johnliddlephotography

Frozen moments from the infinity that is time


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Patience

In this post I want to talk briefly about two of my favourite images from my Japan trips and the need for patience in order to capture each shot.

101.01 Monks' reward (IMG_6120)

Monks’ reward

Monks’ reward (pic 1 above) was taken from inside a room at Kyoto’s Tenryu-ji Temple, but lived in my mind for several weeks before I got the shot. When I first visited Tenryu-ji on a busy holiday weekend it was teeming with people drawn by the autumn foliage, thus making this capture impossible at that time. Knowing that I was returning to Kyoto in a few weeks, I decided to wait and although the red leaves of the autumn maples had long gone, having the space to myself allowed me to relax and imagine how life may have been in the early days of this wonderful temple.

The buildings and gardens of Tenryu-ji, like those of the other renowned Kyoto temples, are the result of hard labour, which makes one reflect on the physically arduous lives of monks at that time. It was that train of thought that led me to imagine that being able to spend time in such a serene space and place was a reward for their labour, hence the title of “Monks’ reward”. Of course, this might be nothing more than a figment of my imagination, but it is how I think of this place whenever I look at this shot.

101.02 Pathway to tranquility (IMG_7865)

Pathway to tranquility

Those familiar with Kyoto will recognise Pathway to tranquility (pic 2 above) as having been taken at the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Once again patience was required to capture the shot, though not as much as for the previous photograph. Before visiting Fushimi Inari I had seen many photographs of the shrine and was really quite resigned to capturing my own version of what others had already captured. Then I got lucky when I reached this point on the path with the angled side lighting creating wonderful highlights and shadows. However, I was not so lucky in that other people were moving through the shot in each direction, thus I was presented with another exercise in patience.

Whilst my preference was to capture the shot without people I would not have objected to a geisha or other kimono clad people. Unfortunately, people in coloured puffer jackets didn’t fit the mental image I had created. My luck held in the sense that the light held and eventually I was rewarded with a clear people-free shot and managed to get off a couple of frames before the next puffer jacket appeared. That was enough. I captured my moment in time and got a shot of Fushimi Inari I had not seen before. Now, whenever I look at the shot I don’t think of puffer jackets and having to be patient, I really do see a pathway to tranquility.

Thanks for reading this post, which is different to how I’ve structured my series of Japan posts and is somewhat of an indulgence on my part. However, I would like to finish off 2019 by talking about a few shots that are important to me.

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Everyday Tokyo

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This is my hundredth post on Japan, thus bringing this series to an end, at least until I can return to build a larger image stock. I am, however, intending to finish the year with a couple of posts based on specific individual images to ease my withdrawal symptoms. The images I have shared over this journey were taken during two separate six-week visits during the Japanese Autumn and Spring seasons, with the approach evolving as I went. From my perspective I have enjoyed the experience, which allowed me to stay in touch with Japan and to gain enhanced knowledge through comments made on photographs from time to time.

Whilst this is really a low-key finale I thought it fitting to finish with a few street shots of everyday life from the world’s most populated metropolis. The opening image (pic 1) was clearly shot in the Ginza where upmarket brands compete for attention and seem to be regarded as commonplace by local Tokyoites. Of course, I’m sure the subliminal messaging is still working. From the Ginza to the older Tokyo vibe of Asakusa (pic 2) is a big change, but kids are kids and I thought the teacher (my assumption) setting-up for a group shot to remember the outing was quite universal in its nature.

Pics 3 and 4 taken on a Sunday visit to Ueno Park are reminders of the contrasts to be found in all societies. Whilst the bike-riding drummer (pic 3) attracted a crowd, almost directly across the pathway was the homeless person (pic 4) alone with her thoughts. During my times in Tokyo I visited Ebisu often for the convenience of shopping (pic 5), as well as being a frequent visitor to Tokyo’s wonderful Museum of Photography (pic 6).

I’ve included three shots from Hibiya (pics 7 to 9) as I believe the area highlights two commendable characteristics of Tokyo life. For an area that in many other cities around the world might tend towards seediness, the pictures demonstrate the typical cleanliness of the streets and the high level of public safety.

This brings me to the final shot taken in Roppongi. Compared to the ordered chaos of the famous Shibuya crossing, the street crossing in Roppongi (pic 10) is humdrum. Nevertheless, I found it an interesting example of proxemic behaviour where those waiting to cross have each taken up positions that maximises their personal space. The classic example of such behaviour is most easily observed in elevators. Be observant next time you ride a lift.

