Thursday, 23 April 2009

The current header picture #1

shows my mobile phone straps. The yellow-green-blue one is my adaptation of the wakaba sign.

Wakaba literally means what the sign symbolizes, 'young leaf'. Novice drivers have to clearly display this connotation of nature on their vehicle for one year. It warns other road users to be aware of a possible improper way of driving.

Due to its wide distribution and concise message, the wakaba sign is increasingly used in many other contexts as well, such as consumer electronics that are easy to handle for beginners, or introductory information for people without prior knowledge.

My adaptation of the wakaba sign adds the character 京 (pronounce: 'kyo'). This is the first character of 'Kyoto' when written in Japanese. Wherever this character appears--be it products, services, events, places, or information--it reveals at a glance that there is a connection to Kyoto.
Thus, the Kyoto-Wakaba signifies, "As for Kyoto, I am a 'young leaf'; I am a Kyoto novice". Sentences in Japanese and English, although mostly decorative and only readable on closer examination, express this explicitly, "I’m a new resident of Kyoto."

This badge as well warns to be prepared for unexpected actions, something that applies not just but also to road safety: Many’s the time I’ve stopped walking abruptly or crossed the street when an interesting shop or an architectural detail caught my eye…
Unlike a vehicle, which is parked at times, a mobile phone is a constant companion. You hold it in your hand, have it in your pocket, or it is on the table beside you--and with it the attached strap. For exactly that reason, mobile phone straps are so popular in Japan: They are perfect to add an individual touch to slick devices and to communicate your personality.

Reactions to my Kyoto-Wakaba-mobil phone strap so far:
"A Kyoto-Wakaba mobile phone strap… I’ve never seen such thing before. Where did you bought this?"

"Did they give that to you at the kuyakusho (Ward office responsible for local residents' registration)?"

"Kawaii!" (I don’t need to translate this, do I? "Cute!")

"You have to carry that with you for one year!"


Well, as long as this header picture is visible, expect me to carry my Kyoto-Wakaba with me. Secretly, I still hope for a Kyoto connoisseur who wants share some insiders’ tips...

You can neither buy the Kyoto-Wakaba nor receive it at the kuyakusho--but you can download it here. It is based on this Wikimedia Commons file.


  1. Dear Bianca,

    I met you once at Cafe Pause!
    I lived in Kyoto for one year when I was a student, so I'll tell you a couple of my favorite spots. Maybe you already know them...?
    One is the 梨木神社、which is a shrine just to the east of the Kyoto Gosho, about halfway down. Nashiki Jinja has famous water. People line up with their pet bottles to get water there. i used to get water there to make my morning coffee with. It also has 愛の木which is a tree that gives you love - it really works! Also at the shrine sometimes you can hear people singing in a sort of Noh style and I think there are also regular tea ceremonies there. It's not a very touristy place and the woods around the shrine are very messy and wild - it's one of my favorite places to go! There is an interesting gallery not far from there as well called Voice. I haven't been there in several years but you can find it listed with a map on Kansai Art Beat.
    I'm hoping to go to Kyoto in a couple weeks to enjoy the sakura!


  2. Dear Claire, thank you so much for your lovely comment!
    Last week, I finally had the chance to taste the Nashiki Jinja water... it is really, really nice!

    Hope to see you again, bb