Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Posts relating to Japan and things Japanese

Celebrating the End of My Cold With Some Pretty Photos From 2008

I'm finally over the nagging cold I had for the last two weeks. It had relented a bit early on enough for me to write the posts on the gargoyle workshop, then returned and stuck with me until I finally went to the doctor the other day. He gave me antibiotics, and I started feeling much felt better the next day.


I couldn't concentrate on much while I had the cold, but to try to eke out some productivity, I picked a year (2008) and started going through my photo archive with and eye to delete cruft -- stuff [...]

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Gargoyle-Tile Workshop Visit Part 2: Crafting the Clay

Picking up from yesterday's "Gargoyle-Tile Workshop Visit Part 1: Factory Tour", we'll look a bit on how these complex decorative tiles are made.

These are essentially pottery, so crafting is "simple": create the shape you want out of clay, let it air dry for a few months, then fire it in a kiln for 30 hours at a bazillion degrees.

It's not that simple, of course. First off, with the lead time to the final firing measured in months, they can't afford to have pieces crack in the kiln, so they've developed crafting and firing techniques that completely avoids cracks. [...]

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Gargoyle-Tile Workshop Visit Part 1: Factory Tour

Japanese temples generally have tiled roofs, with ornamental tiles of various sizes and meanings sprinkled liberally throughout. For example, the demon-face tile seen the other day on this post:

In Japanese these ornamental tiles are called onigawara (鬼 瓦) -- literally "demon tile" -- though the word is used for any complex decorative tile, with or without a demon. The English word "gargoyle" is often used for these; it's not really the right word, but it's evocative of the same concept, and I can't think of anything better.

Earlier in the summer I had a fantastic opportunity (more on that [...]

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A Day with Sergey Kolychev in Kyoto

I'm finally getting around to photos from last November, when old Yahoo co-worker Sergey Kolychev paid me a visit. (He's not old, our co-worker status is).

In the intervening three years since his prior visit he'd become fluent in Japanese to the point that he can read novels, which just blows my mind. Japanese is at least his fourth language (after Ukrainian, Russian, and English), so maybe they get easier as they stack up.

We packed quite a bit into one day. We started out with a visit to the Heian Shrine...

We then popped over to the Nanzen Temple...

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Sand Sculptures at Kyoto’s Silver Pavilion Temple

Last fall I visited the Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺, the "silver pavilion") in north-east Kyoto. It's named for a building that was intended to be coated in silver leaf (comparable to how the golden pavilion is coated in gold leaf). Apparently they never got around to actually applying the silver, but the name stuck.

As it is today, the temple is noted for its sculptured sand, including a huge Mt. Fuji shaped cone.

The minor entrance stone garden is not particularly special, with similar features easily found at other temples. But the main garden raises the level considerably...

There's also a [...]

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Sigh, Lost All Email For the Last Day

I've used Emacs as my primary email client since about 1982, and for the first time in those 30+ years it inexplicably deleted my entire queue of unread mail (about 1,400 messages) when I tried to load the last day's worth of new mail this morning. Doh!

The thought of losing 1,400 messages awaiting my attention was both frightening and liberating. Sadly, I keep good automatic backups (in this case with Crashplan), so I was able to recover my mail queue as it stood a few hours ago.

As I mentioned yesterday, I've not been too attentive to email lately [...]

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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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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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Lightroom Catalog Maintenance: Clearing Out Edit History For Potential Performance Gains

This post is about trimming down the file size of an Adobe Lightroom catalog. In keeping with the off-season them of my previous post (which was filled with fall-foliage photos), this post is sprinkled with a few photos from Kyoto springs past, chosen more for their mentally-calming effect than for photographic quality, which they generally lack. (Sorry)

In a nutshell, if you have a large Lightroom catalog, and if you don't need the detailed editing history for your photos, you might be able to significantly reduce the size of your Lightroom catalog by flushing that edit-history data, which might generally [...]

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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".


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.)


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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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 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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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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