Thank you to everyone who has visited my blog, with an especial thanks to those who have been regular visitors since the early stages of this series.

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

This gallery contains 10 photos


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Yoyogi Park (Tokyo)

If you turn right when exiting Harajuku Station and walk up a short incline to the pedestrian bridge over the railway line you will be faced with two choices. To the right is the entrance to Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most revered shrine and to the left lies the entry to Yoyogi Park. Go right for serenity, tradition and a step back in time or go left for a fun, relaxed community space. My advice is to do both, but today my focus is on Yoyogi Park.

Yoyogi Park has an interesting and varied history. In 1910 the first successful powered aircraft flight in Japan took off and landed on the site of what is now Yoyogi Park. In 1945 it was known as the “Washington Heights” due to the site housing the military barracks for US officers during the allied post-WW2 occupation of Japan.

More topically given Japan’s hosting of the next summer Olympics, Yoyogi Park was the location for the Olympic village for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, as well as swimming, diving and basketball events at the Kenzo Tange designed National Gymnasium building. The National Gymnasium will extend its Olympic heritage by hosting the handball events for the 2020 Olympics.

The area became formally known as Yoyogi Park in 1967 and has since become a very popular venue for a wide range of activities. At 134 acres the park is one of Tokyo’s largest and has become a much-loved and used space, particularly at weekends when, weather permitting, the park comes alive with people.

The selected photographs make no attempt to show the natural beauty of the park, though that is significant, but rather focuses on the enjoyment gained from the park by visitors.

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


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Konchi-in as it was in 1627 (Kyoto)

My introduction to Japanese temples was the Konchi-in Temple, a sub-temple of Kyoto’s sprawling Nanzenji Temple complex. Konchi-in is accessed from a laneway running from the Keage incline to the Nanzenji entry area and one typically finds that most people will bypass Konchi-in on their way to the more famous Nanzenji. Little do they know the jewel they bypass, though the lack of crowds is an advantage for those who take the time to enjoy Konchi-in.

What I most like about Konchi-in is that a visit is like visiting the past with the halls and gardens appearing as they were since its completion on the current site in 1627. The temple’s history is significant. First founded in the fifteenth century during the Muromachi period and located originally in the northern hills area of Kyoto, it acquired greater status in 1605 when the temple was moved within the Nanzenji precinct. The person responsible for this move was the temple’s third head priest Ishin Suden, otherwise known as the “prime minister in a black robe”, who served as an advisor to three Tokugawa shoguns Ieyasu, Hidetada and Iemitsu from 1608 to 1633.

Midway through this period, Suden was appointed head administrative priest of all the Gozan temples in Japan and represented the Shogun in appointing the chief Abbots of the Rinzai sect. This key administrative role remained with Suden’s successors at Konchi-in for some 250 years up to the beginning of the Meiji Restoration in 1868, thus one can appreciate the significance of Konchi-in during this period. Furthermore, Suden was the key driver in reviving Nanzenji, which was greatly damaged during the Onin Rebellion (1467 to 1477). In his honour an annual memorial service is held on February 19 and 20.

If I had to choose one word to describe the gardens I would choose “harmony”, as can be seen from the selected photographs. Even the gnarly old Juniper tree (pic 6) blends with and complements its surroundings, as does the mossy undulating mound at pic 5.

Achieving such harmony was no accident and is attributed to the garden’s designer Kobori Enshu, whose vision was faithfully implemented by a talented gardener named Kentei. Enshu was appointed as a garden planner by Tokugawa Ieyasu and as well as Konchi-in, worked on many other magnificent gardens including Nikko’s Tosho-gu Shrine, Kyoto Castle and Nanzenji’s Hojo Garden. With credentials like this he would have been a celebrity gardener today. Whereas the traditional concept of Japanese gardens is sabi (simple, quiet, deep…), Enshu’s aesthetic is said to have been kirei sabi where beauty and personality was assigned greater importance.

Within the grounds the principal structure is the Tosho-gu (pic 12) where the hair of Tokugawa Ieyasu is enshrined and where prayers are offered to the first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It should be understood that a Tosho-gu is any Shinto Shrine in which Tokugawa Ieyasu is enshrined and that over 500 such shrines existed during the Edo period. After the Meiji Restoration many of the shrines were abandoned and it is estimated that approximately 130 survive today, with the most famous being the Nikko Tosho-gu.

