochi Prefecture (the only non-Kyoto tea in Nagi Kyoto’s lineup).

Nagi Kyoto sells its wares through its online store here, with prices starting at 250 yen (US$2.30) for non-organic drip bags and topping out at 1,700 yen for 100-gram (3.5-ounce) bags of bean/leaf mixes that use organic tea. If you’d prefer to have someone brew them for you, Chiba Prefecture’s Hotel Nikko Narita will be offering the Houji and Sen blends in its lobby-area coffee lounge (500 yen for short sizes, 600 yen for a tall) from March 1 to April 30, which should make for a great way to relax and refresh yourself after a visit to Narita’s beautiful temple and garden complex, or on your way to or from Narita Airport.

Related: Hotel Nikko Narita
Source: PR Times
Top image: PR Times
Insert images: Nagi Kyoto
[ Read in Japanese ]

129-year-old photo of Nintendo headquarters shows company hasn’t always been run from a gray box

The oldest known photograph of the video game company’s offices is pure Kyoto.

Nintendo is an innovative technology company based in Kyoto, Japan’s former capital and continuing center of traditional culture. With that combination, you might expect the video game giant’s headquarters building to be a beautiful mix of modern and classic elements, combining the sensibilities of its industry and hometown as seamlessly as its products appeal to both veteran adult gamers and young kids who’ve never held a controller.

And yet, the present-day Nintendo building (pictured above) is just a gray concrete block with the company name, also in gray at the corners, and square, recessed windows placed in an unchanging grid layout. Visually, it’s as drab as drab can be, but 129 years ago, Nintendo’s headquarters looked a lot more stylish, at least to our modern eyes, as evidenced by the earliest known photo of the Nintendo building.

The photo was tweeted by French video game historian Florent Gorges‏ from publisher Omake Books, and can also be found here on Japanese historical preservation website Meiji 150 Kyoto no Kiseki. Shot in 1889, the photo shows a long, low building with the lattice-like wooden exterior walls characteristic of Kyoto architecture. Look up from where the bicycle is parked, and at the top of the sign, where the image begins to fade, you can make out the English text “Marufuku Nintendo Card Co.,” referencing Nintendo’s first-ever product: hanafuda playing cards.

In addition the bottom row of text on the same sign reads, when read from right to left, “Yamauchi Nintendo” (堂天任内山), referring to company founder Fusajiro Yamauchi, and the Japanese word for playing cards, karuta (written right to left as たるか) can be seen on both the sign above the bike and the one made of darker wood above the building’s entrance.

If that looks like a luxuriously large building for a newly formed company, it’s worth noting that Yamauchi was the adopted son of Naonana Yamauchi, the owner of concrete and limestone supplier Haiko Honten, which was the building’s original occupant. Fusajiro continued to run Haiko Honten concurrently with Nintendo after taking over the concrete supplier from his adoptive father, and while the two companies officially cut ties with one another in 1927, a look at Haiko Honten’s list of past projects on its website reveals that in addition to the Kyoto Aquarium and Kyoto University Hospital, the company was also involved in the construction of…

the current Nintendo building, as shown on the far right in the above image.

As for what’s standing on the site of Nintendo’s first headquarters today, Gorges reveals that it’s now the site of yet another Nintendo headquarters, which was built in 1933 and is now preserved for posterity.

And as dull as Nintendo’s offices may look today, it’s worth pointing out that by 1889 standards, its original building was pretty run-of-the-mill in terms of appearance. So should you happen to make a pilgrimage to Nintendo HQ during your trip to Kyoto, whip out your camera and snap away, because maybe that dull gray box will look awesome to people a century from now.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News/IGN Japan via Kinisoku, Meiji 150 Kyoto no Kiseki, Haiko Honten (1, 2)
Top image: Wikipedia/Gnash
Insert image: Haiko Honten