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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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.

Tomorrow everything will be better

Tomorrow everything will be better

I’m still working on bringing my old travel blog over to the new site, but I’ve also been working on some old images. This one was taken in Sendai and I intended to process it as a “realistic” travel image until I realized that there was a person in this image. I can’t believe that it took me four years to notice that little detail, but that changed the way I saw this image entirely and I decided took make it dark and moody. Once I’d decided to ditch realism, I went ahead and removed a utility pole that I didn’t like and applied split toning to give the image the look that I wanted.

I also decided to give the site yet another facelift. It wasn’t too long ago that I changed the theme and restructured the site, but I found that the theme I was using didn’t met neither my needs nor my expectations. It was a pain to update and customize so when I had a chance to try the current theme from Graph Paper Press, I didn’t think twice about switching it. I really like the new simple look, and thanks to the responsive design, now the site looks great even on mobile devices! And there’s more! I’ve also added a new page that displays my latest Instagram images – you can access it from the left sidebar menu. Hope you like the changes.

Photographing traditional Japanese martial arts

Jidai Matsuri

A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked me to photograph a Suiō-ryū Iai Kenpō seminar here in Jyväskylä. Suiō-ryū Iai Kenpō is a style of classical Japanese swordsmanship, and what made this seminar special was that the sōke, or grand master, of Suio-ryu participated in it with a number of other teachers from Japan. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous when I went there because I’ve never photographed events like this before and also because asked to take a portrait of the current sōke Katsuse Yoshimitsu Kagehiro during the day.

It was an interesting day in many ways and a great opportunity to spend a day with inspiring teachers and enthusiastic students. In case you’re wondering, the above photo is not related to Suio-ryu in any way. It’s a shot from the Jidai Matsuri festival in Kyoto, taken in 2010. If you want to see photos from the actual seminar, there’s a few at the website of the Finnish branch of Suio Suiō-ryū.

The portrait of Katsuse Yoshimitsu Kagehiro that I made is also on the website.

By the way, if you want to stay up to date on my posts in various social networks, follow me on Twitter or Facebook. I use them as outlets for additional and exclusive stuff that doesn’t make it to this blog.

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