Kyoto in summer: A special trip to Kifune shrine recharges the soul

New ticket includes a sightseeing train, shrine tour, and a meal to remember!

This summer, Central Japan Railway is inviting people to visit Kyoto with a special “Souda Kyoto Ikou” (“That’s right, Let’s go to Kyoto!”) campaign. The campaign includes a number of special “Kyo no Ryo Sagashi” (“Search for Cool in the Capital”) programs created in conjunction with local shrines and temples, which provide visitors with new ways to stay cool while sightseeing in the notoriously hot city, while also offering never-before-seen gifts and benefits.

One shrine taking part is the beautiful Kifune, which remains a top destination for travellers, and those who book a Kifune Souda Kyoto Ikou ticket will be treated like royalty, with all sorts of perks included. Our reporter Egawa Tasuku was able to try the experience for himself, and he says it made for one of his most memorable travel experiences he’s ever had, so let’s follow along and see what makes this daytrip to Kifune so special.

▼ The day starts at Demachiyanagi Station, where ticket-holders board a train north to Kifune on the Eizan Electric Railway line.

Egawa felt the sweat trickle down his neck as he waited for the train, as it had been hot and humid since the early hours of the morning. Just as he began to wonder if sightseeing in Kyoto during the heat of summer would be worth it, he became distracted by an approaching train, which looked unlike any other he’d ever seen before.

This was the Hiei train, the newest train on the line, which runs from Demachiyanagi to Yase-Hieizanguchi Station. Japan loves a good pun, and Hiei sounds similar to “hie”, which means “coldness” or …continue reading


Why does Japan actually like the super loud, constantly buzzing sound of cicadas?

For many people in Japan, there’s no more welcome sound than the incredibly loud whining buzz of the seasonal insects.

Japanese culture has a deep appreciation for the changing of the seasons. That’s why you’ll often hear people waxing poetic about koyo, the red leaves of autumn, yukimiburo, open-air hot springs surrounded by blankets of snow in winter, and sakura, the cherry blossoms that bloom each spring.

Oh, and of course, the mi-n mi-n of summer, referring to cries of the cicadas. Yes, the loud buzzing of the creepy-looking insects, which to the uninitiated can sound like the whine of electrical power lines, is music to the ears of many Japanese people.

▼ As proof, here’s a 90-minute video made up of pretty much nothing but cicada cries that has over four and a half million views.

So why does Japan have such a soft spot for cicada (or semi, as they’re called in Japanese) sounds? To get a better idea, I asked the members of our Japanese-language writing team.

Casey: “Hey, so I was wondering how everybody feels about the sound cicadas make.”

P.K. Sanjun: “I love it. Well, not so much the sound itself, but the way it makes me feel. It’s like, ‘Yep, summer is here!’”

Go Hatori: “Love it! Totally gets me into the season. If I don’t hear them, I start to get uneasy, like we’re going to miss out on having a proper summer.

Takahashi Harada: “Yeah, it’s part of the summer atmosphere, so I like it.”

Masanuki Sunakoma: “I love the cicada sounds! I like them so much that I wish they’d sing even more, even in the winter! I guess it’s because I like summer so much. Ah, but it kind of freaks me out when cicadas cling to my screen door, so I wish they’d stop doing …continue reading


Jujutsu Kaisen attraction with new storyline coming to Universal Studios Japan

Things won’t be getting off to a smooth start at Osaka Curse Technical High School.

There’s no clearer sign that an anime series has truly become part of the pop cultural zeitgeist in Japan than when it gets a Universal Studios Japan attraction. It happened for Demon Slayer, Sailor Moon, and Evangelion, and now it’s happening for Jujutsu Kaisen.

The Osaka theme park has announced that it’s developing Jujutsu Kaisen the Real 4-D, a theater show attraction featuring 3-D visuals and environmental effects such spraying water and shaking seats. Rather than retread an existing storyline from the franchise, Jujutsu Kaisen the Real 4-D will have an original plot, with the park describes with

“It has been decided that a new Curse Technical High School campus will open here in Osaka. You have been scouted by this new school and invited to attend the groundbreaking ceremony. According to the principal, Mr. Kuroishi, the purpose of the school is to train students to save people from harmful curses, which have been increasing in frequency in recent years.”

As you might suspect, though, the ceremony doesn’t go so smoothly, and an incident occurs that requires the supernaturally powered assistance of Jujutsu Kaisen protagonist Yuji and his friends to resolve.

