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My First Visit To Kyoto’s Shugakuin Imperial Villa
Formal Reception Imperial police officer waits for tour members to arrive at the entrance to the Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮), Kyoto Japan  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 — 1/400 sec, f/4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Formal Reception
Imperial police officer waits for tour members to arrive at the
entrance to the Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮), Kyoto Japan

Last autumn I finally made my first visit to the sprawling mountainside Shugakuin Imperial Villa in north-east Kyoto. It's one of three imperial (connected with the Emperor of Japan) sites in Kyoto that you can visit via reservation, but reservations can be difficult to come by. For example, other than a few time slots next month, every online reservation slot is already full through the end of May.

However, foreigners can stop by the Imperial Household Agency office (on the grounds of the imperial-palace park, here) to pick up a near-term reservation if any have opened up. If you're lucky you get one on the same day or the next day, but you can try to reserve up to a month in advance. You can make a reservation for yourself and three others, but at most only one can be Japanese. You need details on IDs (copy of a driver's license, passport, residency card, etc.) for all members in order to register.

desktop background image of a fall-foliage scene at the Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮), Kyoto Japan  --  Near the Waiting Area  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 — 1/60 sec, f/4, ISO 280 — map & image datanearby photos
Near the Waiting Area
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desktop background image of a fall-foliage scene at the Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮), Kyoto Japan  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 4500 — map & image datanearby photos
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desktop background image of a fall-foliage scene at the Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮), Kyoto Japan  --  Way Too Red Damien 's hat was deep red, but the leaves were much deeper still ( and so their color overwhelmed the camera sensor , washing them out :-()  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 3200 — map & image datanearby photos
Way Too Red
Damien's hat was deep red, but the leaves were much deeper still
( and so their color overwhelmed the camera sensor, washing them out :-()
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Tour Guide  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 2800 — map & image datanearby photos
Tour Guide

The tour moves at a pretty tight and brisk pace, stopping at various buildings (mostly tea houses) for some discussion. The guides/chaperons — all polite but unsmiling plain-clothed policemen — don't allow you to dawdle. For someone interested in photography, it's both exciting and frustrating, because you'll be exposed to scene after beautiful scenes, each of which you could spend hours at, but in most locations a pause of 10 seconds will earn you a reprimand to keep up.

desktop background image of a fall-foliage scene at the Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮), Kyoto Japan  --  Just Passing Through we were marched past this garden single-file, with nary a moment to pause  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 — 1/400 sec, f/4, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
Just Passing Through
we were marched past this garden single-file, with nary a moment to pause
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Quick Snap  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 — 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 125 — map & image datanearby photos
Quick Snap
desktop background image of a fall-foliage scene at the Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮), Kyoto Japan  --  Stream  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 — 1/500 sec, f/1.6, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Stream
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desktop background image of a fall-foliage scene at the Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮), Kyoto Japan  --  Longer Pause with much of the villa grounds before us Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 — 1/1250 sec, f/1.6, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Longer Pause
with much of the villa grounds before us
Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)
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The sun was just popping up over the mountains and the light was crisp and raw, leaving the evergreen trees positively glowing in an otherworldly way. I thought to try to overexpose a bit to capture the brilliance... not sure it really works, but here it is:

Brilliant  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 — 1/125 sec, f/9, ISO 280 — map & image datanearby photos
Brilliant
Choke Point police chaperon watches and waits while tour members enter a restricted area  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 — 1/160 sec, f/9, ISO 1600 — map & image datanearby photos
Choke Point
police chaperon watches and waits while tour members enter a restricted area

In one of the tea houses (all of which you can see from the outside only), down a long dark hallway you could see some notable old paintings of some of the huge wooden floats from the Gion Festival (such as this and this). It was very dark, but at ISO 10,000 you can make something of nothing...

Massive Festival Float  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/250 sec, f/2.5, ISO 10000 — map & image datanearby photos
Massive Festival Float
Wooden Gutter  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/5.6, ISO 10000 — map & image datanearby photos
Wooden Gutter
desktop background image of a fall-foliage scene at the Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮), Kyoto Japan  --  Something a bit Different just futzing around in Lightroom  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos
Something a bit Different
just futzing around in Lightroom
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desktop background image of a fall-foliage scene at the Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮), Kyoto Japan  --  Path the line of evergreens flank a path we took  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Path
the line of evergreens flank a path we took
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On the Path  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 110 — map & image datanearby photos
On the Path

The various private/secure areas are separated by farmer's fields and paths...

desktop background image of a fall-foliage scene at the Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮), Kyoto Japan  --  Farmer's Path  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/500 sec, f/2.5, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Farmer's Path
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Emperor's Path  --  Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/  --  This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/2.5, ISO 125 — map & image datanearby photos
Emperor's Path

Continued here...


Comments so far....

This brings back memories, Shugakuin is a breathtaking place – my wife and I did the tour in late November with just a point-and-shoot but those were some of the best pictures we got all trip. Surprisingly, despite the whole world seeming to be in Kyoto for momiji season, we had no problem at all getting a slot when we went to the Imperial Household Agency’s office in person – but I think back then online wasn’t an option. Glad you got to go and thanks for sharing the pictures!

— comment by Brian on February 19th, 2013 at 1:36pm JST (1 year, 10 months ago) comment permalink

I’d be going nuts if I wasn’t allowed to linger a little for photographic reasons. I guess that you are more attuned to the ways of Japan than most of us though. I’m envious of the colours you see over there, we have nothing like that here in the Highlands.

— comment by Gary Sutherland on February 20th, 2013 at 12:08am JST (1 year, 10 months ago) comment permalink

It’s been a while since I’ve been out to Katsura. You have captured the beauty of the gardens perfectly! Splendid pics!

The Katsura palace is a different place, which I’ve never been. I’ve heard it’s even better than the one I posted about. I really should visit. —Jeffrey

— comment by Wouter on February 21st, 2013 at 1:42am JST (1 year, 10 months ago) comment permalink
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