I forgot to post this photo. This fellow was out front at Sensoji temple entertaining the locals and tourists. Love the earrings.
I forgot to post this photo. This fellow was out front at Sensoji temple entertaining the locals and tourists. Love the earrings.
How the business man conducts business at Tsukiji market.
How the tourist conducts themselves at the market, wandering in the crowds. A couple black and whites (Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-70mm f/2.8)
Welcome to the “Relax lounge”. Feel free to smoke away – because you are not allowed to smoke anywhere in public (nowhere – when the Japanese get it right, they really get it right!)
A couple handheld HDRs. That is a great color for tuna.
Japan is known for their knives .. amazing.
I have yet to try it, but I hear it is quite the delicacy.
With a friend from Canada, on a very busy weekend. Config: Canon 5D Mark III with my Canon 28-70mm f/2.8.
Many were saying their prayers.
A few HDRs.
Many were selling their wares. If you ever see this chocolate coated banana – don’t stop. Opinion based on experience … more pleasing to the eye than the palate (by about 50 miles)
I still find the swastikas as a temple symbol disconcerting.
But the temples are spectacular.
The Tokyo Tower, changing colors for the upcoming Christmas season.
And a few moments before the lights come on.
I do not know Garret Popcorn. I do not know if it is good, I do not know if it is bad.
All I do know is that the store in Shibuya must be the highest sales per square foot in their chain. It is ALWAYS lined up around the block. I tried to capture the size of the line, but is hard.
Do you see the end to the line? Hard.
Crazy. I will be unable to form an opinion on Garrett popcorn as the chances of me standing in a line for 2 hours for popcorn are somewhere between 0 and none.
A side note, the advanced encoded security with digits that moved around on the pad for this bathroom gave me a chuckle.
It wasn’t even that fancy of a bathroom (smile).
We were with a friend at Meiji Shrine on the weekend and there were a few things going on – weddings and children coming of age celebrations.
I enjoyed watching the posing of this wedding party, the photographer and his staff must have adjusted an arm here – a leg there, for 10 minutes.
The bride is wearing the head covering that is traditionally worn to cover her “horns”.
Perhaps this bride is happy because she does not have anything to hide (smile).
Everywhere you looked were children in colorful traditional dress, to celebrate their coming of age. Of course, parents were being parents, primping and preening – that is the same in every culture.
The path to the shrine was lined with ornate flower arrangements. No idea what they were for, but I have not seen daisies arranged like Japanese trees before. Very pretty.
As always, lots to see at Meiji shrine.
As we walked along the river running through Mitake gorge we passed racks and racks of old kayaks, waiting for their owners to realize … they are obsolete.
The fall is arriving in Japan, the trees are turning. A good day for a wander around the town that sits at the base of Mt. Mitake, Tama-Gawa.
A few mixed shot of the hike. Config Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-70mm f/2.8.
The view of the “rapids”. You can take a whitewater ride down the river, although they didn’t seem all that “rapid”. Config: Canon 5D Mark III with 28-70mm f/2.8.
The region is also known for kayaking. There were a lot of groups along the banks of the river.
Gnomes along the trail.
Local farmers (or what I would call gardeners) were selling their wares along the trail.
Beautiful time of year.
Grilled. Shot with a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 28-70mm f/2.8.
I have been playing around with black and white lately. Not sure if I like sake in green or B&W?
It is festival time at Yoyogi Park which means a different theme every week. A few weeks ago they had India as the theme; entertainment, shops and food galore.
And what festival would be complete without a nan bread mascot?
There have been a number of typhoons hitting Tokyo this year. Last week was our 2nd of note, involving closed schools and public transportation.
After the storm, the sky cleared. A few shots. Config: Canon 5D Mark III, 28-70mm f/2.8. The moon was very bright.
As the sun set, the sky went pink.
Last weekend Timeout Tokyo highlighted the ‘Thank-you dolls’ event at Meiji Shrine, a ritual where people bring in their dolls and monks bless them – driving out the spirits so that they are cleansed.
A respectful way to eliminate the dolls from a family’s home.
Kobayashi explained that festivals such as this are rooted in ancient purification rites performed as the seasons change, and that long ago the dolls were votive symbols in human form. In fact, she pointed out, the word for “doll” (ningyo) actually means “human form” when it is written in kanjicharacters.
But in addition to respect for them being rooted in ritual and symbolism, Kobayashi said the dolls also “fulfill an educational purpose — teaching us to be nice to them because they are vulnerable.”
It is worth reading the whole story here.
We arrived at the shrine to see row upon row of dolls being set up by white gloved, mask wearing volunteers in the whitest of clothes.
A monk standing watch at one end.
Covering half the square, a close look revealed some very interesting dolls. Config: Canon 5D Mark III with 70-200mm f/2.8.
There were a lot of samurai dolls.
More than a few sets of empty armor. Does empty armor have a spirit?
And a lot of geishas.
And last but not least, what looks like a North American set of dolls (there were lots). For some reason, these reminded me of a TV show from my childhood. I have no idea which one, but they look like they came from a 70’s puppet based show. No idea …
Another interesting day in Tokyo.
Last weekend we headed to Meiji shrine for the ‘Thanks Dolls’ event. That area of Tokyo is a hub of activity. The shrine was very busy. Config: Canon 5D Mark III with my 28-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8.
And in the short time that we were there, we saw two different bridal parties.
You don’t see people walking around the area smoking. They all go to designated outdoor areas like this one. There we 50 people crowded into one area, beside the main walkway. I believe it is illegal to smoke in non-designated outdoor areas. Awesome. Great way to control smoking litter (discarded cigarette ends).
A dragon fly, as close as I could get with the 70-200mm from atop the bridge.
Sometimes I marvel at the sheer volume of the crowds in Tokyo and … some of the fashion in those crowds (smile)
A busy Sunday afternoon!
A uniquely Tokyo experience. Lights, aquariums and of course, a bar. Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 50mm f/1.2. Too bad I didn’t realize that I had forgotten that I had manually set the ISO to 100 the previous day … I was wondering why I struggled for the first 20 minutes?
Always filled with interesting things.