Jujutsu Kaisen will also be making its presence felt on Universal Studios Japan’s flagship roller coaster, Hollywood Dream the Ride. Music always plays a big part in the riding experience, and the coaster’s cars will be playing the first opening theme of the Jujutsu Kaisen anime, Eve’s “Kaikai Kitan,” coinciding with the start of Jujutsu Kaisen the Real 4-D.

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Survey finds obesity rates fell, but eyesight worsened among Japanese schoolchildren

Don’t take P.E. for granted ever again, kids.

It’s safe to say life was far from normal in Japan during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic–including multiple “soft lockdowns” and nationwide school closures–and now we have the data to back that up. Without the mandatory P.E. classes, after school activities, recess, and more at Japanese schools, obesity rates among Japanese school students climbed sharply between the end of 2019 and throughout 2020.

But recent survey results show that this trend is reversing, and it’s more than likely due to more in-school time. According to an annual survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), obesity rates for year 6 elementary school students fell 0.4 points to 10.9 percent; year 3 junior high school students 0.6 points to 9 percent; and year 3 high school students dropped a full point to 9 percent.

The National Center for Child Development and Health (NHCCD) also suggest that food was a big part. Without school-provided meals in elementary schools and carefully-made bento lunchboxes in junior high and high school, kids were more prone to choosing snacks over nutritious foods during Japan’s “soft lockdowns”. But now that schools are running in-person and on schedule, students’ eating habits are easing back into the norm.

What hasn’t changed since the pandemic began in early 2020, unfortunately, is students’ worsening eyesight. In a survey that included over 3,330,000 students, results found that 36.7 percent of elementary school students had impaired vision, and that number jumped to 60.7 percent among junior high students–the worst it’s been since the 1970s.

Unsurprisingly, smartphone usage and other digital devices are speculated as some of the main contributors. Studies are to be conducted on the relationship between smartphone usage and students’ vision, so those will hopefully provide some proof.

Sources: Nikkei …continue reading


How do I maintain my teapot and matcha bowl?

Cleaning a Japanese teapot

Cleaning a Japanese teapot is easy. Fill it halfway with clean water, then shake the pot gently back and forth to get the leaves off the net. Then rinse with clean water. You only need to use dish soap about once in every 10 times you wash the teapot.

Teapot screen cleaning

Matcha bowl- a little matcha powder will cling to the bottom of your bowl so wash with the dish soap of your choice. Then rinse it thoroughly with purified water.

White Matcha Bowl

matcha whisking

To clean the whisk fill a bowl half-full of clean water and rotate the whisk. Or rotate it under the tap. Then rinse it gently with clean water.

After several uses, the bamboo will become stained green. This is normal, the whisk is still good. If you use a whisk twice a day, every day, your whisk should last 2 to 3 months.

Matcha Whisk

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Japanese photog’s stunning photo “captures” the Milky Way, as well as over 352,000 likes


“I captured the Milky Way.”

Such was the caption for a stunning photo in a Tweet that has garnered over 352,000 likes at the time of writing.

The contributor is ふぁれん Fahren (@fahrens_photo), a photographer whose photos of starry skies continue to delight followers on Twitter.

Take a look at the image which elicited comments such as “So beautiful…” and “Awesome! I think it’s a very nice composition”:


— ふぁれん (@fahrens_photo) July 6, 2022

Reproduced with permission from ふぁれん Fahren (@fahrens_photo)

It’s a truly beautiful and fantastic sight, as if a part of the starry sky had been cut out.

The location of the photo is the Hoshinomura Observatory in Tamura City, Fukushima Prefecture.

This image was created through 新星景写真 (shin seikei shasin | “new starscape photography”), a technique of image processing and compositing images of the starry sky taken while the camera is fixed on a tripod, etc.

Since the photo was published on July 6th, many people made comments alluding to the Star Festival, which takes place every year on July 7th. For example, one person commented: “I couldn’t see the starry sky in my area, so I’m glad I could enjoy the Milky Way by admiring this wonderful photo.”

There must be something special about the Milky Way that stays with us through time!

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Cold Brewing Japanese Green Tea

Cold brewing Japanese green tea start

Cold brewed green tea is slightly sweeter than iced green tea.

This brewing technique takes a little time. It provides a wonderful cold green tea and is suitable for the highest grade gyokuro and sencha.

It is not necessary to use a special teapot for preparation. A glass container will work just fine.

Use a ratio of one to two tablespoons of tea leaves per liter of water.
Place the tea leaves in the bottom of a large teapot or container.

Add water, cover the container, and place it in the refrigerator to steep. Let it steep in the refrigerator for about three hours.

