Kurumazaki shrine – a place where “Talents” pray for success

I woke up in a bit gloomy mood. I needed to go out for a few hours and take pictures, then I would be happy and in a good mood. 🙂 My husband advised me “Go to Arashiyama!!!!!”


In fact I had written a list with places I wanted to visit soon, 2 of them in Arashiyama. One was Kurumazaki shrine and the other, even less known, Tsukiyomi shrine. You may wonder why I wanted to go to places that even most Japanese haven’t heard of? Well, after almost 12 years here in Kyoto I had been to all famous places 2 to 10 times, I had taken thousands of pictures and really feel like finding something new, even if not famous. But actually I had found these 2 places had something really interesting! Unlike other shrines, where people write wishes on wooden boards, in Kurumazaki jinja and Tsukiyomi jinja the wishes are written on stones and placed there on a pile. I had found these almost by accident, when the after-New-Year-euphoria of the Japanese to buy fortune telling papers and write wishes embraced me too. I was googling images of these when I saw a photo of a pile of stones with written wishes. And after a few more key words search a got the names of the two shrines.


So first to go to was Kurumazaki shrine. To reach Kurumazaki shrine it is best to take the little train Randen (for me the best connection is Uzumasa Tenjin Gawa station – the last of Tozai Subway line) – just pop out from the exit and cross the street. I got off at Kurumazaki Jinja Station and it is just where the North entrance to the shrine’s grounds are. It wasn’t long ago when I was there, with a dear friend, but just passing in the dark and on my way back I ran as I heard the train approaching so didn’t want to miss it. But yesterday it was time to take pictures.


Kurumazaki shrine is comprised by a main and many other little shrines. There are many vermilion color torii and boards with names written on them and most of them are of people somehow related to arts and performances. Here is the place where the Japanese talents – singers, dancers, etc., also artists, actors and other entertainers come to pray for success in their career. However it is not limited to them. There were many people yesterday praying for health and good luck in the new year and eager to see what luck 2017 has prepared for them. Also this shrine is famous for car blessing ceremonies. I observed a shinto priest blessing a brand new high end Lexus – stopping at each side of the car and praying, waving oonusa (a wooden wand with zig-zag folded paper), and finally purifying the interior.



I also decided to buy omikuji – paper on which you can see if you got a good luck (could be big, normal or small) or bad luck (also has some gradation). In a box I dropped some coins (this shrine doesn’t specify the amount but asks people to put what their heart feels like) and then from a hexagon-shaped box with wooden sticks in it, after some shaking, I drew a stick with number 1. It was the luckiest draw! Great good luck. I miko girl (a kind of shinto maiden) approached me and explained in simple English that I was the luckiest and everything this year will be OK! 🙂 I kept the omikuji paper in my wallet. This is what you are supposed to do if you like it. In case of not sufficient luck or bad luck it is common to bind the paper on a wire on a special panel or on a branch of a tree or bush in the shrine, where rain will wash away the bad luck from it.

Then I saw a pile with wishing stones. And then one more. The stones came in different sizes, shapes, colors, messages were written on them with a black permanent marker. As much as I could understand one could buy a stone of their choice for 500yen, but I suppose some people brought their stones too, collected somewhere else.


I left the shrine with a Great good luck fortune, nice memories and good pictures. 🙂


I left the shrine with a Great good luck fortune, nice memories and good pictures. 🙂



Who is Kumamon? How to say different animals in Japanese

Kuma is the Japanese word for bear. These days one name has been mentioned often – Kumamoto. Kumamoto city and Kumamoto castle. You know, Kyushu, one of the big 4 islands of Japan, has experienced a series of strong earthquakes, followed by hundreds of aftershocks.  There are victims and huge damages to the buildings and the infrastructure.

Kumamon. If you have been browsing the news about this disaster I am pretty sure you have seen one cute black bear with round red cheeks. This is Kumamon – the emblematic mascot of Kumamoto prefecture. And for sure one of the most favorite in whole Japan.

