Kyoto Eki (Kyoto Train Station), where I met Naomi at Café du Monde (the yellow sign at lower left) when I arrived from Osaka’s Kansai Airport on June 13, 2002.
Kyoto Eki picture “straightened” using The Imaging Factory’s Debarrelizer filter, which can remove even the extreme distortion of fisheye lenses, as well as the much smaller distortions common even in high quality wideangle or zoom lenses for 35mm or medium-format SLRs.
For another example, see “Shrine room at Ninnaji” on page 3, where I used it to straighten the horizontal lines of the silk curtain and other items in the room so that the slight lens distortion wouldn’t cause an unintended distraction.
Since Kyoto alone has some 6,000 temples and shrines there’s no hope that I could visit even a significant percentage of them but I managed to make it to some of the most famous ones, such as Kinkakuji, which features this “Golden Pavilion” covered with gold leaf.
This is the beautiful garden of Kinkakuji.
Another spectacular shrine is Fushimi Inari. According to the book Exploring Kyoto (see page 1), “Inari” is thought to come from the words ine (rice plant) and nari (to become) and the importance of rice to Japanese life makes it understandable that a deity presides over it. There are thousands of Inari shrines throughout the country but this is the most famous of them all and thought to be the one from which all the others derived.
The most spectacular feature of the shrine is the path up the 233-meter (760-ft.) Mt. Inari, lined with 10,000 — yes, ten-thousand! — red-orange torii gates. Naomi and I didn’t have the time or energy to hike all the way up to the top — we just made it to the first hill and back but just that took a couple of hours.
There are more pictures of these torii and Fushimi Inari on page 4.
Not that the rest of the shrine isn’t spectacular as well. This is the view looking out through the shrine’s main gate. It appeared that preparations were being made for some kind of festival so the huge wreath was put in place for the occasion.
These were prayer plaques which could be bought and upon which you could write a personal blessing. The colorful strings of origami (folded paper) cranes below are, I presume, another form of asking for blessings.
I saw so many temples and shrines that it all began to run together after awhile. I had to confirm with Naomi that this was also at Fushimi Inari because I couldn’t quite recall. Maybe I should have bought a pillowcase at Imakumano for myself: see below.
The priest (bottom center) was saying a blessing for some visitors to the temple.
Almost to the first hill (where we gave up and turned around) is this little sub-shrine.
Another temple Naomi and I visited is Imakumano Kannonji, the fifteenth stop on the famous 33 Kannon pilgrimage route. To the right of the temple is a small structure, in front of which are numerous small figures placed there by elderly visitors or their relatives as part of a recent religious practice to ward off senility, an affliction much feared by Japan’s aging population.
We bought two pillow cases which are supposed to help ward off senility — one for Carol, which Naomi says is needed to be put to use as soon as possible (how rude!)
This is the beautiful altar at Imakumano Kannonji.
One of my quests was to return to Nishi (West) Honganji, where I took a picture of its roof in 1986 — the photo (below) was in the exhibition I had at the Blackhawk Museum that just came down on Memorial Day, 2002.
In the exhibition’s text panel accompanying the picture I said that the challenge I had was to capture the serenity induced by visiting the temple while trying to ignore the “busy 4-lane highway in front.” It turns out that it was more of a challenge than I remembered: it’s a busy 6-lane divided highway.
Nishi Honganji was founded in 1272 and moved to its present location in 1591. A 1-meter-tall statue of Amida Buddha, carved in 1611, is housed in the Amida Hall completed in 1760. It’s amazing that after a while things that were built long before the U.S. was even born begin to seem “recent.”
This is the photo I took in 1986 from approximately the same location (just slightly to the left of the position above) with a Pentax 6x7 (cm) camera body on the back of a modified Toyo 4"x5" field camera and with the tripod cranked up as high as it would go to shoot over the truck and bus traffic. This first trip was in the wintertime — very cold and the trees were bare. The roof line would be obscured by leaves in the picture above if I took it from the same position.