Give the pot a gentle horizontal swirl or a stir before you drink it, since leaves may settle at the bottom during brewing.

Cold brewing Japanese green tea add leaves

cold brewing Japanese green tea steep

Cold Brewing Japanese Green Tea (Iced Method)

Cover tea leaves with quality ice from purified water. Let the tea melt at room temperature. It takes about 30 minutes to one hour.

cold brewing Japanese green tea add ice

Pour into a teacup or glass over ice. Enjoy a cold and delicious serving of green tea!

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Japanese Dress Code – What To Wear In Japan According To The Situation

Business dress codes in Japan for men

Japan is a country with its own unique way of dressing and interacting with others. On certain occasions, they have a strict dress code that visitors must follow to avoid any embarrassment or uncomfortable scenarios. Have a look at these helpful tips to ensure you look your best on your next visit to Japan.

Business Dress Codes in Japan

You want to dress appropriately to be taken seriously in the workplace and gain respect among your colleagues. When dressing in Japan, conservative and neutral tones are your safest dress code guides.

Business dress codes in Japan for men

Men conventionally wear dark suits, a shirt and tie, and slacks. Although some workplaces would socially accept loud colors and patterns, your safest bet would be sticking to solid and neutral colors. Don’t wear a black suit with a black tie as that is something you would wear to a funeral.

Japanese companies don’t allow Japanese men to have shaved hair or beards. Go for a short and clean haircut and shave your facial hair regularly.

Business dress codes in Japan for women

Business dress codes in Japan for women

Women’s business dress is constrained and formal. Women can wear a shirt, a cardigan, or a jacket with knee-length skirts or trousers for a more business casual look. On occasion, you should wear upmarket jewelry that doesn’t look flashy. Keep your hair tied back in an up-do, or brush it through nicely so your hair looks nice and clean.


Rain Coat Over Suit

In the winter, you can add …continue reading


Japanese convenience store switches from plastic spoons to edible spoons


Like most Japanese convenience stores, MINISTOP has quite the selection of hot treats, like cream cheese-stuffed fried chicken, but it’s really built up its fanbase with their seasonal offerings of their popular MINISOF soft-serve ice cream.

That ice cream is going to be down for getting an extra treat served with it now, as in an effort to reduce an estimated 47 tons of plastic waste per year, MINISTOP will be experimentally replacing the plastic spoons that come with its popular soft-serve ice cream with edible spoons.

MINISTOP has announced that it will experimentally change its soft serve ice cream spoons (whehther you order a cone or cup) from plastic to “edible spoons”–made from ice cream cones, so they seem a perfect fit for when you order a scoop.

The experiment with edible spoons first began in May 2022 at two directly operated stores in Chiba prefecture, and is now being expanded in Kyushu and Shikoku prefectures. MINISTOP hopes to continue the expanded areas while gathering feedback from customers and participating stores.

Related Article

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Three manga to learn kanji, katakana and old Japanese as recommended by a Japanese teacher


Good news for Japanese learners!

Kadokawa Corporation has published three new books about the Japanese language. The three books are part of the のびーる国語 nobīru kokugo (stretch your Japanese language skills) series, which is popular among elementary school students in Japan.

The books are for studying, but in manga style!

These are the recurring characters in this book series. Studying with them must be fun!

However, the series isn’t only good because of these these manga-style characters. The contents are inspected by elementary school teachers and professors, which enables readers to study enjoyably and effectively. Judging from the sample pictures in the press release, I’m sure that these books are very useful for Japanese learners at intermediate to advanced levels and even for professional translators.

As a writer who has a Japanese teacher certification, I’d like to introduce these books!

Kanji book

If you want to study kanji compounds, I strongly recommend this kanji book. The official title is 角川まんが学習シリーズ のびーる国語 使い分け漢字 同音異義語・反対語・類義語他 kadokawa manga gakushū shirīzu nobīru kokugo tsukaiwake kanji dō’on’igigo hantaigo ruigigo hoka, an approximate translation of which is “Kadokawa manga learning series – stretch your Japanese language skills: proper use of kanji, homonyms, antonyms, and synonyms, etc.”

If you have already started studying Japanese, you may know that many Japanese kanji compounds have the same pronunciation, but can express different meanings depending on the kanji used. With this book, you can make learning such very confusing kanji compounds fun!

Look at the sample above. This page explains the word kyōsō. There are two kinds of kanji compounds, 競走 (kyōsō) and 競争 (kyōsō).

競走 (kyōsō) means “to race and compete/compare speed over a certain distance.” It would be the compound to use if you want to say “Let’s see who can run 50 meters faster.” …continue reading