Monday, December 27, 2010


Christmas was nice. We decorated from the 100 yen store. The biggest one in Kyoto is the Daiso on Sanjo just west of the Sanjo shopping street. They had plastic trees from 500-1000 yen. We got the biggest one and then got pretty decked out with various ornaments. We also got the Muji Christmas cookie house. (See the picture) On Christmas eve we went to the illumination in the Botanical Garden. It was pretty, but cold. Afterward we went to Mamezen for Kyoto style soy milk ramen. (Maybe I'll write it up for my forthcoming restaurant review series). Christmas morning was fun and the kids ate more candy than ever. For Christmas dinner we had a replay of the Thanksgiving one, but with my grandmother's English sausage stuffing.
Here is a picture of the tree with presents from Nana and Grandpa. (Thanks guys)

Here's to being a better blogger next year...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Omuro eighty-eight

This is a hike up behind the Ninna temple by Ryoanji. It goes past 88 small temples that replicate a pilgrimage on Shikoku. It is a nice hike, of about 2 and a half miles. It is a loop and that is nice, plus counting the temples is a good way to pass the time for the kids- plus it helps them know how far it is: 44 to the top (more or less) and 44 back down. One way to go is to go into Ninna temple, go through the complex and out the west gate. Go straight out the gate for about 150 meters and up the hill to the right when the road reaches a T. Follow the trail and the temples until you get to number 88- the big one near a pond. Follow the road back to Ninna-ji. It is also possible to get to the start of the trail by going up the west side of Ninna-ji and finding the west gate there, but you might as well go through the complex- there is a decent bike parking lot near the main gate and plenty of buses go by (10, 26, 59) and the Arashiyama train line (the Kitano Hakubaicho line) also goes nearby.
Here is my "" map of the route.
Omuro 88 at EveryTrail

EveryTrail - Find trail maps for California and beyond

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


We decided to celebrate Thanksgiving today (Labor Thanksgiving Day) because the kids were off school and it is fun to keep some connection to the traditions of home. It was a blast! Everyone chipped in and we played games while waiting for things to cook. We couldn't really do turkey unless we wanted to take a trip to Costco or get it through Foreign Buyers Club or the Flying Pig or something. Plus most people in the family aren't that keen on turkey anyway. (I like it but didn't think it worth the effort.) This is what we had:

Peppered pork tenderloin in a wine sauce.
Chestnut stuffing
Roasted sweet potatoes
Mashed potatoes
Green beans
and of course pumpkin (kabocha) pie
The chestnut stuffing was the most complicated because of the spices, but we found what we needed at Yamaya.

Here are a few recipes:
Chestnut stuffing:
1 1/2 loaves of standard 6 slice Japanese bread left overnight with crusts off
400g of chestnuts
1 celery stalk
1 onion
loads of parsley
sage (from Yamaya- unfortunately all they had was ground)
salt and pepper
100g of melted butter
1 egg beaten
mix thoroughly in that order (more or less) and season to taste.
bake for about 50 min at 170C mixing constantly (we used a metal mixing bowl)

Pumpkin (Kabocha) pie
2 c. Kabocha
(We used 2 half cuts of cooked kabocha: we boiled one and baked one- perhaps boiling worked best. Empty the seeds before cooking and scrape out the insides once it is soft.)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (we couldn't find evaporated milk- but condensed milk is readily available.)
2 large eggs
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t clove

Use your favorite crust recipe- butter flour and water can be easily found
Prebake the crust 250c (15-2o min) then pour the filling in.
Bake at 250c for 15 minutes then 180c for 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
We did one pie without spices and the other with- hard to say which was better...
This was possibly the best pumpkin pie I have ever eaten (sorry mom).

