Regulars will note that I have been MIA for a couple weeks. I just returned from a repeat visit to the Mediterranean – “travelogue” to follow :-). But first, a couple posts to finish out our great Japan Visit.
We began our second day in Kyoto, after breakfast in the hotel buffet restaurant, promptly at 8:30. We had an ambitious agenda, thanks to our gracious hosts. This was a long day, with lots of photos, so bear with me here. We began the day with a stop at Sanjusen-do Temple. This is a Budhist Temple which is known, among other things, as the site of a very popular archery tournament. The building is a very long, rectangular shape and along one of the long sides, the archer stood at one end of the building and the target was at the other end. We saw many marks in the wall of the building at the target end where arrows had missed the mark. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to walk the grounds to get a shot of the archery “range,” and the light was too intense to try to capture that image. The shot here gives an idea of the immensity of the building.
Our next stop was the Seiryuden Temple, which was partway up a nearby mountain and was build on an area known as the Shogunzuka Mound (将軍塚, Shōgunzuka), which gave us a spectacular panoramic view of Kyoto. The interior of this Temple was a rather large, open space with a small altar area. Like much of what we have seen in Asia, and in Southern Europe, the art and religious articles often have a lot of gilding and color — particularly gold. What is especially notable about the Japanese art and architecture, however is its elegant simplicity. This can be seen in the open space of the interior of this temple, and in the very unique, glass teahouse that is in the center of the observation deck.
Our next stop, Nijo Castle (Nijojo) was kind of special. A UNESCO Historic Site; our hosts informed us that within the next several months, this site will become closed to the public (presumably except for only special events). This was the Palace, fortress, home and military headquarters of the Tokugawa Shogun. There were no photographs allowed inside the palace, shown here, but it had some really interesting, simple, and very old artwork. There were numerous rooms within the Place with a long, wooden hallway around the perimeter. The Palace was surrounded with a wall, an we entered through a very ornate gate, as seen here.
Our next stop was — predictably — lunch. My son wanted us to try a Ramen restaurant, and my daughter wanted to try it, too. Our hosts had heard of a famous restaurant nearby which was know for its “Fire Ramen.” It was, once again a very hot day, and being in a different country and culture, we didn’t know exactly what to expect. But my daughter and her boyfriend, our daughter-in-law and her mom all wanted to try the fire ramen. The rest of us sat at a nearby table and ordered “regular” ramen. :-). As it turns out, the primary difference was that the fire ramen had a pan of extremely hot oil poured into it which create a high flame (and then lots of smoke). The regular ramen was delicious. I grew to like the very smoky miso broth that was common with these noodle dishes. And I did it all with chop sticks. I tried to photograph it, but it happens very fast. I had my camera ISO set too low and as you can see, there is a fair amount of “motion” in the image. Maybe not a bad depiction, as the involuntary reaction is to lean back away from the flame. :-)
Knowing we were going to Kyoto, my daughter-in-law asked us what we would like to see while there. I opined that the one place I wanted to see (and mostly, to photograph) was the Temple Rokuon-Ji. This golden temple was photogenic in every illustrative image I saw, while researching Japan. To my great pleasure, this temple was next on our rotation. And it did not dissappoint! There will be a print of this spectacular site on my wall soon. In fact, we have a prominent place in our home where we plan to hang it. We were fortunate to have nice skies and though mid-day light, not a harsh as it could have been. I can only imagine shooting this temple in the golden light of early morning or evening. But I am satisfied with what we did have. The reflecting pond makes this a pretty good photographic site. This was perhaps the single most crowded destination we visited during our stay in Kyoto, but the pond made it possible to not only isolate the site without any people in it, but it also provided lots of interersting foreground interest. We saw an image of this scene dusted with snow and it made me want to come back here in December!
Whew! Already a long, and sight-filled day. But we weren’t done yet. Next stop, the Bamboo Forest. There is not really much to say here, except wow. It is tall, limbless bamboo trees as far and tall as the eye can see. It makes you want to, well, photograph it :-).
Our final destination for the day, and our final visit to Kyoto’s historic and cultural sites, was the Fushimi Inari Shrine. This huge shrine holds numerous buildings, the architecture of which either mimics, or includes the rather symbolicly famous, orange Japan gate structure. Indeed there is a significant part of this site which involves a long corridor up a mountain path, made of these gates.
These structures were very ornately decorated, but again, displayed the elegantly simple architectural design that is quintessentially Japanese.
As we proceeded higher into the shrine, we started to see the developing scenario, which involved the orange gates. The writing on the pillar is the names (in kanji of course) of persons who donated money to the shrine. For a price, you may still purchase one of these. There are some very large ones that come at a higher price.
In spite of this ambitious agenda, we actually ended our rather long day around 4:00. We made plans to meet for dinner later, and I took care of two more items on my agenda. My pro friend, Ray, tells me that no “real” photographer visits Japan without going to Yodabashi. It turns out that there are several locations for this electronics superstore, including one right in central Kyoto, by Kyoto station. So I walked over. I have never been to B&H in New York and I am sure it is a pretty big store. But Yodabashi was 2 or three stories, with each story covering roughly the ground of a typical Best Buy department store – perhaps larger. And the camera section was at least 50% of one of the floors. It was mammoth, and for the most part, every possible camera and lens was out on shelves, and we were free to look, touch, pick up and look through the viewfinder; even fondle them :-) (one of the things that impressed me about the entire country of Japan is there is virtually no street crime. People do not steal things. I don’t know of any camera or electronics store in the U.S. where the merchandise was so freely available for demonstration. And, it appeared to me that they had every brand and style known.
Finally, being sated from the lust of a buyer who doesn’t really need anything and cannot really justify buying anything, I left the store, and headed back to Kyoto Station. I know it was my last chance to walk around the station and shoot. I had heard that it was an architectural phenomena and could see from the stairs and escalators going up many stories, that it was one I wanted to see and try to capture.
We finished our day at a yakiniku restaurant. Yakiniku means, generally, grilled meat. We sat at small rectangular tables, with grills in the middle and ordered plates of meat and vegetables which we grilled and ate. Delicious.
Next weekend, I am off to Vermont for a long weekend, to shoot foliage, meet some old friends, celebrate a couple friends no longer with us, and enjoy good fellowship. Back the week after, I will finish up Japan (yes, there is more :-)), and start in on my time in Europe! See you then.
Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL | Tagged: Andy Richards, bamboo, bamboo forest, color, Fushimi Inari, glass teahouse, Japan, Kyoto, Kyoto Station, Kyoto Tower Hotel, LightCentric Photography, Nijo Castle, Ninomaru Palace, PHOTOGRAPHY, Photoshop, Ramen, Rokuon-Ji Temple, Sanjusansen-do, Seiryuden Temple, Shogunzuka Mound, Sony, Yakiniku, Yodabashi | 2 Comments »