johnliddlephotography

Frozen moments from the infinity that is time


Leave a comment

Nijo Castle (Kyoto)

It is said that minds are like parachutes in that they work best when open. What has this to do with Nijo Castle? Well, nothing really, but it is my explanation for being able to offer only a small selection of images. After visiting and being highly impressed with Himeji Castle (https://johnliddlephotography.com/2014/11/18/himeji-castle-a-reminder-of-feudal-times/), I became somewhat dismissive of other castles, thus did not allocate sufficient time or importance to Nijo Castle. I have, therefore, shown only external detail shots of Ninomaru Palace and some shots of the Ninomaru Garden.

Nijo Castle has a long history dating back to 1603 and was built to serve as the residence for Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1602 to 1867). Building works were completed some 23 years later by the Shogun’s grandson Iemitsu who added a five-storey castle keep. Unfortunately the keep was destroyed by fires in the 18th century and never rebuilt, thus denying Nijo Castle the architecturally dominant keep so characteristic of other Japanese castles. Nevertheless, the palace buildings are regarded as among the best examples of castle palace architecture of Japan’s feudal era and are a designated UNESCO world heritage site.

The internal areas of the castle are arguably more interesting than the external, but, as was the case at Osaka Castle, photography restrictions apply to internal areas. Whilst frustrating one must comply with the restrictions, though visitors with small cameras seemed able to sneak shots. Yes, there are times when a big camera is a disadvantage.

If I had to nominate one castle to visit I would still nominate Himeji Castle. However, I erred in prejudging Nijo Castle and urge anyone planning a visit to allocate sufficient time to fully appreciate all it has to offer.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Myoshin-ji Temple Complex (Kyoto)

It could be said that Kyoto has an embarrassment of riches in terms of the number and variety of Buddhist temples located within this ancient and culturally rich city. At one end of the scale one may come across small local temples, most often found when wandering the streets and at the other end of the spectrum are the large sprawling temple complexes such as Myoshin-ji in Kyoto’s north-east.

These large temple complexes are always impressive given their scale, yet each varies in character. For example, if I think of Kyoto’s Tenryu-ji (https://johnliddlephotography.com/2014/02/11/tenryu-ji-kyoto/) I think of generations of monks working tirelessly to create a serene environment. On the other hand, Nagano’s Zenkoji Temple (https://johnliddlephotography.com/2016/02/06/zenkoji-temple/) conjures images of a warring and bloody history. Myoshin-ji is different again with its feeling of community with many of the sub-temples serving also as residences and members of the local community simply “hanging-out” within the temple grounds.

Estimates of the number of sub-temples within the complex range from 38 to 50, with most closed to the public. Nevertheless, many front gates are open or ajar to offer visitors a glimpse of what lies beyond, a la the opening photograph “Peek-a-boo”. Meandering through the complex’s laneways is a delightful way to gain an appreciation of this very Buddhist community and I suspect I may have inadvertently wandered into a few of the “off limits” sub-temples such as Nehando where I came across the entrancing Jizo statuary shown at pics 8 to 11. Sometimes one’s poor language skills can be an advantage!

The other images demonstrate, in my opinion, how splendour can manifest in different ways. The images (pics 2 to 7) of the main Myoshin-ji buildings (the Butsuden and the Hatto) are further examples of the solid Japanese architecture typical of major traditional temple buildings. These buildings sit so solidly into their environment as to appear immovable and evoke feelings of calm and serenity. Elsewhere in the complex one finds the highly popular Taizo-in Temple, much admired for its beautiful gardens (pics 12 to 17) that similarly evoke feelings of calm and serenity, albeit by different means. I felt fortunate when the smartly dressed people wandered into the shot (pic 15), thus giving the image a rather timeless feel and one hopes that the final image has indeed become a precious memory for the elderly and young person mesmerized by the Japanese Koi fish.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


6 Comments

Osaka from 173 metres

Osaka’s Umeda Sky Building is an impressive structure of two towers connected at the top by an open-air circular walkway offering magnificent views of the city and surrounds. The area atop the building is formally described as the Floating Garden Observatory, but is more frequently referred to as simply “173” denoting its height of 173 metres above ground level.