I have decided that I will not “like” or comment on any photograph that is posted with an obnoxious watermark. Why do people plaster a word right across their photos? I had one photographer respond that it is easy to crop our a watermark in the corner. I get that, but in today’s digital mad world and with 500px out there, I could find 1,000 amazing photos to download if I wanted. If I like your photo and want it on my wall, I will buy it and have it professionally mounted.
I don’t know why, but I find it irksome if it is right across the photo (but then again, that is the photographers prerogative).
Perhaps I am missing something or simply not a good enough photographer to worry about others taking my photos. I definitely do not make a living out of it!
My last Peleliu post.
One of the most interesting buildings on Peleliu is the old Japanese HQ. Bombed, shelled and generally beaten into pieces, the jungle has come back with a vengeance to grow through the .5m-1m thick concrete floors that are doing everything they can to stay together. Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-70mm f/2.8.
These first shots give you a sense of the place. It is a big building.
The jungle is taking it over, slowly but surely.
1,000 paper cranes near a very large artillery or bomb hole.
These doors go to a room that I could not get to (stairs were removed).
I wonder what this building means to Capt. Lusczynski?
It never ceases to amaze me how plants can find a crack and grow.
Off to the side was a metal structure that served as a mess hall for the Japanese, a mechanics shed for the Americans.
A fascinating view into World War II.
I would say the most disturbing site on Peleliu is this cave – which you could call an execution cave. Inside the series of tunnels a thousand Japanese soldiers camped, refusing to come out. As the story goes, whenever the Americans tried to get a surrender the Japanese would respond by throwing out grenades or firing shots.
The Americans were forced to block up the exits, leaving only two open. In one exit they fired explosives and flame throwers, attempting to push the remaining soldiers out the last exit. The fact that they would not give up despite certain defeat remains unfathomable.
Old sake bottles were everywhere along the floor of the caves.
Everywhere you stepped there were remnants of the days long past; rubber insoles, small parts of weapons, bowls and the remains of an IV stand at the medical station.
The blast marks on the entrance of the cave from the flame throwers.
A lonely shrine.
Musty, filled with large spiders and very dark. A rather disturbing place.
This memorial is located at the cave where Colonel Kunio Nakagawa, leader of the Japanese troops on Peleliu Island, committed suicide during World War II. He led his men to certain death. 12,000 Japanese troops fought a battle with no hope of winning, dying instead of surrendering honorably.
A memorial to the differences in cultures, because I do not look on his leadership or suicide as honorable. Under his leadership they mutilated Americans that they captured in direct contradiction to the Geneva Convention, killed their own soldiers if they did not fight to the death and justified all actions, regardless of how inhumane they were, as acceptable as it was being done for the Emperor.
No honor in that. The memorial is an affront to peace, sensibility, and to the terrible fate of those poor, common Japanese soldiers who had the misfortune of serving for a bad leader.
It is wrong that this memorial exists and a plaque should be erected beside it that reminds us all of how wrong this leader was. It should warn of the dangers of obeying mindlessly.
It should remind us that there is no honor in blind obedience.
Or specifically, the barrel of a Japanese 200mm cannon on Peleliu. The World War II cannon was dug into the rocks and virtually unreachable with sniper holes guarding the entrance. The problem? As it was so deeply dug into the rocks it had a very limited field of view and effectiveness.
The Americans snuck up the side to take it out.
The artillery and mortar caves of the Japanese were well thought out. Many had steel doors on them, which would close during US naval or artillery bombardment – popping open the moment the shelling stopped. This was a big gun.
It was very well dug in. Too well in fact.
The sniper holes are under the moss.
A few random shots from our travels around the island.
This bridge was bombed by the Americans during WWII. The remnants reminded me of a Tori gate. I am sure there is some form of irony there.
An old concrete machine gun bunker.
The old Japanese communications building. You are not allowed in, as the back collapsed during a hurricane in 2012.
The memorial to the US 81st Infantry. It was a cemetery but years ago Congress went around the world and brought their war dead back to the US.
The old runway that was so precious to McArthur. If you watch The Pacific (HBO) they show how this area was an open field with all vegetation bombed and burned to the ground. Nature has reclaimed the airfield.
A plaque on a memorial from the Japanese people.
I would agree and let us all hope and pray for those around the world who are suffering through war today.
Scattered around the island are remnants of the fierce World War II battle. The US LTV(A)-1, LTV(A)-4s, rusting under the hot Pacific sun. A few of my favorite shots (Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-70mm f/2.8)
Believe it or not, some of the wheels on the tanks still turn.
The spot where the enemy shells went in.
It was surprising how much smaller the Japanese tanks were. This Type 95 Ha-Go Light Tank was half the height of the American tanks. I do not know how a full grown man would fit into it – must have been tight. It was sitting on the old airfield.
Nature is slowly trying to reclaim the vehicles.
Spot the faded star.
The Japanese tanks had little effect on the battle and were destroyed almost immediately during a poorly executed counter attack:
The 5th Marines made the most progress on the first day, due to their distance from the heavy gun emplacements guarding the left and right flanks. They pushed toward the airfield, but were met with Nakagawa’s first counterattack. His armored tank company raced across the airfield to push the Marines back, but was soon engaged by tanks, howitzers, naval guns and dive bombers. Nakagawa’s tanks and escorting infantrymen were quickly destroyed.
They had very small guns.
Fascinating to see.
We had rented a car and were driving the roads of Palau in search of a waterfall. Along the side of the road we noticed a concrete pyramid rising out of the jungle. What was that?
We backtracked and found the entrance with a set of tire tracks through the grass, no “official” road in sight and everything overgrown. What was it?
As we moved closer, we started to notice the writing on the walls – definitely Japanese. But so overgrown … so un-Japanese.
On the left were names of companies. All of the companies you would easily recognize; JAL, Toshiba, Panasonic and others.
On the right are the names of people. I assume people who have donated.
One of the first names is very interesting … Ryoichi Sasakawa who has a very interesting and mixed history.
