The following pictures were taken using my 35mm Kodak point-and-shoot, many before I bought the digital camera (except for the group pictures below, which were taken by Carol, Naomi’s mom, and the portrait of Naomi in a kimono, which was taken in a Kyoto portrait studio).

Girls in the program

The girls in the Stanford Japan program on a field trip to Hiroshima. Top row: Claudia, Jenny, Raquel, Claudia, Thea, Nao (Stanford Japan Center Administrator), Nina, Karen, Casey. Bottom row: Samantha, Yvonne, Eiko (Stanford Japan Center Administrator), Naomi, Heather, Liz.

Girls in kimonos

The group in yukatas at a ryokan (Japanese inn) in Miyajima. Standing: Casey, Claudia, Heather, Karen, Raquel, Jenny, Yvonne, Nina. Kneeling: Naomi, Liz.

Naomi in kimono

Naomi’s mom wanted her to have her picture taken in traditional dress so she took Naomi to a portrait studio in Kyoto to have some formal portraits taken. It took about an hour for the assistants to apply the makeup and dress Naomi in the kimono.

Hula troupe

Of all things to see in Japan: a hula troupe of middle-aged Japanese women.

Stanford Japan Center

Raquel Diaz, Charlene Choi and Naomi at the Stanford Japan Center in Kyoto, where Raquel and Naomi studied during the 2002 spring quarter. Charlene is a Stanford student who was Naomi’s good friend in high school. Although she is not in the Stanford Japan program, she and her mother came to visit Naomi in Kyoto on their way to visit their family in Korea.

Raquel is interning this summer in Kyoto and is living in Naomi’s old apartment. Naomi has an internship with a large construction firm in Tokyo this summer.

I originally had a reference here about how well Naomi did in her classes in Kyoto but she was embarrassed and asked me to remove it. We’re, of course, very proud of her academic achievements and if you email me at, I’ll be more than happy to give you the details and boast about her.

I think her grades are finally good enough to get into Cal! (I’m a Cal graduate and Carol graduated from UCLA — Stanford and Cal are archrivals.)

train to Nara

Charlene Choi and her mother invited us to join them on a train trip to Nara. (The boring fellow sleeping on the right is most definitely not in our fun! fun! fun! tour group!)


Naomi and Charlene wearing their antlers at Nara’s deer park.

Deer park

Naomi petting a deer in the park. I think they were more interested in getting something to eat than being petted.


The Daibutsuden in Nara, the largest wooden building in the world and housing a giant bronze Buddha, in the background.

Heian Shrine

Charlene and Naomi at Heian Shrine, near the Stanford Japan Center.

In 1884, Kyoto celebrated the 1,100th anniversary of its founding (in the year 784, to save you the trouble of doing the subtraction). To mark the occasion, the city fathers decided to build a shrine to honor Emperor Kammu, founder of Heiankyo (the “Capital of Peace and Tranquility”) that evolved into the city of Kyoto, and Emperor Komei, father of the last emperor to reign with Kyoto as his capital.

When construction began for Heian Shrine, the surrounding area had mostly returned to vegetable and rice fields due to a 2/3 reduction in the population when the capital was moved to Tokyo, but remains of six ancient temples were uncovered in this area. Records indicate that these temples covered a vast tract of land but were almost entirely destroyed by a great earthquake in 1185 and never rebuilt.


Charlene and Naomi in Teramachi.

Chois and Naomi

Mrs. Choi, Charlene and Naomi on Nishiki Koji market street and Teramachi (see page 1) with a lantern-bedecked shrine in the background. Remember that I said that shrines and temples appear unexpectedly amongst the shops? Here’s a case in point. (Notice the universally understood “SALE” sign on the left.)

This one is Nishiki Temmangu at the east end of Nishiki Koji. A sign that a shrine is a Temmangu is if it has a statue of a cow. A bronze image of one sits to the right of the entrance and its surface is polished in places where visitors have rubbed it hoping to be relieved of aches and pains. In the main hall are two guardian dogs sculpted from wood and originally fully covered with gold leaf in the Kamakura period, 1185 – 1333.

A short block south is a temple (located inconspicuously just behind a roasted-chestnut shop!) which houses an image of Jizo, who is said to grant pregnant women safe delivery. Legend has it that when Empress Akiko (829 – 900) was pregnant with Emperor Seiwa (858 – 876), she prayed to this Jizo and was blessed with an easy birth. In gratitude she had this temple built — more than 1,100 years ago! The offerings of lengths of cotton cloth used as an abdominal support by pregnant women can be seen piled on the side of the altar.

The juxtaposition of modern commerce and artifacts and sites of very ancient historical importance is really fascinating. Also interesting is that these ancient treasures are still available for daily use by everyone, without the necessity for the western obsession with preservation and protection from senseless vandalism.

Yasaka Shrine

Yasaka Shrine was originally a Buddhist temple, now it’s a Shinto shrine. The main building in the background dates from 1654 and was built in what is known as Gion-style. Most shrines have two sacred buildings: a main hall and a worship hall. At Yasaka the main hall is contained within the worship hall — the only shrine building of this type in Japan.

Cat at Yasaka

I made friends with one of the resident cats at Yasaka Shrine.

Kobe Chinatown

Naomi and the Watanabes in Kobe’s large Chinatown.

Kobe Chinatown

In Kobe’s Chinatown, where we had lunch.

Poi dog

Naomi in front of a shop in Kobe called “Poi Dog Club.” In Hawaii “poi dogs” are ones of mixed breed but, unlike in other parts of the country, are often considered more desirable than ones with a pedigree because they tend to have friendly, easygoing personalities and a unique beauty.

Interracial marriage is extremely common in Hawaii so hapa (Hawaiian for half or part, meaning mixed-ancestry) children in the Islands or with Island roots are all the more beautiful for it, we think. Look at Naomi, who is 25% Japanese, 25% Chinese, 100% Jewish and 100% American. The fondness for poi dogs and hapa kids isn’t entirely coincidental in Hawaii.

Priests at Toji

Priests at Toji Temple, where we went to the giant flea market.


A stall selling tea at the flea market.

Sushi store

We found this sushi place on Sanjo-Senbon near the Nijo Train Station. Sanjo Street is a covered arcade for several blocks in this area and it was pleasant to sit on the bench outside and eat our lunch. We would buy a drink at the vending machine or at the market close by.

After lunch we went to get a soft cream next door for dessert.


This is their sushi display. Notice the prices were very reasonable, which is one of the reasons I went back several times during my two-week stay in Kyoto. At the time, the exchange rate was 124 yen to the dollar. I usually got the 680-yen, ten-variety assortment in the middle of the bottom row: ten pieces of sushi for $5.48. The sushi was also made to order and the seafood was always very fresh.

One thing that Carol and I noticed was that, even though there are plenty of shops selling seafood and many other kinds of food on ice out in the open, it never smelled bad and was always impeccably clean.

We’d be happy to go back to Kyoto again anytime!