For the roasted sweet potatoes (absolutely fabulous)
parboil 2 cm thick slices of sweet potato rounds
preheat olive oil in a tray to 250c
add the potatoes in a single layer
cook for 10 minutes on each side

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kyoto Kaleidoscope Museum

We recently went to the Kyoto Kaleidoscope Museum, in part because I read in a guidebook that it was a good place to take kids. It was pretty cool but more appropriate for older kids. Basically it is a room with a bunch of artistic kaleidoscopes of various shapes and sizes-including one in the shape of a maiko. They also had kaleidoscopes that were projected onto the walls every hour on the hour. Some were quite beautiful, but the staff seemed a little anxious about S and J. The kids enjoyed it, but it held their interest only for a little while. One thing that might be fun would be to make your own kaleidoscope with kits they had there for Y350.
The nitty gritty:
Adults: Y300
Elementary and middle school: Y200
The museum website above has a map and a photo of the museum room.
It's not too expensive so I think it is worth a try, but it wasn't quite the hands-on-museum I was hoping for.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tacos in Japan

Because the last post was about Takao- this time I'll talk about tacos. :-) Mexican food is rare here, especially good Mexican food. I had decent tacos in Tokyo and Nagoya (at Frijoles, a place in Roppongi, and Los Tacos in Nagoya) but that is unusual. So anyway we decided one day to make our own. Yamaya has taco seasoning and salsa and we made our own tortillas off an internet recipe. To make the meat we fried onions and garlic and then added the minced meat (usually a combination of beef and pork). To that we added the seasoning, canned tomatoes, and touch of ketchup. I even added some soybeans in mine- not bad. For toppings we had cabbage, tomatoes and the salsa from Yamaya. Not bad. The highlight for me was probably the homemade tortillas.
Here is one recipe:

  • 2 cups of white flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water

Takao in the fall

Takao in the Fall

Takao is one of the best places to see the fall colors in Kyoto, as such it gets incredibly crowded on weekends this time of year. Today was a nice sunny day and so we decided on the spur of the moment to head up there after school. We caught the JR bus from Marutamachi Senbon at about 2:10 and arrived in Takao at about 3. (The bus is Y500 from Kyoto station.) Takao was gorgeous as usual. Our first stop was Jingo-in temple. To get there, you go down in to the valley then across the river and up a huge flight of stairs. Along the way we had tempura maple leaves (surprisingly tasty-but more tempura than maple leaves), roasted chestnuts and mikan. Jingo-in is gorgeous this time of year (this time I really will include pictures). One highlight was tossing small discs off a cliff to make sure your bad karma goes flying away. On the way back we decided to go the 3.3 km down river to Kiyotaki and head home from there. This might have worked if we'd had a full day, but it gets dark early these days. Half way there we couldn't see too well, despite the nice moonlight. Still we made it back to Kiyotaki for the 6:20 bus back home. We got ramen at a nice place near the bus stop and made it home to finish homework.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Movies in Kyoto (without breaking the bank)

So the latest Harry Potter movie is coming out and E is pretty interested. What to do? Movies are normally pretty pricey in Japan (often JPY 1800), so if we don't want to pay $100 to take everyone to the movies we have to plan ahead. There are several movie theaters in Kyoto and many of them have special deals on certain days of the month. Kansai Scene has some info: But here is what I have found. (These prices will not work with premium tickets like 3D- in many cases they add 400Y for 3D)

Movix in the Shinkyogoku/Teramachi arcade regularly has 300Y coupons outside the theater with times for all the films they are showing. They have Ladies day on Wednesdays (1000Y) and 1000Y movie days on the 1st and 20th of every month and late shows (anything after 8pm!!!!) are 1200Y.Regular prices are 1800 for adults, 1500 for high school and college students, 1000 for middle and elementary students and 1000 for 3 and up.

Toho Cinemas Nijo, west of the Nijo station (in Bivi) has Movie Day on the 1st and 14th of every month (1000Y), Ladies Day on Wednesdays (1000Y), and late shows are 1200Y. Regular prices are 1800 for adults, 1500 for high school and college students, 1000 for middle and elementary students and 900 for 3 and up.