Ryoichi Sasakawa (笹川 良一 Sasakawa Ryōichi?, May 4, 1899 – July 18, 1995) was a Japanese businessman, politician and fascist born in Minoh,Osaka. He was imprisoned as a Class A war criminal after World War II but later released without a trial, kuromaku (political power-broker), and the founder of the Nippon Foundation. While he is widely known throughout Africa and much of the developing world for the wide-ranging philanthropic programs that he established, he is at the same time viewed with hostility by many intellectuals for his right wing ideals and ties to Japan’s motorboat racing industry and support for the Unification Movement
I found his quote “I am the world’s richest fascist” particularly interesting when he is also recognized for leading significant charity efforts in poverty stricken nations and a peace organization that bears his name.
The black marble triangle with the dirt darkened inscription and long dead wreaths reads (roughly translated)
As a memory of fighting in this war we built this to take care of the spirits of the soldiers.
To Japan …
A place to sit and contemplate.
You can find the monument at Longitude 7 27 51.71, Latitude 134 31 40.878 (embedded in the metadata). How quickly nature creeps back …
Our first stop on our exploration of the island of Peleliu was bloody nose ridge. Along the road was a small sign about a few Japanese men who held out well after the war.
On 21 April 1947, a small band of Japanese holdouts was discovered on Peleliu. They formally surrendered only after considerable effort to convince them the war was over. Lieutenant Yamaguchi, who had maintained military discipline in the group for the intervening years, led 26 soldiers to a position in front of 80 battle-dressed Marines where he turned over his sword.
You can read more about the account here. (Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-70mm f/2.8)
Their cave is 50m that way.
The fighting in Peleliu was inhuman. It was not a strategic battle with cleaver maneuvers and tightly managed strategies. With 22,000 combatants surrounded by hundreds of ships and planes on a 2 mile by 6 mile island, it was a meat grinder – a battle of brute force. While the US Army wanted to execute a conservative strategy to beat the Japanese after extensive bombing/artillery, inching their sandbags forward; the controversial leader of the US Marines Colonel Chesty Puller had one strategy, drive ahead at all costs. That cost was divisions going in with 280 men and walking out with 70 left days later. Many say that Marine Corps. casualties did not need to be so high.
It was fought hand to hand and due to the Japanese Imperial Army’s mentality of too the death for the Emperor, it lead to some of the highest casualty rates in American history and almost no Japanese prisoners. I read With The Old Breed before flying over, and while I found the writing of the book rather simplistic, he describes the rawness of Peleliu very clearly:
to those who entered the meat grinder itself, the war was a nether world of horror [in which] time had no meaning; life had no meaning. The fierce struggle for survival in the abyss of Peleliu eroded the veneer of civilization and made savages of us all. We existed in an environment totally incomprehensible to men behind the lines — service troops and civilians.
In addition to rotting corpses and organic waste, the litter of smashed and worn out equipment of every type became more abundant as the battle dragged on and the size of the Umurbrogol Pocket shrank slowly. The ridges and ravines were littered with the flotsam of fierce combat. Debris of battle was everywhere and became more noticeable as the weeks dragged on.
That debris is everywhere. In fact, it is still quite dangerous in the jungle as they are still clearing it out.
Along the trail, you see remnants of the war scattered everywhere (including the occasional human bone).
Old mortar rounds were everywhere.
As were caves. The Japanese adopted a new strategy at Peleliu after their many previous failures and learning that the banzai charge was not a successful strategy. They adopted a defense in depth strategy with extensive tunnels. This meant that they would hide until the American shelling let up and then pop up and surprise the US troops. This approach created the most vicious of battles, with the Americans having to root the soldiers out one by one using some of the most terrible of weapons (such as the flame thrower). According to one source, the US military expended 1,500 rounds of ammunition for every Japanese death (All but 280 of the 12,000 Japanese soldiers were killed).
A cave filled with anti-aircraft cartridges.
A plaque and memorial to Elmer Lowe, Sgt USMC who died on this ridge. Over 2,000 marines were killed or wounded in this tight battle with the Japanese (8,500 Americans were killed or wounded in Peleliu – a battle that was supposed to be over in 3 days).
Another quote from The Old Breed that seem particularly apt at a place like this:
War is such self-defeating, organized madness the way it destroys a nations best. I wondered also about the hopes and aspirations of a dead
The infamous water barrels of the Peleliu battle. Soldiers had been assigned to steam clean 55 gallon oil drums, which the military would repurpose for drinking water. The problem is that the job was not well done or inspected. The fresh water that arrived for the troops was full of rust and oil. In the 120F heat, many tried to drink it anyway and became violently ill.
Shells and guns lay strewn along the walk.
From The Old Breed:
None of us would ever be the same after what we had endured. To some degree that is true, of course, of all human experience. But something in me died at Peleliu. Perhaps it was a childish innocence that accepted as faith the claim that man is basically good. Possibly I lost faith that politicians in high places who do not have to endure wars savagery will ever stop blundering and sending others to endure it.
One of the targets for the Palau trip was a tour of Peleliu. I have read a lot of World War II history, more documentaries than I can count and throughout my life have been fascinated with WWII. I also enjoy touring the more remote historical locations, where the antiseptic aura of the well kept museum is not present.
Peleliu is one of those place. We booked a boat tour with Sam’s Tours and headed out early in the morning. I was hopeful, the weather looked good.
It was an hour ride with a single rough spot where rain threatened, but as we approached the island, the sky was clear. As we scooted along I noticed a large object on the reef. I didn’t have time to swap to my 70-200mm and we did not have time to swing out there, so here is the poor shot of a Japanese concrete “ship” resting on the reef. The Japanese built it with the hopes of drawing American ships close to the reef. To me it seems like one of those ideas where a bunch of officers are sitting around brainstorming .. one of those “no idea is too stupid” type of sessions. Only in this case, they obviously missed the joke.
Our engines started to sputter, and the captain stopped to have a look which gave me a calm moment to take this shot. Two observations from our guide:
The reason why the Japanese picked Peleliu is because it is the only flat island in the area.
If you look carefully you can see a few floating bottles … floating from Indonesia was the explanation (with a trace of animosity clearly present)
A closer shot. The Americans thought the island looked flat too (they were wrong).
As we approached the dock, we passed fisherman wading near the reef.
This is a small island with roughly 500 locals. The kind of place where everyone knows everyone.
