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Experience ''Japan'' in Kyoto
Educational, fun & unforgettable cultural programs for foreigners

As the capital of Japan for over 1,200 years, Kyoto has cultivated a number of cultures and art forms. Many say that the city of Kyoto itself is a museum and people will never get bored of staying in this special and beautiful city. However, if you can experience and touch Kyoto's culture directly, your stay will be truly special, without a doubt. Here are some places KVG suggests for you to enjoy Kyoto's culture with your own senses.

Stay in a Temple & Experience the World of Japanese Zen
Shunko-in Temple & Guest House

Shunko-in Temple, established in 1590, is located in the Myoshin-ji Temple complex. The temple possesses many important artistic and cultural properties related to Zen Buddhism, and also has a deep connection with Shintoism and Christianity.

One of the most noteworthy cultural assets is the Bell of Nanban-ji Temple (National Important Cultural Property). This bell with Jesuit seals on its surface was made in Japan in 1577 and used at Nanban-ji Church, the first Christian church in Kyoto. Nanban-ji Church was destroyed in the early 17th century but the bell survived and was brought to Shunko-in Temple about 170 years ago.

Besides the bell, Shunko-in Temple is home to many important cultural properties including sliding door paintings by the Kano School artists from the 16th century, a Japanese garden, a hidden Christian lantern and more.

What can visitors experience?
Shunko-in Temple offers Zen meditation classes and temple tours in English. The American-educated vice abbot, Rev. Taka Kawakami, will lead people in the basics of Zen meditation, followed by a tour of the temple.

During the meditation class, participants will not only receive instructions on the basics of meditation, but will also learn how to incorporate Zen philosophy into their daily lives. During the temple tour which follows the meditation, participants will learn more about the history of Shunko-in Temple in a relaxed and warm atmosphere.

In 2013, a new facility was added to the temple - the Guest House "Tetsuryu-Kutsu." The building is newly built and equipped with modern amenities. Stay in the Shunko-in Temple guest house and get in touch with the world of Japanese Zen.

Zen Meditation & Temple Tour
Open every day; No reservation required; Time: 9:00-10:30, 10:40-12:10 (13:30-15:00: Group of more than 4 people and reservations are required); Price: Meditation & Tour: 2,000 yen, Meditation only: 1,000 yen; Guest house: Each room (2-3 people/room) is equipped with own shower room, toilet, air conditioner; Completely non-smoking facility; Self-catering OK in the shared kitchen; 6,000 yen/person for 1 person, 5,500 yen/person for two people; Check-in: 15:30-18:30 (no late check-in accepted), Check-out: 11:00.

Shunko-in Temple
To reserve your room & Zen experiences, please call or email them directly; Tel: 075-462-5488; http://shunkoin.com ; http://shunkoinzentemple.blogspot.jp/

Try Traditional Japanese Roketsu Dyeing and Make Your Own Craft
Yamamoto Roketsu Dyeing Studio

Roketsu is one of Kyoto's traditional textile dyeing methods which is also known as wax-resist dyeing. Wax is applied on a cotton fabric to leave a design and when the fabric is dyed in the indigo, the area applied with wax blocks the dye and leaves white. The roketsu dyeing needs over 20 steps before completion, if using the traditional method.

Yamamoto Roketsu Dyeing Studio is the only place in Japan where visitors can experience the entire roketsu dyeing process. The friendly and kind owner who is a craftsman of roketsu dyeing for kimono textiles for over 50 years will provide you with instruction.

Hundreds of roketsu-dyed textiles are hung all around the studio. Young and old, Japanese or foreigners, an educational excursion for students or just a bit of fun for a day, trying traditional Japanese crafts with your own hands will add another unforgettable memory to your stay.

What can visitors experience?
At Yamamoto Roketsu Dyeing Studio, people can choose a textile from different sizes (see below) to create a handkerchief, bandanna, T-shirt, or noren (Japanese curtain). Then, select a design from the hundreds of different stencils, from traditional Japanese scenes, to the latest anime characters, or creating their own designs is also OK.

How to dye a textile with roketsu is not difficult: First, draw a rough sketch of design on the cotton, then slowly trace the outline of the sketch with a brush that has been dipped in the hot wax. The next part of the process is the dyeing; the fabric with the design is dyed in a vat of indigo solution - crumpling the material gently while moving it through the dye to crack the wax. The fabric will emerge from the dye-vat almost black, and go into boiling water to remove the wax. Finally, the material is washed in water, and when it is dried and ironed, the design magically comes to life.

