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.


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).


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.


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.



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 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


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.


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.


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!


2. Teramachi


3. Shinkyogoku




4. Pintocho









5. Kiya-machi dori





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.

Kyoto Rail Way Museum / 京都鉄道博物館

Today, I went to have a look at the recently opened railway museum in Kyoto. They have 53 historic train cars. I skipped the steam engines; which look quite similar to European models, and focused on the early diesels and electrics.  I’ll list the model numbers in case you’d like to find out more about any of them.

Let’s take a look at some trains!


Kuha 86-1

0 Series 21-1 (the 1st Shinkansen!)



Kuhane 581-35 and Kuha 489-1



As for the museum itself, it has loads of interactive activities;

  • train operator simulation stations,
  • model railways,
  • model engines, bogies, tracks, signals, maintenance equipment etc.

There is lot’s and lot’s for kids to do and I saw most of the children were having a great time. There was also an operational steam engine taking people up and down a nearby track. It was lovely to see and hear the steam engine running – they are quite something!

To fully enjoy the museum you would need some decent Japanese, but even for an english speaker there are basic signposts and a map / guide etc.

My favourites were the two art deco styled Kuhane 581-35 and Kuha 489-1. I wish we had continued to advance technology but had retained this style direction. In an interesting parallel some game designers implement that kind of vision of the future in their worlds.

Which train do you like?

Kyoto Umbrella

bright orange and blue
just a small shelter it’s true
but I still love you

I took this picture in Kyoto, Japan, back in 2014. At the time I was working on my photography in a structured way. On the day I took this I was working on contrasting colours. Specifically looking for blue and orange, red and green etc.

Contrasting colours can be quite powerful, especially if you have a visual weight contrast e.g. 80% of one and 20% of the other. That’s why sometimes if you see a girl in a purple dress holding a single yellow flower, it looks beautiful. In fact some photographers will take a contrasting colour flower to a photo shoot just for that purpose.

Yesterday when I started writing201 poetry course we learned the form haiku, today I was thinking about this picture and had this short haiku in mind.