Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Posts relating to Japan and things Japanese

A Hazy Visit to Onyu Pass with Arthur and Neil

Last month before heading off on my trip to The States to visit my folks, I did a nice little bicycle to Onyu Pass and back, an 85 mile (137km) round trip over two other major passes each way. I was joined by veteran riders Arthur Lauritsen and Neil Holt.

My first visit to Onyu Pass had been during a day of incessant rain a month prior, and as such the supposedly-spectacular views were shrouded in clouds. I hoped for something better this time, but was left disappointed due to the extreme haze of the hot (35℃/95℉) humid air.

At [...]

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Morning Calm at Kyoto’s Hirosawa Lake

On a morning bicycle ride other day to Kyoto's western mountains, I made a few snapshots of Hirosawa Lake. It feels like it's a million miles from anywhere, but it's actually just one mile northeast from the teeming tourist crowds in the Arashiyama area.

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The Solemn Uniqueness of Kyoto’s Kuginuki Jizo Temple

Without question, the most unique and solemn temple I've ever come across in Japan is the small but emotionally-packed Kuginuki Jizo Temple here in Kyoto.

今まで出会ったお寺の中で、一番面白いな、いかめしいお寺は京都にある釘抜地蔵です。 日本語で説明は難しいですが、ウィキペディアでは説明があるはず。

Its official name is The Shakushoji Temple (石像寺), but its name in the local vernacular, kuginuki jizou (more or less "nail-pulling guardian deity") reflects the images of nail and spike pullers that permeate the temple grounds...

Until you understand the meaning behind it, it certainly feels quite odd. But once you understand the meaning (which we'll get to below), you'll understand why the temple is so solemn.

As is common with jizo statues [...]

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Obama Hosts My First Bicycle Visit to the Sea

Tuesday was the "Sea Day" holiday in Japan, so I took the opportunity to make my first bicycle ride to the sea. Kyoto is about as far from the sea as a big city gets in Japan, so even though I've been to a lake that looks like an ocean, I'd not yet been by bicycle to the actual ocean.

この間のは海の日で初めての海までのサイクリングをしました、京都市内から。二時間の帰り電車を含めて17時間掛かりました。157キロを走って、一番山が多い道を選びました。 獲得高度は2,800mでした。 楽しかった。

It was a long trip.

I left the house at 4:24am, and returned 17 hours later at 9:33pm, though two hours of that was the return from the ocean by train. All in all it was 151km [...]

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My First Ascent of The Most-Heinous Momoi Pass East

I had quite the ride yesterday, finally tackling one of the last big mountain passes in Kyoto, Momoi Pass (百井峠) from the east. It was gruesomely long and steep.

The plan was to start with some relatively-relaxing climbs, but Mone somewhow got a flat as she arrived, so Andy, the gentleman that he is, stepped in to change it...

Wheel on to wheel off was 5½ minutes, which seems pretty fast to me. It's apparently possible to change a tube in less than a minute, but in the real world you have to spend the time to investigate why the [...]

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Riding Kyoto’s “Heart Loop” With Friends

Yesterday I finally did the "Heart Loop" route that seems to be a local favorite. It goes over three not-very-big passes, which in the counter-clockwise order that I did it yesterday are Ebumi (江文峠), Mochikoshi (持越峠), and Kyomi (京見峠). Total elevation gain is only 800m (2,600'), so it's not very challenging unless you choose to make it so by really pushing.

昨日、やっと「ハートルップ」と言うサイクリングコースをやってみました。 名前の意味は「♡形の一周」です。距離は55キロ、獲得高度は800メートルです。

My previous few rides have been in the rain, and so my camera lens got a layer of something on it that I neglected to clean off, and so the photos are all hazy and indistinct.

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Bicycle Ride Around Japan’s Largest Lake, Part 2


I'm finally getting around to continue the story from "Bicycle Ride Around Japan’s Largest Lake, Part 1", a 230km (143 mile) ride I did with a few friends a month ago. I've done a bunch of long rides since (115km, 143km, 147km, 145km, 50km, and 140km), but this remains my longest ride so far.

