Tag Archives: japan

Vintage Architecture

I’m taking the prompt very loosely this week. I’m not totally sure what makes architecture vintage, other than it being old!

Here’s Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, in Kyoto:

Kinkakuji

NOT trompe l’oeil building in Lisbon:

building

Wat Arun in Bankgok, Thailand:

Sunset at Wat Arun

And finally, some neoclassical architecture in the heart of NYC, just west of Penn Station – the US Post Office:

Neither snow nor rain

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52 Photos: Point the Camera Up

I can’t believe I haven’t posted any pictures from Okunoin, the most enchanting cemetery in Koya-San, Japan. For Point the Camera UP, I give you this view:

tree guardians

Some hoodoos from below at Bryce Canyon:

hoodoos and sky

Joshua Tree:

joshua tree and sky

And blooms, because this blog is all about blooming!

blooms in the sky

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52 Photos: End of the Season

This week’s prompt was related to summer coming to an end, something I’m loathe to face, even though the evenings are coming more quickly. So I dug into the archive and came up with the bright, vivid colors that mark fall and give me light and warmth to hold on to as it gets darker and colder.

North Cascades slope:

fall colors

Frilly Japanese maple leaves:

fall frilly maple leaves

This was taken just over a year ago in Koya-san, Japan:

fall harbinger

Leaf skeletons in Kanazawa, Japan:

fall leaf skeletons

Autumn leaves, swirly fence:

autumn leaves swirly fence

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Japan: Kyoto and Hiroshima

I have a friend who’s going to Japan in December. She asked me for my advice and recommendations on where to go and what to see. She’s planning on visiting Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima. I encouraged her to spend a couple of days in Tokyo, too, if she could. I mentioned on Twitter I was writing an epic email, and a couple of people requested that I post it to my blog. So, for your delectation, I present it, edited slightly for clarity.

torii hall with lantern

Kyoto

Where to stay

We stayed two different places in Kyoto. The first place we stayed was a ryokan, which is the more traditional/family style inn. It was the Ryokan Shimizu.

We loved staying there. The people were so friendly and we were able to try a traditional Japanese breakfast there. It was very close to the train station, which made getting around rather easy (it’s a hub for the buses, too). We all stayed in one room (me with my parents) and slept on tatami/futons (not like futons in the US – really like pads). It was quite comfortable! They also did cultural programming every night. Calligraphy, Japanese gift wrapping with the cloth, origami … I think they had one night on kimonos!

calligraphy lesson

The other hotel was tiny and right down the street from the station. I have no idea what the name was. We had planned on going on to another town, but the typhoon stranded us, so we just walked around to various hotels until we found one that had a rate we liked :). It was commodious, but lacked any of the flavor of the ryokan.

What to see

As for what I would recommend in Kyoto, I would say go to these temples:
Northern Kyoto
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)
There’s a Zen temple, Ryoanji with a stone garden next to Kinkakuji. We were underwhelmed by it, but maybe it would interest you?

Eastern Kyoto
Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)
Kiyomizudera – and when you go there, make sure to pay the 100 yen to go down in the thing. You walk down some stairs and hold on to a chain of wooden balls. It gets darker and darker as you go through. It’s supposed to represent the birthing process, and you can make a wish when you get to a stone in the center.

Also, we loved walking through the Nishiki Market (or at least, my mom and I did :P).

Nishiki market

Take the train 5 minutes to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is the place with all the red torii gates (shown in the image above). Fantastic place. I think they are lit at night in the winter, adding another magical element to an already otherworldly place.

I think we spent 5 nights in Kyoto. It was really great, because it gave us time to get adjusted to the time and rest every day (my parents napped and I wrote in my journal).

My friend Yossi has a delightful restaurant, Colori Caffe, outside the tourist areas. Please go visit her and say hi from me if you do! If you want the directions, please contact me and I will send them to you. It’s very easy to get to.

Hiroshima and Miyajima

I have no idea where we stayed in Hiroshima. We used the TripAdvisor site to find a place. We didn’t book it until we were in Japan. I couldn’t tell you AT ALL! It’s so funny. It was a very pleasant place, so my takeaway is, trust the reviews on TripAdvisor :).

