Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Posts relating to Japan and things Japanese

Quick Update: Visit To Shirahama, a Minor Heart Arrhythmia, and the End of Lent

It's been an active week since my last post. We spent a nice weekend in Shirahama, a three-hour drive from Kyoto, about which I'll post more later.

Upon our return, Anthony promptly got a cold and I had my first heart-arrhythmia episode in 20 months. Like last time the Sunrythm I took at home didn't work, but unlike last time they decided not to shock me back into a regular rhythm. Rather, the doc gave me a different drug in the same class (Flecainide, sold in Japan as タンボコール) with instructions that I should return if it didn't help within [...]

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A Few Cold/Blustery/Rainy Cherry-Blossom Pics from Southern Kyoto

Fumie had a ballet performance this weekend down in Nagaokakyo City, and I had some hours to kill after dropping her off for the pre-performance rehearsal, so I met up with some friends to visit some local sites with the camera.


The weather was unpleasant (cold, rainy, and windy), but there was a brief respite just as I was arriving.

The little lake between the road and the shrine has a series of boardwalks on it, and it seems that they were all recently rebuilt with bare wood....

I'd think it'd look better with some nice stain, but perhaps [...]

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Photoshoot with Ikuko Among the Plum Blossoms, Part 2

This article continues from part 1 about last week's photoshoot with Ikuko-san among the plum blossoms at the Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine.

先週、育子さんと一緒に撮影しました、北野天満宮の梅林で。 今日の記事は前半の続きです。

This is at the "banana-juice tree".

"Tilt your head down a bit", I instructed, and bam!, such a different look:

And another slight change creates another dramatic difference:

Here's a wigglegram to give a sense of the orchard's feel.

Admission to the plum grove also gets you some tea and sweets.

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Modern Progress: Japan’s First Utility Wires Coming Down After 120 Years

Yesterday, for the first time in 120+ years, Niomon Street in Kyoto is not draped in utility wires.


The first electric-power generator in Japan was built just up the street from where I live, around 1890. As such, the street in front of my place became the first in all Japan to have electric streetlights. At the time, I'm sure the associated power lines were a source of pride as a symbol of Japan's march toward modernity, but of course now they're just urban blight, and urban blight that Japan has traditionally taken to extremes.

The photo above appeared [...]

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Photoshoot with Ikuko Among the Plum Blossoms, Part 1

The other day I did some photos with Ikuko-san, the friend we saw quite differently last month in "An Apprentice-Geisha Photoshoot Quite Unlike Any Other". This time we could see her normal self.


You'll perhaps recognize this scene from last month's "The Many Lanterns and Overwhelming Sumptuousness of the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine". She, too, was drawn to the many lanterns...

Before we got into the photography in earnest, she wanted to pay her respects (as described in the many-lanterns post).

And since we were at one of the best spots in Kyoto for plum blossoms, I felt obliged to snap [...]

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One From Yesterday’s Portraiture Session

It's been a week since my last post... where does the time go?

Well, yesterday a bit of it went into a photoshoot. This is not really one of my "What am I?" quizzes, but do you recognize her from when she appeared on my blog in the past?

Continued here...

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Finally Inside the House at the Seifuso Villa in Kyoto

Continuing with last fall's visit to Kyoto's visually-rich Seifuso Villa (清風荘), where the last installment ("From the Garden to the House at the Seifuso Villa") left us finally inside the main house that has gone mostly unseen so far except for its photogenic entrance foyer.

The grounds are opened to the public for a few days every year or two, but the house is not normally open to the public at all, so it was a wonderful opportunity to have an unrestricted tour.

The photo above is a 9-image panorama that you can scroll from side to side. It's got [...]

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Scenes from the 2014 Kyoto Higashiyama Lightup


Yesterday after seeing the plum blossoms in the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park, I made a trip out to see the annual Kyoto Higashiyama Lightup. It was the first time since 2008, when I posed a report in two parts.

As I tried to take photos, I remembered why I skipped it all these years... the difference between the dark of the evening and the brightness of the lanterns and other displays is just way too much for a camera to do anything reasonable with, unless you move to HDR and its often unearthly results. (Unearthly results can be quite [...]

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A Few from the Plum Blossom Orchard at the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park


It's that time of year for blossoms of various sorts at Kyoto Gosho (the Imperial Palace Park). I've posted many times from there, including articles with an emphasis on the blossoms themselves and folks enjoying the blossoms and photos at 300mm and everything mixed together.

Today I knew a photographer friend was going to be there, so I stopped by for a bit while I was in the area on an errand.

Akiko is who I stopped by to say hi to. I'd met her a year and a half ago (during this outing) while she was on a [...]

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“Photographer-World Problems”: Renewing a Passport

Renewing one's American passport by mail isn't too arduous for most folks.... you just need:

old passport filled-out application form photo fee self-addressed stamped envelope

For most folks the photo is probably the biggest hassle because you have to stop by one of those booths in a mall or something, but if you're a photographer, "photo" means you really need (or at least in my case I actually used):

Camera (Nikon D4 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 lens) Tripod (Gitzo and Really Right Stuff) White foamcore board as backdrop SB-900 speedlight as on-camera commander (why can't Nikon's pro body include a [...]
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Inside the Roof of Kyoto’s Chion’in Temple

In the article "Heading Up To See The Naked Roof of Kyoto’s Chion’in Temple" the other day, about the once-every-100-years roof repair currently being done at the Chion'in Temple (知恩院), I'd ended the story having arrived at the top of the temporary protective-shell structure where one could walk at the level of the roof, which had its tiles and battens removed to reveal the rafters and other components of the roof truss for the first time since 1907.

