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Kitty Japanese garden - Hello Kitty greeting the customers

Kitty Japanese garden – Hello Kitty greeting the customers

Kyoto is not all austere temples and shrines of historic importance. Japan’s pop-culture is part and parcel of it all. One of its outgrowths are character cafes. In Kyoto’s old town, there is a traditionally styled tea house, with a small Japanese garden to look at, and macha on the menu. The only difference to its many cousins is that it’s a Hello Kitty Cafe, where everything is Kitty-themed down to the smallest detail. And if you’re feeling lonely, you can sit next to a life-size Hello Kitty plushie.
Styled to the last detail

Styled to the last detail

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Visit to Uji

Torii leading to Ujikami Shrine

Torii leading to Ujikami Shrine

In the spirit of exploring the region beyond Kyoto, we dedicated half a day to visiting the nearby town of Uji, reachable in a little more than half an hour from Kyoto by local train. One could have easily spent an entire day there, but among work commitments, muggy weather and two little kids in tow, we opted to just go for the two UNESCO World Heritage sites: Ujikami Jinja and Byodoin.
Phoenix Hall of Byodoin

Phoenix Hall of Byodoin

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Hikone-Castle-Main-Keep-Reffert Staying for once for longer in the Kansai region, we were able to venture beyond Kyoto in our explorations. The town of Hikone, located on the shores of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake, is reachable from Kyoto in one hour by train, making it an easy day trip. Hikone Castle counts as one of the three best castles of Japan (after Himeji and Matsumoto).

View of Hikone Castle across Genkyu-en

View of Hikone Castle across Genkyu-en

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Revisiting Kinkakuji

Kyoto-Kinkakuji-Reffert While there are many places worth seeing that we have not yet visited in Kyoto, there are others we keep coming back to, like Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. This time, arriving at opening time did not work in our favor, as about 10 school classes did the same. Kinkakuji presented itself sparkling in a ray of sunlight before a backdrop of moody clouds.

Back in Kyoto

Man in traditional robe holding up a red paper umbrella at Yasaka Jinja in Kyoto
We are back in Japan! This time, we are spending most of our time in Kyoto, where a workshop is going on at the university. More updates coming soon!

The Little Things

Japanese-Pudding-Reffert It’s the little things in Japan that make such a difference. That make you feel that people here actually think about what they are doing. I’ve already praised the Japanese attention to detail before. But every time I go back to Japan, I notice it again. It starts at Narita Airport, where there is an employee who turns the suitcases on the conveyor belt so that the handles face outward and people can grab them easily.
Another instance that really brought this home to me was buying a pudding at a convenience store. As I didn’t get a bag, I expected to awkwardly balance/grab at the spoon that came with it, trying not to drop it. But no! They used the bit of tape that marks the fact that I paid for the pudding to actually glue the spoon to the package. Such a small thing to do, and so convenient for the customer.

Things Japanese XXIX

Strawberry Shortcake The Japanese have a love for strawberry shortcake. And for sweets that are lovely to look at in general. Just go to any of the fancy shops on the food floor of a department store, and you can feast your eyes. This is not so very surprising. What is suprising, at least to me, is that in Japan, you can pick up a beautiful looking piece of cake at the convenience store. Convenience store food in other countries is known to be strictly for emergencies or desperate students. You don’t expect it to be very tasty, let alone pretty. Not so in Japan. For less than 300Y, this pretty little cake, carefully packaged to preserve its shape, can be yours. Just stop at the Combini at the corner.

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