Nijō Castle

Nijo Castle's Moat

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).


A classic view of Kyoto

A view of Kyoto

This image was taken at the Kiyomizudera temple on a path that leads from the Oku-no-in hall down to the Otowa waterfalls. It’s one of the views of Kyoto that most visitors probably photograph (just do a search for “Kiyomizudera” and “Kyoto cityscape”), so I wanted to try to make my version a bit more personal.

The image was taken at noon and the light was a bit hard, so I softened in by applying one of DxO’s classic film presets on it. I then added a couple of paper textures on the sky in Photoshop and a third texture with a warm tone on the foliage to soften it a bit more. I don’t remember an image of this view with similar treatment or tones before, so I’m quite happy with the result. I might even end up printing this for my study.

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 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

We started our shrine tour from the Heian Shrine. The whole shrine area is quite impressive in its size, but one of the most notable features of the shrine is the huge torii gate on Jingu Michi road. The gate is built in 1929 and, according to statistics from 2006, at 24.2 meters it is the seventh tallest torii in Japan. It certainly dwarfs people walking underneath it. Although it was Saturday morning (or maybe because of it), the shrine and the area around it weren’t too crowded.

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Okazaki Canal

Okazaki Canal in Autumn

This location is on Jingu Michi Street, right next to the Heian Shrine’s great torii gate. You can see the gate and its surroundings on Google Street View on the map below. Although
Okazaki Canal might not be as beautiful in the autumn as it is in spring, when the cherry trees on the banks are in full blossom, I can’t help but stop and admire it when I cross this bridge. There are also boat tours available on the canal, if you want to view the trees from another angle. The building on the right is the Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art, which is also worth visiting.

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Shirakawa Canal

Shirakawa canal seen from Sanjo Dôri Street

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On our second day in Kyoto (and the fifth morning in Japan) the rain finally stopped and we were greeted by a beautiful morning. Because we’d crashed out early the night before, we woke up at about 6 a.m. After breakfast we quickly packed our stuff and took our backpacks to the next hostel called Kinsuikan, which was only a few blocks away. From there we headed to the nearest subway station. Our plan for the day was to see a few of the UNESCO word heritage sites in Kyoto, so we figured that we were probably going to ride both the buses and the subway, so we picked the one day pass that costs 1200 yen and allows unlimited travel on both. There are also other kinds of bus and subway passes available, but this one seemed to best fit our needs. I’m not sure if we actually saved any money with the pass, but it did make traveling easier because we could just get on a bus and show the card to the driver on our way out.

We then decided that our first stop would be the Heian Shrine, because it was just a few stops to the east from the subway station we were at . We got off at Higashiyama station, from where there was only a few minutes walk to the shrine. The canal in the above photo is Shirakawa Canal, which begins from the Kamogawa River and joins the river again about four kilometers North. We walked past the canal on Sanjô Dôri Street and ended up following the canal all the way to the Heian Shrine. Although this part of the canal is not the most impressive, I couldn’t help but take a photo of it. Even with the antennas and satellite dishes on the roofs, the scene takes you back in time.

See the location of this image on the map below. The street view image is from the other side of Sanjo Dori Street, but you can see the canal and the buildings across it.


Kyoto cityscape on a rainy day

The morning after we returned from Sendai we left Tokyo again, this time for Kyoto. We managed to got up early enough to be on our way to Shinjuku and Tokyo Station at 8 a.m. We’d already developed a routine for the mornings, which made getting on the way faster. This time we bought the Shinkansen tickets from Shinjuku on our way to Tokyo, so all we had to do at Tokyo station was to find the right platform. Our train left at 10:30 we started our journey to Kyoto. The train was quite crowded, but we managed to find seats and less that three hours later we were standing at Kyoto station, wondering where we would spend the night.

After an unsuccessful attempt to get a woman in the tourism info to help us and calling a few hostels with no success we found our way to the service desk of the International Tourism Center of Japan (it used to be located in the ninth floor of the station, but has since been closed). A helpful woman working there organized us fairly cheap hotel rooms for the three nights we were planning. The only catch was that we had to switch to another hotel after the first night. Still, it was better than staying outside, especially since it was the typhoon season and it had rained like crazy the entire day.

We stayed the first night in a hotel called Alpha Kyoto on Sanjo Dôri. I was thinking of writing a short review of it, but found out some time ago that it has been shut down, so I guess there’s no point. It was a fairly nice place and we actually ended up staying there twice. Although we had thought that it would better not to reserve hotels in advance because we had a lot of people to meet in Japan and needed to keep our schedule flexible, at hindsight it was a stupid thing to do and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who wants to enjoy their holiday. The only positive thing was that the weather was so bad that we wouldn’t probably have done much sightseeing on the first day anyway.

Anyway, here’s a few photos from our room. The opening image of this post is a view from the room across Aneyakoji dôri.

A room in Hotel Alpha Kyoto

A room in Hotel Alpha Kyoto

A room in Hotel Alpha Kyoto

You can see the hotel on Google Street View below (the building with 7 Eleven):

1.10.2009 – Day 4, part 1: Sendai in three photos

We woke up early because we had a busy day ahead of us. After a sturdy breakfast we checked some details from the Internet at the hotel lobby, packed our gear and headed back to Sendai station. Here’s a few images from the walk back. These are not very representative of any tourist attractions Sendai offers, just general views of the city. It was a cloudy day and everything looks a bit gloomy, but despite that Sendai seemed like an attractive city.


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This next building caught our eye (or actually the thing on the roof did). It turned out to be a wedding hall called Palace Heian, which explains the unusual architecture. I think the style of the roof construction is called Shinmei-zukuri.

Palace Heian wedding hall seen from the Ekimae dôri street

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Sendai Station

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Apartment buildings lit by the setting sun


Sunset reflecting on windows of apartment buildings in Kuokkala and apartment buildings reflecting on Lake Jyväsjärvi. This photo was taken on Kuokkala bridge from where there’s a nice view to both the city and the lake. This in an older image that I’ve previously published on the old incarnation of this website, but I recently reprocessed it and decided to post it again.

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