Category Archives: Kyoto

The Lake Biwa Canal Cruise from Kyoto to Otsu

Source: deep kyoto

Here’s a special guest post from our friend, Edward J. Taylor.

As part of the sesquicentennial celebration of the Meiji Restoration, Kyoto has a calendar packed with events that expound upon the city’s role during that time of great social upheaval. Though the Restoration is considered by many to be a relatively bloodless end to the 268-year feudal Edo Period, Kyoto did indeed suffer, having served as host for most of the violence. The deepest wound of all was the Emperor’s decision to move his court to the new capital, newly dubbed Tokyo.

While most of the events are Japanese language lectures or historic walks, the special Lake Biwa Canal Cruise can be enjoyed by anyone. The springtime cruises proved quite popular, and during the months of October and November the boat trips will once again run each week from Thursday to Monday, with five daily departures downriver, and four up.

Bringing water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto had been a goal of the Edo period government, but it wasn’t until the introduction of western technology at the dawn of the Meiji period that it could be realized. As this influx of western ideas was accompanied by the loss of Kyoto’s 1,100-year old imperial court, Kyoto mayor Kitagaki Kunimachi signed off on the massive project as a means of boosting morale and mustering the energies of local labor. Most incredibly, the project was entrusted to a 21-year old Bachelor of Engineering, Tanabe Sakuro. The construction lasted for five years, from 1885 to 1890, at a cost that was greater than Japan’s national budget at the time.

The entire canal system is composed of features that spotlight the best of Meiji era engineering and technology. Those who know Kyoto may be familiar with the somewhat incongruous aqueduct …continue reading

    

Visiting Kyoto’s Tech Hubs

Source: deep kyoto

A special guest post by Neil Buckland.

Japan has had a long history associated with electronics, technology and futuristic designs. Think of Tokyo and it’s all bright lights, dazzling street screens and robots that often spring to mind. Yet in the past couple of decades the rise of Silicon Valley seems to have taken a lot of the technology focus away.

Instead, the likes of Fukuoka, Tokyo’s Shibuya district and Kyoto have all been vying to be Japan’s version of Silicon Valley. We took a trip around the old Japanese capital’s tech hubs to see what’s on offer and if it could really compete.

Kyoto Research Park

Kyoto Research Park

Established in 1989, Kyoto Research Park (KRP) is an innovation hub that has grown massively in its near 30-year existence. It was the first privately operated research park to open in Japan, with the aim of forming a base for new business creation and the collaboration between different industries, academia and government to drive innovation. A lot of this is technology based, with the KRP currently home to 420 tenant companies in ICT, biotech, electronics, machinery and other sectors.

Walking around KRP, it looks pretty much like you’d imagine for an innovative Japanese business park. It has clearly grown since it was first introduced and there are now a variety of block buildings with large glass windows, dark grey bricks and revolving doors. From the road the façade looks like a cross between a block of flats and an office environment, with trees and bits of greenery dotted around.

It’s inside the KRP where the magic happens though, where two main services are offered to these innovators. There’s the provision of a safe and pleasant environment for tenants and visitors, alongside support services such as new business creation activities to help tech start-ups grow …continue reading

    

Strolling in Kyoto: Takeyacho & Ebisucho

Source: deep kyoto

This month Edward J. Taylor continues his ongoing exploration of Deep Kyoto’s streets by strolling not one but two: Takeyacho and Ebisucho.

The whisk of brooms has replaced the wail of sirens. Typhoon Jebi had roared through the day before, supposedly the strongest storm to hit Japan in 25 years. I could certainly believe it, the way that my old wooden house shook as if in fear. As I bicycled downtown to begin this walk today, I noticed large piles of branches and leaves in the wooden grounds of the temples and shrines along the way. The Imperial Palace grounds too had taken a pretty big hit, debris strewn haphazardly across the gravel seen through the gate.

Shortly after the storm passed, my neighbors were out to assess the damage, and to right things that had blown over. And this morning was a symphony of brooms, the entire neighborhood in a coordinated waltz. Many of the brooms were made of bamboo, in keeping with a centuries-old tradition. The bamboo industry in Kyoto had always been centered around the eponymous Takeyamachi, where dozens of shops served both the Imperial Palace and the shogunal administrators at Nijō-jo. I had long wondered how many of the old shops remained, so set off as the remnants of yesterday’s winds continued their own dance.

I start at Teramachi and walk west. The street is not a long one, and there is very little green remaining. Here and there are a few trees, and where there are trees there are leaves, a great many underfoot. As in my own neighborhood the older housewives are busy with their clean-up, wiping the dust from the grain of wooden screens and window frames. The street is pretty active, punctuated with people beginning their day. I am quickly finding …continue reading

    

A Unique Tofu Lunch in Arashiyama

Arashiyama is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kyoto, meaning there are also a ton of places to eat lunch in the area. From street food to classy Kobe beef, the options are plentiful. I recently stopped by a wonderful tofu restaurant along the riverside in Arashiyama to try something that proved a little different than some of the other tofu that I’ve tried in Kyoto.

Tofu Matsugae is dwarfed in popularity by its neighbor, the well-known Yoshimura soba noodle restaurant. On days when the line is too long for noodles, a meal at Matsugae is just as enjoyable. There’s even some culinary crossover, as soba (buckwheat) is used in creative ways at Matsugae, and you can order a side dish of the same noodles that everyone else is waiting for next door.

The first thing you notice inside Matsugae is the traditional atmosphere, complete with tatami floors, low ceilings, and walls paneled with natural materials. The understated atmosphere in the main dining room feels like stepping into a high-end traditional dining space. If you’re lucky enough to get a view of the garden while you dine, you’re in for a real treat. It really is a top notch landscape and offers just the right amount of detail and design for its relatively small size. I was there on a rainy, misty day, and the wetness of the moss and the raindrops clinging to the pine needles made for an enchanting view. Unfortunately, there are only two tables in the room that get an unobstructed view of this magnificent landscape, so get there when they open and hope they’re not reserved.

…continue reading