johnliddlephotography

Frozen moments from the infinity that is time


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Kimono

It is almost a year since I last posted on this blog. During this time I noted that some bloggers I follow had similarly quiet years and I look forward to again reading your posts when the time is right. Others kept powering on and those I thank for their entertaining posts and inspiration.

This year I want to finish my series on Japan and thought I should start with an iconic subject, hence my choice of kimono – instantly recognisable as Japanese. I have taken a broad approach to my selection of photos by including different types of kimono from the ceremonial to the more lightweight yukata and by showing kimono worn by women of different generations.

Being of the wrong gender and nationality I can only speculate why Japanese women continue to wear kimono and at the risk of being corrected, I suspect that wearing kimono represents a connection to past generations, to Japanese culture and as an affirmation of their nationality. Other reasons might simply be that wearing kimono feels good and is something they like to do.

The opening shots (pics 1 and 2) show two young women engaged in viewing the cherry blossoms and my observation of each was that they were very much “in the moment”. Would wearing western clothing have lessened their experience? Only they would know, but I do know my experience was enhanced by their presence at those locations.

Shichigosan (pic 3) is a Shinto festival where three and seven year old girls in formal dress receive blessings. Unfortunately I arrived late and this is literally the only shot I was able to capture. I see a proud young girl in a splendid kimono posing for a “milestone family album” shot that, in future years, may remind her of a special day in her life. Will this experience encourage her to wear kimono in her later life? Again, only time will tell, but festivals such as Shichigosan provide important opportunities to expose children to their cultural heritage.

The closest I have come to a personal kimono experience is shown at pic 4, where this colourful arrangement occupied a corner of a tatami room at the traditional Japanese house I rented in Hiroshima. Looking at the photo brings back pleasant memories of the stay.

I have included a selection of photos (pics 5 to 8) to show that wearing kimono does not hamper everyday activities such as shopping, with women in several cities shown going about their business. My favourite from this group is the woman doing her Christmas shopping in Dotonbori (pic 5), who encapsulates the Japanese ability to combine the traditional and the contemporary; in this case kimono, modern handbag and cell phone.

One also sees many younger women in kimono, especially during times of celebration such as celebrating the autumn colours (pic 9) or simply enjoying the fantasy of dressing as a geisha for the day (pic 11). I first noticed the elegant woman in pic 12 for the furoshiki she was carrying – a simple square of cloth that can be configured for multiple uses, including carrying goods. Someone else obviously noticed her, but whether wearing kimono or not it would seem that body language tells the story.

I often walked past the teahouse in pic 13 and every time the hostess greeting patrons at the door was smiling. One could not imagine her wearing anything other than kimono. Finally I have chosen to close the post with several photos of a Shinto bride taken at Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu, whose kimono epitomises elegance.

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

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2014 Favourites

As 2014 draws to an end, it is natural to become somewhat reflective and for my final blog for this year, I thought I would select my favourite shot from each month’s posts.

This was more difficult than I had thought. Each photo is a memory and some months had several favourites. However, changing the rules on New Year’s Eve does not bode well for 2015 resolutions, so I stuck to the task and made my selections.

There is no theme. They are simply my selections for a variety of reasons and no further commentary will be made, except to say they are shown in chronological order (January to December) should anyone wish to visit the original posts.

I would like to thank everyone who has supported my blog this year and I hope the photos and stories have brought you as much pleasure as they have brought me.

I wish you all a safe and happy New Year and my best wishes for the year ahead.

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


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Kennin-ji Temple

Being located in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district and close to Gion, the Kennin-ji Temple is easily accessible if visiting Kyoto. Unfortunately, much of the temple was closed for renovation and refurbishment during my visit, thus I am able to present merely a glimpse of the temple’s range and splendour.

The temple is historically significant as not only one of the Kyoto Gozan (five most important Zen temples of Kyoto), but as Kyoto’s oldest Zen temple founded in 1202. The founding monk (Eisai) is credited with introducing Zen to Japan and is buried within the temple grounds.

Pic 1, somewhat playfully titled “Contemplation”, hints at the temple’s meditative qualities. I say playfully titled because the shot took me at least thirty minutes to capture due to other visitors wandering into and lingering within the frame. Perhaps next year I will start a “ban selfies” movement :). Sadly the light deteriorated over this period, but one must acknowledge that all visitors have equal rights no matter how frustrating it can be when all one wants is a fraction of a second of clear space. Okay, I finally have that off my chest.

The most dominant feature of the main hall is also the newest, namely the Twin Dragons (pics 1 to 4) that look down from above. The work was installed in 2002 to commemorate Kennin-ji’s 800-year anniversary after taking the artist almost two years to complete. Created offsite, the work’s scale is imposing and is equivalent to the size of 108 tatami mats.

Other fine examples of Japanese art may be seen in the study rooms (pics 8 to 11) where various themes and traditional stories are represented in visual form.

Finally, I would have liked to show images from across Kennin-ji’s gardens, but I had access only to Chouontei – the garden of the sound of the tide. As one can observe from pic 12, Chouontei is indeed a relaxing place to spend some quiet reflective time outdoors.