I decided this time to make a non-picture post – a list of the Japanese names of the animals (well, as many as I know myself so far!). I have received once compliments for knowing so many, but let me explain – working as a teacher in a Japanese nursery inevitably brings this knowledge to you! Kids know them all at very young age! Kids love animals, don’t they! 🙂

So if you want to know how to say some animal in Japanese, here they are:

Animals – doubutsu (literally “thing/creature in motion”)

Forest animals:

bear – kuma     wolf – ookami     fox – kitsune   rabbit – usagi    hedgehog – harinezumi Japanese racoon – tanuki   snake – hebi   lizard – tokage    squirrel – risu   deer – shika (go in Nara and you’ll see hundreds of shika!)   reindeer – tonakai (usually mentioned just around Christmas)   monkey – saru (they do have wild monkeys in Japan, even there’s a popular monkey park in Kyoto!)    bird – tori    wild boar – inoshishi     Japanese pit viper (a kind of forest snake) – mamushi and another poisonous snake in Okinawa – habu    bat – koumori 

Animals seen in the zoo (well, this is for Japan):

lion – rayon   tiger – tora   puma – pyuuma   cheetah – chiitaa    giraffe – kirin   zebra – shimauma   polar bear – shirokuma (literally means white bear)   kangaroo – kangaru   elephant – zou (actually sounds like dzoo)   koala – koara   penguin – pengin    hippopotamus – kaba   crocodile, alligator  – wani    gorilla – gorira   chimpanzee – chimpanjii    panda – panda   camel – rakuda   flamingo – furamingo   ostrich – dachoo  rhinoceros – sai   racoon – araiguma

Farm animals:

horse – uma   sheep – hitsuji   goat – yagi   pig – buta   duck – ahiru   hen, chicken – ahiru   cow – ushi   chick – hiyoko  donkey – roba


dog – inu   cat – neko    goldfish – kingyo   hamster – hamustaa    mouse – nezumi

Water animals (lakes and sea): 

koi –Japanese carp (you have seen these awesome colorful carps in the Japanese garden ponds)  fish – sakana   turtle (also tortoise) – kame   whale – kujira   shark – same   sea urchin – uni   eel – unagi   octopus – tako   squid – ika   shrimp – ebi   jellyfish – kurage   crab – kani    frog – kaeru  dolphin – iruka   seal – azarashi

Insects: (generally they are all mushi including some tiny molluscs)

ant – ari   butterfly – choochoo   mosquito – ka   cockroach – kokiburi (sometimes gokiburi)   fly – mushi   caterpillar – aomushi   cicada – semi   grashopper – batta   preying mantice – kamakiri   dragonfly – tombo   ladybug – tentoomushi     spider (I know it’s not an insect, but it always stays near them!) – kumo    snail – katatsumuri (I mentioned it is put in the “mushi” group)    rhinocerus beetle –  kabutomushi   firefly – hotaru  bee – hachi   cricket – koorogi   wasp – mitsubachi    roly poly bug – dangomushi   Japanese poisonus centipede  – mukade (really dangerous, its bite is painful and immediate hospitalization in necessary!)

Some birds:

The most famous Japanese crane – tsuru (they nicknamed the biggest castle Himeji like that)   sparrow – suzume   dove, pigeon – hato     crow, raven – karasu   seagul – kamome   heron – sagi    Japanese white eye – mejiro   kingfisher – kawasemi    eagle – washi  owl – fukuroo  wild duck – kamo


dinosaur – kyooryuu    mysterous mythical creature living in ponds and has a …tiny plate on its head – kappa

DONE! 100! Phew!!!

And I want to mention Kuma – bear again. Because of Kumamoto.

While people there are struggling to survive in temporary shelters and rescue teams are looking for miracle survivors in the collapsed buildings, campaigns for support and donations have started. If you live in Japan the easiest way to donate is …buying the delicious vegetables produced in Kumamoto. You can easily recognize them in the shops when you see Kumamon – the smiling black bear, the official mascot of Kumamoto.

Ganbatte, Kumamoto!

Sharing a beautiful art devoted to this current disaster and the hope we have in Kumamoto!


The snow last year when Kyoto was a winter wonderland (January 1st, 2015)

This winter it hasn’t snowed yet, maybe tonight it will! I still have great memories from last winter’s snowy days. Here is what was on January 1st!

It started snowing at around 2pm. I know that Kyoto rarely has snow and it doesn’t stay for long. So I took the decision – go to the North – to Kurama dera.

With Keihan train I went to Demachiyanagi station and from there I took Eizan train, Kurama line.  It was snowing heavily and it was turning into a storm. But it was beautiful. First scenes:

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The approach to the temple was a bit slippery. It was also cold, but it was one of those rare cases I didn’t care. When I came closer to the stairs and the first gate of the temple I saw amazing scenes.

