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Traveling to Kyoto - Into the World of VOLKS and Super Dollfie . . .

Aug 21, 2010

    1. Bumped - and edited - to add links to a Gallery post for photos:


      So here's the scoop . . .

      The FDQ / Dolpa NYC volunteer group, ten of us, are going to Kyoto in October. We've experienced the staff of VOLKS working hard and bringing Dolpa halfway around the world to New York City, and now we're thrilled to be able to see it from the other side - to visit Tenshi-no-Sato Kachu-an, and the VOLKS stores in Kyoto, to get a chance to meet and talk with the VOLKS staff on their turf, in their world - and whatever else we can manage to do and see in one all-too-short week! I don't know exactly what we're going to experience there, but I do know it's going to be amazing.

      So -

      There are two things I want to know from all of you:

      If you've ever been to Kyoto, do you have any hints, tips, recommendations, must-sees, etc?


      What would you like to hear, see, do, or know about VOLKS, Super Dollfie, Zoukeimura or Tenshi-no-Sato??

      ~Bruce, hoping to get at least some of those questions answered!
    2. Oh, congratulations. :) That sounds like it'll be super fun. I dont really have any tips having never been, but I will say enjoy yourself, and take lots of photos to share with us, will you? :)
    3. Well, there are a lot of museum's in Kyoto including the Kyoto International Manga museum. That might be a cool place to check out while you're there.

      I don't know enough about BJDs yet to ask any questions that don't sound "newbie-ish." :)
    4. When I was in Kyoto, I have to say you have to go out to eat Okonomiyaki! But then again I'm a total nerd when it comes to Japanese food and I loved popping into all the different food and cake stores there.

      Make sure you don't get lost while moving from your hotel to different stores too. Kyoto is a pretty big city and its really easy to get lost for a few hours when you don't mean to. But if you are really into sewing clothing for your dolls, I'd recommend popping into some of the shopping districts and finding some of the smaller local fabric stores. They have an interesting selection when it comes to ribbons, and different prints you've never seen before in the states.

      Watch out for school boys if you're a blond-blue eyed woman too. They tend to like pictures with 'Gaijin'. xD

      As for what I want to know - Do they have dolls available right out of the store in Japan? or do you still have to order them and wait for shipping?
    5. Volks stores (not just Sato) carry basic SDs in the store, just buy 'em and carry them out of the store like any other item. If you are lucky, there may even be a few leftover limiteds from a recent event. Obviously, if they don't have it, you can't leave the store with it.

      As for Kyoto highlights, I don't have any sightseeing suggestions, but I say eat the tofu. Can be kind of pricey but you will probably never taste better tofu than that.
    6. The best way to get around is by bus. The stops are announced in both English and Japanese.

      I second the Kyoto International Manga museum. Its a wonderful place.

      Check out Nijo Castle, former residence of the Shogun. Really fascinating and beautiful.

      One of my favorite places was the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Simply beautiful. Wear comfortable shoes as its a lot of walking.

      Gion is one of five geisha districts in Kyoto and the most famous. If you stand outside the Ichirikitei teahouse at night you can see lots of geisha hurrying to and from appointments. If you want to know more about geisha, Peter Macintosh offers a great tour and can even set up a geisha party (the party can be expensive though)


      I attended an evening with maiko and while expensive, loved every minute of it:


      If you are in Kyoto you may want to consider maiko henshin, where they make you up and dress you as a geisha and sometimes samurai. Immortal Geisha has a good discussion on the good places to go:


      I never did go to Yagi-tei, the Shinsemgumi headquarters, but I have a friend who highly recommends it.

      I hope you guys have a great time. I love Japan and hope to go back soon.
    7. Congrats on getting to go! I went to Tenshi no Sato in the beginning of July and had a great time there. Just be sure you give yourself enough time to get things done there! My friend and I went later in the day and we didn't have enough time to take pictures of the dolls we brought with us in the garden.