We disembarked, ready to learn the island’s dark history.
I have had Palau on my bucket list for a long time for two reasons; Jellyfish Lake in the Rock Islands and Peleliu, the island the US/Japan fought a vicious WWII battle.
For those of you who do not know Palau;
Palau (i/pəˈlaʊ/, sometimes spelled Belau or Pelew), officially the Republic of Palau (Palauan: Beluu er a Belau), is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is geographically part of the larger island group of Micronesia. The country’s population of around 21,000 is spread across 250 islands forming the western chain of the Caroline Islands. The most populous island is Koror. The islands share maritime boundaries with Indonesia, Philippines and theFederated States of Micronesia. The capital Ngerulmud is located in Melekeok State on the nearby island of Babeldaob.
It is a breathtakingly beautiful set of islands, with the friendliest of people and an interesting history. First colonized by the Spanish, then sold to the Germans, occupied by the Japanese in 1914 and now supported by the US as a United Nations protected territory, Palau has seen its share of foreigners.
Like many islands, the buildings are crumbling with the people surviving on a mix of subsistence farming/fishing, tourism and international aid which allows the government to employee roughly half of the population. The US is at the forefront of that aid, providing a $250M package in 2010 and remains in a tight military compact with the island (although the only US forces in Palau are there to support civil projects such as school and road construction).
The reason why so few have heard about it is due to the location and a coastline of mangrove swamps that do not allow the country to compete with the beaches of Hawaii or Tahiti. The airlines don’t help either, our flight from Tokyo was one of the only directs and the return flight left the island at 4:20am (less than ideal). But a bucket list is a bucket list …. and so we went. Glad we did, it is a truly unique place.
When you get there, the island culture starts to seep into you. It is a beautiful island and despite a week of way too much rain, we had a few great adventures .. which will kick off a few posts.
All of that being said, the view from our hotel, the PPR, was fantastic.
The problem with traveling to Asia in the summer? It is the wet season. It was very wet … all week unfortunately.
View from the hilltop.
Beautiful place. Maybe we need to sell everything in a decade and go live near a beach …. there are definitely worse things in life.
Japan has reaffirmed my opinion, rap music is not to my taste regardless of language.
Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8.
I enjoyed their enthusiasm and had a good chuckle at their creative intermingling of the f-word into the Japanese lyrics .. but the music hurt my ears. I stayed for a single Asahi super-dry under a nice Red Bull umbrella (thanks Red Bull, it was 42C)
Keep on rocking in the free world, young Japanese …
Tokyo is a big city and there is always something new to find. I decided to head over to Yoyogi Park area for a wander and came across a break dancing competition under the bridge. People were crowded around as this fellow spun the tunes.
Yes, breakdancing survived the 80’s. It started with 4 groups .. getting warmed up.
Then they broke into a competition. I stood in the middle and couldn’t help but think that this looked like some kind of dance off … like you have seen in movies (that you turn off). In person it is very entertaining. They were extremely talented and agile.
A few shots as the two sides (left and right) went at each other.
A coordinated taunt.
As each new dancer started they would usually face the crowd and make a taunt or two before they began throwing themselves into it.
The crew on the right had a few kids in it. And the little batman took his turn.
If you are wondering about athletic prowess .. check out the height.
And then it was over, just as this fellow stepped out. He turned to the DJ and they all asked .. one more!
He has the hat for it and they let him go. Good thing they did, he was the best and what a finish.
Got to love Yoyogi Park .. even during Obon when half the city is empty.
The last time I was in 50C+ heat was in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. It was take your breath-away hot.
Last weekend the “feels like” temperature crossed the 50C boundary with the thermometer reading 45C and 45% humidity. This is what it looks like, earlier in the morning (I think the UV index is “instant burn”)
Across the street they are building a high-rise. In the middle of the day, in peak heat, they were working away.
I hope they are staying hydrated.
I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived at this museum as I have never been to an outdoor museum.
Set in the stunning landscape of Hakone, the Hakone Open-Air Museum opened in 1969 as the first open-air art museum in Japan. Constantly changing with the seasons, our spectacular grounds are the permanent home for approximately 120 works by well-known modern and contemporary sculptors. We also have 5 exhibition halls including the Picasso Pavilion, as well as pieces where children can play, a footbath fed by natural hot springs, and a variety of other facilities where our visitors can relax and enjoy the splendor of art in nature.
It was as one would expect; open, beautiful grounds at the foot of the mountains. Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-70mm f/2.8 with a mix of handheld HDRs.
“Intersecting Space Construction” …
Japanese maples are beautiful all year round and plentiful here. They do not grow well in my home country due to the winters.
I saw this ball’s cousin at the Vatican … Sfera con Sfera (sphere within a sphere).
The “symphonic sculpture”, a wonder of colored glass. It became a symphony of children’s laughter and screams about 3/4 of the way up as the school kids streamed in (smile).
The grounds are scattered with sculptures and beautiful flowers.
A few hours well spent.
It was dark, cloudy and about to rain that day.
While taking a shot of the family under the gate we all started chuckling at this sight … she was working very hard on the windy lake so that her husband, in the life jacket, could get a photograph.
Supposedly it is a great place to view Mt. Fuji. Unless it is cloudy. For reference, Mt. Fuji is that way. You know .. behind the clouds.
There is a long stairway from the Lake Ashi Tori to the shrine at the top. This shot gives you a perspective off the surrounding forest with it’s very large trees.
The shrine at the top ..
and the dragons at the purification fountain.
An important monk .. but I have no idea who he is as it was all in Japanese.
Will have to go back to see Fuji another day.
One of the reasons why you travel to the Hakone region is for the views of Mt. Fuji. Fuji-san has been quite problematic for me, seems like whenever I have my camera it hides away. It is also the reason why the region is so busy and with Fuji-san’s new world heritage status, tourism is booming.
That being said, while we were there Fuji-san was nowhere to be seen, hiding in the dense cloud cover. Mt. Komagatake is supposed to be the best place to view Fuji from and as the cloud cover was so dense, the ropeway to the top was almost empty.
On the plus side, it meant no waiting .. we went up anyway. Configuration: Canon 5D Mark III, handheld HDRs and Canon 28-70mm f/2.8.
