Discovering Kyoto’s Mt. Yoshida
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Azaleas Leading To the Munetada Shrine on Mt. Yoshida, Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 800 — map & image datanearby photos
Azaleas Leading To the Munetada Shrine
on Mt. Yoshida, Kyoto, Japan

One of the most wonderful aspects of Kyoto is that it has so many treasures – usually hidden in plain sight – such that you never run out of new discoveries. Today was yet another day of discovery for me, right in my own backyard.

10 minutes north by bicycle from my place is a small tree-covered outcropping called yoshidayama (Mt. Yoshida). I've sort of noticed it over the years, having driven near and around it often, but it's always been one of those things that I never actually paid much attention to. When you're driving by, it seems more like tall trees in the background beyond the buildings that front the street rather than a small mountain.

Here's the view via Google Maps. It's the green blob in the center, surrounded by city, with the campus of the University of Kyoto to its immediate west...

The Heian Shrine and the area where I live is just out of frame to the south.

Anyway, I recently received a note from a user of my Lightroom plugins telling me that he also lives in Kyoto, and inviting me for a coffee and conversation about Kyoto, photography, and Lightroom. Sounds great to me!

He mentioned that he liked the area around Mt. Yoshida, so today we decided to meet near there. Investigating more closely with Google Maps, I realized just how little I knew about the area between me and it, and how interesting it seems, with old, narrow streets, and lots of shrines and such. So, I set out for our meeting a bit early, camera in tow, on a route I'd never been, just to see what I'd find along the way.

First, I found out that Mt. Yoshida is not a monadnock, that is, not a tree-covered bump in the middle of a flat city. Rather, the tree-covered bump represent that part of a much larger hill that the residential city has not yet encroached upon. This meant lots of “quality time” with my bicycle's low gear as I headed up hill almost the entire way.

Not long after leaving the area I was familiar with, I started finding wonderful little treasures... quaint scenes of old Japan mixed with shrines and modern Japan and the odd, inexplicable monument. Getting close to what turns out to be the southern tip of the tree-covered part, I came across a set of steps leading to the Munetada Shrine, which I had never heard of. As it is, I still don't know anything about it, because the furthest I got on this reconnaissance trip was the bottom of the steps....

Entrance to the Munetada Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 120 mm — 1/250 sec, f/10, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Entrance to the Munetada Shrine

The first glimpse I got of the steps was one I felt was quintessentially Japanese. Here's a view from the street...

Quintessential Japan Shrine Entrance, Power Lines, Stop Sign, and a Mini Car -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Quintessential Japan
Shrine Entrance, Power Lines, Stop Sign, and a Mini Car

Looking the other direction back toward where I'd come was similarly authentic....

Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200 mm — 1/400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 220 — map & image datanearby photos

The temple in the background looks to be the Shinshogokurakuji Temple, which I'd also never heard of, and also didn't see any more of than you see in this shot. I was two photos into my trip – one temple entrance and one shrine entrance – and I already had half a day's worth of exploring added to my to-do list.

When I get around to it, it'll be interesting to compare. The temple was around for about 880 years before the shrine showed up a brief 150 years ago.

Anyway, I try to avoid the power lines and other visual trash when I can, so here's another view of the bottom of the steps....

Continuing on my way toward our meeting spot, I noticed among the modern city a tiny cemetery with a clump of trees behind it that made for a nicecan't tell it's in the middle of the city” shots....

Munetada Shrine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/400 sec, f/8, ISO 2200 — map & image datanearby photos
Suburban Cemetery “ you can't tell it's in the middle of the city ” -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 155 mm — 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos
Suburban Cemetery
you can't tell it's in the middle of the city

I was also treated to interesting views of Mt. Daimonji's fire pits, from vantage points I'd never had, close enough to see people up there...

Daimonji's Namesake “ 大 ” -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200 mm, cropped — 1/400 sec, f/11, ISO 1800 — map & image datanearby photos
Daimonji's Namesake

There's a major thoroughfare that runs between there and where I shot that picture from, and I've traveled it many times, but that road is so snugged up against the mountain that you don't get a clear view of the fire-pit area, so the view today was a first for me.

This kind of vending machine (here, branded for a kind of cold, canned coffee) was not a first...

Kirin Fire -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 130 mm — 1/400 sec, f/7.1, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos
Kirin Fire

Vending machine shoved almost into the street like this is not uncommon, but I still sometimes find their placement noteworthy. In many cases, they're a wart on an otherwise pretty scene, but they're sure handy. They're so ubiquitous that it's not surprising that Anthony drew one when he was still just four years old.

I finally got to the meeting point and met one Stéphane Barbery, a French writer and photographic artist who is also a clinical psychologist back in France, but whose visa for Japan does not allow him to practice here.

Stéphane has a deep sense of (and respect for) art, something I'm almost totally lacking. For me, the one and only measure of anything artistic is “do I like it?” We talked at length about all kinds of art and the Japanese sense thereof; I found the it all to be quite interesting, but I suspect that what I brought to the conversation was somewhat less stimulating for him.

