A flowering bush in December. In December! No snow …. –4 in Toronto today. Don’t miss the snow.


Lots of fall colors. Amazing that the HDR has zero ghosting even though I am not using a tripod. Well done Canon.



The sake barrels. The guide told me they are empty.


The downside of the HDR, look at the edges of the trees. As it takes the 3 quick photos, if the trees are moving it creates what looks like a halo.


One final barrel shot.



We headed over to Meiji shrine again this weekend as we had a friend in town. I was excited about trying out a few shots with my new found HDR method on the camera.

The first bit of luck was at the gate. I saw the volunteer tour guides and last time they had just finished for the day. This time they had time and took us on the tour and we learned a few new things about the shrine – such as the road to the shrine dips down and then back up as a sign of respect and the road turns at 88 degrees as the number 9 is bad luck.

Of course it is nice that it was not raining, 13 degrees and sunny in December? Two thumbs up.

The Tori gate. This is the 2nd one you pass through and the largest in Japan. (all photos are handheld – and in HDR – artistic vivid).

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OK, not all photos. This priest was very solemn, but he said I could take his photo.

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I like having a guide with us. She explained this Japanese wedding party and why this bride was wearing the head garment – to cover her “horns”. Seriously.

Two choices of headgear exist. One, the watabōshi, is a white hood; the other, called the tsunokakushi, serves to hide the bride’s ‘horns of jealousy.’ It also symbolizes the bride’s intention to become a gentle and obedient wife.


There were a few weddings going on.




We headed over to the tree, filled with wishes. I am not sure if Ja is a male or female name. If it is a woman’s name then the request below might need a lot more help as she is in serious trouble in Japan according to this article:

Asked whether they think they can marry, only 27.8 percent said they want to marry and think they will, while 35.3 percent said they don’t want to get married yet.

Of those who would like to get married, 36.9 are afraid they won’t.

At the top of the reasons for this was economic insecurity, cited by 60.8 percent, compared with 48.2 percent who said they are not popular with women. More than one answer was permissible.


A beautiful tree, back to the HDRs.





The colors with the HDR mode are amazing compared to a standard photo.




The museum at the back of the park.




Into the main shrine.

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As you can see by the sky, another beautiful day in Tokyo. Since we have arrived, it has not dipped below 40C. It is 32C every day but feels like 40C due to the humidity. The UV is in the teens and at 4:30AM – the sun is hotter than it ever gets in Canada. It makes it a little hot to get to work (I am in this awkward position – half way between the train station and the office, so I just walk/bike there) but all in all, quite wonderful. I never need to see snow again during my regular daily routine (Japan skiing is some of the best in the world – so we will be heading there) and everyone says the 20C fall is spectacular ….

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Enter the shrine and you come upon a courtyard.

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In the center of the courtyard is a tree, with wooden placards surrounding it.

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Or in this case, a divine tree holding the wishes of many.

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We spent quite a while reading the various wishes. A few that jumped out at me (lots written in English). The business person:

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This one stopped me – it should be quoted. The thinker:

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The lover (or teenager):

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Perhaps he was looking at this when he wrote it.

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The courtyard has a shrine (no photos allowed) where you make a small donation and in return get a waka (Japanese poem), one of the 100K+ that Emperor Meiji wrote during his reign. Empress Shoken wrote more than 30,000. From the Emperor:

For the times to come

And for meeting what must be met

All of our people

Must be taught to walk along

The path of sincerity.

From Empress Shoken:

By making wider

The paths of deep friendship

We, without travel,

Have come to know the customs

Of lands throughout the world.

A wonderful day out.



Most books that have some type of Top 10 Tokyo list include Meiji Shrine near or at the top. We decided to travel there on the weekend and were not disappointed. Built to commemorate the life and times of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, the monarchy that opened Japan to the west and began modernizing the culture. A few items that I took note of:

  • Emperor Meiji turned Japan from a patchwork of medieval city states into a country, pulling Japan from the feudal era to pseudo-democracy (real democracy would take longer – but it was a start).
  • Empress Shoken is well known for her work to move women’s rights forward and established the Japanese Red Cross.
  • The Emperor’s views on embracing the rest of the world played a significant role in forming the views of Emperor Hirohito. Hirohito quoted this poem from his grandfather when trying to convince the Imperial Conference to pursue diplomatic action prior to WWII:

Across the four seas, all are brothers.
In such a world why do the waves rage, the winds roar?

The most amazing thing about the shrine is the park that surrounds it. Walk in and the city drops away, a beautiful forest of 120,000 trees surrounding the complex. Most people go straight for the central shrine; instead we walked around the side paths which meant that we avoided the larger crowds.

I now know what the torii at the main gate symbolizes:

A torii (鳥居・鳥栖・鶏栖?, lit. bird perch, /ˈtɔəri./) is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred (see Sacred-profane dichotomy).[1] The presence of a torii at the entrance is usually the simplest way to identify Shinto shrines, and a small torii icon represents them on Japanese road maps.[note 1] They are however a common sight at Japanese Buddhist temples too, where they stand at the entrance of the temple’s own shrine, called chinjusha(鎮守社?, tutelary god shrine) and usually very small.



Down the path from the main entrance are two racks of ‘offerings’ to the Emperor and Empress. On the right side are beautifully decorated barrels of sake, donated each year for generations.



I particularly liked this barrel.



The left encases barrels of wine from France with the following explanation and poem:



How they keep the reds at 13C in this heat is beyond me (smile).