If you plan to visit Kyoto don’t always follow the crowds. Walk into the smaller temples – you never know what awaits you.

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


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Osaka Streets

My week in Osaka was punctuated by a number of day trips by Shinkansen, thus limiting my opportunity to get to know Japan’s third largest city. However, my immediate impression of Osaka was that of a city that does its own thing – an impression that was reinforced during my stay. Being so close to Kyoto it is impossible not to compare the cities and the contrast is clear. Where Kyoto is cultural; Osaka is commercial. Where Kyoto is refined; Osaka is brash. I am not saying one city is better than the other – that is a judgment for each individual to make, but they are different.

Similarly there are differences with Tokyo in that Osaka seems less fashion conscious and more easy going. Sometimes this manifests by appearing a bit rougher, but what is most noticeable is that the city worships food, hence its reputation as the “nation’s kitchen”. Restaurants, cafes and bars abound and all seemed to have customers. Does this mean Osaka’s homes are empty in the evenings?

Most of the photographs in this post were taken around the Dotonbori area, which is always lively after dark and a good place for people watching as well as eating. The gentleman looking contemplatively over the bridge rail (pic 2) brings back a pleasant memory of a conversation. After taking the shot we chatted for a while before he resumed his journey home from work. Such interactions when travelling are always valued for the insights one gains into the place being visited.

Except for the buildings in pic 10 the architecture is predominantly old and one hopes Osaka’s planners will opt to retain the area’s current character rather than yield to demands from developers. Losing the paved alleyways (pic 3), the night market stalls (pic 8), the earthy comfortable bars (pic 7) and the wacky statues (pic 5) would be quite tragic. Cities take a long time to build character and identity and if we are not careful it can be lost in the guise of sterile glass and steel developments.

I had not intended to comment on development until I looked again at the photos and thought about how my city has been wrecked by development and continues to be further wrecked. My apologies if I have caused offence.

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


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Yokohama

Although Yokohama is Japan’s second-largest city with a population of around 3.7 million, one’s first impression is that it is part of the greater Tokyo metropolis. I travelled there by Shinkansen in under twenty minutes and even the return trip on the regular rail network took only thirty minutes. Yes it does seem ridiculous to take such a short Shinkansen ride, but I had a JR Pass and I enjoy travelling by Shinkansen. Along the route I did not discern any real geographical separation from Tokyo – it was more like riding through the apparently never-ending Tokyo metropolis.

Nevertheless, even a short Saturday afternoon touristy type visit revealed a city with a distinct character. Most of my time was spent strolling through Yokohama’s Chinatown – the biggest Chinatown in Japan, which has grown along with Yokohama’s growth as a key port city. It does not take long in Chinatown to realise that the main attraction is food. Apparently the area has more than 500 eateries of various types and most visitors seemed to be on a mission to enjoy the gastronomical delights on offer. Queues were everywhere, with people patiently waiting their turn for tables to become available and the overall atmosphere was very relaxed.

Probably the most striking building in Chinatown was the Kanteibyo Temple (pics 6 & 7), a brightly coloured Chinese temple built in 1873 and dedicated to the Chinese god of good business and prosperity.

A short walk from Chinatown is Yamashita Park, which runs along the waterfront and was full of individuals and families enjoying time outdoors. The park was constructed following the great Kanto earthquake of 1923 and seems to align perfectly with Yokohama’s history as a major port city. The most striking attraction is the Hikawa Maru, a retired ocean liner now permanently moored on the waterfront and serving a new life as a museum and affording visitors a glimpse of 1930’s style. I understand the ship mainly served the Yokohama to Vancouver/Seattle route and was well patronised by Japan’s imperial family and celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, who were attracted by the quality of the ship’s first-class cabins.

On the way back to the station I passed through the Minato Mirai area and came across an interesting juxtaposition of styles (pic 14) where part of an old stepped structure appeared to have been retained within a more contemporary shopping precinct. I don’t know anything about the old structure and perhaps that is a good reason to return and explore Yokohama more extensively.

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


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A Glimpse of Kamakura

Kamakura is a small coastal city that can be easily visited as a day-trip from Tokyo. However, it is historically significant as a former de-facto capital of Japan during the Kamakura period (1200 to 1300), during which time it was Japan’s most populous settlement. Today it is popular as a resort city and for its many temples and shrines that offer visitors a glimpse of old Japan.

Unfortunately I am unable to share much of this history due to navigation difficulties in finding places of interest I had earmarked to visit. I can usually find places, but in this instance I’m choosing to blame the map.

