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Sunday, July 30, 2006

KANSAI: Who & What

English tours offered at Kamigamo Shrine:
Kamigamo Shrine in Kita Ward, Kyoto, on Friday will start giving daily tours with English-speaking guides.

The shrine, a world cultural heritage site, is one of the oldest shrines in Kyoto. Established in 678, it boasts a host of Shinto artifacts, including its "honden" (main shrine) and "gonden" (associate shrine), both of which have been designated as national treasures.

The tour will take visitors to the area where these precious buildings stand, and an English-speaking priest from the shrine will speak about Kamigamo's cultural properties and explain how festivals and rituals are held there, showing the area and a display introducing those events.

Those wishing to take part should be at the shrine by 9:30 a.m. The tour will take 20 to 30 minutes. Tours at other hours will be available upon prior request.

The tour will be held every day, except when the shrine holds special rituals or festivals. The cost is 500 yen per person.

For more information, call the shrine at (075) 781-0011, fax (075) 702-6618 or visit www.kamigamojinja.jp

Unique lotus can be seen at Shiga park:
A special variety of lotus flower can be observed through Aug. 6 in Moriyama, Shiga Prefecture.

"Omi myoren" is a lotus with numerous petals grown in the city's Omi Myoren Park. As a bud, it looks like it carries only one flower, but when the outer petals open, a group of two to 12 flowers is revealed. Each flower carries 2,000 to 5,000 petals.

The park is the only place where this variety is grown, and historical records state that the flower has its origin in China and was once presented to Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the third shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate, in 1406.

To mark the 600th year since that event, there is a special shuttle bus service touring the park and several other sightseeing spots, such as a natural lotus garden in the neighboring city of Kusatsu, where other kinds of lotus flowers are grown in a large area along the shore of Lake Biwa.

The bus starts at the west side of JR Moriyama Station every day through Aug. 6, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are nine services on weekdays and 15 on weekends. One-day tickets cost 1,000 yen.

The park is a three-minute walk from Tanaka bus stop, and is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance is 200 yen for adults and 100 yen for elementary and junior high school students.

For more information, call Moriyama City's tourist association at (077) 582-1131.

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