Temples and palaces

Today marks the first Friday of 2019. I’ve been enjoying a rather peaceful week of rest in Tokyo. 2018 was a busy work year for me. I moved to Tokyo in May and started working for a new company.

This was quite a big change as I switched from freelancing to regular employment, and I switched from UK culture to Japanese work culture.

As a freelancer I was able to take a lot of time off over the years to indulge in amateur and (a little) professional photography.

As a regular employee in Tokyo time has been much more limited.

However I am hopeful for the year ahead. Now that I’ve completed eight months I feel more settled and I should be able to make better use of my free time.

During this weeks holiday I had the chance take some photos and spend some time browsing through my old pictures.

I was reminded of many happy memories, especially during visits to temples and palaces around Asia. I’d like to share some of my favorite spots.

Japan

Up first is a familiar picture from my last blog post. I live quite close to Tokyo tower which is right next to Zojoji temple (増上寺).

http://www.zojoji.or.jp/

Next up is perhaps one of the most well known temple complexes in Tokyo, located in Asakusa you may recognise Sensoji (浅草寺)by the huge lantern in the gate. Just to the west of Sensoji there are a lot of traditional restaurants; it’s a very old fashioned area. And Tokyo Skytree is also nearby.

http://www.senso-ji.jp/

The next three photos are from Nezu. This temple complex is famous for the red Torii and is a favourite spot of mine. It’s a little out of the way so there are way less tourists. It’s also a short walk to Yanaka; another traditional area which is famed for the number of cats. If you ever visit Yanaka keep an eye out for cat ornaments on the rooftops.

http://www.nedujinja.or.jp/

Kyoto

I’ve included some of my favorite pictures from Kyoto below. Kyoto has so many temples. The biggest challenge there is it can get very busy and photography becomes a challenge.

Rather than naming each of these, if you are interested in temples I would suggest having a browse through the complete list on Kyoto’s own travel website – https://kyoto.travel/en

Thailand

Thailand is a beautiful country for a cultural tour, there are so many temples. I think Wat Pho may be the most popular spot in Bangkok, but I enjoyed Wat Arun. The next two shots are taken around the ordination hall rather than the Wat itself.

I spent a couple of weeks walking all around bangkok. I can recommend an excellent book written by a journalist and a true culture / history lover – https://www.tuttlepublishing.com/authors/barrett-kenneth/22-walks-in-bangkok

While on these walks I spotted many small temples and back street areas where I could see locals and monks going about their day to day life.

The follow was taken at an interesting Chinese temple complex in Bangkok

China

From China I’d like to include Jing’an temple (Shanghai). This is a beautiful temple complex and I had a great time walking around here. I also really enjoyed watching people throw coins into the central ornament. I imagine it’s a way to pay respects.

South Korea

Seoul is where we switch from temples to palaces. The royal palaces in Seoul are strikingly beautiful. I recommend at least Gyoengbokgung and Changdeokgung, but time permitting it’s good to visit them all.

Taiwan

An honorouble mention to Taiwan. I’ve only been around Taipei. It’s not the prettiest city; due to a period of history with little building regulation, but it’s improving and most importantly I found the Taiwanese to be among the friendliest of Asian people I’ve met. I spent a bit of time at the temple of Confucius. Not only was it nice to see this temple, it was interesting to learn a lot about Confucius whose teachings I think are still meaningful today.

Hong Kong

I haven’t had a chance to see a lot of temples in Hong Kong, but I normally stay nearby Man Mo and it’s full of beautiful lights. It’s an excellent spot to catch the vibe of locals paying respects.

If you have any favourite temples, palaces, or churches etc. around the world I would be happy if you would share with me.

 

Tokyo Tower

It’s December 1st and it was a lovely sunny warm but fresh 16 degrees in Tokyo. I decided to head out for a walk around Tokyo Tower. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and it was really a beautiful day out.

I started from Hamamatsucho (浜松町) just 15 minutes walk to the East of Tokyo Tower. While Tokyo Tower is a major tourist attraction the surrounding area is to a certain extent  a business district. Due to that I was lucky enough to find a few really nice independent coffee shops that were quite quiet due to it being a Saturday.

I recommend Byron Bay coffee at Hamamatsucho and Towers cafe at Higashiazabu.

A few pictures on the way to the tower follow. I definitely have a soft spot for morning light on glass buildings. And of course my favourite thing ever is day to day street scenes.

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Coming towards Tokyo Tower from the East you can walk through Zojo-ji temple (増上寺). The following photos are taken on the walk up to the temple and in the temple grounds.

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I’m really happy with today’s photos. A few favourites here.

I loved these worn concrete steps leading up to the main temple buildings, so I wanted to capture them strongly in the foreground. Of course I find people the most interesting of things and I thought the elderly gentleman walking down the steps looked good in the frame.

I was also lucky to catch the other elderly gentleman praying in front of the temple entrance and could take a picture w/out disturbing him.

And I think the autumn trees from the small park framing the tower was a nice view.

It’s worth mentioning the delightful little children statues. I will quote directly the nearby placard:

“These are ‘care guardian deities of children’. They are dedicated for the safety growth of children and grandchildren, as well as for the memorial service for still birth or miscarried children.

To protect and keep warm their heads, “red hat” “red apron” and “windmill”, were dedicated to the guardian deity of children image.