(You can get a sense of his photographic side via his Flickr page, which shows a definite style very different from mine. If you can read French and its tangle of accented letters, his blog has perhaps more insight. I dunno.)

He introduced me to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with excellent karaage, and on the way out, I noticed a display in the window of dozens of tiny little figurines. I have no idea why they were in the window of a restaurant, but it's the type of thing that I just had to take a picture of...

“Please Eat at this Restaurant” ??? -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200 mm — 1/400 sec, f/5, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
“Please Eat at this Restaurant” ???

Stéphane then let me on a mini tour of one part of the mountain. We walked back streets, up narrow paths, and through quaint hillside residential areas of old machiya houses...

Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200 mm — 1/800 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

At one point we came across what looked like the private entrance to someone's garden...

Cozy -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/400 sec, f/5, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos
Cozy

I'm glad that he was leading the tour, because I never would have entered on my own, but it turns out that it was just the entrance to a mountain path. We took the path for a few minutes, and came across a small shrine area tucked under the trees. At one point he realized that my gaze had not taken me in a certain direction yet, so told me “turn around”, and this is what I saw...

Gates at Takenaka Inari Shrine Part of the Yoshida Shrine complex, Kyoto Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200 mm — 1/400 sec, f/5, ISO 900 — map & image datanearby photos
Gates at Takenaka Inari Shrine
Part of the Yoshida Shrine complex, Kyoto Japan

Of course, it reminds me of its more famous parent, Kyoto's Dazzling Fushimi Inari Shrine.

At one point we came across what appeared to be a bunch of granite seats, arrayed in front of a small semicircle stage...

Mysterious -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/250 sec, f/16, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos
Mysterious

The semicircle stage is just barely visible in front of the dropoff. There are houses just 50 yards beyond the dropoff, but I never knew it while standing there. In the background you can see the Daimonji fire pits across the way, so perhaps this was designed for viewing it? I dunno.

As it turns out, the photo above that I took today was taken from a location pretty much dead center in this photo from the fire pits that I took during a climb a couple of years ago...

Kyoto City, From Daimonji -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2006 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 @ 17 mm — 1/100 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Kyoto City, From Daimonji

The Mt. Yoshida “bump”, which is just above the guy's head in the photo, looks so very insubstantial, which is one reason I never really noticed it much. Yet, today, even just scratching its surface, I found much of interest. In looking at the map now and retracing our steps, I see that I barely touched but one corner of the mountain, and never even got close to the top.

Much remains to be explored.

On the way home, I snapped a picture of what I thought at the time was the entrance to someone's property, but it turns out it's the entrance to a cemetery. Pretty either way...

Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 44 mm — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos

All 5 comments so far, oldest first...

I truly enjoy your blog, especially the pictures of japan and its cultural places.. keep up the good work!

leon from singapore
http://hanleong.blogspot.com

— comment by Leon Koh on April 28th, 2009 at 1:36pm JST (8 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey. You are so right about all the hidden treasures in Kyoto that are just waiting to be discovered. Reading this post reminded me yet again why I love Kyoto so much. I’ll be exploring Mt. Yoshida on my next visit to Kyoto. Thanks again for another great post and for sharing your life and experiences in Kyoto with all of us.

— comment by Paul Barr on April 28th, 2009 at 5:26pm JST (8 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

There is a nice cafe on Yoshida yama too

Moan

Yes, I heard it’s very nice. Stéphane wanted to meet there, but it turns out that it was closed that day. We walked by it, and it’s definitely on the “must try sometime” list. —Jeffrey

— comment by katsu on May 1st, 2009 at 3:52am JST (8 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

Hey Jeffrey – I’m living in NW Arkansas – home of Walmart’s Home Office.

I stumbled on your blog and enjoy checking it out occasionally. I noticed that a lot of your pictures are with the awesome 70-200vr. I just got one myself and love it. Only thing I’m struggling with is how to best carry it around? Do you have a bag that holds it? If so, I’m curious as to what kind.

Or do you just sling it over your shoulder?

It’s easily my favorite lens already – just trying to figure out what the best way to carry it is.

Thanks!

I don’t use a strap with my camera, so when I’m using it, I’m holding it. My walk-around camera bag is a Lowepro Off Trail 2 which is not really large enough to hold a body with the 70-200, so if the 70-200 is on the camera, the camera is in my hand. If I want to bring it along with another lens, it usually travels in a separate padded tube (another Lowepro of some sort) that I hook to the Off Trail 2 belt with a carabiner. —Jeffrey

— comment by Mike on May 2nd, 2009 at 10:34pm JST (8 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

I live in Portland, but lived in Tokyo many years. Loved your story about Mt. Yoshida (Mt. is a stretch of the imagination). I was there in April to see Shinnyo-do and the tombs of the 57th Emperor Yozei and the 63rd Emperor Go-Ichijo, both just a few steps from where you started at Munetada Jinja.
Looking at the Google map, I also missed a lot there so I hope to return next May to see more of Mt. Yoshida. If you go to my site you can find the gallery of my visit at KYOTO > Temples… > GINKAKUJI > SHINNYO-DO.

— comment by Dick H. on July 29th, 2014 at 2:08am JST (3 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink
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