Kyoto

The ultimate guide to Kyoto ice-cream

The ultimate guide to Kyoto ice-cream

While the weather is gradually getting chillier as many parts of the world meander into autumn, we know we’ll never be able to give up the sweetest bit of summer – ice cream. You can never be too full, nor the weather too cold, for a bowl of that delicious, frozen goodness, and if you happen to be heading to Kyoto to catch the beautiful autumn leaves, you’ll be pleased to know that Japan’s most traditional city is positively brimming with ice cream at this time of year, and today we have a guide to some of the best out there.

Whether you’re into fruity flavors or traditional Kyoto desserts, or simply wanting to satisfy your sweet tooth, the ancient capital is bound to have something for you.

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Ultra-premium green tea pudding costs more than a steak, is probably worth it

Ultra-premium green tea pudding costs more than a steak, is probably worth it

One of the first English lessons I taught in Japan was about how to use words like “everywhere” and “nothing.” As part of the class, the students had to practice making sentences with “everyone,” and one woman stood up and gave hers, which was “Everyone likes pudding.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a truer statement. Pudding is universally popular. Even the very wealthy love it, which is why one company in Japan is now selling matcha green tea pudding made from such high-quality ingredients that it costs more than most meals that could precede the tasty dessert.

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Why does Engrish happen in Japan?

Why does Engrish happen in Japan?

Over the years, Japan has earned a reputation for its awkward command of English, with results ranging from the perplexing to downright hilarious. The country’s translation screw-ups are so common that they’ve even earned their own collective name, “Engrish.”

But for all the sites that poke fun at Engrish, it’s almost impossible to find one that talks about why it happens. So today we’re offering a bit of explanation along with the laughs, as we look at a sign in Japan that informs English-reading passersby that “Today is under construction.”

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Kimono-clad princesses offer their sincere apologies for roadside construction in Kyoto

Kimono-clad princesses offer their sincere apologies for roadside construction in Kyoto

The fact that the word kawaii has now been accepted into the Oxford English Dictionary says a lot about Japan’s obsession with all things cute. If there’s a manhole cover or a health and safety pamphlet that needs brightening up somehow, you can pretty much guarantee that someone will design a cutesy character or scene to adorn it. That’s just how Japan rolls.

Never, though, have we come across barricades made to look like kneeling kimono-clad princesses before.

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Japanese sweets and giant robots combine in a new anime series intriguing the Internet

Japanese sweets and giant robots combine in a new anime series intriguing the Internet

If you’ve ever been to Kyoto, then you may know that the city’s food culture includes a rich history of traditional Japanese sweets, known as wagashi, which can be a perfect accompaniment to a day touring Kyoto’s famed temples. While many in Japan associate Kyoto with traditional sweets, a new anime series is about to take this aspect of the city’s food culture and combine it with a giant robot for a one-of-a-kind TV show.

Set in modern-day Kyoto, Domaiga D will center around a dessert shop owner who finds a giant robot beneath his shop right when the city is coming under attack by huge monsters.

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Kyoto mascot bridges the gap between weirdly cute and just plain weird

Kyoto mascot bridges the gap between weirdly cute and just plain weird

As one of the most scenic sections of one of Japan’s most beautiful cities, Kyoto’s Arashiyama isn’t exactly hurting for tourists. Still, the neighborhood is looking to attract even more visitors, and in doing so has decided to employ Japan’s current favorite travel marketing technique by creating a yuru-kyara, or local mascot.

Designers actually had multiple ways they could have gone with this, such as playing up the area’s historic temples or beautiful bamboo groves. In the end, they drew their inspiration from the Togetsukyou Bridge, which was first constructed in the early 9th century.

But while that’s a fine choice, we can’t help but question the final design for the character, in which a portion of the bridge is dumped on the back of the vaguely humanoid creature called Wataru Tsukihashi.

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Own a pair of secret camera shoes? The police should be by shortly for a visit

Own a pair of secret camera shoes? The police should be by shortly for a visit

For most of this summer, Kyoto Prefectural Police have been carrying out an aggressive campaign of going to people’s homes and asking them to voluntarily give up their shoes with built-in hidden cameras. These house calls have resulted in hundreds of pairs of these “tosatsu shoes” (voyeur shoes) winding up in police custody.

This plan to deter the use of tosatsu shoes to illegally film in private areas such as up women’s skirts had proved so successful that police in Kyoto are spreading the word to other departments and will continue the same tactics in the future.