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In summer time I had climbed all the way up on foot. But this time I decided to be careful and stay safe, so I took the funicular line. DSC_0078 (2) copyDSC_0080

And then my adventure in the snowy afternoon started. Red lanterns, buildings, stairs, roofs covered with snow, white path, snow falling from the trees.

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The main building of the temple is reached after walking a few hundreds meters and climbing some stairs.


The main building was welcoming the few visitors with a bonfire. It was quiet and I had the feeling the time had stopped.

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The snow kept falling and it started getting darker. I decided to go down because walking was getting more difficult and I didn’t want to risk getting lost.

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Arriving at Demachiyanagi I saw so much snow there too! The bicycles were covered with more than 15 cm of snow, the roads were all white. And the quietness…


On my way home I couldn’t resist visiting Shirakawa area near Shijo. It was fantastic!

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A lucky autumn walk

Today my husband and I went on a walk in our neighborhood to see some autumn leaves for free – I knew 2 places to visit where there is no fee: Hinotanjoin temple which is behing Hokaiji (this one is paid) and 15 min away from them on foot Kongooin temple. I had visited all those three before but now I wanted to see the maples and ginko trees around them.

What happened! Arriving at 日野誕生院, Hinotanjoin, we saw a reception desk and we thought they will ask us to pay…However we were told today is a special day for visiting and only people with some special pass can enter…Oh, what a disappointment!

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But then 2 women coming behind us suddenly pushed 2 passes in our hands and said: “Use them, you can enter! It’s OK!” 🙂 So we did! 🙂 While listening to the volunteer’s guide explanations in the temple’s hall but understanding almost nothing I saw that the pass includes 3 temples. It was a special event for this weekend only – promoting some culture and Buddhism things. The ladies said that their 2 friends had cancelled their trip in the last moment and they had these 2 passes and felt bad they will not be used. Giving them to us made us happy, maybe them even happier 🙂

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Autumn trees outside of Hinotanjoin

So we could go to 法界寺, Hokaiji too – for free, which has a big statue of Buddha, similar to the one in the famous Byodoin temple in Uji, and one more temple, 恵福寺, Eifukuji, with new building but keeping some old statues. And then we finished the walk with 金剛王院, Kongoin. It was a nice walk there and there were pretty good autumn colors to enjoy!

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Autumn in Hokaiji’s garden
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Picturesque autumn view in the grounds of Kongoin

The rickshaws and their men

Kyoto is well known for it magnificent temples and shrines, colorful souvenir shops, exquisite restaurants, crafts and traditions, mysterious maiko and geiko and the loveliest cherry blossoms and autumn leaves but there is one more attraction which will definitely make you turn your heads and try to take pictures.

The rickshaws (in Japanese “jinriksha”) are lovely carts for a person or two pulled by young and very fit men, wearing a distinctive uniform. Their energy and power is surprising. They will meet you with a little pamphlet, offer you a ride and if you decide to try, they will offer you kindly a little wooden step, help you get on, make sure if you have sat comfortably, cover your legs with a blanket if it’s cold and your little journey on 2 wheels will start!

It won’t be simply a ride! Your rickshaw driver will take you to a few famous spots, stop to take pictures of you and will guide you and tell you stories that a few know. I don’t know if they all speak English but there are some for sure.

There are 3 areas where you can enjoy the rickshaw drive or simply go to photograph the rickshaws.

The most popular is Arashiyama. It is famous for its beautiful valley, wide river, the famous Togetsu bridge, variety of shops and traditional restaurants and a number of nice temples, truck train and Monkeys park. The rickshaws are waiting on both sides of Togetsukyo – “moon crossing” bridge. A ride costs 2000y for 1 person and 3000y for 2.

Another area for rickshaw rides is Higashiyama, near Gion – the Geiko and Maiko ditrict in the heart of Kyoto city. You can find them in Maruyama park (go up Yasaka shrine from Shijo street). The ride will take you along the “old Kyoto” streets of Higashiyama, giving you the chance to get pictures with a wonderful traditional Japanese background. You can even add more spice if you dress in a kimono in one of the rental kimono shops in the area.

And the third area to get a wheeled trip – Heyan shrine area. Just between the huge red torii gate and the entrance gate to the outer grounds of the shrine you’ll see a few rickshaws parked and their “masters” waiting for customers. Those rickshaws are popular for the “just married” as Heyan shrine is one of the renowned shrines for traditional weddings. Almost any time you go to visit the shrine you will see at least one couple in wedding kimonos getting married and being taken pictures, followed by a long ceremony of shrine priests, miko girls (shrine maidens) and happy relatives.

