Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Posts relating to Japan and things Japanese

Pleasant 105km Bike Ride From Kyoto, Along Lake Biwa, to Takashima’s Shirohige Shrine

I finally made my first 100+km bike ride the other day, cycling with some folks from the Cycling Kyoto Facebook group.

Strava says the ride was 105km (65 miles). Even though it's 10% longer than the first long ride I did, this time was much easier because it had only 1,300m (4,200 ft) of vertical rise, only about a ⅓rd of the first ride's climbs. Even last month's 58km ride was much harder, again, due to having more elevation. Flat distance seems to be easy.

Anyway, as usual we met in front of the Sanjo St. Starbucks...

The route I'd [...]

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Matt Campagna Wigglegrams Kyoto

I got to meet Matt Campagna of The Turning Gate Software yesterday for coffee, conversation, and a hike over the mountain paths of the Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社). He makes highly-regarded Web Gallery plugins for Lightroom, so we had plenty to talk about with the release of Lightroom 6 that had happened earlier that day.

I think this is my second wigglegrams I've published from this location, the first having been this one in December. Neither are quite as nice the previous wigglegram I published last weekend. 😉

I've tweaked the code for the wigglegram on this one so [...]

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Highly-Visible Cycle Ride Though the Mountains of Northern Kyoto

For my first "real" cycling ride after my USA vacation, I had a lot of Under Armour clothes to choose from. I've been enamored with the brand for a while, so took the opportunity while in The States of actually being able to find my size to buy about a thousand dollars worth of the stuff, from sportswear to casual wear to jackets.

With sportsware I'm partial to loud vibrant colors, especially for visibility when road cycling. But perhaps in retrospect I shouldn't have quite gone so full throttle. Still, with this getup I bet I could always get a [...]

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A “Flowers Among the Flowers” Wigglegram at Kyoto’s Haradanien Garden

Here's a wigglegram from the same outing that produced "Photoshoot at the Peak of the Haradanien Garden’s Awesomeness".

I think it's nicer than my first Haradanien wigglegram, for a variety of reasons.

However, when I showed this to a friend, he said that he felt that the foliage in the foreground was a bit distracting. My reaction was "there's foliage?"

Joanne (at left) had to leave Kyoto that day, but Ting Ting (at right) joined my friends for a photoshoot the next day (which I couldn't participate in because I was making tofu). But I could join in the [...]

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Lunch in a Small Mountain Farming Hamlet in Japan

In my previous post, I wrote how I spent a wonderful afternoon making tofu in japan with an 80-year-old farmer's wife. This post is about the rest of the visit, the experience that would normally be part of a tour one can take on a day trip out of Kyoto.

The tofu/meal part of the tour takes place in the hamlet of Hata (畑, literally "field") tucked in the mountains of north-western Shiga prefecture. The terraced rice paddies, tended by hand for generations, can be quite photogenic, though my visit, two or three weeks before the planting, found them at [...]

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Making Tofu in Japan with an 80-Year-Old Farmer’s Wife

I had a fantastic experience on Friday, part of which included making tofu from scratch with an 80-year-old lady in her old farmhouse in northern Shiga prefecture, about an hour from Kyoto.

She's five-foot-nothing of pure grandmotherly warmth, but was a bit shy of the camera, so my photos of her don't really reflect her incessant beaming smile. I was there as a photographer on behalf of Tour du Lac Biwa, a tour company that arranges off-the-beaten-path "experience" tours in Shiga prefecture, for English-speaking visitors. It's the same tour company that I appeared on TV for, and that arranged this [...]

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Photoshoot with Ting Ting at the Murin’an Gardens

I spent a few hours today in the Murin'an Garden (無鄰菴) in eastern Kyoto, doing a photoshoot with Ting Ting, which you might remember from "Photoshoot at the Peak of the Haradanien Garden’s Awesomeness" two days ago.

Like two days ago, I was with Eric, Gigi, and Damien, but this time Gigi was behind her own camera as well...

I really enjoyed the situation with three photographers and one subject. While someone else is directing Ting Ting to look this way or move that way, I can capture pseudo-candid shots that I'd probably not get otherwise.

For example, early on [...]

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Photoshoot at the Peak of the Haradanien Garden’s Awesomeness

I visited the super-duper unbelievably amazing Haradanien Garden (原谷苑) today, in the mountains above the Golden Pavilion temple in northwestern Kyoto. It was my first visit since the photoshoot with John and Ai two years ago.

This time I went with Eric, Gigi, and Damien just to practice portraiture. Gigi wore a kimono she bought yesterday.

I can not begin to tell you how wonderful Haradanien is. When the blossoms are at their peak, such as now, it's 100× better than any other garden I know of, anywhere.

金閣寺の近く、原谷苑、は今メチャメチャメチャ美しいです。 行きにくい所ですが、今週はおすすめです。今日は全然満開でした!

I wanted a different kind of shot of Gigi than [...]

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Anthony Starts Middle School


The new school year is getting going in Japan, and having graduated from elementary school last month, yesterday Anthony had the entrance ceremony for his new middle school, Doshisha International.

There are two kinds of "international" schools in Japan. The most common type that comes to mind when one hears the term is a school that has a non-Japanese curriculum with instruction in a non-Japanese language, e.g. an "American" school with a US curriculum taught in English. That's not what his school is.

Anthony's school is mostly a normal Japanese school (instruction in Japanese of the standard Japanese curriculum), [...]

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Soggy Blossoms in Kyoto

One day of rain changes everything with the cherry-blossom petals. It was lovely yesterday with trees full of blossoms, but today's rain knocked many of them off.

A few days ago, the area seen above looked like this:

Not all areas/trees are affected the same... I think it depends strongly on where each specific tree is in its blooming cycle. Another cherry tree not far away seems unaffected by the rain...