Even though I have visited higher observatories, including the Shanghai World Financial Centre Observatory, which, at 474 metres, is the highest in the world, I found “173” a more enjoyable experience. This is due to its circular design providing 360-degree vantage points and most importantly, the unimpeded views from being in the open-air. Notwithstanding that my visit took place on a cold December day, not having to deal with the barrier of glass windows made it an altogether more pleasurable experience.

I was also fortunate to have visited in late afternoon/early evening, thus providing an opportunity to witness the sunset from a “birds-eye” position. My only regret was not carrying a tripod and having to shoot handheld on high ISO settings, hence the somewhat grainy images. Nevertheless, I am happy to have these images as memories of a most enjoyable interlude and I highly recommend a visit to “173” for those visiting Osaka.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


6 Comments

2017 Favourites

Time is our most common yet precious commodity that moves inexorably forward, one tick of the clock at a time. In a way one could say the ticking clock is the soundtrack to our lives.

At this time of year it is not unusual to hear people say: “where has the year gone?” or words to that effect. Throughout the year I often hear people say, usually in the form of an excuse or apology, that they have no time. Of course, they are wrong given that time is an equal opportunity for everyone on the planet. We all get 24 hours each day, seven days a week and so on. So rather than bemoan a lack of time, it would be more appropriate to acknowledge that how we use our time is our choice. One way or the other, we each manage to fill the 24 hours in each day and it is our responsibility to use it well and wisely.

I am happy to have got back on track with this blog during the past year after posting only once in 2016. My objective was to post twice a month and I have come up a few short of my target, but overall I have enjoyed being able to share photographs, thoughts and recollections with those who have kindly visited my blog. Whilst the blog is small in terms of views and followers, I will continue to resist chasing statistics through Internet trickery and continue to appreciate that those viewing the blog are real and genuine.

I am planning to take a short break during which I will consider my approach to the 2018 blog. The Japan series is nearing an end and perhaps it is time to consider drawing on the material to create a book. I hope you enjoy the favourites I have selected from 2017’s posts and all that remains now is to thank you for your visits and to wish you a safe and Happy New Year.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


Leave a comment

ICAN …. can you?

I had expected to be posting on a different subject, but changed my mind when I learned that the Nobel Peace Prize 2017 was awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.

Having visited Hiroshima a number of times, the first time being six years ago to the day, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize award to ICAN resonated with me. Prior to my visits I was, like many people I expect, horrified at the potential for nuclear weapons to be used again. However, spending time at the site of humankind’s single most horrific act focused my understanding on how truly horrific the use of nuclear weapons was and can be. From that moment I have strongly believed that the stories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki must continue to be told and it was most pleasing to hear this sentiment echoed by President Obama during his speech at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial on 27 May 2016, when he said: “But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.”

Technology has taken great leaps forward since 1945 and the destructive power of today’s nuclear warheads is many times greater than the weapons used in 1945. When considered alongside the current emergence of leaders apparently more driven by ego than wisdom, ICAN’s work is timely.

Can one person make a difference? Can you or I effect the destruction of nuclear stockpiles? The answer is, of course, no! But just as it takes many stitches to make a blanket, you and I combined can, over time, make a difference. We cannot rely on politicians acting independently to make such a monumental change. The self anointed “political class” lack the moral fortitude to take the lead. If it is to happen they must be dragged by the undeniable weight of public opinion to act and perhaps this is what President Obama during his Hiroshima speech was alluding to with the words: “Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.”