I personally have never got a ride but I do enjoy taking pictures of these guys and their beautiful vehicles!

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Rainy day – Visiting Seiryoji in Arashiyama

Everyone knows Togetsu bridge in Arashiyama, but not everyone walks far North along the street as the main attractions are just right after the bridge. But if you take a 1.2km walk you’ll get to Seiryoji temple. I have never entered the building and visited its garden (until recently I didn’t even know that it exists) but in the autumn it is one place to go and see some good autumn colors for free.

I was in Arashiyama today and decided to see how the autumn leaves are in Seiryoji. Well, this autumn seems to be not the best one – it has been warm recently which didn’t allow the maple leaves to turn red or yellow quickly and keep fresh. Instead they have dried and crooked and have turned brown.

Well, it is not that bad though. The autumn can be felt 🙂

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A Tiny World Made in Japan

On October 25th I went with a friend photographer to the last day of the festival in Kameoka city. He guided me as he had gone the previous day and had seen many interesting little shops and houses in the streets of the town. And at one place while we were waiting for the ceremony we entered a little house which had exhibited mini models of items from the daily life of the Japanese and some other cute dolls.

На 25ти октомври ходихме с приятел фотограф в град Камеока до Киото за последния ден от местния фестивал. Той ме водеше, защото предишния ден беше ходил и видял много интересни малки магазинчета и къщи по улиците на града. На едно място, докато чакахме церемонията, влязохме в една малка къща, в която бяха изложени миниатюрни модели на вещи от ежедневието на японците, както и симпатични куклички.

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A visit to Nishijin textile center in Kyoto

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There is such a nice place to see and touch the famous Japanese fabric used for kimonos and the other elements of the traditional clothes of the Japanese. Nishijin textile center is located a block away from the Northwest corner of Kyoto Imperial palace park. It is free to enter, on the second floor there is a shop with a huge variety of special souvenirs and other items, that would bring the spirit of Japan to your home or to somebody you want to make a present for.

I bought a little chrimen cloth poach for my earphones. My previous is from there too, but getting old.
I bought a little chrimen cloth poach for my earphones. My previous is from there too, but getting old.

A bonus for the visitors are the regular kimono reviews, a few every day. Beautiful Japanese women will walk on a stage dressed in different types of kimono – from simple and very formal ones to bright and colorful for young women. Here are some pictures!

This is my favorite model! She is so pretty! And the kimono is a perfect match, don’t you think so too?

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A Japanese beauty!

Preparation for the Festival in Otsu

DSC_0151 (2) copyI have been to Otsu matsuri twice but always on the second day. It is always held  on the second weekend of October. Saturday is the day when the Hikiyama (the floats) are prepared and decorated and the young men and children practice the festival music, called Ohayashi. On Sunday the hikiyama are pulled along the streets and it very much reminds Gion matsuri in Kyoto, but is much less crowded, much easier to see and enjoy as people can just walk along with the floats, try to catch chimaki (talismans made of straw to protect one’s house when put above the entrance) and festive towels, see the performers and even talk to the people pulling the floats. They are very friendly, quite drunk, especially on the second day and like to chat with the foreigners.

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DSC_0123 copyToday I went to see the preparation phase on Saturday. The hikiyama were at a few streets, mostly on Nakamachidori street. Red lanterns were hanging above the streets and some of the decorations were exposed in rooms open to the street so people could see them from close distance.  Many people were coming to see the floats and take pictures, the local people, who sponsor the festival were hanging flags and paper lanterns on their houses, shops were offering lots of food and souvenirs, the music could be heard here and there. It was very cheerful and I am sure that the rain expected tonight and tomorrow early morning will not affect the mood of the people at all! And of course – there were many photographers there too! 🙂

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Kinmokusei – The golden sweet smell of the autumn

The most pleasant sweet aroma of kinmokusei Osmanthus fragrans attacked me today in intensive waves as I was riding in Uji. The smell was everywhere and I was looking to see the first blossoms. This is the smell of the beginning of the autumn in Japan. And I found bushes already blooming. They are pale orange and very tiny but smell like heaven! And for the very first time I saw a pale pink one! Really rare!!!

And here some better pictures from previous years. Just to say – There is a perfume with a very similar scent – Flora by Gucci. I have bought it twice, as I like it so much!