The most dominant attraction is the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine (pics 1 to 6) and I was most fortunate to visit on a day where a Shinto Wedding ceremony was taking place. In fact, it was the first Shinto Wedding I had seen and that alone made the day memorable. If you are interested in shots from this and other weddings, please follow the link to an earlier post on this subject. https://johnliddlephotography.com/2014/06/03/shinto-weddings/

The Hata-age Benzaiten Shrine (pic 6) is located on a small island within the grounds of the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. Benzaiten is regarded as one of the seven gods of prosperity and is identified with water, hence the reason Benzaiten shrines are often built in ponds. The white flags visible in the foreground link back to 1180 when a similar banner was offered in prayer for victory before a successful battle. Members of Yorimoto’s army carried a white flag with two black lines to identify them and the tradition of offering prayers in this way has continued.

The remaining shots (pics 7 to 11) are of unidentified locations within Kamakura. Next time I’ll be sure to have GPS to help with navigation.

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


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Nagasaki

Nagasaki has the unenviable place in history of being the second city subjected to the horror of an atomic bombing, which took place at 11.02am on August 9, 1945. Over 150,000 people were killed or injured and approximately one-third of the city was flattened by the ferocity of the windblast and scorching heat generated by the explosion. Today, Nagasaki along with Hiroshima stands as a reminder of an event that must never happen again and of the resilience of both nature and the human spirit. Whilst forever scarred, the city has grown from the ashes and regenerated itself.

As with Hiroshima, the city has sought to use the past to promote the message of peace to the rest of the world and in this post I want to highlight some of the symbols for peace to be found in Nagasaki. The opening photograph is a view looking out over the city from the Nagasaki Peace Park and within the park one finds a number of impressive sculptures promoting the need for peace, of which the most dominant is Seibo Kitamura’s Peace Statue at the northern end of the park.

94.03 Peace Statue (IMG_7162)

Peace Statue

Seibo, a local sculptor from Nagasaki Prefecture, described the statue thus:

After experiencing that nightmarish war,

that blood-curdling carnage,

that unendurable horror,

Who could walk away without praying for peace?

This statue was created as a signpost in the struggle for global harmony.

Standing ten meters tall,

it conveys the profundity of knowledge and

the beauty of health and virility.

The right hand points to the atomic bomb,

the left hand points to peace,

and the face prays deeply for the victims of war.

Transcending the barriers of race

and evoking the qualities of Buddha and God,

it is a symbol of the greatest determination

ever known in the history of Nagasaki

and the highest hope of all mankind.

— Seibo Kitamura (Spring 1995)

At the southern end of the park is the Fountain of Peace, constructed in 1969 as a prayer for the souls of atomic bomb victims who perished searching for water.

94.04 Fountain of Peace (IMG_7152)

Fountain of Peace

A stone plaque in front of the fountain carries the following words from a poem written by a survivor – a young girl named Sachiko Yamaguchi who was nine years old at the time of the blast.

“I was thirsty beyond endurance. There was something oily on the surface of the water, but I wanted water so badly that I drank it just as it was.”

In 1978 the city of Nagasaki established a Peace Symbols Zone on both sides of the park and invited donations of monuments from countries around the world.   China’s donation in 1985 was the Maiden of Peace, for which the plaque reads:

“It expresses the sincere aspiration of the Chinese people for human love and the everlasting friendship between Japan and the People’s Republic of China.”

94.05 Maiden of Peace (IMG_7160)

Maiden of Peace

New Zealand’s donation is the more contemporary Cloak of Peace by Kingsley Baird donated in 2006, for which the plaque reads:

“The statue symbolizes consolation, protection, and solidarity. It also expresses ambivalence, reflecting conflicting interpretations of historical events.”

94.06 Cloak of Peace (IMG_7161)

Cloak of Peace

Nagasaki has historically had a significant Christian population and a tragedy within a tragedy occurred when the Urakami Cathedral, only 500 metres from the epicentre of the blast, was destroyed whilst a Mass was being held. The congregation attending Mass was cindered and buried, with the loss of life and property presenting a spiritual challenge to the religious community. Similar to the debate around the future of Hiroshima’s Dome building, there was a difference of opinion as to whether or not to rebuild the cathedral. In this instance, the congregation was successful in its desire to rebuild, despite the city government’s preference to preserve the site as a memorial. Rebuilding commenced in 1959, with further remodelling in 1980 to more closely align with the original French style. Today the Cathedral holds a dominant position in the Nagasaki streetscape, as can be seen below at pics 7 to 10.

