There’s a time for words and a time for images, and now’s the latter. I already wrote about the Rokuonji temple in a previous post so I won’t go into detail about its history anymore. Instead I decided to show the temple’s main attraction, Kinkaku, the golden pavilion from different angles that you see when you walk around the pond and the temple area. I was extremely lucky that the evening when I visited the temple turned out so beautiful. I hope you enjoy these images!
After a quick tour at the Nijo Castle, we headed to the final destination of the day, the famous Kinkakuji temple or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. The official name of the temple is Rokuonji, but Kinkakuji has become the more common name for it. it is probably one of the most famous buildings in Kyoto, and also one of the city’s World Heritage Sites. And like many other temple’s in Kyoto, Kinkakuji too was burned down by a monk, although the arson at Kinkakuji took place as late as the 1950s.
The top floor of the Pavilion is covered with leaf gold, and the architecture of each floor is different. There’s a detailed description of the temple in Kinkakuji in Wikipedia, so I’m not going to copy and paste the article here in its entirety. What I like about the temple site even more than the temple though, is the garden around the temple. If you happen to go there when the number of tourists is low, it is a quiet and relaxing environment. We visited the temple in early October and entered about 15 minutes before the closing time, which meant that most of the visitors had already left and because the trees had not yet changed to autumn colors, it wasn’t the peak tourist season. We walked around the area taking photos until a guard ushered us out, but it wasn’t until 25 minutes after the closing time that we actually left the area.
I’ve also visited Kinkakuji in winter (early February), and because Kyoto gets a bit chilly in winter (not really, if you’re a Finn), there weren’t a lot of visitors then either. It also happened to snow that time so I got to see Kinkakuji covered in snow. So, although Kyoto’s temple’s are beautiful in autumn and the climate is really pleasant then, I wouldn’t shy away from visiting Kyoto during other seasons either.
Although the title of this post says Nijō Castle, the image above is actually of the castle’s outer wall and moat. Unfortunately we were in a kind of hurry between too places when we visited the castle, so I didn’t take a lot of photos there. The Nijō Castle was It was built as the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns and it was completed in 1626 during the reign of Tokugawa Iemitsu. Many of the palace’s buildings have been destroyed in fires during the past centuries, but there are still a few magnificent ones left, such as the Ninomaru palace. It houses beautiful artwork and is known for its “Nightingale floors”. They are designed to make a chirping sound when walked upon to ensure that no one could sneak through the corridors undetected. There are also three beautiful gardens in the palace area – the oldest of them originating from the Edo period (1603-1868). Like many of the temple’s and castles in Kyoto, Nijō Castle is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you’re wondering what a nightingale floor sounds like, listen to the clip below – it’s a really peculiar sound (sorry for the background noise).
Often when visiting a new place, I tend to photograph wider landscapes to record an overall picture of the place. While I think it’s important to make those images as well and I primarily shoot landscapes, it often results in overlooking the details of the place. Looking at the photographs others have taken from locations I have visited, I’ve come to realize that as much as the entire view, the details help tell the story of the place as well. These ornate stairs at Kiyomizudera caught my eye when we were finishing our tour of the temple and leaving the area. In this case it was the aging staircase with all its cracks and the red autumn leaves on the stairs that made be want to press the shutter. The day was beautiful and sunny, but I did warm the image up and add some flare in post-processing to emphasize the summery feeling.
By the way, I hope you like the new layout of the blog. I’m still working on it, but think it makes the photos look better and is generally easier to read. What do you think?
I took a longer-than-expected break from the blog and social media in general, but I’m back and have loads of new images to upload. I’ll start with a bunch of photos from the famous Kiyomizudera temple in Kyoto, but before we get to the images, I have some housekeeping to do: the print contest is over and the winner has been notified. I’m already planning the next giveaway, so stay tuned!
I don’t do massive image posts like this often, but I though the Kiyomizudera temple requires one – and even with this amount of images I think I only managed to show a fraction of the temple area, so there’s definitely another Kiyomizudera post coming up later.
Kiyomizudera (Pure Water Temple) is an independent Buddhist temple established in 798 and one of Japan’s many UNESCO world heritage sights. The current buildings, however, only date back to 1633. This is when Tokugawa Iemitsu ordered restoration of the Temple. The original buildings had been destroyed long before in fires – many of which were started by monks from rivaling temples who were trying to manually enlighten their brothers.
An interesting point in the architecture of the temple is that not a single nail has been used in building it. I’m sure though that the builders have hammered down one nail somewhere in the building just for the hell of it.
Unlike most other Buddhist temples, Kiyomizudera incorporates shinto shrines. Probably the most well known of them is a shrine is called Jishu shrine, which is dedicated to a god of love and good matches. Near the shrine there are two stones called “love stones”. They are located a few meters apart and people believe that if you can walk from one stone to another with your eyes closed, you’ll be lucky in love. Based on my personal experience it doesn’t work.
I don’t know how often these old buildings are cleaned, but we happened to see one called Tamura Hall being brushed by two workers.
Here’s a video of the inhuman way old buildings are treated in Japan:
One of the attractions of Kiyomizudera is a stage built on 13-meter-tall scaffolding, which offers a magnificent view to Kyoto. The view is not, however, the only thing that attracts people to the stage. It seems that during the Edo period the veranda also attracted jumpers, who believed that if they survived the fall they would gain luck for the following year. According to Wikipedia, 234 people plunged off the stage between 1694 and 1864 and the survival rate was 85,4 percent. Fortunately no one jumped while we were there!
