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Archive for the 'General' Category

General posts

Rich Wood Views Inside Kyoto’s Zuishin Temple

One of the famous spots in Kyoto for plum blossoms is the Zuishin Temple (随心院) in Yamashina ward, and its blossoms appeared on my blog eight years(!) ago in "Plum Blossoms and Photographers". The style of both my blog presentation and photography has changed quite a bit in the intervening years.

Anyway, I made a visit this past March during plum-blossom season, but having already enjoyed the plum at the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine and at the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park, I decided this time to actually venture inside the temple building for the first time. I was joined by Damien [...]


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Invicta Watches: Lowering the Average I.Q. of Humanity One Watch at a Time

Poking around on Amazon.com, I got sidetracked browsing some truly horrid-looking watches, and came across the most meaningless marketing fluff I've ever seen, for any product, anywhere.

The "product description" has four beefy sentences barely able to contain all 576 words, yet not weighted down by even the slightest actual fact or hint of useful information:

A vision quest indeed. Not knowing ahead of time what this was "describing", I think many would be hard pressed to realize it's supposed to be about a watch. "Swiss movements" is perhaps a good hint, but it could just as easily get lost [...]


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Photo Shoot with Alice Gordenker in Kyoto

I've been a fan of Alice Gordenker's monthly "So What The Heck Is That?" column in the Japan Times for years. I first mentioned her writing on my blog more than seven years go when referring to an article she wrote about Gold Poop. (Yes, Gold Poop. Go ahead and read about gold poop, I'll wait.)

She writes a variety of articles for the Japan Times, and also has a blog where she often goes into more detail on whatever the newspaper article was about.

Somewhere along the lines we became acquainted via email, and a couple of years ago [...]


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A Few More Off-Season Spring Blossoms

I'd prepared a few other "off-season spring-blossom" photos that didn't fit into yesterday's post, so I thought I'd just post them today. All but the last two are from April 2013.

This was from the same trip that produced a wonderful bonanza of pictures that I've barely scratched the surface of.

The last few are from the amazing Haradanien Garden (原谷苑), which I've posted about at length in the past starting here.

I haven't done all that much blossom photography over the last two years, but I did snap this shot of the late-April blossoms on our recent trip to [...]


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Revisiting Kyoto’s Fall Colors: Shugakuin Imperial Villa Last November

Chatting with a visitor to Kyoto yesterday, she said that she really wanted to see Japan's fall foliage sometime. That prompts me to dip into my archives for a fall-foliage post today, with photos from a visit last November to the Shugakuin Imperial Villa in north-east Kyoto.

It was a brilliantly bright day and even with my polarizer filter (which normally has a wonderful effect with fall colors) the photos seem washed out to me, but some are still not too bad.

This is my second visit, the first having been covered starting in "My First Visit To Kyoto’s Shugakuin [...]


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Milestones: Twenty Five Years Since First Coming to Japan, and More

Today is the 25th anniversary of my first arrival in Japan. 来日25周年になりました!

It was June 19th, 1989 that I flew into Tokyo from California after having finished grad school and then lived with my brothers for several months while waiting for my work visa to be approved. I was met at the airport by Krish Kulkarni, whom I had never met, but had no trouble finding because he's the twin brother of my best friend at grad school, Ram Kulkarni (who later went on to be the best man at my wedding, and I at his).

A day or [...]


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Unearthly Steak in Japan at Awaji Island’s “Beefland Prince”

With Anthony away on a school trip, Fumie and I made a day-trip date to Awaji Island two hours by car south from Kyoto, where our first stop was a late lunch in heaven, A.K.A "Beefland Prince".

息子は修学旅行中なので、妻と一緒に淡路島の日帰りデートをしました。まずは「ビーフランド大公」でめっちゃ美味いステーキを戴きました。

You can't begin to imagine how good this steak was. When I say the steak literally melts in your mouth, I'm literally using the word "literally" for its literal meaning... the fats in the meat just melt away. It's almost unearthly when compared to any other steak I've ever had in this life (including the fantastic teppanyaki steak I wrote about the [...]


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Okay Views From Kyoto’s Shogunzua’s Overlook Today

We had a brief heavy rain this afternoon a couple of hours before sunset, and so with the clearing air I thought to make a visit to check out the views from the Shogunzuka Overlook, which I haven't been to in a while. (However, the "nearby photos" link under any photo brings you to the bazillion photos I've posted from up here over the years.)

今日の集中豪雨の後、将軍塚からの景色を見に行きました。

It reminded me of one of the first times I posted photos from up here seven years ago, also after a storm. Photos from that day also appeared on last year's "Views of Kyoto [...]


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Screw It, I Did My Next Annual Mt. Hiei Hike 51 Weeks Early

This is sort of a continuation of the previous post, "My Mt. Hiei Climb Challenge 2014, Part 2", that covered my 3rd annual hike up Kyoto's Mt. Hiei.

次の比叡山の年次山登りは51週間早くしました。今回はカメラを持って行かなかった(アイホン以外)のでこの記事の写真はまずい。御免。

Previous attempts:

The first year's hike wrecked me so much that it shocked me into getting in shape.

The 2nd year (last year's) was better but still quite a challenge.

This year's hike, two weeks ago, was much better almost to the point of "easy", but giving the hike back down a try for the first time ended up killed my knees and ankles, leaving me in pain for a few [...]


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My Mt. Hiei Climb Challenge 2014, Part 2

This post picks up from "My Mt. Hiei Climb Challenge 2014, Part 1", where I'd ended with having completed the ascent in good time and good form.

It was still early (12:45ish), so I decided to check out some of the temples farther into the mountains.

Some of the paths in these mountains were laid out thousands of years ago. I'm sure these old guardrail posts aren't that old, but this next photo gives a hint to the age because the bigger post, which essentially looks brand new compared to the guardrail posts, is dated April 1936...