Miyajima is the island. You could spend the night there, or just do it as a day trip (which is what we did). I would recommend going to Miyajima after the Peace Museum. Being in Hiroshima is intense, as you can imagine. The island is a beautiful respite.

egret in red reflection

General advice/tips

As for flying in to Kyoto or Tokyo, I don’t know if there are any direct flights to Kyoto anymore (from Seattle). I think one reason we went with Tokyo was that it was more direct and cost less (even including the hotel). We stayed here. It was right outside the Tokyo Station and was a fantastic oasis in the middle of the city. The staff were super friendly and helpful.

I would recommend talking to people and ask if they’ve been to Tokyo, and what they would recommend doing there. I think we had a kind of odd/different experience. I had some friends I’d worked with at Amazon, and we met them for lunch one day. We did some shopping. We did take a day trip to Kamakura to see the giant Buddha.

OH! Also, the department stores have restaurants on the top floors that are very reasonable for eating dinner. This is true in Kyoto and Tokyo. We also ate at izakayas (bars), but they can be VERY smoky. My mom and I loved eating at them, though.

The Japan Rail pass was fantastic. It works on any JR line – which means we were able to use it to get around Tokyo itself, as long as we stayed on the JR line. It can also be used on certain buses. If you are taking the shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto and back, I think it pays for itself, but you should check the math on that. I bought mine from a place in downtown Seattle. I think I went to the office and placed my order. Came back an hour later and the vouchers were ready!

***

You can see the pictures I took, organized by location.

I think that’s everything I can think of for now! If you have ANY questions, or something doesn’t make sense, please feel free to ask me. Also, if you start making reservations and have difficulty, let me know. I seem to remember there were a few hiccups we had.

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52 Photos: Stairs

This week’s prompt: stairs. For you, a few staircases and a brief story. First the pictures:

The staircase in the shopping center at the JR Train Station in Kyoto:

lighting design on JR Kyoto stairs

Spiral staircase in Lisbon:

spiral stair

Dragon staircase in Chiang Mai:

dragon staircase

Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon:

self-published

Ayutthaya Staircase:

stairs to ferry

Before I start telling you this story, I have to show you a picture of something else. It’s a bicycle:

Good luck bike #2

In 2011 I spent 3 months in SE Asia. The first place I went after I got my head sorted in Bangkok was Ayutthaya. It was a great place for me to rest and sink into a new rhythm. The guesthouse where I was staying had bikes available to rent. This was my trusty steed as I ventured out from the safety of my idyllic quarters. What you can’t tell from looking at the picture is how heavy that bike was. I’d guess it weighed around 25 pounds. Nothing like my lightweight 15-pound aluminum frame bike at home.

And yes, I did carry that damn thing down those damn stairs. And back up on the other side. And then again in reverse. And I felt quite pleased with my accomplishment.

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52 Photos: The Light Arrived

This week’s prompt for 52 Photos was The Light Arrived. As many of you know, I am a connoisseur of light. I love love love light. I had so many pictures I wanted to share, but I managed to hold myself back. I took some liberties in interpreting this one. There are a mixture of natural and man-made lights. I hope you enjoy!

Japan

I took this picture from the top floor of our hotel in Tokyo. The lights were on and they were reflected in the window, so I got this neat image that looks like a double exposure. It’s the light from inside as well as the lights from the buildings and cars outside.

Light and dark in Tokyo:

light and dark in Tokyo

Here is a shot without the reflected light, of just the cars on the street. I love this image, because it looks like an old computer punch card. I imagine there’s some code in the pattern, if only I can discern it.

Car lights in Tokyo:

car lights in Tokyo

The temple we stayed at in Koya-san had this rock in a little garden off to the side. Even though it was a Buddhist temple, it reminded me of the Taoist origin story. A version I learned told about a cosmic egg that was broken open. From the one came the two, from the two came the three, and from the three came the ten thousand things.

Light and dark/split rock:

light and dark/split rock

Cambodia

I don’t think the one needs explanation.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat:

sunrise

Seattle

Light through the trees:

light through the trees

Chandelier at the Paramount:

Chandelier at the Paramount

Vancouver, B.C.