As you head up you see a golf course to the right. I think we will need to add that course to the list.
It was very, very foggy.
Very, very foggy.
At the top there are trails ringing the mountain with great views .. on any other day. I can honestly say that I fretted a little bit about getting lost. At one point, visibility was down to a meter or less.
But the wind blew in and it started to clear (for 2 minutes).
I would wager it is a good view on a clear day (smile).
Owakudani is a valley in the Hakone region south of Tokyo where you can see the volcanic activity up close.
(大涌谷 lit. "Great Boiling Valley"?) is a volcanic valley with active sulphur vents and hot springs in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. It is a popular tourist site for its scenic views, volcanic activity, and especially, Kuro-tamago (黒卵 lit. "black egg"?) — a local specialty of eggs hard-boiled in the hot springs. The boiled eggs turn black and smell slightly sulphuric; consuming the eggs is said to increase longevity. Eating one is said to add seven years to your life. You may eat up to two and a half for up to seventeen and a half years, but eating a whole third is said to be highly unadvised.
It looked like a bit of a moonscape to me. Configuration: Canon 5D Mark III, shooting a mix of handheld HDR with a Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8.
As you take the short hike to the viewing area, the smell of sulfur (rotten eggs) becomes stronger and stronger.
There is a reason there are signs like this. The sulfur is very strong, a few times I felt a bit lightheaded when the wind shifted (and nauseous). It is clearly signed that if the sulfur gets too bad, they close the area down.
At the end of the hike you come to a viewing area which also happens to be where they are cooking the eggs. They have these large metal baskets, which they place into the hot water.
I just realized that I didn’t take a lot of shots with the eggs. But they are as black as night. The taste? You will have to find that out for yourself (smile).
As we hiked back we watched the eggs shoot down the hill on their own ropeway. I would wager they sell a lot of eggs everyday.
As we left the valley, I began wondering about the volcanic gases. Japan is a hotbed of geological activity, with almost daily earthquakes and 2 volcanoes that rank in the top 5 for most “dangerous” to a population. In fact, the volcanic gases can be very dangerous for the unaware:
Hikers have died on volcanoes in Japan after taking a wrong turn on a trail and being overcome by volcanic gases, In April 2009, a U.S. poet, Craig Arnold, disappeared after setting off on a hike on the volcanic island of Kuchinoerabujima, 50 kilometers off the cost of southern Kyushu.
Enjoy that onsens and hot springs, they come from an interesting source.
While in the Hakone mountains south of Tokyo we happened across the Venetian Glass Museum (also called the above) after debating whether it was a worthwhile destination.
Really glad that we did, as it is one of the most beautiful places we have been to. Not the museum, but the grounds around the museum set to a mountain backdrop. There were glass flowers and sculptures everywhere.
Five shots from our day, via Canon 5D Mark III, 28-70mm.
In the back of the property is a stairwell and a walkway that loops through the forest near the river.
The glass hydrangeas were particularly beautiful.
Actually, 6 shots .. the glass waterfall.
If you can get out there, I would highly recommend a stop. A really nice cafe too although I wasn’t too fond of the Italian fellow belting out Volare (smile).
Shot with a Canon 5D Mark III, 28-70mm in the mountains of Hakone, Japan.
The bees were very active at the Open Air Museum last weekend.
Love the smell of lavender.
The entrance to a maze, overgrown.
Thanks for dropping by.
One of the more famous temples in Kyoto is Kiyomizu Temple, and it has a grand view of the city.
It is a hike up a hill to get to the temple, which is half the fun as the road is lined with shops. It was very hot in Kyoto (32C+humidity), so the ice cream shops were very busy with their special Japanese flavours.
And a few uniquely Japanese treats on a stick.
Our guide pointed out the woman in the hat (center near building in the hat). He said she has been standing there for 20 years and is a fraud. She chants nothing (he has leaned in many times) collecting gifts from tourists … he stops his clients.
I could pop a Wikipedia reference in, or post this simple explanation. Thanks Fujicolor.
It has a grand entrance and in 2007 was nominated as one of the “new” 7 wonders of the world.
Inside the temple are the oldest wood based paintings in Japan, depicting the Samurai.
And if you look across the forest, past the hydrangeas, you see a beautiful temple peaking out of the trees.
We hiked over.
A view of the Kiyomizu Temple from across the forest.
Thanks for dropping by.
Our 3rd day included the Monkey Park (previous posts) and a boat ride down the Katsura River which runs below it. Across the river is a famous bridge that people like to photograph, the Togetsukyo or “Moon Crossing bridge”. It provides beautiful views of the river and mountain.
It was very bright and hot that day.
At the base of the mountain (right outside the gates of the Monkey Park) are many boats. The covered boats are moved up and down the river by the boatmen using long bamboo poles.
It was a very tranquil setting until a boat slid up beside us, engines blaring and food steaming.
It all seemed to fit right in. Grilled octopus and squid, cold beer and other Japanese delicacies at your finger tips.
I would imagine this is the most amazing of boat trips in the fall, when the entire mountain is coloured red and orange. I think we will need to go back.
There were plenty of monkey babies at the Iwatayama Monkey Park. This little fellow didn’t look old and wobbled like a new born.
He also stayed very close to his mom.
It was interesting to watch the mothers. At one point a commotion broke out behind me between this very angry mother …. (baby hanging on tight) ..
and this frightened male, who clearly did not want to tangle and kept retreating. Perhaps he forgot to take out the garbage?
These two little fellows were having a great time, chasing each other around and playing.
Glad we stopped at the park.
I am not sure if people know about Iwatayama Monkey Park in Kyoto. It wasn’t listed as one of the “must see” in Kyoto as I researched for our trip. But as an animal loving family, when we found out about it we quickly added it to our itinerary.
The park is on the top of a mountain and sanctuary to 140 monkeys.
Iwatayama Monkey Park (Japanese: 嵐山モンキーパーク, Arashiyama Monkī Pāku) is a commercial park located in Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan. The park is on Mt Arashiyama, on the same side of the Oi River as the train station. It is inhabited by a troop of over 170 Japanese macaque monkeys. The animals are wild but can be fed food purchased at the site.
