Streets of Higashiyama

The main gate of Chion-in temple

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.

Rikshaw ride in Kyoto
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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.

A crowd at Ninenzaka
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Shopping in Higashiyama
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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!

A happy couple near Kiyomizudera
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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!

Print giveaway!

Shoren-in temple

It’s giveaway time!

A couple of days ago I noticed that my recently posted image of the Shoren-in temple in Kyoto was getting more attention in social media than most of what I post online, and it turned out to become one of my most popular images. What made me even more happy about it is that this is also one of my personal favorites from the images I’ve published this year.

I thought that since you people seem to like the image, I might as well make a print of it and give it to one lucky person!

To get to the point, if you’d like a chance to win the photo do the following:

1. Like my Facebook page: Explodingfish.net on Facebook
2. Like the competition post: Print giveaway

I’m also on Instagram, so if you want to double your chances to win:

1. Follow me on Instagram: Sami Hurmerinta on Instagram
2. Comment on any of my images there

The winner will be selected 16 June and notified through Facebook or Instagram.

The image is printed on high-quality Canson Infinity BFK River paper at A4 size (about 21 x 30 cm / 8 x 11 inches). I guess you can say that the print is unique, because it is very unlikely that I will ever print this image on the same medium again.

An ancient tree at the Shōren-in temple

An old tree at the Shoren-in temple

Jingu Michi road is abundant with buddhist temples and shinto shrines that offer a lot to see. One of the things that drew my attention were these old ancient trees at the Shōren-in temple’s website, a buddhist temple of the Tendai sect. This time we decided to admire the Camphor trees from the street instead of visiting the temple, but it is on my list of places to visit in the future. The entrance costs 500 yen for adults.

The processing of this image was quite simple. After some basic edits in Lightroom, I switched over to Photoshop where I removed power lines and other small but distracting objects. Then I opened the image in OnOne Perfect Effects, where I applied a paper texture selectively on the image to emphasize the warm tone and to add some vignetting to it. As you can see from Google street view below, the tree is as magnificent, if not even more spectacular, as it looks in the photo.

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Jingu Michi

Jingu Michi

Jingu Michi is a road stretching from the Heian Shrine to Maruyama Park near Chion-in temple on Wikipedia temple. Our planned route was to walk along Jingu Michi to the park, then continue along Nene no michi at Japanvisitor.com, a famous flagstone road to ninenzaka and sannenzaka and finally to the Kiyomizudera temple on Wikipedia.

The photo is taken about 800 meters from the Heian Shrine close to the Shōren-in temple that is known for its ancient camphor trees, some of which reach over the road. I processed the image with warm tones that have an old-fashioned feeling to emphasize the historical atmosphere and the warm sunny weather.

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Autumn at Okazaki Canal

Okazaki Canal

This view of Okazaki Canal was shot at the same spot than the one I posted previously, but to the opposite direction. The A view east along Okazaki Canal on Explodingfish.net shows the view East towards the city while this one shows autumn at Okazaki Canal and a view west towards the Higashiyama mountain range. Because it was early autumn, the trees on the mountains are still green and only a few of the cherry trees along the canal have started changing color.

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Heian Shrine’s torii gate

Heian Shrine's Torii Gate

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.

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Omikuji at the Heian Shrine

Omikuji at the Heian Shrine

Omikuji are fortunes written on strips of paper that visitors can buy at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. People can make a small donation and select a random fortune from a box. The omikuji contains a general fortune which varies between great luck and great curse. The fortune paper also includes fortunes regarding different aspects of life, such as business, travel, studies, romance and marriage. If the fortune is bad, it is customary to tie the paper to a tree in a shrine. The reason for this is that the bad luck will stay at the shrine instead of following the person. It’s a similar custom to writing a prayer on an ema with the exception that with ema people can specify what they wish from the future.

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Prayer plaques at the Heian shrine (and a giveaway!)

Prayer plaques at the Heian Shrine
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First things first: I’m currently running a giveaway on Google+ and Instagram! A Japanese friend of mine sent me a few copies of his band’s new album “Adaptation”, so I decided to give them to someone who might like the music. Participating is simple and doesn’t require you to follow anyone if you don’t want to. The giveaway ends next Sunday, so if you’d like to get the album, go to Google+ or Instagram right now! The album is also available for listening on Spotify.

Here’s a music video for the song Ruri by Panic Soup:

The image above is one of the places at the Heian Shrine where people can hang small wooden blocks called “ema”. People can buy these wooden plaques from shinto shrines, and write their wishes on the plaque and leave it to the shrine in the hope that the gods will grant their wish. In the one in the image, a person wishes her mother good health.

Heian Shrine

Heian Shrine's main gate

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.

Saturday walk at the Heian Shrine
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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.

Heian Shrine
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The Ôtenmon gate at the Heian Shrine
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