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From Kyoto: The bicycle you can ride while wearing a kimono

From Kyoto: The bicycle you can ride while wearing a kimono

There are many things to love about the kimono, the elegant traditional robe that just screams “Japan”. But beautiful and steeped in tradition as it is, the kimono is not without its accompanying inconveniences: its long skirt, which stays pencil-straight right down to the floor, provides almost no wiggle-room and prevents the wearer from running…or even walking particularly fast, unless in comically short strides. Riding a bicycle, too, has long been out of the question – until now.

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Udon Museums set to bring oodles of noodles to Tokyo and Osaka this year

Udon Museums set to bring oodles of noodles to Tokyo and Osaka this year

Compared to ramen, udon has a decidedly low-key image. Ramen is actually a comparative newcomer to the Japanese dining scene, and so it’s generally the more likely candidate for crazy experimentation. Udon, on the other hand, is simpler, and in its most basic form, the thick white flour noodles, floating in a basic salty broth, can seem almost austere by comparison.

At least, that’s the impression eating udon only in train station noodle joints and school cafeterias would leave you with. The truth is, in the several centuries Japan has been eating udon, it’s come up with dozens of different takes on the dish, and later this year, you’ll be able to sample dozens all in the same place, with the opening of two Udon Museums in Tokyo and Osaka.

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Kyoto man arrested after calling victim to apologize for assault

Kyoto man arrested after calling victim to apologize for assault

On 4 June at around 11pm bridal store employee, Eisuke Himoto, allegedly approached a 30-year-old woman on her way home from her part-time job. According to police, he called out to her asking, “Why don’t we get a drink?” to which the woman tried to run away.

Most men at this point would consider attempted escape as a sign that a woman is not into them. Himoto, on the other hand, allegedly felt this had become the perfect opportunity to begin hugging and kissing the woman from behind.

Luckily, Himoto’s same utter lack of judgment would eventually lead to his speedy arrest shortly after.

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Whiskey shaved ice: A frozen treat for adults in Kyoto

Whiskey shaved ice: A frozen treat for adults in Kyoto

One of the most popular ways to cool yourself off during a muggy Japanese summer is with a bowl of shaved ice, known as kakigoori. However, not everyone has the sweet tooth or enduring connection to their inner child that’s necessary to enjoy the brightly colored, syrupy sweet frozen treat that’s usually flavored like strawberry, melon, or lemon.

Thankfully, if you’re looking for a chilled dessert that’s a little more adult, a restaurant in Kyoto has just the thing: shaved ice with whiskey.

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Get your chills on the rails with Kyoto’s Ghost Train 【Video】

Get your chills on the rails with Kyoto’s Ghost Train 【Video】

Fear is commonly held to be a cold sensation, which is how we ended up with English phrases like “bone-chilling” and “a chill ran down his spine.” Those idioms may not translate directly into Japanese, but Japan has also traditionally thought of feeling cold as part of being scared.

Figuring that when life hands you horror lemons, you make horror lemonade, long ago Japanese society decided to use this to its advantage, which is why in Japan summer isn’t just the season of lightweight kimonos and all-you-can-drink beer gardens, but the time for ghost stories, too.

But in this modern age, maybe you’re too busy to sit around candlelit rooms in old manor houses swapping creepy tales with your friends. So if you’ve got an active lifestyle and need to keep moving while you get your terror on, a ride on Kyoto’s ghost train might be in order.

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Five amazing Japanese Starbucks locations that let you keep sightseeing as you take a break

Five amazing Japanese Starbucks locations that let you keep sightseeing as you take a break

Unless you’ve got the deep pockets to take taxis everywhere or the ample patience necessary for a bus tour, sightseeing in Japan means a lot of walking. As exciting and fascinating as the country can be, hour after hour on your feet is enough to leave anyone looking for a place to sit down and have a drink, which is part of the reasons why you can always find a Starbucks near Japan’s major travel destinations.

Still, vacation only lasts so long, and many tourists don’t want to waste their time in a new city sitting in a boring old coffee house that looks just like the one in their hometown. Thankfully, the world’s most popular coffee house has gone all out with the design of these five Japanese Starbucks locations, making them sightseeing attractions in and of themselves.