The photographs I have chosen are a combination of historic photographs and photographs of paintings made by survivors almost 60 years later of their memories from 6 August 1945. The clarity of those memories reflected through their art talks directly to the impact on their lives. I have also included links below to a series of posts I made on Hiroshima in August 2014.

https://johnliddlephotography.com/2014/08/07/time-and-place-hiroshima/

https://johnliddlephotography.com/2014/08/15/hiroshima-peace-museum/

https://johnliddlephotography.com/2014/08/25/peace-park-memorials-hiroshima/

https://johnliddlephotography.com/2014/08/30/shukkeien-gardens-hiroshima/

Thank you for reading and I hope you will consider your position on this important issue.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)

 

 


8 Comments

Osaka Castle

On flicking through the subjects I have covered in this series of Japanese posts, it became apparent that I had given little attention to Osaka, due mainly to having spent very little time there. However, like many visitors to Osaka, I did visit Osaka Castle – the subject of today’s post.

Now that I reflect a bit more, my experience of Japanese castles is also quite limited, having visited only three, the others being Kyoto and Himeji. Of these, the standout is definitely Himeji (https://johnliddlephotography.com/2014/11/18/himeji-castle-a-reminder-of-feudal-times/). I do not like to speak negatively about such important and magnificent buildings, but I did find the restrictions on photography imposed at the Kyoto and Osaka Castles to be disappointing, as much of the most interesting subject matter was within the restricted areas. Notwithstanding such restrictions, they are worth visiting.

I travelled to Osaka Castle by train and the walk from the station through municipal parklands builds one’s curiosity through early glimpses and as one gets closer, the scale of the castle and surrounding moat (its first line of defence) is most impressive – if not majestic. Entering through the gates (pic 1), one’s eye is immediately drawn to the magnificence of the dry-stone walls, which are quite captivating in their own right. Once inside the castle grounds, one becomes more aware of the towering edifice that is Osaka Castle (pics 2 to 4). I wish I could include internal shots, but much as I dislike photography restrictions I do respect the right of operators to impose them. Climbing to the highest level is recommended for the views over Osaka (pic 5) and the appreciation that the castle was very strategically positioned from a defensive perspective.

The inclusion of pics 6 to 10 is somewhat of an indulgence, but during my visit I was quite taken by the geometric patterns of the stone walls around the castle. In fact, I distinctly remember comparing the visual impact of the castle walls to more contemporary structures utilising acutely angled aperiodic tiling as a surface treatment. Of course a major difference is that the castle walls relied on manual planning and construction techniques, whereas contemporary structures benefit from the use of sophisticated computer-aided design, fabrication and building techniques. It does, therefore, seem appropriate to conclude with pic 10 “An Artisan’s Mark”, which shows an example of how the stonemasons of the day marked their contribution to the construction of Osaka Castle.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


Leave a comment

Kyoto streets by day

Following-on from my last post of Kyoto at night, this post shows sights that one encounters wandering Kyoto’s streets during the day. When selecting the images, I have intentionally ignored the shrines and temples for which Kyoto is famous, choosing instead to show aspects of the city that one may encounter moving between the more famous attractions.

Kyoto is a great walking city and will reward those with the time and energy to meander through its streets and laneways. As well as getting a better feel for the city, one may find hidden gems the equal of the more popular tourist sites.

The shots do not require explanation, but let me make some observations nevertheless. Arashiyama (pic 1) is simply a delightful place to spend time and should be a must-see on any trip to Kyoto. The bridge in pic 5 is wider than it appears, but not recommended for those who may have had one too many drinks. Above the tunnel (pic 7) is the Keage Incline – a popular and magnificent place to view Sakura during the cherry blossom season. My apologies to the taxi driver (pic 8), though I can report that he was amused at walking into the picture. Although the dish hails from Hiroshima, Kyoto’s okonomiyaki (pic 11) is worth trying. Last but not least, the parked car (pic 16) was one of the more amusing examples of creative parking I came across, albeit not conducive to a quick getaway.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy these little windows into the real Kyoto.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


Leave a comment

Night Moods (Kyoto)

I imagine that if people were asked to imagine a night-time image of Japan, most people would visualise the bright, in-your-face, high energy images of areas such as Tokyo’s Shinjuku at night. I know I would respond in this way despite my fondness for Kyoto, as Japan’s second city has an altogether different night-time vibe.