      I don't really have any sightseeing suggestions, but make sure to visit Kinkakuji! One of my favorite tourist spots in Kyoto.
    8. Thanks Izayoi and nekoarc! That information is so useful. I did Tokyo, Fuiji and Hakone area this July. I did not go to Kyoto and Osaka. I am saving those for my next visit so that I can spend more time in Kyoto. :)

      I discovered that summer isn't the best time to visit central Japan. When will it be the best time to see autumn leaves or spring blossoms?

      nekoarc: I read you post in another thread about buying Chii in Mandarake, I was there in July holding a calculator! :sweat

      nekoarcYou actually travelled with your dolls to Sato for photos? They're heavy and the weather was hot and humid. I did not travel any of my dolls this time, but I'm considering bringing some in my next trip which will cover Kyoto. I'm so looking forward to it, just not sure about carrying heavy resin dolls on vacation.

      Congrats Paleonaturist and all who are going this Oct,......have a wonderful trip.
    9. stargaer_i-I took my dolls all over Japan. They mainly stayed in my luggage when we went out so it wasn't a big deal. I only took them to Sato, a few Sumikas, and the Volks Owner's Appreciation Event.
    10. Hmm, it may be "newbie advice", but get used to drawing huge amount of money out of ATMs and paying for everything in cash, since a lot of stores don't accept debit or credit cards. And get a Suica/Pasmo (Or whatever the Kyoto equivalent is) - It's like an Oyster card that you can use at vending machines as well as on trains. And remember to put on moisturiser and drink plenty of fruit juice on the plane - You'll look and feel like a zombie by the time you get to the other side, and staying hydrated and keeping your skin from chapping makes it a little bit better.

      You lucky things! I'm planning on going to Kyoto in a few months too, and you've got me positively salivating thinking about it!

      Edit - And zarusoba. If you get a chance, and it's warm, eat plenty of zarusoba. Preferably from tiny little noodle shops near rural train stations.
    11. You guys are so Lucky Lucky Lucky !!!!! Does Volks have a museum with all the SD's they have ever made? If so, I would love to see pictures of the museum. Enjoy the experience. It should be great.
    12. Oooooh awesome! Congrats on going, can I come too? *_*... I want to especially see LOOOOOTS of pictures while you're there so take a thousand ok? :D

      Oh yeah! Edit! I'm especially interested in the buildings and fashion you come across :)
    13. Wow, congrats, Bruce! I loved every visit I made to Kyoto and Tenshi-no-Sato. Be sure to enjoy the gardens; they're really gorgeous in fall. Also, make sure you have a chance to sample a treat from the little Volks cafe and get the seasonally themed dessert. They're beautifully arranged and extremely yummy.

      Also, there's a bamboo forest very close to Tenshi-no-Sato that's lovely.
    14. Oh god, I love Kyoto. It's my favorite city in Japan (actually one of my favorites in the world) and my only regret about my year working in Japan was that I wasn't placed closer to Kyoto. So yeah, you better believe I have some suggestions for you :p They aren't doll-related for the most part, but anyway...

      1) Where to stay: If you haven't booked a hotel yet, I suggest staying somewhere on Shijo-dori or Oike-dori, and preferably between Karasuma-dori and the river. That will put you in a fairly central location and makes it much easier to get around by walking, taking the subway, and/or taking the buses. I definitely suggest you learn the bus system, or at least the subway system, to save some time and your feet. It's not nearly as confusing as the system in Tokyo so it shouldn't be too bad.

      2) Stuff to see: Kyoto is kind of drowning in sites and there's no way to make them all in a week. The big ones to hit are going to depend on your taste and interests, of course, but I like Kiyomizu-dera, Kinkakuji, Ginkakuji (and the nearby Philosopher's Walk, which will probably be really pretty if you're there in time for the autumn leaves), Nijo-jo, Heian-jingu, Sanjusangen-do, Chion-in, Gion, Kyoto station (impressive in itself, but also connected to three separate major shopping centers if you're into that sort of thing), and the Arashiyama area. You're also a short train ride from Nara, which is full of historical sites, and places like Osaka, Kobe, and Himeji.