“And the raven brought the light into the world …”

raven brought light

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52 Photos: Good luck charms

This week’s prompt for 52 Photos was Good Luck Charm. I’ve been struggling with this one, because I don’t really have anything I think of as a charm, nor do I subscribe much to good luck. This morning I was thinking about it again, because I love participating in this community every week. I let my mind wander and make its own connections. Good luck is a kind of magic, and I find magic everywhere (to paraphrase Dar Williams). And lo and behold, there are a few things that spike high on the chart when it comes to magic.

Some of you know I’m a gigantic fan of cetaceans. Orcas, great blue whales, bottle nose dolphins – I love them all. The best dreams I dream contain Orcas or great blues. I always feel completely peaceful and connected. I took these dolphin pictures off of Sanibel Island in March. I love their playfulness and connection to each other.

Leap of joy:

leap of joy

Triple dolphin action:

Triple dolphin action

Pelicans also hold a special place in my heart. Perhaps it’s their inherent goofiness. I can’t quite say.

brown pelican

white pelicans + reddish egret

Finally, a Hello Kitty Lucky Cat that I saw when I visited Miyajima in Japan:

Hello Kitty Lucky Cat

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52 Photos: Petals

This week’s prompt was petals.

While I probably have thousands of pictures of flowers, I thought I’d take the prompt a little bit further. Here’s a boddhisatva resting on a lotus bloom at the Todai-ji temple in Nara:

boddhisatva on lotus

But I’ll throw a few flowers from various gardens in the mix:

dahlia rise

rose

And some African tulip blooms that I came across while I was in Si Satchanali, Thailand:

african tulip flowers

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Fuji-san Appears on Time

Mt. Fuji

This past September I traveled through Japan with my parents. My mom and I were heading back to Tokyo for our last few days. My mom was very excited by the possibility of seeing Mt. Fuji from the train, the closest we would get to this famous and sacred mountain.

We loved riding the Shinkansen, which is an elegant and efficient mode of travel. A little trivia: the seats are designed to swivel on their mounts, so you can turn them around. I loved knowing this. We even availed ourselves of this feature a few times, so we could face each other while we zipped through the landscape.

Riding the hikari Shinkansen

This was our last ride on the Bullet Train, and we are zooming past everything. It feels like we’ve reached the future. My mom gets more and more excited about seeing Mt. Fuji until she overcomes her own sense of propriety and asks a group of 4 women traveling together when we might see Fuji-san. They confer with each other and stop the conductor to ask him as well. Finally they arrive at a consensus: 2:45 p.m.

We continue to stare out the window, as if our eyeballs fixed on the horizon could make it materialize. At 2:32 (more or less), I catch a glimpse of what appears to be a volcanic dome, rising from the ground. I stand up and wave my arms at the demure group of ladies, pointing out the window. “Fuji-san,” I say to them. “Fuji-san.”

“No,” they tell me. They point to their watches and shake their heads, disappointed that I do not seem to understand how things work in Japan. Everything runs on its schedule, and the mountain will appear when it’s the right time. My mom and I continue to press our faces to the window, catching our breath as the mountain grows larger and larger. There are hills that occlude our sight, so it comes and goes. And finally, we reach the plain with an unobstructed view.

We turn to our Japanese travel companions and they smile at us, assured that it is now the proper time and Fuji-san has made its appearance. All is right with the world.

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Week 30: On My Way

This week, for 52 Photos, the prompt was On My Way.

One of the things I observed during my trip to Japan was the groups of school children taking trips. We often came across them in the train stations, where they would sit quietly in the middle of the floor. Sometimes we saw them on the platforms, waiting for a train. There was even a group of high school students at the airport the day I left. Turned out, they were on my flight!

But my favorite picture that I snapped was this group of children with their bright yellow hats the day we went to Miyajima. They all had buddies and walked in neat rows. This small bunch had gotten separated, and they looked like ducklings to me. They were on their way.

school ducklings

I thought I’d throw in some actual ducklings:
Mother duck and ducklings

And the famous Make Way for Ducklings in Boston:
ducklings

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