After existing Zoji temple grounds you arrive at the base of Tokyo Tower:

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The diagonal shot is the won that I’ve often seen on instagram and facebook. The little squirrel was part of a Christmas display at the base. They also have a little garden featuring if I remember correctly about 80 types of coniferous trees, it would be nice to go back at night and see the lights on those.

I also took the front on shot of the tower with the aim to take a less photographed angle.

Finally i walked around the surrounding areas in the North, West and South directions, one more photo worth sharing from the South side.

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This time of year truly is beautiful in Tokyo. The mild weather, the blue skies. I love it.

24 hour sushi in Akihabara at Isomaru・アキバの磯丸水産の寿司居酒屋

Tokyo is a beautifully colourful place.

I really appreciate good design in life. When people, businesses and local authorities make an effort. A lot of elements come together to make a place enjoyable. The shape of the buildings, the colours, the cleanliness, the ease of getting around.

Life can be busy, it can get tiring commuting around, rushing to work, rushing to meet people. Everything is a better when the places we go feature interesting and beautiful design.

One of my genuine beliefs is it shouldn’t just be about minimising costs and maximising profits, it should be about making the world a better place.

Japan nails this in some aspects of life.

A few years ago on one of my first trips to Japan I took a photo of a man looking into a sushi restaurant in Akihabara while scratching his head.

At that time I hadn’t eaten in Isomaru Fisheries (磯丸水産).

It’s a 24 hour seafood restaurant and bar. The one in the picture is in Akihabara – a famous district for electronics and manga / anime goods.

I went back to Isomaru in January this year to eat a few times. On this trip I decided to take a second picture of the Akihabara branch to show the full view of the store front, it’s a very colourful multi-story building with a cool billboard picture of a fishing boat at the top.

Isn’t it awesome?

They have really well priced Sushi. Not exactly premium quality, but pretty good.

On top of the sushi there are lot’s of cooked dishes including some food you can cook on a grill at your table. One of the recommended dishes is crab meat in a special sauce you can cook on the grill yourself. You can also cook various kinds of fish yourself. I had a pot of muscles.

Film recommendation – 君の名は・Your Name

Today, something a bit different – a movie recommendation!

君の名は (kimi no na wa) or in English – “Your Name”  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5311514/

It’s anime, but don’t let that put you off, this is a story about people – friendship, family, love etc. – no monsters!

“Your name” was a major hit in Japan in 2016 and 2017.

It’s been on my list of things to watch for a while. I finally got around to watching it on my recent flight back from Japan.

I don’t want to give away anything about the plot or storyline, I think it’d be more of a nice surprise if you don’t know much about it.

I like it so much I sent my mum a copy – together with a box of chocolates.

I was deeply touched by the story and I might have even shed a tear on the plane! (highly embarassing).

The animation itself is stunningly beautiful. It’s the first time I really had a ‘wow’ moment with some of the scenes.

The movie also has an excellent soundtrack by the RADWIMPS – the main song ‘Zen Zen Zensee’ is really great – Here is a cover on youTube:

 

Hope you get a chance to watch it and enjoy it

Kyoto, around Kawaramachi and Pontocho ・京都の中に河原町や先斗町の周り

For my second photo walk around Kyoto in January I took a stroll around Kawaramachi and Pontocho areas. Just across the river from Gion; the subject of my last Kyoto post.

1. Shijo Dori

I spotted a lovely bit of old and new on Shijo Dori – a For Mustang, sporty Toyota, old temple, and McDonalds!

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2. Teramachi

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3. Shinkyogoku

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4. Pintocho

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5. Kiya-machi dori

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Pontocho and the surrounding area really is a beautiful spot for lanterns and traditional restaurants and bars.

Gion, Kyoto ・ 祇園、京都

It’s 2018 and I decided to start the first week of the year with a ‘photo-walk’ around Gion in Kyoto.

Gion is the traditional district of Kyoto, think old style restaurants, souvenirs shops etc.

Let’s take a look at some photos. Each title corresponds to an annotated point on a map at the end of the post.

1 – Shijo Dori

The main shopping street. It’s full of shops selling souvenirs and traditional sweets. Looking west towards the Kamo River and central Kyoto.

And looking east towards Yasaka Shrine.

2 – Shirakawa-Minami Dori

A well preserved historic street.

Not only formal restaurants, but also some cute small businesses like this espresso stand.

One of the more formal restaurants.

Gion Tatsumi Bridge

Lot’s of people taking photos here, including some girls in Kimono with professional photographers.

Turning 180 degrees from the last photo a traditional restaurant.

A sushi bar at night on Shirakawa-Minami Dori.

A few more restaurant entrances.

5 – Tominagacho

Tominagacho is one of the main side streets running parallel to Shijo Dori. There are lot’s of bars and restaurants here.

4 – Sushi Izakaya

I really liked this Sushi bar / restaurant on a corner of Hanamikoji Dori.

Further along Hanamikoji Dori there are some other interesting restaurants.

6 – Old Style Pub / Restaurant

At the west end of Gion I spotted a fairly unusual black and white izakaya. This one claims to be one of the older casual bars / restaurants in the area.

This is just a brief snippet of Gion, there is quite a lot more to see. If you visit there you will see so many people in Kimonos and so many restaurants, coffee shops and guest houses. You will also likely see a few Geisha and Maiko if you walk around all the side streets.