It is a 20-25 minute climb up the small mountain and as you get closer to the top, you start to see the monkeys in the trees. The macaques are everywhere.
This was a very different experience than Bali. The sanctuary is very well controlled, you do not feed the monkeys as they are conditioned to 2 feeding patterns; pre-set feeding times (we arrived at for the 1pm feeding) and the option to buy food and feed them from behind caged windows in a single building.
Upon reflection, this makes the entire experience safer for both the animals and humans.
This fellow made me laugh. The entire time we were there he sat on the post, waiting for a tourist to hand him some nuts.
I could have stayed all day photographing the macaques. These are the same monkeys that enjoy the hot springs in the winter.
This fellow was sitting on the edge and a big yellow koi kept flitting around his feet. Every once in a while he would just reach down and flick it away.
Fun to watch them .. just “hanging out”.
A Kyoto must-see .. and all of the babies were an added bonus.
One of the more famous sites in Kyoto is the Golden Pavilion at Kinkaku-ji:
The site of Kinkaku-ji was originally a villa called Kitayama-dai, belonging to a powerful statesman, Saionji Kintsune. Kinkaku-ji’s history dates to 1397, when the villa was purchased from the Saionjis by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and transformed into the Kinkaku-ji complex. When Yoshimitsu died, the building was converted into a Zen temple by his son, according to his wishes.
A few shots from across the pond.
Our guide explained that it is not an original, having been burned down by a young monk who felt that the gold was contrary to the Buddhist ways:
During the Onin war, all of the buildings in the complex aside from the pavilion were burned down. On July 2, 1950, at 2:30 am, the pavilion was burned down by a 22-year-old novice monk, Hayashi Yoken, who then attempted suicide on the Daimon-ji hill behind the building. He survived, and was subsequently taken into custody. The monk was sentenced to seven years in prison, but was released because of mental illnesses (persecution complex and schizophrenia) on September 29, 1955; he died of tuberculosis shortly after in 1956. During the fire, the original statue of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu was lost to the flames (now restored). A fictionalized version of these events is at the center of Yukio Mishima‘s 1956 book The Temple of the Golden Pavilion.
The name’s origin:
The name Kinkaku is derived from the gold leaf that the pavilion is covered in. Gold was an important addition the pavilion because of its underlying meaning. The gold employed was to mitigate and purify any pollution or negative thoughts and feelings towards death
I cannot remember the exact cost, but the gold cost is significant (20KG of gold rings a bell?). I could not find it, so feel free to drop a comment if you can fill in that gap in my memory!
The pond is filled with koi and turtles, including a few very long necked and rather vicious looking snapping turtles.
Beside the pavilion is a main building with a tree that has been shaped to look like a ship over hundreds and hundreds of years. The mast and bow are clearly seen, with the pebbles representing the ocean.
Our guide mentioned a few interesting facts:
You clean gold walls very carefully, every day.
The pipes are for shuttling the rain off the roof.
On the right you can see a single wire going to the top .. a lightening rod protecting the wooden building.
A beautiful garden and sight.
Part of having a guide is that he takes you into different places (if she is good). Our guide took us out of the city of Kyoto to show us the countryside and the rice fields. It was a 15 minute detour, but worth it.
I didn’t get a shot of their planting machines but they reminded me of a celery planting machine that relatives used on their farms in Canada.
As mentioned, the hydrangeas were in full bloom. Not a white one in view.
This pond is privately owned and once a year the farmer who owned it would drain it and “harvest” the fish.
It is beautiful land. Which reminds me of a random observation on Kyoto. If you do travel there, you will find it a city of contrasts. The city itself is like many Japanese cities, clean but wall to wall people, large drab concrete residential buildings with shops jammed in-between. Rather uninspiring, until you turn a corner and come headlong into Japan’s historic buildings which are beautiful, unique and well crafted.
It seems to me that during their post war rush to modernization, their architects discarded the intricacies and beauty of Japanese style for function, people per square meter, concrete and efficiency. This isn’t a stretch of the imagination as one colleague imparted that when he was a child living in Tokyo, the city was rapidly industrializing and as polluted as Beijing until the government took drastic action (as the country became wealthier and was able to afford it).
Too bad. Even concrete can be beautiful, with some thought. (Above: The entrance to Chion Temple)
Our first stop on our big “day tour” was Nijo Castle, samurai and shogun home.
In 1601, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, ordered all the feudal lords in Western Japan to contribute to the construction of Nijō Castle, which was completed during the reign of Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1626. Parts of Fushimi Castle, such as the main tower and the karamon, were moved here in 1625-26. It was built as the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns. The Tokugawa Shogunate used Edo as the capital city, but Kyoto continued to be the home of the Imperial Court. Kyoto Imperial Palace is located north-east of Nijo Castle.
There is so much history hidden in these very thick walls.
A few interesting facts from our guide on the castle:
The building is raised off the ground. The shogun would sit on his mat with a large piece of wood under him to protect him from someone shoving a sword up and through the floor
The 500 year old paintings were made from crushed shells to add white color
In the main hall where the shogun received guests he would keep 15m between himself and the guests. Beside him was a sliding door filled with samurai ready to jump through in the event of a threat. Although the threats often had a large preamble, where someone would stand up and honourably declare “I (insert name), son of (insert name), grandson of (insert name) from the city of (insert city) will kill you” – giving the samurai lots of time to line up.
The roof of the entrance to the main hall is made of thatch. It is a small section, but costs millions to replace. (The brown sections at the front)
The floor boards are built with a U shaped device to hold the board and a nail through it. This is built to make the floor boards creak when someone walks on it to warn of intruders. I got the sense that being a shogun was not the most “secure” of positions.
A corner guard house.
The handle on a large bell in the main courtyard.
The gardens beside the main hall.
The entrance to the main castle, which is a reproduction as the original burned:
In 1788, the Inner Palace was destroyed by a city-wide fire. The site remained empty until it was replaced by a prince’s residence transferred from the Kyoto Imperial Palace in 1893.