Both also have mama's clubs for early matinee showings with lower volume for babies, but I don't know too much about them.

There are also theaters in the Aeon mall south of the station with deals similar to Toho and cool art house cinemas: one just south of Shijo Karasuma and one near Toji on Ku-jo.
Buying tickets early at convenience stores can also save you some money- I noticed a Circle K (I think) was selling Harry Potter tickets for 500Y off.
I think we'll shoot for either the 20th or the 1st for Harry Potter...

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Halloween is so much bigger now in Japan than I have ever seen it. When I was first here in the 90s no one had really even heard of Halloween and now it is all over the place. I guess people have seen the marketing advantages it has. Anyway, so there were pumpkins all over the place, Halloween treats and even a Halloween themed section of the 100 yen store. In fact it was at a 100 yen store where we got our costumes- witch, pumpkin and old man.
On the Saturday before, we went to the local shopping street where they had a trick or treat activity. We went to a community center where we received a post card with a picture, every store had a picture posted outside, if the pictures matched we could get a treat from that store. It was a lot of fun. Some stores that we frequent gave us treats even if our pictures didn't match. Afterward we went to the community center to make some Halloween crafts.
On actual Halloween some neighbor kids came over for some American candy. It was raining and pretty miserable, but they came anyway- along with their parents. They all said it was fun and we had fun doing it too. Later on a Japanese language blog I saw pictures of Japanese kids trick or treating in their neighborhoods, so maybe its catching on.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jidai Matsuri AND Kurama Fire Festival

Well, I did it: both the Jidai Matsuri and the Kurama fire festival in one day with all three kids. A friend joined us at the Kurama festival with her three boys so it was the two of us and six kids. Quite the crowd and quite the adventure.
Here is what we did. Picked E up from school at 1pm- the usual time for Friday- went down to Nijo station and parked our bikes. With a one day pass on the subway we went to the Higashiyama Station. The jidai matsuri goes right past the station, so we just went up the steps and watched for a while. It wasn't as intimate as the Zuiki matsuri, but the costumes were good and it was impressive just in terms of the sheer numbers of people. I had thought that they would go through the eras in some sort of historical order, but no- they just seemed to be jumbled together: Tokugawa then Muromachi then Heian then sengoku. Still the kids liked the horses and the costumes. We only watch about 30-45 minutes of the procession and left during a lull. It probably would have continued longer, but we were fine with what we saw and wanted to head up toward Kurama. We hopped back on the subway and went all the way up north to the Kokusaikaikan station. We got there about 3:30 with only one major tantrum from 3 year old S who went without his nap. From the Kokusai kaikan staion it is about a 10 minute walk north to the Eiden Iwakura station (along the river just west of the subway exit #1). From there we were crammed inside the small Eiden train for the ride to Kurama. This was very uncomfortable, but I think that at least if you get on there you don't have to endure the crowded train for as long (maybe only 6 stops instead of 12). Once at Kurama we sat down in front of the station to eat our onigiri. There wasn't much in terms of things to eat there- none of the standard matsuri food- so I was glad we brought stuff- onigiri and snacks for keeping people happy. I am certainly not above using sweets to their full potential on outings like this one. We met up with B and her three boys there and proceeded to follow the directions of some of the many police officers who directed us behind a yellow tape. We were supposed to keep moving and I am glad we did, eventually we got beyond the major crowds further up the canyon and were really able to see the festival well. We were right close to a lot of the torches. First there were the young kids, and then the BIG torches. Unfortunately our camera couldn't really capture it- but there were lots of photographers with cameras that could- some directing their attention to the six gaijin kids staring intently at the bonfires. About halfway to the onsen, there were people drumming on the Taiko and some of the torch bearers swayed to the beat. It was pretty awesome. 3yr old S and others had a blast stomping out the cinders that had fallen to the street. We started back around 7:45, although that was perhaps too late. Yes the festival would keep going until midnight, but we thought we would be safe leaving then. We got caught in a major traffic jam heading back to the station area and then ushered through orderly Disneyland lines for the train once we got there. It took a while to get back on that crowded train again for the return journey, retracing our steps. I must say, the kids were really troopers. It was 10:30 or so before we got home, but it was fun and I would say very worth it. As we were walking up the steps all 3 of them said they had fun.
If you ever plan to do this, here is my recommendation: If you have the full day, watch the jidai matsuri starting from about 11 on the grounds of the imperial palace. It is the staging area and so most people will be there at once. Plus it is a little more picturesque to watch the procession on the grounds of palace than on the streets with a McDonalds or Lawson in the background. The procession starts at 12, and I bet it is an hour or two before the whole group passes through. Get some lunch and if you haven't already, get some food to take up to Kurama. I liked our route, but if you want a seat, you can wait in line at the Demachi Yanagi station. Probably if you are there close to 2 you might not have much trouble (you may have to let a train or two go by before getting to the front, but I wouldn't know for sure). Once you are in Kurama take a nice break-because this is a long day for anyone. There are a few restaurants there, but check for prices first- it could be expensive. Try to make your way uphill along the route as far as you can before 6pm. Once the fires start, gradually make your way down and head to the station not long after you've seen a few of the big torches carried by the young men of the town. It is possible to stay for more, but with kids this is about all you can hope for. I was saying to B that if I were young and single it might be fun to stay until the last train or even all night, but leaving at 7 or so would be best for the kids. Good luck to any who want to try this. I certainly thought it was worth it, but it made for a killer day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kurama Fire Matsuri