I made the first trip to Japan because I had a photo exhibition at the Pentax Forum gallery in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. I was honored to be the first American to have a show there so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and accompany my photographs … and I’m very glad I did.
Significantly, this was the very first photograph I took with a Fuji 600mm large-format telephoto that I had just purchased directly from Fuji’s headquarters in Tokyo, thanks to Dad’s good childhood friend Raymond Shishido, who was manager of Fuji Hawaii at the time. I hadn’t had a chance to test out the lens other than looking at the aerial image with a telescope eyepiece I had brought along for the purpose. I had to rely on faith that it would perform as well as promised in their brochure. Fortunately the gods were smiling on me and the picture came out just fine. A print is in the collection of the Honolulu Academy of Art.
Another attractive building at Nishi Honganji.
Another place where I wanted to return was Arashiyama’s bamboo forest on the west side of Kyoto. The last time I was there in 1986 it was cold and raining. I took some pictures by sticking an umbrella into the back of my down expedition jacket to keep most of the rain off the cameras and lens — and me.
I was fortunate to have Naomi along this time to ask directions in understandable Japanese to find my way back. I don’t know how I managed to find it the first time since I don’t recall having a map or being able to ask directions.
This is a photograph I took in 1986 of a stack of cut bamboo — in the rain with an umbrella stuck into the back of my jacket.
Arashiyama bamboo forest.
Arashiyama bamboo forest.
Arashiyama bamboo forest.
Everywhere I went and whatever day it was, including Saturdays and Sundays, there were school children in their uniforms. I think it’s wonderful that they have the opportunity to visit shrines and temples to learn about and enjoy their very significant and ancient history.
This was at Ryoanji, which has the most famous zen rock garden in the world, to the left of this group of school girls taking a picture with the rock garden as a background.
All over there are funny tiny cars which actually make sense for the very narrow streets in Kyoto but which are obviously not safe enough for US freeways to be imported. The sign on the garage door is apparently a brand name but I found it fitting.
It was hard to get used to seeing cars running around with the driver on the righthand side. I kept thinking that there was only a passenger seated in the car and that it was driving around by itself.
When I visited Tottori in 1986, on the Inland Sea side of Japan, I had to rent a car to be able to get to the famous sand dunes there. I’m glad I was young (relatively) and foolish (relatively) at the time because I’m sure I would not have been able or willing to do the same thing today. Not only did I have to figure out how to drive the right-hand-drive car with snow piled up alongside the roads, but I had to find my way around without being able to read any of the road signs.
I also had to find my way to a gas station, which aren’t as prominently marked as gas stations in the U.S., which are visible from miles away driving down the Interstate. Plus, I had to find my way back to the rental car place to return the car.
Another thing that was noticeably different about Japan is that you get on buses at the rear and pay your fare when you get off at the front. The bus seats are covered with plush velour and the hand-straps are positioned low for short people. I found it a very nice thing that the bus driver said “thank you very much” (arigato gozaimash[i]ta) to each person getting off. If 10 people got off, he would say it 10 times (but in a deep-toned droll sort of way that Naomi and I got a kick out of imitating)!
Also, when you enter any business establishment, whether a clothing store, a fancy restaurant or a Macdonald’s, every employee, from the maitre d’ to the dishwasher, shouts out “welcome.” And when you leave they all say “thank you very much.”
I was also impressed watching the attendants at a gas station while I was waiting to catch a bus to Ryoanji and Kinkakuji. They, of course, gave full service to all customers and when people were ready to leave, two attendants would go out into the roadway to direct traffic and make sure that the customer got off safely and conveniently.
The bus stops have mechanical indicators which pop up to show when the bus you are waiting for is three, two and one stop away. I never did figure out how this useful mechanism worked (I was never alone long enough and I didn’t have the proper tools to take one apart to examine it).
I had lots of fun reading katakana all around Kyoto. This was taken in the bakery of a large department store (“depato”) downtown. In Japanese bakeries you take a tray and tongs and select the items that you want to buy. These are little hot dogs baked in a bun. The sign says “u-i-n-na-(dash to extend the sound)-ro-(dash)-ru” (weiner roll).