In 1867, the Ninomaru Palace was the stage for the declaration by Tokugawa Yoshinobu, returning the authority to the Imperial Court. Next year the Imperial Cabinet was installed in the castle. The palace became imperial property and was declared a detached palace. During this time, the Tokugawahollyhock crest was removed wherever possible and replaced with the imperial chrysanthemum.
We crossed the bridge, but did not enter.
What I found amazing is how the intricate work has survived, even though it is exposed to the elements.
Thanks for dropping by.
Fushimi Inari is one of the more famous Kyoto temples, known for one prominent feature – 10,000 Tori gates.
Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社?) is the head shrine of Inari, located in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Japan. The shrine sits at the base of a mountain also named Inari which is 233 metres above sea level, and includes trails up the mountain to many smaller shrines.
Since early Japan Inari was seen as the patron of business, and merchants and manufacturers have traditionally worshipped Inari. Each of thetorii at Fushimi Inari Taisha is donated by a Japanese business. First and foremost, though, Inari is the god of rice.
An amazing temple, on the mountain.
More on the gates in a moment. It could also be known for some very cool fox statues and probably the most orange paint in one area.
The gate to the temple.
A side temple with more 1,000 origami crane offerings than you can count. The sheer quantity of time invested in those cranes is mindboggling. There were a lot of them ….
As mentioned above, the temple is a popular place for business people to come and seek good fortune. What most people probably don’t notice is this sign, which lists the prices. Yen is simple to translate .. simply drop 2 zeros to get an approximate USD price. A 5 foot Tori gate is $1,750 and a 10 footer is $13,020. Seems reasonable.
The temple inscribes your name/business and address into the Tori. It lasts for about 20 years at which time they call you and you have the option to buy a new one or have it removed (the foundations rot).
The path winds up the mountain. We didn’t have time to hike it. Perhaps next time. It is about 2 hours round-trip. The path to the top ….
And one of my favourite shots.
Definitely worth seeing.
It is one of those must go places (they say). A simple bamboo forest where a single stock of bamboo can grow up to 1.3M overnight. Another ‘short’ visit location on our day tour of Kyoto. Our guide drove to the top, we walked down and back (perhaps 300m each way).
Yes, it is beautiful. Serene.
What I found most interesting was not the bamboo but this long, long line of ants walking along the bamboo fence. They went on and on and on .. until near the top of the hill the started to thin out, heading down the fence into the forest.
In this shot you can see them on the posts …
A little clearer .. the march on and on.
Thanks for dropping by.
A Shirabyoshi dancer Gio was loved by Taira-no-Kiyomori but was jilted when he was enslaved by the beauty of another Shirabyoshi, Hotoke-Gozen. Gio, her sister Ginyo and their mother Toji left Kiyomori and after all they entered a nunnery that was present day Gio-ji. Then, Hotoke-Gozen joined them as she knew that she would be eventually jilted also by heartless Kiyomori. It was when Gio was 21 years old and Hotoke-Gozen was 17. The four women lived here remainder of their life.
Best viewed during a wet period in time (dry seasons see the moss go brown) and down a remote road, the temple makes for interesting viewing.
Walking down the entrance path you are covered by a thick canopy of leaves.
The moss is everywhere, growing on every roof and fence.
Turning the corner you come upon an open area in front of the temple. It was a bit surreal, the glowing greens. Looked like a movie set (I don’t know why, but that is what popped into mind).
If memory serves me, there are 19 different mosses. A few that are quite invasive and needed to be regularly culled back to ensure they do not take over the other mosses. Including this moss that was furry to the touch.
Of course, hydrangea. At least I think it is a hydrangea ….
Rounding the corner there is a cemetery and in the hundreds and hundreds of times Yoshida-san our guide has been here, something he had never seen. A lone monkey.
Sad to say he was injured (bad left hand). He did sit and enjoy eating a few daisies though.
Interesting place. Not busy, serene and the vibrancy of the mosses were visually stunning.
Worth a visit.
As mentioned in my initial post on Kyoto, we enjoy learning the history and culture of Japan. We did not know what to expect with our dining with a maiko/geisha/geiko experience. When the maiko-san originally arrived, our interpreter quickly helped us make introductions.
She sat down with our family and the conversation began, a free flowing discussion of her life over 2 hours.
In no particular order, a few highlights from the conversation.
She is 17 and grew up in Nagoya. She chose to become a maiko after going on a school trip to Kyoto. She watched a geiko perform and decided that she wanted to join the profession.
Her upper lip is white as she is a maiko. When she becomes a geiko she will decorate both lips.
Every month she changes her hair decorations. This month I believe it is the willow.
She often entertains school groups and when asked what the funniest question she gets, she laughed and said one question always come up – does she have a boyfriend? (answer is no – not allowed to).
In her first year prior to becoming a maiko it was like an apprenticeship. She learned what the years ahead would be like, and whether she wanted to continue.
It is not an easy life. She starts the day at 10am with training in the arts. She then dresses, doing her own make-up (it takes 40 minutes) and having assistance from a man who comes to the house daily to assist with the kimono which weighs 10kg. The sash is 7m long. She then visits 20 tea houses that her house is affiliated with, and starting at 6pm does 2 hour hosting sessions until midnight. At midnight she heads home, has a hot bath and a few hours of personal time (reading, TV, music) until she heads to bed at 3am.
She is not allowed to have a cell phone.
When she contracted with her mama-san to become a maiko, she made a 5-7 year commitment until she becomes a geiko at 20-22 years. The mamma-san pays for everything (training, food, clothing, lodging) and in return takes all profits from the days work.
She lives with 8 other maiko.
She only does her hair once a week, sleeping with it made like this (which can be awkward)
Because she keeps her hair in this style all the time, she must be careful where she goes when she does have time off as people will recognize her as a maiko. (i.e. no junk food places)
She only gets 1-2 days off a month and time at New Years to go home.
When asked what do people think at home – she said that she is growing apart from her old friends. Her grandmother has never approved.
If she needs money she has to ask the mamma-san. I got the impression that was not something that was done often or lightly.
She enjoys listening to music on her Sony Walkman. She likes Avril Lavigne.
Dinners are mostly with business men, although they are starting to see women. If it is after dinner, it often involves karaoke and evenings at bars.