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


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Gion

I have heard Kyoto described as “old Japan” in contrast to Tokyo being seen as “new Japan”. Like many generalisations, such descriptions may be seen as unkind and incomplete summations of each city given that each sits comfortably in the 21st century and embrace, in that very Japanese way, the old and the new. Nevertheless, differences in the relative emphasis assigned by each city to the old and the new tends to support these broad classifications, as is supported by the preponderance of world heritage sites in and around Kyoto.

Through previous posts I have shown several of Kyoto’s world heritage listed sites and will show more in future posts. Today, however, I wish to focus on the area that has been Kyoto’s gathering place through the centuries and continues to be so today. The place I am talking about is, of course, Gion.

Its history is too deep to cover in this brief discussion and I will leave readers to pursue their own enquiries, preferring instead to talk of my own experiences.

My first morning in Kyoto was spent in Gion and perhaps it was the chance meeting with a Geiko (Kyoto term for geisha) that cast its spell over me. From then, the place was like a magnet and it seemed that at some point of each day I would find myself somewhere in Gion. This was not always planned, but Kyoto is a great city to explore on foot and many paths lead to and/or from Gion.

In its heyday Gion was a maze of narrow streets filled with traditional wooden buildings and home to many thousands of geisha. If time travel were a reality it would be at the top of my time travel bucket list. Times do, of course, change and with tourism comes commercialisation. However, old Gion remains. The streets and alleys are still narrow and if one can ignore the modern additions such as power lines, a sense of the old maze and its charm can be felt. It is not a place to visit with a guidebook and a list of sights to see. It is a place in which to wander, get lost and keep wandering until you find your way.

The selected photographs attempt to show old and new Gion, though I openly admit they do not do justice to the place. The tea-houses by the canal (pic 1) attract an up-market clientele where geisha entertain. In fact, pic 2 shows a Geiko and Maiko (apprentice geisha) on their way to the tea-house in the foreground of pic 1. One can only wonder how many Geiko/Maiko have and will continue to walk this street. For me, pic 2 is a reminder of a lost opportunity. I was lost in concentration setting-up another shot with the camera mounted on a tripod when I became aware of movement behind me. On turning around I was greeted by the graciously smiling white painted faces of a Geiko and her Maiko sister en route to their appointment. There was only time to settle for exchanged greetings as they passed, hence the shot of them walking away.

Pics 3 to 5 show other examples of the warm, welcoming atmosphere created by the elements of old wooden buildings, cobbled streets, trees and water. To round off the older style images, pic 6 shows the Minamiza Kabuki Theatre, Kyoto’s premier kabuki theatre located in an always bustling section of Gion.

As mentioned earlier, Gion is a major tourist attraction and pics 7 and 8 give some indication of its popularity. Pic 9 shows the same street with fewer people, but what is interesting is how the young Maiko is the focus of attention. Although the kimono worn by regular Japanese women do not match the finery worn by geisha, one does see more kimono worn around Gion than elsewhere in Japan (at least in my experience). Typical examples are those of the kimono clad women in pic 11 enjoying a stroll through one of Gion’s many winding laneways and the young women (pic 12) disappearing into an alley, framed again by those typically Japanese building elements of paved stone and wood.

For those readers who have visited Gion I hope these images may spark some pleasant memories and for those who have not visited in person, I hope this little glimpse may spark some interest.

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

 


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Sayonara Sakura (Kyoto)

Sayonara Sakura is my fourth and final post on the cherry blossom season and I hope readers of this blog have enjoyed the images as much as I have enjoyed sharing them.

Once captured, an image is forever and becomes one of those frozen moments from the infinity that is time. This has allowed me the indulgence of posting cherry blossom themed photographs over four weeks, somewhat longer than the real-life experience.

To conclude this series I have selected photographs linked only by the common factor of cherry blossom. Some photos are personal favourites, whereas others revisit and extend previous themes. Allow me to make a few brief observations on select photos.

All the photos were taken in and around Kyoto, with the first photograph showing the Philosopher’s Path – a walk I made many times and a favourite place of mine in Kyoto. This photo best captures the image of the Path that I carry in my mind.

In an earlier post (March 28, 2014) I featured a number of shots taken at the Heian shrine, where the cherry blossom was simply magnificent. I had reluctantly excluded pics 3 and 4 from that post – an exclusion now remedied.

Pics 8 and 9 should be viewed together in that they show diners at different ends of the culinary spectrum, each enjoying views of nearby cherry blossom whilst dining. On the one hand there is the clean, modern lines of a fast-food establishment (pic 8) and on the other (pic 9), a row of high-end teahouses, which I have seen attended by geisha. Two polar dining experiences linked by the sakura.

Another favourite location is Ryoanji and particularly its highly renowned karesansui within a magnificent earthen wall. At pic 13 I have shown the sakura from the other side of the wall – a personal indulgence.

Those who have visited Kyoto will probably have visited the Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto’s Gion district. Pics 14 and 15 feature the same sakura tree at the top of the steps near the main entrance. Pic 14 is the view that greets visitors on arrival and pic 15 is the reverse view looking out over Kyoto and its surrounding hills.

I recall an earlier visit to Kyoto where I chose to capture the sunset from Kiyomizudera as my final shots of Kyoto. Somehow the final photograph of this blog seems an appropriate way to bid sayonara to the sakura until next year.

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