Frozen moments from the infinity that is time


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.)



Hida No Sato

The Hida Folk Village (Hida No Sato) is located in the town of Takayama and is best described as a living museum of traditional houses relocated from around the Hida region.  Although the region is agriculturally poor, its mountain location has provided access to other resources – principally timber and water.  These in turn have historically produced highly skilled carpenters whose craft is evident in the Edo Period (1603 – 1867) houses within the village and a long established sake brewing industry built around the area’s pure water supply.

Exploring Hida No Sato is to step back in time.  Fires are lit daily in the hearths of each house to help preserve the houses and add further atmosphere.  The first photograph shows examples of Gassho style buildings, which take their name from their steeply sloping thatched roofs resembling “gassho” (praying hands).  An internal view of this style (photograph 12) shows the intricate workmanship and how the ends allow air and light to circulate, conditions essential to silkworm cultivation.

I found it comforting to know that these old wooden houses will live on as a living example of a bygone era.  Finally, thanks for reading my blog and I wish you a very happy Christmas.

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