Here I'll repeat the map that leads the first post:

In the upper-rightish is the city of Nagahama, and that's about where the first post ended, so that's where this one picks up. We're moving around the lake in a counter-clockwise direction, so we're still [...]

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That Kyoto Temple With the Many Whimsical Statues

After so many cycling-related posts lately, it's time I get back to my basics with some pretty photos.


I've been meaning to write about the Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple (愛宕念仏寺) temple for years, and indeed all the photos on this post are from 2012 (from visits to the temple in April and December of that year). A few of the photos appeared a year ago in "A Few Desktop Backgrounds from the Delightfully Whimsical Otaginenbutsuji Temple", and one appears as the subject of my Photo-Development Challenge #2.

It's at the far north end of the Arashiyama area that is already [...]

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Many Lessons Learned on Yesterday’s Group Ride

I went on a bicycle ride yesterday that involved 13 people, the largest group I'd been on to date. It was fun, but I also learned some important lessons.

It was quite the international gathering, with folks from Australia, Canada, England, Finland, Japan, Norway, Philippines, and The States.

The first lesson I learned was to pay attention to what weather forecast I looked at. Yesterday in Kyoto city proper the actual weather (spritzy rain in the morning; otherwise sunny all day) sort of matched the forecast (10% chance of rain all day), but our ride into the mountains was in [...]

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Cycling Along the River from Kyoto To Osaka Castle


For our Wednesday ride this week, the plan was to cycle down to Osaka and see the city a bit, then slog up through the dense suburbia to the mountains, then up and over them back to Kyoto.

This post is about 49-km (31-mile) ride from Kyoto to Osaka, primarily on bike paths along the rivers that cut through the concrete jungle filling the flatlands between mountains (the concrete jungle seen in this long shot of the Osaka skyline from Kyoto).

This time I've based the time ("+9 min" above) and distance ("2.8 km" above) under each photo on [...]

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Manseki on the Attack: Serendipitous Camera Mistake

昨日サイクリングをして大阪へ行きました。途中で金光万石さんの写真を撮ったけれども、カメラの設定のミスのせいでかなり露出過度にしまった。 写真は良くなかったが、ソフトで調整してから上の結果を出せました。結果は本人と同じ位格好良いだと思います。

Out on a cycle ride to Osaka yesterday, I snapped a photo of cycling buddy Manseki Kanemitsu as we road. The photo was wildly overexposed due to a camera-settings mistake on my part, but with some futzing in Lightroom I made something of it that I like.

I was using the new Panasonic LX100 that I wrote about the other day, but trying it in a different mode where I control both the shutter speed and aperture, and let the camera adjust the image-sensor sensitivity to suit the specific brightness of the moment. In this case I wanted [...]

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Cycling to Miyama with Gorm

On Wednesday Gorm and I did a 140km (88 mile) cycling ride to Miyama. It had 2,350m (7,800') of vertical climb, and though just a few days prior I had done a much tougher ride, this is the one that wiped me out.

The "7:31 AM (+1h 8m) - 13 km (8 miles)" note under the photo above means that it was taken at 7:31am, an hour and 8 minutes of rest and travel (and 13km of travel) after I'd left my house; this kind of note is under each photo to help give a sense of travel.

Our route [...]

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Informal Camera Comparison: Panasonic LX100 vs. Nikon D4

Paul Barr at the Toji-in Temple (等持院) in Kyoto, Japan, in photos taken by two different cameras (whose names are included in the data under each photo).

最近小さいカメラ(パナソニックLX100)を買いました、サイクリングをする時に使うと思います。 僕の普通のカメラ(大きいなニコンのD4)と比べると質はどうでしょうか。京都市の等持院でテストをしました、同時二つのカメラを使って、だいたい同じ写真二枚を撮った。結局LX100は結構良かった。この記事の写真の下にカメラ名が付いている。

When I started cycling earlier in the year, I brought along my big Nikon D4, carried slung across my back like this so that I'd have it ready to shoot when I wanted (like this).