Kyoto is always interesting and entrancing, including after the setting of the sun. However, it beguiles rather than beckons; coaxes rather than grabs; and promises rather than teases. In a word, Kyoto is moodier at night, with fewer bright lights resulting in more shadows, though not of the threatening variety. Meandering through Kyoto’s streets and laneways at night is just as safe, pleasant and interesting as during the daytime hours, perhaps even more so as people are more relaxed and the pace a little slower.

There is, of course, one iconic group for whom the pace quickens after dark and I refer to Kyoto’s Geisha, or Geiko and Maiko as they known locally. This is their working time and they are often unexpectedly encountered rushing between engagements as elegant and traditional as always. There were times when I felt sympathy for Geiko and Maiko trying to go about their work under the duress of attention from the public (local and foreign) seeking to capture a Geisha moment. Gaining access to Gaiko and Maiko is difficult and I may never have the privilege of photographing them in a relaxed environment, but I am happy with my memories and the blurred images as they rush by do, at least, accurately depict an often overlooked part of their profession.

I do hope this selection of shots provides a glimpse of Kyoto’s night moods.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


3 Comments

By the Kamogawa (Kyoto)

 

The Kamogawa flows through Kyoto and translates literally to Wild Duck River. At only 31 kilometres, it is a relatively short river with its source in the nearby mountains around Mount Sajikigatake. Kamogawa is locally regarded as a gift from the gods and considered to be one of Kyoto’s natural treasures.

I always enjoyed my strolls by the river and it is easy to understand why it is a much-loved location for people to relax and enjoy the company of friends. The photographs shown here were taken around the Pontocho area, mostly between the bridges crossing Shijo and Sanjo streets, which is one of Kyoto’s prime entertainment precincts. Whilst it is naturally busiest during weekends and evenings, one would generally find people strolling or sitting quietly by the river at other times.

Kamogawa suits Kyoto with its quiet energy, thus further enhancing the charm and warmth of this traditional Japanese city.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)

 


4 Comments

The Peacefulness of a Kyoto Garden

 

Globalisation, digitalisation, social media, rampant consumerism, the threat of terrorism and the seemingly endless debate about global warming intrude our daily lives and tend to discourage enjoying the natural beauty of our environments. Are we at risk of disconnecting from nature? For those such as farmers and naturalists whose lives revolve around the natural world, there is little risk. However, there are those at the opposite end of the spectrum who have effectively disconnected and live their lives wholly within urban and virtual environments. For those in the middle, perhaps it is time to think seriously about the role of nature in our lives, else we risk being swept further into the vortex of an artificial environment.

I recently experienced virtual reality for the first time and whilst I readily admit to enjoying the experience, I find myself wondering how this technology will impact on our lives. The technology is awesome and the scientific and commercial applications to facilitate forward planning decisions are obvious. I also know my limitations and that there are certain things I will never try, which I have come to accept. However, virtual reality will inevitably enable me to have those experiences without the risks (real and perceived) that hold me back. Even low risk experiences such as travelling to foreign countries or walking through a forest will be available to all by donning goggles and earphones. For some or many, which remains to be seen, this may become the mode through which they experience the natural world. What implications might this have for our ongoing individual and collective health? It is only my opinion, but I intend not to pursue virtual experiences where I have the opportunity to pursue the real experiences. What will you do?

Today’s selection of photographs have nothing to do with the above discussion except that they are real and remind me of the peaceful moments I experienced in gardens in Kyoto. Travelling can be hectic at times and it was always nice to find tranquil spaces where one could slow down, listen to the flow of moving water and the rustling sounds of wind moving through trees punctuated by birdsongs. Our green spaces provide this opportunity, not to mention the fundamental joy and benefit of being outdoors. If you read this and have not visited a green space in the past week, I challenge you to visit your nearest park or garden to maintain the connection that is surely fundamental to our existence.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)