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Crepe made with Kyoto sweets and green tea is the perfect treat after a day of temple hopping

Crepe made with Kyoto sweets and green tea is the perfect treat after a day of temple hopping

With its quiet gardens and tranquil temples, you might think that Kyoto is strictly the domain of serious ascetics. Japan’s former capital is a city with well over a million residents, and attracts visitors from all over the world. With so many people milling about, there are plenty of people looking for a little indulgence, and while for some that means a stiff drink served by a monk, others are looking to satisfy their sweet tooth.

Japan has a long-standing love affair with crepes, and during our recent visit to Kyoto we found a uniquely tantalizing version of the rolled pastry that incorporates both green tea powder and Kyoto’s most famous traditional Japanese sweet, yatsuhashi.

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Natural sounds: Stunning Kyoto-made speakers are made from 30-year-old Japanese cedar

Natural sounds: Stunning Kyoto-made speakers are made from 30-year-old Japanese cedar

If you’re the kind of person who appreciates traditional craftsmanship and doesn’t mind paying a little more to get it, we have a product for you today that you really have to see.

On sale from tomorrow, these stunning mini speakers are made by master craftsmen in Kyoto and use specially grown Japanese cedar, taking an incredible 30 years to go from planting to finished product.

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We visit Kyoto’s monk bar for some spiritual spirits

We visit Kyoto’s monk bar for some spiritual spirits

Many visitors to Kyoto find themselves overcome with a sense of tranquility. Even for people who aren’t Buddhists themselves, there’s just something soothing about being around so many temples and their stoic monks.

You know what else a lot of people find relaxing? A nice cold beer! So when we recently found ourselves in Japan’s former capital and looking for a calming presence, we decided to make it a double by going to a bar run by a genuine monk.

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The tricky game of wits that sometimes lurks behind a Kyoto granny’s compliment

The tricky game of wits that sometimes lurks behind a Kyoto granny’s compliment

One of the most characteristic parts of communication in Japan is the frequency with which people dish out compliments. Travelers and expats, for example, quickly become accustomed to being praised when displaying even the most basic skills with chopsticks or the local language.

Japanese people don’t just have kind words for foreigners, though, but for each other, too. Modesty and empathy are considered virtues of the highest order, so when someone shows any sort of ability, good manners dictate that you should notice and appreciate whatever small trace of talent can be found, as well as the effort that went into acquiring it while leading what, courtesy says you should assume, is a busy life.

Of course, sometimes these compliments aren’t triggered by the speaker being genuinely impressed, but rather just polite, or in some extreme cases, irritated.

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Need a change of scenery? 3 Japanese cities now rank in list of world’s most livable cities

Need a change of scenery? 3 Japanese cities now rank in list of world’s most livable cities

Everything has been coming up Tokyo lately. Recently ranked no. 1 on a Trip Advisor survey, Japan’s capital city has now come in at No. 2 on Monocle’s list of most livable cities for 2014. That’s two positions up from their ranking last year!

Cities across the world were ranked based on criteria such as economics, society, functionality, as well as ease of everyday living and happiness of people. But it’s not just Tokyo that’s feeling the love recently – two more Japanese cities made it onto the list of great places to live!

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15 beautiful Japanese sweets to cool you down this summer

15 beautiful Japanese sweets to cool you down this summer

Japanese summers are hard to bear. With high humidity levels, the energy-sapping heat has such an overwhelming effect on the body there’s even a word for summer lethargy in the Japanese lexicon: natsubate.

Luckily for us, Japan has developed a number of unique ways to fight the summer heat. One of the best ways to cool down is in the sensory pleasure of traditional Japanese sweets featuring watery wonderlands, night skies and gorgeous hues of blue. We’ve found 15 of the best summer sweets that are so amazing they’re more like edible works of art.

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Study kanji while taking a whirlwind tour of Kyoto with this beautiful video and GIFs!

Study kanji while taking a whirlwind tour of Kyoto with this beautiful video and GIFs!

We recently brought to you a collection of GIFs inspired by the thrilling city of Tokyo, designed by artists from around the globe. Now it’s Kyōto’s turn! A company called COG has created a highly stylized, four-minute animated film by dynamically fusing the original imperial city with kanji characters, and some scenes are now available as GIFs.

So get ready to hop aboard the city’s famous electric trolley and zoom though quintessential Kyōto sights like the Sagano Bamboo Forest and Daimonji bonfire. Along with two other GIFs making waves online, you’ll find yourself immersed in Japanese motifs that are anything but quotidian, and if you’re learning the language, see if you can name all 18 of the kanji characters used!

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