Hands-on Roketsu Dyeing Experience
Reservation required at least one hour before visiting; Dyeing experience takes 90-120 min.; 1-30 people accepted; Experience fee (include materials): 45 x 45cm textile: 2,000 yen, 45 x 90cm textile: 3,000 yen, T-shirt: 3,000 yen, noren curtain: 3,000 yen.

Yamamoto Roketsu Dyeing Studio
Tel: 075-313-1871; Open: 10:00-18:00; Closed: Wed.; Access: Kyoto City Bus #73, get off at Nishikyogoku and walk about 5 min., or take a taxi from Kyoto Stn. (about 15 min.); The studio is in a residential area (south of Takatsuji, west of Tenjingawa River); www.roketsu.com/

Dress in Elegant, Truly Noble Costumes of Heian Imperial Members
Heian Costume Experience Studio

With more than 1,200 years of history as the imperial capital of Japan (794-1867), the lavish, elegant life of the nobles of the Heian period was perhaps Japan's finest period. The costumes worn in this period, for example, juni hitoe (for empress) and sokutai (most formal costume for men), were exclusively worn by the imperial family and the elite of nobility.

There is hardly any opportunity today to actually see and touch real Heian-period costumes. At the Heian Costume Experience Studio, visitors can try an exclusive costume which is reproduced from thorough research and made by hand, by the owner, Ms. Fukuro, who has devoted her life for Heian-period costumes. Dress yourself in a noble Heian-period costume and imagine the elegant life of imperial people in that age.

What can visitors experience?
First, choose your favorite costume from a wide range of options: Juni hitoe (12-layered most gorgeous and exclusive kimono for empresses), kouchiki (a little more casual than juni hitoe), sokutai (most official for men), and even smaller costumes for kids. Their staff members will dress you carefully and treat you like a prince or princess. A special wig is also available (extra charge required).

Wearing a set of juni hitoe may take some patience as each layer of kimono is carefully put on. In the end, when all the layers are on your body, it can reach up to as much as 20 kg, thus, making it hard to move! However every layer has a meaning and the staff will explain in detail about each element. Learning about Heian-period costumes will lead people to the mysterious, elegant world of the Heian period.

Heian-period Costume Experience
Reservation required; The experience takes about 2 hours; Juni hitoe: from 20,000 yen, Costume for kids: from 30,000 yen; Costume for men: from 20,000 yen; Interpreter and professional photographer can be arranged (additional charge required); Costumes for kids are available.

Heian Costume Experience Studio
Tel: 075-231-2980; Open: 9:30-17:00; On the north side of Nijo, west of Takakura; www.junihitoe.net/

Meet Japan's Last Samurai and Explore the Local Towns of Kyoto
Samurai Joe Okada's Walking Tour

''Japan's Last Samurai'' - This is what he calls himself and people do agree. Joe Okada is one of Japan's coolest and most special 83-year-old guys, for sure. As well as being known as the Samurai Okada, he is also an officially licensed tour guide with over 50 years in his career. At the beginning, he was an English-speaking tour guide but he wanted to do more and do something special.

He knew that many foreign visitors expected to meet geisha & samurai in Japan, but unfortunately, Samurai became extinct a long time ago. So he decided to became a samurai by himself! This idea has really amused and entertained people since then. He offers his service as a private tour guide as well as performing a samurai sword show using a real sword. This is truly a one-of-a-kind experience that only Joe can offer!

What can visitors experience?
Joe offers a service as a private tour guide on request, but something worth-trying with him, is his ''Cool Kyoto Walk Tour'' that he started last year. The tour starts in the morning from Kyoto City Hall in downtown. This relaxing and fun walking tour will lead you to a variety of hidden places in Kyoto where general tourists never get to discover.

What Joe introduces is the life of Kyoto. He will take the participants to a wood engraving studio, a Shinto shrine and a Buddhist temple, Imperial Palace ground, lively local marketing street, and more and more! And last, but not least, a big surprise awaits you - Joe's samurai sword demonstration at the Kamo River bank! Enjoy one day with Samurai Okada. He may become one of your most special friends in your Kyoto stay. Joe will teach you ''cutting apple in the air'' within a 5-hour lesson!

Samurai Okada's Cool Kyoto Walking Tour
Every Saturday; Reservation required by email or phone (tour will not be held if there is no more than 5 participants); Meeting place: in front of Kyoto City Hall at 9:45; The walk tour lasts about 5 hours; 3,000 yen (including light meal; Cash only), free of charge for children under 12 years old;

Contact Joe Okada
Tel: 090-3867-3538; samurai_joeokada@yahoo.co.jp; www.samurai-okada.com www.facebook.com/joe.okada.79?fref=ts