Dotted here and [...]


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My Brother Just Finished a 55-mile UltraMarathon!

Having just posted about a tiny baby hike to the top of an anthill in Kyoto that I feel good about having been able to do, I'm put to shame by my next-older brother Mike, who moments ago finished the Comrades Ultra-Marathon in South Africa. A normal Marathon is 26.22 miles, but this one is 55.5 miles (89.28 km). He finished in 9h 37m 26s, the 3,198th finisher out of 18,000 runners.

That leaves a pace of 10m 24s per mile.... every mile... more than 55 times in a row. On a good day I might be able to do [...]
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My Mt. Hiei Climb Challenge 2014, Part 1

As I mentioned the other day, I recently did my third-annual Mt. Hiei (比叡山) hike, the first two years ago having been what prompted me to get in shape. Comparing this hike to previous ones is a yardstick to measure how well I'm getting in shape.

I've documented the route well enough in previous years (two years ago   -   last year) so I didn't intend to do it again this year. I did bring along a smaller camera (a Nikon D700) and the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens that I bought accidentally to document my progress via timestamps on [...]


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The Mountain Claims a Sign, But Doesn’t Claim Me

今日は僕の第三回目の比叡山の山登りハイキングをしました。登るのはやっぱり去年より早い(二時間半じゃ無くて、一時間半)。 以前はバスで帰ったけれども、今回は足で、往復で28½キロ出来ました。嬉しい。ジムのおかげさまで。

Today I did my third annual Mt. Hiei climb. The climb in 2012 is what got me started on the road to getting fit. Then it took me 2h 6m to make the climb and I was completely wiped out. Last year it actually took longer (2h 24m) because I was stopping so much for photography, but I felt much better in doing it than the extra time could explain.

This year it took 1h 36m and I felt just fine when I got to the top, so much so that I didn't stop to rest, and moved [...]


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Lunch Report: Exquisite Teppanyaki Steak at the Kyoto Brighton Hotel

We had a nice family lunch at the Kyoto Brighton Hotel's teppanyaki grill "Himorogi" (燔). With a teppanyaki meal, the chef prepares it on a grill in front of you.

This kind of meal at a Japanese Restaurant in The States often involves a big theatrical performance of spinning knives, flipping shrimp, and corny jokes, but that's an invention purely for the foreign market, and there's absolutely none of that in Japan as far as I know. Rather, real teppanyaki involves quiet, reserved, and exceedingly precise preparation with the main emphasis on quality.

Though it's not "theatrical", it is a [...]


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The Lazy Photographer: Exposing for Single-Shot HDR (Sort Of)

Photos in yesterday's "Heian Shrine Gate From a New Perspective" were taken during an open house at a new wedding-venue business. The fifth-floor terrace from where I took those photos is off a small cafe where wedding guests can wait for the events to begin.

The cafe was richly lit with shade streaming in from the floor-to-ceiling windows that made up two walls, but it was much darker than the outside, so the wide dynamic range (wide range between shadows and brights) made for a fun challenge.

To create the photo above, I overexposed for the outside and then "slightly" [...]


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Heian Shrine Gate From a New Perspective

The shot above is from quite the different vantage point from normal. I've posted many views of the main gate of the Heian Shrine on my blog over the years, such as this shot more than eight years ago. My blog's proximity search of the area reveals many more.

After living here so long it's a challenge to find something fresh, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a new vantage point the other day when a new business opened up after a long year of building demolition and then new construction.

The new business, wedding venue Rokusisui (六絲水), held [...]


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Kendo Masters Tournament in Kyoto, Part 2

This post continues from yesterday's "My First Look at Kendo: Masters Tournament in Kyoto" post, which introduced the kendo ("Japanese fencing") event I attended the other day.

These people (mostly men, but there were a few women) were 7th-dan masters (the max is 8), meaning that they've been doing this for at least 23 years. I wonder whether they get nervous before a bout.

With patience I eventually worked myself into a position that I thought would give great shots, right at the center line where the bonsai tree was directly in the line of sight inside the Japanese flag. [...]


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My First Look at Kendo: Masters Tournament in Kyoto

The other day I attended some very high level kendo (Japanese fencing) bouts, my first real exposure to it other than having seen a bit six years ago during a visit to a Japanese high school.

Last week I posted a couple of lone photos here and here, but finally I'll actually write a bit about the event.

The sign says something along the line that it's the 110th All Japan Kendo Martial-Arts Exhibition.

I live a short stroll from this place, so it's a shame that it's taken me 10 years to make a visit. I had no idea [...]


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Mini Rant: Disappointed in Netflix Video Streaming

I've been subscribing to Netflix's video-streaming service for a month or so. For $9 bucks a month it's a great deal and I recommend it, but that being said, it's also a big disappointment over what I expected.

YouTube has defined what's expected in video streaming, and the Netflix experience is so much worse. One problem is that the video quality is usually pretty bad -- blocky and pixelated -- even though I have a very fast connection (even via the VPN that I require to access Netflix from Japan). I can watch super-HD 1080p videos on YouTube without problem, [...]
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The Thrill of Japan’s Biggest Waterwheel

While driving around the sparsely-populated coastal/mountain area of western Aomori Prefecture at the northern end of Japan's main island during a short family trip last week, in the middle of nowhere we suddenly came across something billing itself as "Japan's largest waterwheel".

It seemed at least a bit photogenic, so I stopped for a quick look.

The tree in the lower left of the photo above hosted the "Dark, Brooding Camellia" (乙女椿) that I posed last week.

The "dark brooding" was because of an underexposure. A shot soon after was way overexposed, but I think I recovered something interesting(?) in [...]


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