Tourists are always trying to take her picture. She would prefer if they asked first.
She will often take the train to Tokyo for events (entertaining events, Sumo tournaments) fully dressed.
To formally enter her maiko apprenticeship, she had a ceremony involving her performing for the mamma-san and an important client.
Many maiko do not become geiko (50/50). They decide to go back to their homes, head back to school or get jobs. In effect, starting a different education.
Will she continue on and become a geiko? She didn’t know. It is a hard life.
Using the concierge at the Westin we booked Yoshikawa in Kyoto with a room overlooking the garden.
Attached to a Japanese Inn that has played host to the rich and famous, it was a beautiful traditional restaurant and amazing staff who quickly settled us in for our dinner.
Our room was on the left.
The dinner received mixed ratings from the family (Two really enjoyed it, two were not impressed). It was a traditional 8 course Japanese meal, tempura, sashimi, seasonal grilled fish and all. I really enjoyed it. Although on the seasonal grilled fish … I never eat the head, too bitter for me .. the rest is delicious.
Our interpreter was already waiting for us. She had done this many times before and her English was perfect. She quickly started answering our questions and explained that “Yes”, I could take 400 pictures if I wanted (I didn’t – I took 99).
Maiko (舞妓?) is an apprentice geisha in western Japan, especially Kyoto. Their jobs consist of performing songs, dances, and playing the shamisen(three-stringed Japanese instrument) for visitors during feasts. Maiko are usually aged 15 to 20 years old and become geisha after learning how to dance (a kind of Japanese traditional dance), play the shamisen, and learning Kyō-kotoba (dialect of Kyoto), regardless of their origins.
The term Geisha is not a term they used in Kyoto. On the internet they assert that this is a dialect issue, but it was explained to us that the difference between a “true” geisha and a geiko relate to training. A geisha does not go through the arduous and extensive training in the arts, dance, culture and protocol that the Kyoto maiko/geiko goes through. Perhaps this is related to the post WWII occupation and the rise of the geisha girl:
“Geisha girls” were Japanese women who worked as prostitutes during the period of the Allied Occupation of Japan. They almost exclusively serviced American GIs stationed in the country, who referred to them as “Geesha girls” (a mispronunciation).
These women dressed in kimono and imitated the look of geisha. Americans unfamiliar with the Japanese culture could not tell the difference between legitimate geisha and these costumed prostitutes.
It also became clear that this was a dying profession. 100 years ago there were 80,000 geisha where we were told there were only 300 left in Kyoto. In Kyoto there are 5 Hanamachi, or houses that Geisha align themselves with:
Hanamachi typically contained a number of okiya and ochaya, along with a kaburenjō; the kaburenjō was a meeting place for geisha, usually with a theatre, rooms where geisha classes can be held, and the kenban offices, which dealt with geisha’s pay, regulation and similar matters. Gion also has a vocational school, called Nyokoba. Many of the teachers there are designated as Living National Treasures. Today, hanamachi are rare outside of Kyoto.
At which point, our maiko-san entered; a term that would catch me off guard multiple times through the night as the pronunciation is close to Michael-san.
With a kneel and a bow, our dinner with a maiko began.
This is a very interesting post to write as it elicits mixed feelings.
Part of living in a different culture is that never ending quest to understand, learn and to grow while trying not to use your own cultural biases to judge. After all, perception is reality.
As I have often joked with friends back home, living in Japan is like living on Mars. It is just so fascinatingly different.
The Japanese think differently than North Americans, and different than Canadians. How can it not be the case? Canada is a country of every culture (Asian, European, African) where Japan is comprised of 98.5% Japanese and non-existent immigration. Canada is a country with only a few hundred years of history while Japan is one of the world’s oldest societies, with 3,000 years of history and a clear isolationist bent where foreigners were killed on sight until the late 1800s. Canadians are individuals, in a society where they cut their lives out of the unconquered wilderness with an understanding that merit leads to fortune while Japan is about the group good, where the notion of paying a high performer more than others in the team is at odds with their values.
At a very fundamental level, culture, history, education and values, Japan is different than most other countries in the world and the Geisha is one of those cases.
Prior to leaving for Kyoto, we watched Memoirs of a Geisha and I could not help but find it disturbing on many levels. Obviously the selling of young girls into a brothel and a Geisha house was disturbing as were many of the scenes, but this type of abuse is unfortunately, common around the world.
The uniquely Japanese part that was disturbing was the whole notion of the Geisha. Reading broadly, the information was varied. Prostitution is disputed and the truth hard to determine; in this post it is clearly stated it does not happen yet another quote says that in 1929 3/4 of geisha were prostitutes. While there is an elegance to the appearance of a Geisha, the information on “what a Geisha is” left us wondering about the profession … Noble undertaking or a veneer hiding a seedy underside of sex for sale?
Nothing made us wonder more than this question: what does it mean that this profession is funded by older business men, where the Geisha’s sole purpose is to entertain them every evening? I find the feminism assertions hard to swallow and cannot think that it is good for marriages.
It is with those questions in mind that we did something that is not common for a gaijin.
We booked a dinner in a wonderful restaurant with a room by the garden, a Geisha and an English interpreter to learn.
We were not disappointed.
After our first temple we headed to Nishiki market. A cab dropped us off at one entrance and we started down this very long covered walkway past hundreds of interesting stalls.
Uniquely Japanese is a good way to describe it; pottery, restaurants, fish markets, vegetable stands and everything in-between.
Lots and lots of pickled choices. The Japanese love to pickle things.
I believe this is grilled eel. Had I not just eaten, I would have grabbed some. Love grilled eel.
The young lady at the stand tried to sell me one of these .. only a couple hundred yen. Look closely, it is a small octopus with a quail egg stuffed where the head use to be. I regret not trying it. Had to chuckle at the little cartoon ad guy saying “It will eat” … not sure what that means.
At some point in the near future, our family will be buying special chopsticks. As of right now, we use them frequently but haven’t made the “special” purchase yet. Perhaps metallic is in order?
This fellow was making the circular Japanese cakes. They are delicious.
And last, check out this flower stall. My Uncle Frank would have loved the colors .. I know I did. So vibrant.
Thanks for dropping by.
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