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A Couple of “Cozy” Houses in the Neighborhood
NOTE: Images with an icon next to them have been artificially shrunk to better fit your screen; click the icon to restore them, in place, to their regular size.

I mentioned yesterday that I had taken a short late-afternoon stroll to photograph some old Machiya houses nearby. They overlook the little river that runs by my place, a short walk downstream.

Here's the first...

With Mini Balconies Jutting Over the River -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/200 sec, f/5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
With Mini Balconies Jutting Over the River

This is right across the river from where “Rare Shinto Shrine-Closing Ceremony” was photographed (two years ago to the day, now that I think about it).

Reverse Angle -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 110 mm — 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Reverse Angle
Close Up -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/80 sec, f/4, ISO 220 — map & image datanearby photos
Close Up

I look at the overall design and suspect that they were originally meant for stepping out to enjoy the cool river air, but in looking at their construction, I can't imagine how they could support the weight of a person, so their intent remains a mystery. Maybe they're just architectural styling.

Pulling back a bit for a wider view, you can see the mishmash of old construction and modern patches that make up what look to be the neighboring houses, though I'm hard pressed to identify exactly where one house ends and the next begins...

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

I'd love to visit these with a Japanese Architectural version of Stewart Ainsworth, for the story these buildings could tell. (In a way, it reminds me of my “History Written in Brick” post from a couple of years ago.)

I love these kind of old dilapidated houses, but unlike those I've posted before (“Abandoned House Returning To Nature” and “Abandoned House in Hokkaido”), these are still occupied. I do suspect that they all have the same owner, due to the similar nature of their gutters (such as the “quality” of the installation).

Oh, and as you can tell, the red berries that mark Kyoto's colder seasons are out in force.

Moving a bit further downstream there's another old, long machiya house that I suspect holds multiple units....

Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/1600 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

The first one has a set of doors that are often open, at which I often see someone sitting quietly with a cup of tea....

Peaceful simple table with a small vase, in front of the open window by the stream -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Peaceful
simple table with a small vase, in front of the open window by the stream
Self Portrait Across the River -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 125 mm — 1/80 sec, f/4, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos
Self Portrait Across the River

Further down the same building, a reed mats covering a second-floor window were blowing briskly in the breeze...

Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/200 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

Under the windows was an area missing its wood veneer, showing the mud, bamboo, and twine wall underneath...

Mud & Bamboo Wall -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200 mm — 1/80 sec, f/2.8, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Mud & Bamboo Wall

I imagine that the interior looks similar to the Old House of Bamboo and Mud that I wrote about once. This kind of construction (heavy mud walls and heavy tile roof, supported by a timber frame) is extremely dangerous in an earthquake. Kyoto doesn't get many big ones, though.

By the way, these pictures are all a bit fuzzy because I'm an idiot, and forgot to reset my D700's auto-ISO feature when switching to the big zoom lens I used on this photo stroll. The “auto ISO” feature is wonderful in the D700, but I can't for the life of me figure out why they didn't take the one small extra step to make it really useful: allow a focal-length-multiplier mode, one when VR is on and another when off. This would be trivial from an engineering and UI-design point of view, and would make it vastly more useful, so it's baffling that it hasn't been done.

Anyway, the river then crosses under a small street; here's the view from the bridge back upstream....

Looking Upstream -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/800 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Looking Upstream

Looking downstream from the same position yields an entirely different view...

Looking Downstream -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/80 sec, f/4, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Looking Downstream

You're on a street with buildings all around (a museum, a doctor's office, a tall apartment building, etc.), and less than 70 meters away in the center of the frame passes a major four-lane thoroughfare with a subway line under it. But it's all hidden in this view, and I sort of like that. :-)


Comments so far....

Just got your site from my son, who is a photographer in Boulder, CO. He’s been following you and knows how much I love almost anything Japanese. I’m in Germantown, Wisconsin and have been to Kyoto once in my lifetime, but hope to get to return in the next year or two. I’ll keep checking in on your photos. I love to get a bit of a more cultural feel for the country and various cities. THANKS

— comment by Bobbie on November 16th, 2009 at 7:25am JST (4 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

For anyone to whom these photographs appeal as much as they do to me, can I recommend the book: ‘Japanese Homes and their Surroundings’, by Edward S. Morse. Originally published in 1886, it was reprinted in 1961 and 2000 by Dover Publications, Inc., New York and is still available. It is fascinating !

Just placed my order at Amazon Japan, thanks! I was at a doctor’s office today to get a note certifying that Anthony does not currently have the flu, and noticed on a computer near the doctor a screensaver with beautiful photo of a distant farmhouse at the base of some mountains. I commented that it was a great photo, and he replied “I took it yesterday”. :-) —Jeffrey

— comment by Peter in Wales on November 16th, 2009 at 6:20pm JST (4 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

Perhaps those little balconies were used for growing veg or herbs in times of greater hunger? But then again the wood might just be hiding a slab of concrete.

— comment by Daniel Cutter on November 16th, 2009 at 10:39pm JST (4 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

On the matter of Auto-ISO, I feel you. I think they are keeping it for a next model whenever they feel it makes economical sense to them, just so they have something new to deliver.

Well, it’ll work… If some mythical “D700j” came out identical to my D700 but had the fixed auto-ISO mode, I’d buy it. —Jeffrey

— comment by rx1337 on November 16th, 2009 at 11:24pm JST (4 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

I hope you enjoy the book as much as I do ! I wonder where the doctor had been photographing ?

Believe me, I asked… it was gorgeous. One of his photos was from the same general location as this geoencoded snapshot by someone else, on Panoramio. It’s in Makino, toward the northern tip of Biwako. It’s about an hour and a half away by car. —Jeffrey

— comment by Peter in Wales on November 17th, 2009 at 1:27am JST (4 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink
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