      3) Shopping and stuff to do: If you are at all interested in traditional Japanese things like kimono and kanzashi, Kyoto is a great place to get them. If you're willing to spend the money you can get almost anything you want, up to and including authentic maiko and geisha kanzashi (there are three different stores on Shijo-dori in Gion that sell them, so if you're interested PM me for the names and directions). I have also run across miniature items that can be fun for dolls. There's a shop on Shijo-dori outside of Gion called Jyusan-ya that sells human-sized kanzashi, but when I was there earlier this month they also had a bunch of miniature boxwood combs on sale that look like a good scale for some BJDs. I bought a boxed set with four or five different combs. In Gion, near Yasaka-jinja, there's a shop that sells authentic paper parasols, and they sell small versions that are probably meant as household decorations but are the perfect size for SD-size dolls (they work for MSDs too, they just look a little big). If you're into more modern stuff, the shopping centers attached to Kyoto station are a good start, and there are lots of big department stores in Shijo-dori.

      4) Stuff to eat: If you eat meat, you should give shabu-shabu a try. It's fun and really good. There's a small shop on Shijo-dori in Gion that specializes in soba and udon noodle dishes, and they have an English menu if you're worried about Japanese. There's a stall on the grounds of Kiyomizu-dera that sells really good kitsune-udon (udon in a soup with fried tofu). And if you have the money, you should try kaiseki. It's expensive but really, really good, especially if you really like Japanese food.

      And if you or any of the people in your group are interested in a chance to meet maiko or geisha, you have a lot of options. The easiest will be going to Gion Corner, where you can see performances of all kinds of traditional Japanese arts, but I also know ways of just getting to see the maiko or geisha themselves in a private party. Again, PM me if you're interested (and no, for those who don't know, geisha and maiko aren't prostitutes).
    15. Wow, this is giving me so many terrific ideas of what to do and see. I must say that this trip is something very special to this group who have been with FDQ and the Volks team from the very first New York Dolpa.

      I especially appreciate all the food recommendations..
    16. Thanks for the info. I am also going and you guys have some great advice. I have been dreaming of going to Japan for a long time. It must have been wonderful to actually get to live there for a year! I hope we can take as many of your suggestions as possible. The food thing especially! Thanks again.

    17. Wow, thanks everyone!!

      You guys have a _ton_ of great suggestions! I know that Fushimi Inari is a place I'd _love_ to visit - it's one of those places that has just become a symbol of Japan in my mind. (perhaps that's from watching "Memoirs of a Geisha...)

      While we do only have one week - and not even a full week at that - (six days, four nights) to be there, and our trip will be rather VOLKS-centric, I do hope to get to as many of the places you've described as possible. I already know that this trip will only whet my appetite for Japan and things Japanese - including Japanese food! Ginkaku-ji is pretty iconic as well. I'd love to even just see it as we pass by on the way to somewhere else, though I understand it's sort of on the outskirts of town? So that may or may not happen...

      Teamonstar, Wiske, and Everyone Oh, there will be photos all right!! I've got some lithium batteries for my own camera, and about ten gigs worth of SD cards - will I use all of that? Probably not, but I'd rather have it and not use it than need it and not have it, LOL! Since this trip is in association with Fashion Doll Quarterly Magazine, I think photos - good photos, and lots of them, will happen!

      Plastic Princess Don't be afraid of seeming like a newbie! Every one of us was a newbie, and I very often still feel like one.

      Liarino I am _so_ looking forward to popping into little tiny restaurants - even stopping at street vendors, if we find them! (I understand they're easier to find during festivals - matsuri? - which I don't think will be going on while we're there) I'm going to be in Kyoto!! I want to eat every kind of Japanese food I can get in my mouth!!! I'm not likely to ever be blonde, blue-eyed, or a woman - but if the girls in Kyoto decide they'd like photos with the gaijin, I guess I'm game! (>_<) We do have some folks in the group who fit that description - we'll just have to protect each other from Japanese school-kids - or smile and pose with 'em!