Okay- so this should be exciting. I'm going to try to see the Kurama Fire festival with all three kids by myself. I'll let you know how it goes. I'll include some information below, but be warned- it is by all accounts a crazy and crowded matsuri. Wish me luck!
the url:
the link:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hiking in Kyoto

One of our favorite things to do is to go hiking and there is no better time and place than fall in Kyoto. This is the first of periodic postings about various hikes we like.
Along the Kiyotaki river:
This is a great place to play in the water and I mentioned it in my earlier post on beating the heat. The hike has several options for starting and finishing depending on convenience and how far you want to go. Basically, the hike follows the river from Takao through Kiyotaki to Ochiai, where it meets the Katsura river. Here is one option: Take a JR bus to Takao (leaving from the Kyoto station with a stop at the Nijo station-I also hear city bus #8 will work ), hike down the river until it reaches the Katsura river (about 5k). Just before it reaches the Katsura river the trail goes uphill to a road. It is possible to take that road back to Arashiyama (about 5km from that point) or continue across a bridge and through a tunnel along that road to the JR Hozu river station that can take you back to Arashiyama or Kyoto station. (First you will come to the Torokko station that only goes to Arashiyama- the regular station is further down the road.) You can also start at Kiyotaki for a shorter trip (about 2k until it meets the Katsura river). City buses 62 and 72 go to Kiyotaki and leave from Kyoto station and also from right in front of the Arashiyama city train.
Another great hike leaves from Kiyotaki and goes up Mt. Atago from there.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More cultural activities

So we went to the Zuiki matsuri and I must say it was one of my favorite matsuri I've been to. We watched it in the Kamishichiken area along with some Kyoto maiko. It was also nice to be so close to the procession. I'll try to post some photos from it soon. We also participated in a local matsuri at E's school. This is E at the matsuri. That was fun and we got to carry the mikkoshi. We are looking forward to the Kurama fire festival on the 22nd of October. That afternoon is also the Jidai festival- one of Kyoto's biggest. We'll see if we can make it to both, but if we had to choose we'll go to the Kurama one. Kurama is one of our favorite places in Kyoto- a great place to hike and get out of the city. The fall is beautiful up there.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cultural activities