Some scars from the bombing have been retained such as a fallen belfry being left where it fell (pic 9) and battered statues (pic 10) near the front of the Cathedral.

On the walk from the Peace Park to the Cathedral I came across a small museum commemorating the life of Dr. Nagai Takashi. Dr. Takashi was a radiologist who, prior to the bombing, had been diagnosed with myeloid leukaemia as a consequence of working with sub-standard equipment and given three years to live. As well as losing his wife in the bombing, he was further injured, yet continued to work tirelessly to help victims and write extensively on the subject of radiation treatment. Until his death in 1951 (aged 43), Dr. Takashi lived with his two children in Nyokodo (As Thyself Hermitage), which stands today as a symbol of Dr. Takashi’s selflessness and community spirit (refer pics 11 and 12).

 

A display (pic 13) from the Atomic Bomb Memorial Hall serves as a sobering reminder of the destructive nuclear arsenals that represent an ever-present danger to the ideal of peace in our times. When faced with such reality, the lessons that can be learnt from Nagasaki and Hiroshima take on an even greater importance and monuments such as People at Peace (pic 14) found in both Nagasaki and Hiroshima serve as apt reminders of what should be.

 

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


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Kenrokuen Gardens (Kanazawa)

Due to bad planning on my part I had only a short time in Kanazawa, a mistake I hope will one day be rectified. However, I was aware that the Kenrokuen Gardens was highly rated among Japanese landscape gardens and was not disappointed.

Kenrokuen means to “have six factors”, which in this instance refers to the six attributes considered essential to a perfect landscape. These are spaciousness, tranquillity, artifice, antiquity, watercourses and a magnificent view. With the exception of artifice, each attribute is clearly evident and one can reasonably assume that the fountain (pic 10) ticks the “artifice” box given that it was Japan’s first fountain, not to mention the sophisticated engineering in 1632 to divert water from a distant river to create the garden’s watercourses.

The selected photos aim to show the tranquillity of the gardens and the several teahouses found within the grounds. Yugao-tei or the Gourd Teahouse (pics 3 to 5) was built in 1774 and originally stood on a small island in Hisagoike Pond until its relocation near the pond due to the reclamation of the island. In the foreground of pic 3, one can observe the original washbowl in front of the entrance to Yugao-tei.

Another impressive teahouse built around the same time is Uchihashi-tei (pics 7 to 9), which is supported on stone pillars and appears to hover over the Kasumiga-ike Pond. The pond is a prominent element of the Kenrokuen Gardens and Uchihashi-tei jutting out over the pond achieves a pleasant symmetry with the surrounding flora. In the bottom right of pic 10 is the Kotojitoro Lantern, which has become the symbol of Kenrokuen Gardens. The lantern’s mounting on two curved pillars, rather than the traditional single pillar, is said to take its design from the Japanese koto (harp).

As mentioned earlier the fountain at pic 10 is the oldest in Japan and whilst unspectacular by comparison with today’s fountains, it has stood the test of time and stands as evidence of the Garden’s artifice, antiquity, tranquillity and watercourses.(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


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Higashiyama Whimsey (Kyoto)

Higashiyama is one of the eleven wards that comprise the city of Kyoto and is well known for its examples of old Japanese architecture and for a number of significant historic sites within the ward.

I have covered many of these historic sites in previous posts and today I would like to share images of a more whimsical everyday nature. Whilst I will be forever impressed by Kyoto’s better known sites, I also enjoyed my walks between these sites and took many photos to remind me of the little joys of walking around the Higashiyama precinct.

I will restrict my comments to brief mentions of the Tokei-ji Temple (pic 14) and the Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine (pic 15). Tokei-ji is a small temple that dates back to the mid 18th century, which was transferred to its present site in 1860. Also known as Akiba-san (after the main object of worship), the temple is seen as a guardian against fire-related calamities and robbery, as well as for safety at home.

The Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine was established in 1053, with the main deities enshrined being the Emperor Ojin and his parents, Emperor Chuai and Empress Jingu. The shrine was moved several times before settling at the present site in 1605, with the present shrine buildings dating back to 1654. A four-day pottery festival is held from August 7th through 10th each year in commemoration of the deity of pottery (Shiinetsuhikonomikoto) who was enshrined here in 1949.

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