I is for 一乗寺

I is for Ichijoji, or the place known as my neighborhood. Ichijoji has been my home for about four years now. It is a charming, slightly grungy area of Sakyo-ku (East Ward) that is also known as Ramen Ally. To be honest, I haven’t actually eaten that much ramen around here, but that’s because I’m a creature of habit, and after I found one ramen restaurant I liked, I didn’t see the need to explore further (especially since I don’t have a budget for exploratory meals at Kyoto prices).

Ichijoji isn’t just ramen, though. It’s been home, and a good one. Our neighbors have been friendly, we are in proximity to a lot of convenient places and beautiful temples that draw large crowds every year. Amusingly, at least for me, is also how very hipster this area of Kyoto is, with shops stressing the exterior of their shops like a pair of fashionable jeans. All the cool kids do their tourism in Ichijoji, I guess, which besides for its temples and its ramen, is also home to a very over-priced hipster bookshop, and a very inexpensive used bookshop that is far more authentically hipster.

It’s also home to the ugliest gym on the planet (my gym, which I have to pay $130/month for), a hideous arcade (that kids don’t frequent) and an even more hideous pachinko parlor (Japan’s only legalized gambling). I sound like I’m complaining, but actually, I’m really fond of this area, and I’ll be sad to leave it.

NJ and I will never really have an experience like this again. Nor will we ever live in a place quite the same as Ichijoji. And that’s okay, but I’ll still miss it.

Images hosted on Flickr. 

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59 thoughts on “I is for 一乗寺

    1. My one biggest regret from every place I’ve had to move from is that I never took photos of my neighborhood. I made sure this time it wouldn’t be the case. 🙂 It is fairly old, definitely, but they’re slowly renovating (tearing down the old buildings… 😦 )

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    1. Hahaha…. these are called Tanuki. It’s a raccoon dog that wears a turtle shell on its back, and a jug of sake so he can always be drunk and happy. He brings good luck and wards off evil, so many houses in Japan keep them in front of their doors (like garden gnomes, if garden gnomes had their genitals exposed… oddly, Tanuki are supposed to keep all of their money in their nether-pouches.) They’re an amusing, slightly creepy but charming part of Japanese culture. 🙂

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      1. I was going to ask the same thing. That is the most impressive set of garden gnomes that I’ve ever seen! At least they ward off evil! I’ve never understood whether the gnome version had any function at all, other than looking out of place and collecting dirt. Now I wonder…

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  1. A really interesting view of your neighborhood, Alex. It’s always nice to see where someone lives. I’ll never forget the racket of the pachinko parlors – I could hear them a long way off and couldn’t imagine what would make all that noise. What are the things hanging in the third picture? Great photos!

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    1. They’re small sandals that people leave on the statue of the monk that made a pilgrimage there (there’s a pilgrimage route that takes people through 180 temples and takes about a year to complete.)

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    1. It’s crazy. And I still have to pay a $3 visiting fee on top of that each time I go. 😦 the saddest thing is that’s the cheapest gym in my part of the city.

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    1. You’re plenty cool enough. 🙂 it might be a hipster playground, but it has all types. Grannies, funny old men, yakuza (!!!), children, etc… Always something interesting to watch.

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    1. Basically. They emulate Portland hipster culture on purpose, I think… But it’s just the aesthetic, not the attitude.

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    1. The pinwheels are left for the unborn children’s spirits. I’m glad miscarriages and the like are honored still, here.

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  2. Alex, we host international exchange students from Japan about four times a year. We love that cultural exchange. Thanks for the pics!

    Stopping in from A to Z and thanks for the continued participation!

    Stephen Tremp
    A to Z Co-host
    Twitter: @StephenTremp

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  3. That mob of Tanuki looks a bit terrifying. 😀
    But that bookshop on 7th pic is definitely interesting. Are those 100 and 200 Yen books on display outside? Looks like a store I’d frequent.

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    1. The bookstore with the man dancing is the authentic store, and yeah. The books are cheap. I actually found a really old Anerican comic there that was only 300yen. Crazy!

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  4. This is completely unrelated to your actual post, today, but it’s these posts that are making me thing this:
    Have you ever read Shogun? I think I am now wanting to read it.

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    1. Believe me, we’re super sad too. This theme is making it even harder to go through with it, but it’s the right decision.

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    1. Yeah, Tokyo is always a good example of what happens when thy process is sped up substantially. There are so many fashion groups that there is no ONE style, but that’s a good thing, I think. 🙂

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    1. It’s a tanuki. You can Google for the really cool cultural history, but basically it’s a raccoon dog with a bottle of sake and a turtle on its back that wards off evil. 🙂

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  5. Hello Alex, I really love this series on Japanese words. I lived and worked in East Asia many years and even though my Japanese has never been as good as I would have liked to, I keep trying…not so easy from Scotland now, but hey, it’s worth the efforts. Good job, keep going 🙂

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  6. Hi Alex, I’m stopping by from the A to Z because Michelle Wallace let me know you were posting photos from Japan. Love the look of your photos!

    I posted some Japan pics from my 2004 trip there, for my “J” post. That was when I still had a film camera though 😉 Well, I do still have one, but I don’t use it anymore.

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  7. Thank you. I was born in Ichijoji some time ago and have very fond memories. Many of my family have passed; however, I still have cousins there. It was nice to see someone enjoy it as well. I’ve had my fair share of neighborhoods in places like NY, NJ, CA, NE, WA, PA, VA, and MD but the most enjoyable memories was in Ichijoji and my grandmother. Thanks!

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