So every so often we like to go out and do something cultural in this very cultural city. That said, we'd been here over a month before we even went to a single temple. One highlight so far has been the Moon viewing festivals for Jugoya. On the actual Jugoya we went to a local shrine- the Hirano Jinja to see the lanterns, look for the moon through the clouds and listen to some really nice koto music. The kids were pretty good and since it was an outdoor performance as long as they weren't too loud they could wander around while we listened. Our oldest said it was not quite happy music and not quite sad music, but that it made you think of long ago. I don't think I could have said it better myself. The shrine was really beautiful all lit up at night. We also went to the moon viewing in Daikakuji. This lasts for three days so we thought we could see two. It was a very long bike ride from our home to Arashiyama- longer than we expected. But even E was good natured about it. Once there the shrine was really nice and they had some food available in stalls on the grounds- we had some mochi treats. For a fee we could have ridden a boat on the pond while drinking tea. That would have been nice, but not really kid friendly. Again there was some nice music including some classical chamber music. On the way home we saw a film crew at a nearby lake filming a night-time flood scene. I wonder what that was about?
We have also tried Tenjin-san. This is the monthly flea market at Kitano Tenmangu. Getting there early is definitely advisable. The kids enjoyed the matsuri food in the stalls and looking at the interesting wares for sale. They were especially intrigued by the games where you can win toys.
This week there is the Zuiki matsuri (festival) at Kitano Tenmangu. E has been learning about it in school and has even been on a field trip to see them harvesting the zuiki (taro stalks) for the portable shrines. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kid friendly food in Kyoto

Okay, so what to do for food when you have three kids.
Well, you can see what you can make at home with the ingredients from a standard Japanese supermarket, but sometimes kids just want a comfort food from home. Our kids like cereal and while we can't easily get the standards from the west we make do with Japanese ones. The most common kids of cereal are the flake variety. Cisco flakes are available at most grocery stores: regular, frosted, chocolate and more rarely caramel. Look for the big blue box with a cartoon kid and sometimes a dog(and if it doesn't say "BIG" on it then its probably too small). Oatmeal is sometimes nice if your kids like that sort of thing. The best place to get it is the YWCA on Muromachi north of Marutamachi. They also have a small selection of other things like cheeses and whole wheat as well as free trade coffee. Some grocery stores even have Skippy peanut butter. They also have a peanut cream (probably more sugar than peanut, but it tastes good) available in most grocery store by the jams.
Import food stores include Meidi-ya (on Sanjo east of Kawaramachi- a little expensive) Jupiter on the east side of the underground mall below the Kyoto station and Yamaya (there is one on Karasuma just south of Oike- mostly alcohol but some food items and relatively economical). I have also seen one north on Kawaramachi just below Imadegawa, but I haven't been to that one. There is also the "Foreign Buyers Club" a great online ordering service. Here is the URL:

Here is a link to another blog with a bigger list:

and here is another post on deepkyoto about food:

What about going out to eat?
There are always the ubiquitous burger joints like Makudo (MacDonalds) and so forth, but one of our favorite kid treats is Shakeys Pizza, an all-you-can-eat Pizza place on Sanjo where Teramachi and Shinkyogoku shopping arcades meet. You pay up front and it is REALLY reasonable, especially for kids. You can also make requests- like just plain cheese. Some of the unusual Japanese style pizzas get a chuckle out of the kids, even if they won't try say ... corn squid mayo pizza. Some of the all you can eat Obanzai (Kyoto homestyle cooking) places are decently kid friendly and kids can choose what they want to eat. There is an expensive one underneath the station, but it is really good. A good bargain is the Obanzai place north west of the Oike Karasuma subway station. Go maybe two blocks west on Oike and head north for a block or two. It will be on the right. (It is a little hard to find though.) There is another one (Obanzai Hasegawa) on Sanjo between Teramachi and Karasuma on the south side of the street (to be more precise, between the Museum of Kyoto and the YMCA). We'll try to add more food stuff as we discover it. Please feel free to add anything you discover too.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Beating the summer heat