It's a heavy camera to carry, especially on steep uphill mountain rides, but I like the quality of photograph that it allows me to get. I don't think I'd be able to get these kinds [...]

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Bicycle Ride Around Japan’s Largest Lake, Part 1

I had a nice bicycle outing on Wednesday with friends, riding around Lake Biwa (the largest lake in Japan). I ended up covering about 230km (143 miles).

Despite being almost twice as long as my previously-longest ride, it was much easier for two reasons: it was mostly flat (just 1,600m / 5,250' of vertical climb over the 230km, compared to, for example, 2,500m / 8,300' over 99km), and I was much better at keeping myself filled with calories. I'm starting to discover that it's easier to ride the bicycle when you have energy.

To explain the last line of the [...]

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Conquering Kyoto’s Seryo Pass with Manu Mohan

Today I went with Manu Mohan on his first "real" cycling ride.

Manu is a National Scholar student of linguists at Kyoto University who happens to part-time at the convenience store near me, and his easy smile and cheerful attitude made me want to connect with him beyond the 30-seconds snippets at the cash register. When he saw on Facebook that I was into cycling, he expressed interest.

So today we got together for an easy, untaxing first ride.

I somehow had it in my head that he lived near Nijo Castle halfway across town from me, so I suggested [...]

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Miyama Cycling Tour with Joshua and Manseki, Part 2

Continuing from "Miyama Cycling Tour with Joshua and Manseki, Part 1", this post picks up after we (Joshua Levine, Manseki Kanemitsu, and I) had left the main road to take an old road over a mountain instead of a new, flat, boring tunnel through it.

When we turned a corner and were presented with this vista, I jokingly asked Josh to return so I could have some "human interest" in my photo, and even though I was obviously joking, being the mensch he is, he hesitated only long enough to flash a big grin, and bolted down. Just as quickly, [...]

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Miyama Cycling Tour with Joshua and Manseki, Part 1

A week ago, I did a nice long bicycle ride in the mountains north of Kyoto (route and data). Manseki Kanemitsu and I tagged along with Joshua Levine on a route that he does often.

It totaled out at 131km (81 miles), making it my longest ride so far.

The route took us up the mountain toward Hanase Pass (花背峠), a 500m (1,650') climb that holds a special place in my heart as my first real mountain climb, and every time I've done it since I've done it faster than the previous time.

That would not happen this time, as [...]

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A Day of Vertical-Climb Cycling Torture in Western Kyoto

The problem with adding a new hobby is that it takes time away from other things. I've been cycling a fair amount lately, but still must devote time to family and my Lightroom work, so what falls behind is my blogging.

Yesterday I led a 100km extreme-mountain cycle ride with some friends from Cycling Kyoto. I was the slowest/weakest of the five guys, so "lead" was only in the map sense, but I purposefully made a route in the mountains of western Kyoto with as much vertical climb as I could fit in.

It ended up being a hot, [...]

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Kyoto’s Nasty 21% City-Bike Hill Climb


I went out for a long bike in the mountains of northern Kyoto on Saturday, and after 120km (75mi) of tough ups and pleasant downs with friends (that I'll write about separately: here and here), I made an attempt at a hill so steep that its name on Strava is "Nasty".

It's so steep that they have a mirror over the road, pointing down, so that folks coming from below can see whether the road is clear up over the lip.

The hill rises about 26m over a distance of 125m (85' over 410'), which puts the overall steepness [...]

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Photo-Development Challenge Results #2: Statues

It's been three months to the day since I posted "Photo-Development Challenge: Inspire Me and Others With Your Artistic Interpretation", and I'm mortified that it's only the second set of results that I'm finally getting around to sharing (the first having been "Hillside Temple Buildings" 2½ months ago). In retrospect, it was irresponsible of me to post the challenge right before a long family vacation. Sorry.

In any case, to recap what's going on, I posted some raw photos and asked others to develop them to their taste, and here I'll share what those different interpretations looked like.

First, today's [...]

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