The full name of Kiyomizudera temple is Otowasan Kiyomizudera (The pure water temple of Mount Otowa). The temple gained its name from the Otowa waterfall that runs down from a mountain near the temple. The water from the waterfall has been divided into three streams and it is believed that by drinking from these streams you can gain wisdom, longevity, or luck in matchmaking. It’s also believed that if you’re greedy and drink from all three streams, you invite bad luck.
I haven’t done a longer photo post in ages so instead of writing about the streets of Higashiyama, I decided to show them. These are shots from the Higashiyama area in Kyoto, taken between a relatively short distance from the Jingu Michi road to Kiyomizudera temple. The gate in the above photo is Sanmon, the great gate of the Chion-in temple, the headquarters of Jodo Buddhism (the Pure Land Sect). Many of the remaining buildings at Chion-in date back to 17th century, including the the Sanmon gate, which was built in 1619. Standing 24 meters tall the gate is the largest surviving structure of its kind in Japan and a classified as a national treasure. We passed by the temple this time, so I can’t give you a detailed description of it, but I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you any more about it than Chion-in temple in Wikipedia anyway.
See this photo on Flickr
From Chion-in we continued through Maruyama park. After the park we came to a street called Nene no michi (Nene’s path). The street is named after Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s wife Nene, who became a nun after Toyotomi’s death and had the Kōdaiji temple built to commemorate her husband. Nene no michi is said to be the route that she walked every day to her husband’s grave. The architecture in this area is traditional and unlike most of Japan, there are no visible telephone wires and cables in the area. The following two images are from the area around Ninenzaka, where the street is lined with small shops and tea houses. It’s a perfect area for a stroll if you are interested in the the temples, shrines and other traditional architecture.
The final photo is from the stairs leading up to the Kiyomizudera temple. In the next post I’ll show you a few images from the temple grounds. Meanwhile, participate in my print giveaway to win a unique fine art print of one of my images!
Shoren-in temple is one of the five Monzeki temples of the Tendai sect in Kyoto. It was built in the late 13th century, and it was formerly the temple of the imperial abbot of the Tendai headquarters on Mount Hiei. After the Great Kyoto Fire of 1788, the temple was used as a temporary imperial palace. The temple is known for its garden, massive 800-year-old camphor trees and a pond called Ryujin-no-ike filled with large stones.
Like the previous image, I did a just a few basic things in the post-processing. I started with basic raw conversion Lightroom, removed some cables from the stairs in Photoshop and finally Then I opened the image in OnOne Perfect Effects, where I applied a couple of textures selectively on the image. The main reason for using the textures was to add texture to the white sky and the temple wall.
I’m currently running a giveaway! where one my Facebook or Instagram followers can win a unique fine art print of one of my photos from Japan. Check it out if you haven’t done so!
Here’s one more shot of Heian Shrine’s torii gate. I took this on the way to our next stop and tried to capture the gate from below to emphasize its size. I’m not sure if this image really conveys its enormity, but I do like the contrast between the red gate and the blue sky. Using a wider lens would’ve probably given a better result, but I didn’t want to include too much of the trees to the image.
There’s a short walk from the giant torii gate to the actual shrine. You enter the shrine through the main gate, called Ôtenmon, pictured above. The Heian shrine is a shinto shrine built in 1895 to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of Kyoto, and it was modeled after the old Kyoto Imperial Palace. In reality, many of the buildings have been rebuilt in the late 1970s after a fire ravaged the shrine, but that doesn’t make the shrine any less majestic.
In addition to the great torii gate which, being 24,2 meters tall, is one of the tallest in Japan, the Heian shrine is also known for its gardens. Having a tight schedule we decided to see them another time, but at hindsight we definitely should’ve visited the gardens as well. The entrance to the gardens costs 600 yen, but the entrance to the shrine itself is free and there’s plenty to see there too if you just want to admire the buildings. Even though I have been to the Heian shrine a couple of times, the size of it still blows my mind. I hope the following photos give you some idea of the size of the area.
The building on the corner in the photo above is called Sôryûrô (Blue dragon tower) and on the other side of the yard there is another one called Byakkorô (White tiger tower). The photo below shows a close-up of the Sôryûrô.
After the dance performance, we hopped on a train that would take us to our next destination, Nikka’s whisky distillery in Sakunami! Actually the first train took us only half way there, to a small town called Ayashi, where we had to wait for another half an hour for a train to Sakunami.
Ayashi seemed like a really nice little town and it was actually a pity that we didn’t have more time to explore it. According to Wikipedia, Ayashi station was built in 1929, but it had its moment of glory in December 2001 when princess Aiko was born. Because the name of the station and the princess’ name are written with the same kanji characters, people rushed to buy platform tickets from the station to commemorate the event. In December 2001 approximately 84,000 tickets were sold at the station, when during the previous six months just over a hundred tickets had been sold. We didn’t know anything about it when we stopped there, of course.
While we where there, my sister and his boyfriend went to find some snacks from a convenience store, but I chose to stay near the station and took a few photos. I had foolishly worn a new pair of shoes during the first couple of days of our trip and my feet were already hurting from all the walking. Well, that was a lesson learned.
Although we didn’t have much time to explore Ayashi, there was one landmark that was visible all the way to the station. In the distant hills, there was a massive high-rise that really caught my attention. Apparently the building is called Nishikigaoka Central Heights. You can see it below on Google Maps – click the yellow man if the street view doesn’t open automatically.
View Ayashi in a larger map