By now it seems that the record breaking summer is just about over- Thank goodness! But for those who might be in other nasty Kyoto summers here are some things we found that helped. Of course there are the ubiquitous vending machines, but we wanted something to do to get out of it. Going to the library was nice and air conditioned, there is a decent selection of English childrens books and a few young adult chapter books at the Central Library on Marutamachi just west of Senbon. There are also several "Jidokan" or childrens centers around the city. These offer indoor play areas for kids of all ages, though perhaps younger kids would find them most enjoyable. Look for the ones in your area. The best is the Kodomo miraikan, a block or two south of Marutamachi and a block or two east of Karasuma.
Here is a link and the url:

This is again mostly oriented toward younger kids, but great in both the heat and cold.
Now for the outdoors...
The first thing we did was played in the Kamogawa. This is nice, especially near Demachiyanagi where the river splits. We played a little south from there, but next time would choose to go to the Demachiyanagi area. Our best experience so far was to go play in the river at Kiyotaki. This is clearer and cooler than the Kamogawa and a lot of fun. Take the train- either JR or Randen (a fun experience for kids by itself) to Arashiyama and get on the bus for Kiyotaki just across the street from the Randen station. (The Randen is 200 y for adults and the bus is 220. Elementary kids are half and younger than that are free.) when you get off the bus at Kiyotaki go down the hill until you reach the bridge. Chances are there will be a lot of people playing- find a spot and have fun. This does require you to be close to your kids because it gets deep in places and the stream is pretty fast. The water though is clear and really cool. On the way back we walked downhill from Torii no moto (I think) through the backstreets and into Arashiyama for ice cream. One of the best Gelato places in the world is right there near the Togetsu bridge.
There were other things we wanted to do, but by the time J's thumb healed, most outdoor pools were closed. (Outdoor pools tend to close by the end of August.) There are good public pools in Kameoka and an especially good looking one in Fushimi Minato park. This is not a great site, but will give you an address.
Again, a link and the URL:

Here at least you can see pictures:

Now as I said, we did not visit either of these places, but wanted to. There are a few others too, but those stood out.

Hospitals- what to do

Well, we were only here about a week when we had to take advantage of Japan's nationalized health care. Thank goodness we signed up right away. As soon as we were in the system for the gaijin cards (or alien registration cards) I went back to get a health insurance card (basically the day after we submitted our paperwork). It costs money, but they bill you later so we did nothing up front. What I got was a little booklet with all of our names on it along with a health insurance number. As an added bonus, you can use the health insurance card as ID in many cases and can use it to get a cell phone if you pay your bill with a credit card. Much better than waiting a month for a gaijin card.
After getting the card (they make them while you wait) I went up to the third floor in the ward office and signed up for a special childrens program that will reimburse you if you spend over Y3000 a month in hospital fees and limits the cost per visit for children under 3 to only Y200.
Anyway, only a few days later J cut her finger with a knife as she tried to cut a grapefruit- she is so independent. So, what to do...barely here a week, still nowhere near settled. It wasn't quite enough to call an ambulance, but too much to ride bikes. I was lucky, I called a friend with a car, who called ahead to the nearest hospital. If you speak Japanese, it is nice to call ahead, but not necessary.
For others in this situation, call a cab. As soon as you have a place, memorize your address and how to explain where you are to a cab driver. Have cab numbers handy along with the other emergency numbers (110 and 119), your own phone number and address. Also figure out where the nearest hospitals are and which have emergency rooms. Several hospitals also have English speaking staff- look at the Kyoto International Center website for lists.
Once you are in a hospital you need to show your insurance card and fill out forms. They make a hospital card for you to use in subsequent visits. In our case we got a referral to another bigger hospital (in case there was nerve or tendon damage- thankfully there wasn't). There we had to fill out more paper work and she got about 10 stitches - not fun. When we went back to the hospital for a checkup, we had to make another card for the new hospital because we were there too late to make one the day before. Anyway, once we got the card we could go to the automatic check in machine to check in, go right to the waiting room for the doctor we needed and when we were done we took the paperwork to the checkout desk where we would wait for our number to appear on the screen at which point we would be able to pay at the automatic payment machines. Now this was the case both at the Prefectural Medical School hospital on Kawaramachi just south of Imadegawa and the Second Red Cross hospital near the prefectural office west of the Imperial Palace and just north from Marutamachi.
A word of warning, both of these hospitals will charge you extra if you go there without a referral. For the Prefectural Medical School hospital it is only about Y1500, but for the Red Cross hospital it was over Y5000!!! We did have great luck with an English speaking internal medicine specialist at the Red Cross hospital though. Also- NOTHING is in English, so if you don't speak Japanese go to the front desk and they will probably try to help you through the sometimes labyrinthine process. Anyway, I hope you, dear readers, will not need this information, but it is good to know just in case.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Finding a house