      Ratty, I'd heard that about credit cards in Japan, so planned to pay for most stuff in cash, except perhaps for stuff I buy from VOLKS. (I know they can take my card in NY, LOL!) Zarusoba sounds yummy, and hydration is _always_ a good thing! I hope your own journey to Japan is amazing - and you take lots of photos to share too, 'kay?

      Marianna, I'm given to understand that VOLKS does have a museum at Tenshi-no-Sato with every Super Dollfie model ever made on display, but also that photographs are not allowed there. If they allow us to photograph in the museum, I'd love to take a few shots - or even a panorama showing every doll in the place! That will be up to VOLKS, though.

      Wiske I'll try to get you some pix of the architecture and fashion of Kyoto - even though it's not the fashion center that Tokyo seems to be, I'm sure the folks there wear some cute stuff from time to time!!

      Junkets, that bamboo forest sounds wonderful - I love bamboo! I've considered planting some in my yard, but I'm given to understand that it's very, _very_ invasive.

      Shiori_hime - Wow. You've got me _so_ excited!! I am interested in the traditional side of Japan, which is a big part of why I'm so excited that this is Kyoto. Kyoto!! Spending time in the geisha districts, catching sight of them darting to and from their appointments like exotic jungle birds or the rainbow colored fish of the tropical reefs would be pretty incredible - _being_ one of those appointments . . . might just be more than I could take! (I wouldn't mind it though.....) They are such elegant artists . . . Shabu-shabu sounds oishii (delicious!) too!! I'm thinking that I'd like to take my tastebuds on an adventure, and eat whatever gets put in front of them - and nobody better put "McDonalds" or "KFC" in front of them that week, LOL!!! Your post is just a goldmine, as are several in this thread so far - and I'm even more excited than I was before!!

    18. I recommend just looking around Arashiyama, which is the area around where Tenshi no Sato is. I had the pleasure of checking it out when I was there, long before I was into dolls, and it's one of my favourite places in Japan. There are a whole bunch of ancient temples in the area, and I recommend Adashino Nenbutsu-ji. On your way up the hill, there are a few other temples worth seeing. Junkets also mentioned the nearby bamboo forest. I have very fond memories of that forest. Most certainly worth checking it out.

      If you want something less traditional, check out Kyoto Station. It's got some really cool architecture and an observation deck. It's quite a contrast to rest of the city. There's also a fantastic tempura restaurant in the mall below the station. I could find it while walking, but to describe where it is - more difficult. But if you can find the food wing, then it's there.

      Volks stores in Japan most certainly DO take Visa. I can most certainly confirm that, since I used mine a couple times. But yeah - in smaller stores, you're out of luck. They're very much a cash society.
    19. Well, it looks like everyone has already made a lot of suggestions. I'd definitely second seeing Kiyomizu-dera, there are some gorgeous views there. For food, I have to recommend the shaved ice; I had some green tea ice with cherry blossom ice cream that was really delicious. Definitely pick up a good map of the city - between the confusing street layout and the bus riding, it's easy to find yourself somewhere you had no intention of going, and it's very hard to find an internet connection. Luckily, Tenshi no Sato is very easy to find from the train station. A working knowledge of Japanese is really important; Kyoto in particular has far fewer English speakers than you might expect from such a tourist site. Plus, it'll help you meet people. The youth hostels are a good place to stay if you're low on money, but make sure you have lots of cash, because very few places take credit cards, even those that seem like they might. And make sure you stay hydrated - it is insanely hot and humid there. It's not too hard, what with all the vending machines there are - there's a hundred yen machine not too far from Tenshi no Sato.
    20. I went to Kyoto in 2008 and visited Tenshi-no-Sato as part of a larger trip in Japan.

      We went to Nara while staying in Kyoto and that was very impressive.

      We were very lucky at the time there was a really cool Shojo exhibit in the Manga museum. The museum itself is mostly meant to hang around and read manga, so if you don't read Japanese you might find it a bit dull ;p

      I really want to go back (next year!) and visit the Kyoto Costume Institute. They have a truly unbelieveable collection of clothes both historic and modern.