johnliddlephotography

Frozen moments from the infinity that is time


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Cherry Blossoms Everywhere (Kyoto)

Objects that attract admiration and generate excitement are typically those that have a measure of rarity; yet this does not apply to Japan’s cherry blossoms, except in the sense that the season is short. Indeed, in terms of supply, cherry blossom is ubiquitous. They can be found almost everywhere. In public and private spaces; in avenues of serenely subtle colour and as solitary trees lighting up otherwise desolate places; in urban and rural areas; and in meticulously tended gardens or growing untended in their natural habitat.

Wherever they are found, they enhance the space and draw attention to their surroundings. To demonstrate this I have chosen a selection of photographs taken at various Kyoto locations, which contain two common subjects, namely buildings and cherry blossoms.

The first four photographs featuring old buildings are scenes that have doubtless been enjoyed for many seasons. The welcoming view of the Sakura blossoms framed by the temple entrance (pic 1) is an invitation to enter and enjoy an interlude of quiet contemplation. By contrast, the magnificent Sakura highlighted against the classic dark timbers of old Japanese temple buildings (pic 2) stops one in one’s tracks to enjoy the visual feast. Nevertheless, the sight of blossoms through the temple doors then draws one’s attention inwards.

The Hanami scene (pic 3) is another example of a beautiful Sakura tree, framed in this instance by the structure of the Sanmon Gate, itself the subject of an earlier post (January 27, 2014) where this photograph was previously shown. Completing the sequence of sakura and older buildings is Renge-ji (pic 4), a small temple admired for its gardens and where the Buddha statues appear to be savouring the visual feast within which they reside.

I am unsure as to the history of the old industrial building (pic 5) located near the Keage Incline – a favoured Hanami spot in Kyoto. The building’s proximity suggests it may have been part of the infrastructure for the Lake Biwa canal network, though every time I passed I couldn’t help but imagine a future life as modern loft-style apartments. Residents would wake to a wonderful view at this time of year.

Pics 6 and 7 show a wide and closer shot of Sakura trees lining the canal running alongside Kyoto’s International Exhibition Hall, where the modern architecture and the timeless Sakura coexist harmoniously in yet another example of Japan’s ability to blend the old with the new.

Following is a series of five shots (pics 8 to 12) of private residences alongside the Philosopher’s Path – another popular Hanami location, as well as a pleasant walk at any time. The Sakura show an ability to enhance various architectural styles and building materials, such as timber, corrugated metal and masonry.

This ability to enhance is further shown at pics 13 and 14, where older style buildings are lifted by the neighbouring presence of cherry blossoms in bloom. Finally, at pic 15, a contemporary apartment building is similarly lifted, suggesting that whatever direction future building developments take, there will always be a place for the ubiquitous and inspiring Sakura.

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

 


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Sanmon Gate (Kyoto)

We are all familiar with gates … house gates, station gates, security gates etc.  Kyoto’s Sanmon Gate is altogether different.  In fact, it is a gateless entry to the most sacred part of the Nanzen-ji Temple, which has been at the core of Japanese Zen history since 1386.

The Sanmon Gate is an impressive wooden structure constructed in 1626 and supported by massive wooden pillars that dwarf those passing through its five bays.  One cannot help but feel humbled by such scale and reminded of the opportunity afforded pilgrims to free themselves from the three passions of greed, hatred and foolishness.

As will be seen from the photographs, the Sanmon Gate also serves as a meeting place and a place for reflection, particularly during the cherry blossom season when it becomes a popular platform for hanami (cherry blossom viewing).

Readers who enjoyed the movie Lost in Translation may also recognise the location from the scene where the Scarlett Johansson character (Charlotte) is entranced by witnessing a Shinto wedding group during a day trip to Kyoto.  I’ve only ever seen Shinto weddings at shrines rather than temples, but Hollywood is Hollywood and I still enjoyed the movie.

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