I speak Japanese and that made finding a place much easier in the end, but I looked at English language options first. I looked on Craigslist and Kansai Flea market as well as other classifieds, but most places are in Osaka and most are for smaller places. There were some guest houses as well, but I never considered them seriously. I ended up looking at a few there, but nothing I felt would work for our situation. We could have made some work, but it would have been less than ideal. I expanded my search to Japanese options. One option was the "monthly mansion." These are furnished places rented by the month. They are nice in that you don't need to buy anything, but they are expensive. In the end we decided it was cheaper to go with a regular place even with all the renting costs and buying furniture. Yahoo fudosanya was a good place to look for places to rent but you still need to go through an agent. I recommend that you do your research on agents. The Flat-A agency seemed good and they showed me several places, but a place I found on yahoo fudosanya was held by Choei, so I went to them. It turns out that I might have also been able to have Flat-A show me even something held by other agencies. Choei was helpful, but they charged a good deal more with their various fees. With all the fees it was much more expensive than I expected. I ended up needing about 450,000 yen to get started with the house. Still we are pleased with it and everything worked out in the end.

Kyoto with Kids- Tanjo!

We decided to start this blog because we were looking for something like it before we came and didn't find it. So here goes: We came to Kyoto from the US with three kids: E-9 yrs old, J-5 years old and S-almost 3. This blog will be to document our adventures and misadventures as well as to try to offer some useful information for people who want to do something similarly crazy. Since this is the first post, I'll focus on getting set up. (It'll get a little long.)

We found a house in north Kyoto by the Kitano shrine, signed up for foreigner registration cards, and then for national health insurance. We thought about what to do about school and decided on Japanese public school for the oldest. This was in part a financial decision, the costs of international school were prohibitive, but we also considered home school. Finally we thought that socialization would be best through public school, plus we hoped that he would pick up the language. The other two will be going to a part-time daycare: "ichi-ji hoiku." This should let them go three times a week in the morning. The only problem is that it is dependent on availability.

We furnished the place with stuff mostly from recycle shops. We did get a few things from sayonara sales, but ended finding that decent deals could be found at the recycle shops and they delivered for a reasonable rate. One of our first priorities was to get bikes for everyone. Mom got a decent 3 seater from Eirin, a used bike chain. It is good but has no gears, thinking back it might have been worth it to just spring for a new one with gears, but that would run about 4-50,000 yen. Dad only has one kid seat on a regular used bike also from Eirin- had to get the seat new though. We had hoped to find used kids bikes, but no luck. We ended up getting the two oldest new bikes at Conan, a hardware type store. Bikes gave us the mobility we needed though, as public transportation isn't that convenient in Kyoto. We have used taxis and the subways, but bikes are best. Anyway, that is it for today.