Kiyomizudera

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.

The West Gate of Kiyomizudera

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.

Workers cleaning the Tamura Hall

Workers cleaning the Tamura Hall

Here’s a video of the inhuman way old buildings are treated in Japan:

People washing their hands in a dragon fountain

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!

Tourists inside the Kiyomizudera temple

Tourists at Kiyomizudera's veranda

IMG_1926_1600_quality 60_for blog

A view of Kyoto from the Main Hall of Kiyomizudera

Inside Kiyomizudera temple

Tourists in Kiyomizudera temple

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.

Otowa waterfall

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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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.

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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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.

28.9.2009 – Day 1, part 2: Paris – Tokyo

We had a two-hour layover at Charles de Gaulle Airport meaning we just had time to move to another terminal, pass the security check and do some souvenir shopping before boarding the flight. One thing that I find really annoying about this airport is that in addition to checking my laptop, they made me unpack all my camera gear on the conveyor belt, including all my lenses. This hasn’t happened to me anywhere else, but it seems to be normal procedure in France. I wonder if there are other airports that are as strict?

An airport bus in Paris

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We got to board the plane 20 minutes late, because they were cleaning up the cabin, or at least that’s what we were told. As expected, most of the passengers were Japanese, and as they often do when they have spare time, most of them dozed off as soon as they got to their seats. A Japanese woman sitting next to me fastened her seatbelt, opened her French novel and went into coma before the plane even started moving. She actually slept through the take-off. For me the take-off was like the opening scene in Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety and I would’ve rather skipped it. I wouldn’t mind flying if I could skip the take-offs and landings, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Teriyaki chicken on an airplane

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All in all the flight was extremely boring – partly because I was so anxious to get to Tokyo, and partly because the entertainment system kept crashing. The system didn’t allow rewinding or fast forwarding the movies so I would have to start watching the movie again from the beginning after every crash. Eventually I gave up watching The Hangover and watched some stuff I’d loaded on my Creative Zen. Our flight attendant was also very entertaining, because he stubbornly spoke to me in French although he knew that I couldn’t understand a word. The most exciting part of the flight was when the Japanese lady next to me tried to get something from the overhead luggage compartment and dropped a pair of crutches on an old man sitting behind me. It turned out that she was very good at apologizing in French.

After the sun set, I slept for about an hour and then just watched some TV until the morning. When we started approaching Japan I got a bit nervous; not because of we were about to land, but because this was my first time to Japan for seven years and I didn’t know if I would still be as thrilled about Japan as I was when I first lived their or if I would find it disappointing after having so much expectations.

Almost there. Photo by Teacher.

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