Some varieties of cherry haven't even started to bloom yet, so there's still much awaiting those arriving in Kyoto today (such as Gigi and Eric; Gigi arrived today to [...]

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Back in Kyoto (Spring 2015 Edition)

After a day of uneventful flying, we've ended our month-long RV trip across the US and now we're back in Kyoto.


Now comes the daunting task of unpacking, processing my photos, checking a month's worth of email, dealing with a month's worth of blog comments about my plugins, and doing my US taxes. If I can complete all this, I'll need a vacation!

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Anthony Graduates from Elementary School

Anthony graduated from elementary school today, a big event in Japanese culture. I snapped the photo as we were heading to the school for the last time.

It reminds me of this photo of the two of them from the day he started elementary school half his life (six years) ago, and also the post about his going to school on his own for the first time. He's growing up all too quickly.

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Photo-Development Challenge Results #1: Hillside Temple Buildings

Today I'm sharing the first results from "Photo-Development Challenge: Inspire Me and Others With Your Artistic Interpretation". Today's photo is one of some minor outlying buildings at the Yoshiminedera Temple (善峯寺) in Kyoto, Japan.

First, let's look at the uninspiring original:

This was from a productive outing four years ago that produced "Temple Hopping in the Mountains of South-Western Kyoto", two examples for "Heading Out To Photograph The Fall Foliage? Don’t Forget The Polarizer Filter", and an item on "Visiting My Photo Archives: Random Pretty Shots #1".

For lack of a better idea, I'll present the various results in the [...]

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Another Nice (Tough!) Bicycle Ride in the Mountains Around Kyoto


Two days ago I did a short easy bicycle ride into the mountains of western Kyoto, but yesterday I did something a bit more ambitious. As seems to be the habit since my first ride with folks from Cycling Kyoto!, we met in front of the Starbucks on Sanjo Street. This time there were seven people total...

Today's route would be a repeat of one that Manseki had done two days prior, so he was group lead. We got moving at 9:20.

We spent the first 45 minutes heading east on Route 1. The route looks horrible in the [...]

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A Bicycle Ride to the Kuuya-taki Waterfall in Western Kyoto with Manseki Kanemitsu

Today I went out for a short, mostly-easy bicycle ride (track at Strava) with Manseki Kanemitsu, another member of the Cycling Kyoto! group on Facebook. Rain was forecast for the late afternoon so it was just us.

It was my first real ride since the grueling 90km mountain/snow adventure three weeks ago, and my third "real" ride in total, since my inaugural ride a month and a half ago.

(We're planning to do a more ambitious ride tomorrow with a larger group, so that'll be ride #4.)

We decided to head off to the Arashiyama area of western Kyoto, which [...]

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Filming a TV Segment about Mochi and Shiga

僕はテレベ出るかもしれない。来週の火曜日(24日)、関西テレベ放送のスーパーニュース アンカーの中 の短い部分、滋賀県の話題について。放送予定は17:20〜17:45です。よろしく!

I recently had a fun experience to be part of filming a short TV segment scheduled to be shown next week... it's scheduled to air on Kansai TV on Tuesday the 24th, during a bigger news program, sometime between 17:20 and 17:45.

The segment was part of a larger piece on Shiga Prefecture (the "state" next to Kyoto) and what it has to offer, and why it's not as popular among foreign tourists as Kyoto. The TV station was working with Tour du Lac Biwa, a tour company that provides day excursions into Shiga, in English, [...]

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Facebook Engineering Opens a Satellite Office in Kyoto (For a Few Hours)

Facebook engineer Ryan Mack and his wife Nadia and their blissfully-sleeping two-year-old took time from their 10-year-anniversary Japan trip to join me for dinner at Uroko (鱗) in downtown Kyoto the other night.

Ryan has sometimes provided help or insight on navigating the complexities of Facebook's third-party app API, which I must use for my Export-to-Facebook plugin for Adobe Lightroom, so I was happy to finally meet him in person. Meeting Nadia was a wonderful bonus, though I didn't really get to meet his son, who slept the whole time we were together. (Jetlag sometimes giveth, I guess.)

It's just [...]

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2015 Kyoto Marathon

Today was the 2015 Kyoto City Marathon. Just as when I blogged about the 2012 Kyoto City Marathon, I went out with the Nikkor 300mm f/2, but new this time is that I intended to try to photograph two acquaintances who had told me their intended pace and sent photos of what they were wearing.

To help increase my luck in picking out two faces from 16,000 runners, I set up a bit past the halfway point just before a turnaround, so runners were going both directions in front of me. If I suddenly noticed a friend going by one [...]

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Attempting a 100km Bikeride in the Mountains of Kyoto, Part 2: The Last 70km

In part 1 about last weekend's cycling into the mountains north of Kyoto, I ended the story 23km into the journey at the top of the Hanase Pass (花背峠). At 769m it would be the highest point of the trip (a trip that started and ended at an elevation of about 60m).

With a nice downhill to look forward to, I didn't linger long at the pass. After a minute-and-a-half's rest and a selfie, I carried on.

I couldn't let myself build up much speed because the road was quite snowy/icy, so I dragged on the rear brake most of [...]

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Attempting a 100km Bikeride in the Mountains of Kyoto, Part 1: Hanase Pass

Having had my first "real" bike ride two weeks ago, a 55km ride up into the mountains and back, and found it to be not challenging at all, I wanted to try something certain to challenge myself, so I put together a plan to do a 100km loop with intense mountain sequences that far exceeded what I'd done before.

Since then it's been quite cold with occasional snow, so it wasn't until this past Saturday that I could give it a try.

The important parts of my outfit are by Under Armour, a maker whose products I've liked more and [...]

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