The roof truss was constructed in two distinct layers... the inner/upper parts were a regular gridwork of beams, while the lower parts [...]

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Heading Up To See The Naked Roof of Kyoto’s Chion’in Temple

The 10 huge characters across the face of the massive building seen above say:

"National-Treasure Mieido Heisei Overhaul"

where "Mieido" is the name of the main building at Kyoto's Chion'in Temple (知恩院), and "Heisei" is the name of the current emperor-of-Japan's reign. The overhaul refers mostly to the roof, which apparently undergoes this kind of thing about once every hundred years.

This is the same temple that appeared in "Huge Main Gate of Kyoto’s Chion’in Temple" last month, which I wrote in preparation for writing about the roof.

The ugly building above is a shell built around the circa-1639 main-temple [...]

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Plum Blossoms are Coming in in Kyoto

At Stéphane Barbery's suggestion that the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine's plum were ripe for the photographic picking, I popped over for a quick 45-minute visit today. This is the same place I wrote about a week or so ago, both in "Kyoto Plum-Blossom Preview: Scenes From a Year Ago Today" where I talked about how Feb 22 was too early for the plum blossoms, and in the less blossom-centric post "The Many Lanterns and Overwhelming Sumptuousness of the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine".

It was chilly (~10C / 50F), but a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere...

The shot above doesn't really "work" because the only [...]

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A Few Desktop Backgrounds from the Delightfully Whimsical Otaginenbutsuji Temple in Northwestern Kyoto

The New York Times Travel section recently published the article "36 Hours in Kyoto, Japan" (thanks Ed Pouso for the link), and one of the locations the author visited is the delightful Otaginenbutsuji Temple (愛宕念仏寺) in the northern Arashiyama area of Kyoto.

I thought it was a missed opportunity that the article didn't include a photo from the temple, which reminded me that although I've visited the temple twice, in both the spring and fall of 2012, I'd not yet gotten around to posting anything. My own missed opportunity, of which my photo catalog holds so many. Sigh. So until [...]

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The Many Lanterns and Overwhelming Sumptuousness of the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

The Kitano Tenmangu Shrine (北野天満宮) in northern Kyoto is perhaps best known for its huge plum-blossom orchard, but in looking over the photos I've yet to publish from a visit a year ago, I realize that there's so much more to show. So today we'll shift concentration away from the blossoms, and continue with the non-blossom theme that yesterday's post ended with.

All the photos on this post are from a visit a year ago yesterday.

The shrine has many buildings, but the main building is difficult to miss in its sumptuousness. As is common at shrines, there's a big [...]

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Kyoto Plum-Blossom Preview: Scenes From a Year Ago Today

I've been thinking that it's about time for a "spring blossom preview" post, to look forward to the many plum, peach, and cherry blossoms that the calendar will soon bring to Kyoto, and when I dip into my photo archive, lo and behold I find that it was exactly a year ago today that I visited the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine (北野天満宮) and its famous (but only just starting to bloom) plum grove.


I've already posted the following from that visit:

Plum Orchard at the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine: Not Quite Prime Time More Budding Plum From the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine [...]
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Huge Main Gate of Kyoto’s Chion’in Temple

I'd started to write up a blog post about the once-in-every-hundred-years roof repair currently going on at the Chion'in Temple down the street from me, and intended to note in that article that the temple is perhaps best known for its big main gate, when I realized that the big main gate has never appeared on my blog. I'm not sure how that's happened, but I'll rectify that now with photos that I happen to have lying around in my Lightroom catalog.

The gate doesn't look all that big in the photos above, but believe me, it is all that [...]

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From the Garden to the House at the Seifuso Villa

Slowly making progress from the outing already seen in:

Entrance Foyer to the Seifuso Villa in Kyoto Approaching the Tea House Between the Tea House and the Garden

(with photos also appearing here and here).

In the previous post we had finally reached the garden, so now we'll take a short walk through it...

The light was pretty difficult that day, quickly changing from brilliantly harsh to utterly dull. The shot above is from a latter moment, stylized a bit in Lightroom.

(By the way, I've come to the conclusion that when I say "the light was difficult", I [...]

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It’s All About the Big Lens: Garnering Attention at the Kyoto City Marathon

There's something about the physical size of the Nikkor 300mm f/2 lens (also seen here) that draws smiles and attention wherever it goes. I had it out a couple of years ago for the 2012 Kyoto City Marathon, and with the 2014 race coming up this weekend, I was reminded of a post from 2012 that I've been meaning to write.

Because I've seen many fun reactions to the big lens (such as seen here and here), it didn't surprise me when folks hammed it up a bit for it when I positioned myself at the last turn of the [...]

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An Apprentice-Geisha Photoshoot Quite Unlike Any Other

And that last picture provides the first real clue that this girl is not the maiko (apprentice geisha) that she otherwise appears to be, because I don't think that a real maiko would flash the peace sign for a passer's-by photo like this.

February 3rd is the cultural holiday setsubun, known for bean throwing, the warding off of evil spirits, and some Shinto rites that involve intense bonfires.

There's also an old tradition, fallen out of popularity in recent decades and now mostly unknown to the younger generations, of transforming your appearance for the day into something you're not... if [...]

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