Sunday in Kyoto is a Modern Folktale — iPad App Review

Did you ever borrow a book-in-a-bag from the public library? The bag usually included a paperback picture book and a way to listen to the story, like a cassette tape, CD or (for those truly aged readers) a 7″ record. Sunday in Kyoto by Canadian developer The Secret Mountain recreates the nostalgia of an audio picture book while taking advantage of current iPad technology.

Sunday in Kyoto for iPad was adapted from a musical storybook of the same name. The app melds music composed by Gilles Vigneault with Stéphane Jorisch’s carefully rendered illustrations.

Sunday in Kyoto opens by playing the entire book from beginning to end, though the reader can switch modes at any point in the story by tapping the menu arrow in the bottom-left corner of the screen.

The story begins with an image of Old Man Joe with his banjo slung on his back strolling past a building that resembles a Shinto shrine. Joe left the Bayou behind to join his wife in Kyoto.


Sunday in Kyoto combines the comforting folk music with the unexpected story of a motley crew of musicians from around the world who assemble for a jam session in Japan. Readers will encounter a koto, a shamisen, and a bouzouki in addition to more familiar instruments such as the piano and guitar.

The reader can choose to watch the video, read the story without narration, or sing along by tapping the app’s Karaoke section.

Download Sunday in Kyoto from the App Store for $3.99. It is an iPad-only app.

What I liked: Sunday in Kyoto is an inherently musical story that was seamlessly adapted for the iPad.

What I didn’t like: The story’s text felt like an afterthought. The application opens with a beautiful, but overly long, animated section that promotes the Secret Mountain and if the reader elects to read the story it ends with the back page of what looks like the CD. There are 14 songs listed, but only “Sunday in Kyoto” is included in this app, which is a bit confusing.

To buy or not to buy: Children who are curious about music, particularly those with a curiosity about non-Western instruments will delight in Sunday in Kyoto. Music educators with iPad access might also want to consider purchasing this musical narrative for their classes. It is not, however, a must-own title for every household with an iDevice.

  • App Name: Sunday in Kyoto
  • Version Reviewed: 1.1
  • Category: Books
  • Developer: The Secret Mountain
  • Price: $3.99
  • Score:

About Emily: Emily is a freelance writer who loves discovering new apps whenever she can pry the iPad away from her children or husband. You can contact her via Twitter: @whatwentwrite