The mirror pond at Kinkakuji

The mirror pond at the Kinkakuji temple

Here’s one more image of the Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto. I wanted to post this separately as I felt that the Kyōko-chi pond (the Mirror Pond) deserved attention. The reason the pond, designed in the Muromachi period, is called the name Mirror pond is that it reflects the Golden Pavilion. It contains 10 small islands, which according to Wikipedia represent famous places in Chinese and Japanese literature, and it seems that the surroundings of the pavilion were built according to descriptions of the Western Paradise of the Buddha Amida, the largest islet representing the Japanese islands.

Even though you weren’t interested in the history of the pond, there’s no denying that the golden pavilion wouldn’t be half as spectacular without the carefully designed pond that really makes the building shine.

Sunset at Kinkakuji

The Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto

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.

Shōren-in temple

Stairs leading to the Shōren-in temple

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!

Day 4 – Ayashi

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 Station

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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.

Ayashi Station

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.

A train arriving at Ayashi Station

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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

1.10.2009 – Day 4: Dancers at Sendai Station

Dancers at Sendai Station

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The great thing about traveling is that you never know what happens next. When we got to the station, we noticed that it was unusually crowded and there were a dozen mascots standing in a row inside the station. It seems that the city of Sendai and Miyagi prefecture organized a tourism promotion campaign and we happened to be there on the opening day. After the big-headed mascots a few dancers and finally a group of musicians with drums and flutes entered the stage that had been built inside the station. The dance performance looked fun so we stopped to watch it for a while. Unfortunately the local media had taken the best places in front of the dancers so we mostly got photos of the backs of their heads. The video below was shot by my sister and she’s kindly given permission to use it.

30.9.2009 – Sendai at night

After resting for a while, we decided to hit the town. We had planned to find a restaurant that serves a local specialty, cow tongue, but decided that cows need their tongues more than we do. Instead, we walked around in department stores, of which there are plenty around the train station, bought a sushi set, some rice balls, beer and a couple of cans of chuuhai from a convenience store. The good thing about being in a foreign culture is that you don’t have to go after the weirdest thing to be surprised – if you’re in Japan for the first time, you can find plenty of interesting things to taste in a convenience store. We then found a small park near the East exit of the train station and had dinner there while watching people walk by. We didn’t spend too much time downtown, but we took a short walk around the city and took some photos before heading back to the hostel.

Sendai Station East Exit

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Sendai Station West Exit

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Taxis at Sendai Station

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Ekimae dôri street passing by the station

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On our way back to the hostel we stopped at another convenience store and got some late night snacks and a few drinks. Back at the hostel we had a quick shower and assembled to one of our rooms to check the photos from the day and to plan the next day. Even though the hostel was generally nice, there’s one more thing worth mentioning about Japanese hostels: the walls are often paper-thin. That particular night there was a group of three guys staying in the hostel and one of them was snoring really loudly. It’s not extraordinary that you can hear sounds from the neighboring rooms, but this guy was a couple of rooms away from us. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for his two friends.

For those of you who are interested in numbers, we traveled about 450 kilometers on our first day on the road (or tracks). I’ll try to keep track of the distances and the cost of tickets for those who want to know how far you have to go with the Japan Rail Pass until it pays itself back.

Here’s a short video of the first day. Sorry for the terrible image quality, the video wasn’t shot with a state-of-the-art equipment. The song is by a Japanese band called STAn.

Ryokan Chitoseya

Since we hadn’t booked a hostel in advance, we had to settle for what was available when we got there. The nice people at the tourist counter managed to arrange us a room at a traditional hostel called Ryokan Chitoseya (also called Chitose Youth Hostel).

Chitoseya isn’t located too far from the station – it takes about 20 minutes by walking to get there. Currently a single room costs 5,460 yen and a twin room 4,935 yen. If you’re on a budget and don’t mind sharing a room with strangers, they also offer a dormitory option. A traditional Japanese breakfast costs an extra 1,000. When we stayed there, the three of us got one single room and one twin room and the shared cost was 3850/person, not including breakfast. If you haven’t had a Japanese style breakfast before and/or if you plan to do a lot of walking, it the breakfast is definitely worth the price because it will take you a long way. The breakfast included cooked rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables, egg, salad, a potato croquette, spinach, and green tea among other things.

Like most Ryokan, the rooms at Chitose are traditional Japanese rooms with tatami mats, so you’ll be sleeping on the floor. The only furniture in rooms is a table and a TV and the rooms don’t have en suite bathrooms, so you have to use the toilet in the hallway. When we stayed there, you could take a bath at certain times in the morning and evening, but according to the FAQ on their website you can now bathe anytime you want. The hotel does not have a wi-fi, but there is a (old) coin-operated computer for browsing in the lobby. The hostel also has coin-operated washing machines. One thing worth mentioning is that the owners were very friendly and helpful and seemed genuinely interested in us.

Ryokan Chitoseya

Our room at Chitoseya

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A view to the garden from the window

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Ryokan Chitoseya

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Although Chitoseya is very affordable, it’s probably not the cheapest option, especially if you’re traveling alone. Sendai has a lot of Western-style hotels that offer cheaper rooms with better facilities in rooms, but if you want to stay in a more traditional hostel and experience Japanese hospitality, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Endless horizon

Endless horizon

I know I promised to upload travel photos, but I stumbled upon this image from the flight from Helsinki to Paris and wanted to upload it first. I didn’t actually get to see Paris, but we had a short layover at Charles de Gaulle airport when we visited Japan in 2009. I was going to delete this image first because I had much better images of clouds with more texture and a few where the landscape was visible, but then realized that it kind of resembles Hiroshi Sugimoto’s seascapes and that I could actually take this image into that direction.

I didn’t do much processing on this image, as it was quite abstract as it was, but I did emphasize the original mood by removing Clarity in Lightroom and increasing the exposure in the center of the image to soften the horizon line.

If there’s anything to be learned from this, it’s that it might be a good idea to let your images sit for a while instead of rushing to upload them to the Internet as soon as you get home. It’s also a good idea to wait until deleting images that at first seem like failures. After a while, when you’ve got over the initial excitement or disappointment you feel towards your images, you’ll be able to look at them more objectively and you won’t be held back by emotional baggage when processing them. I often find that only then I can get really creative with my images.

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This photo is published under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 license. Click the above link to download the original full-size image from Flickr, if you want to use this image on personal projects such as your blog or make a print for your own use. If you use this image, please give attribution to Sami Hurmerinta / Explodingfish.net and if possible, link the image to http://explodingfish.net.

Walker

Walker

Here’s another image from 2007. Google was kind enough to give me a free copy of Nik’s plugin bundle and this was the first image tested it on. I used a very randomly selected set of filters from Color Efex to get this look and the image instantly became one of my favorites.

As a side note, I’ve created a Facebook page for my images. If you don’t like RSS feeds, you can now keep keep up to date with this blog by liking the page. If you like the images there (or here), feel free to share them to your friends.

I’ve still got loads of exciting news to share, but I’ll try to keep my posts short, so more on those next time.

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Winter sunset

Winter Sunset

Lately I’ve been going through old photos again and trying new processing techniques on them. I haven’t used textures before, but I think after this experiment I’m going to try to use them more often. The original photo was taken in 2007 on a frozen lake in Eastern Finland.

By the way, I have a mobile phone / scrapbook blog in Tumblr. In addition to phoneography, I also use the blog to post alternative takes on images and unique Creative Commons content. Tumblr updates don’t show on the front page so if you want to keep up with my mobile photography, be sure to follow me on Tumblr or subscribe to the feed on the Mobile page.

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