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Japan: images and observations
Kyoto

My family and I visited Japan in October 2017; these pages record my impressions, both photographically and verbally.

On these pages I have concentrated on what I found particularly interesting, surprising, or different in Japan to Australia, where I live.

There is too much to be placed on a single Internet page, so the material has been divided among several pages.

This page started 2017/11/08, substantially completed 2018/01/01
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©
 
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Fushimi Inari shrine

 
Entrance
The entrance to this Shinto shrine is conveniently right across the road from a local railway station and only a little further from a longer distance Japan Rail station.

This shrine is famous for its hundreds of toriis; they line the paths all the way to the top of the forested hill in the background of this photo.

Photo taken 2017/10/13
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Shrine buildings
The main buildings of the Fushimi Inari shrine. Again, the hill that visitors can climb along paths lined with toriis is in the background.

Photo taken 2017/10/13

Thatched roof

 
Thatch
This building had a thatched roof rather than the more commonly seen tiled roofs of shrines and temples.

The higher definition image (click on this image) shows that the 'thatch' is made of something like thin, narrow sheets of bark. The top of the thatch is covered with lichen and other plants. It has the look of great age, but that could be deceiving.

Photo taken 2017/10/13
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Toriis
Anna and Beth posing on a section of one of the torii-lined paths to the top of the hill at Fushimi Inari.

I remember there was a notice at one place that listed how much one would have to pay to have a torii of a particular size built. Perhaps one 'gains merit' by paying for the installation of another torii?

Most toriis are painted vermillion, like these, or red or orange.

Photo taken 2017/10/13



Stone wall

 
Stone wall
A remarkable wall made of huge stones along a narrow lane.

Interestingly there seems to have been no attempt to lay the stones in courses, instead they were laid more-or-less standing on end, with upper stones jammed in the gaps between the lower stones.

The moss on top would not be seen in Australia's much drier climate.

Photo taken 2017/10/13

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Nanzen-ji, Nanzen temple

 
Nanzen-ji
The temple was mostly very dark coloured wood, while the clouds behind were bright. I had to manipulate the image (using Photomatix) to make the temple walls clearly visible.

Photo taken 2017/10/13

 
Temple grounds
The grounds of Nanzen-ji temple

Photo taken 2017/10/13
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Moss garden
A moss garden in the grounds of Nanzen-ji temple.

Perhaps the moss gardens particularly impressed me because I'm Australian and our climate is far too dry to have moss growing year-round. It only grows in our winters, and then slowly because of the cold.

Photo taken 2017/10/13

 
Temple grounds
In the grounds of Nanzen-ji temple

The low stone wall is more like those typical in Australia.

Photo taken 2017/10/13
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Moss garden

Moss garden and stone stele

Another moss garden in the grounds of Nanzen-ji temple.

The stele (inscribed stone slab) is yet another use of stone in Japan;

It seems that the stream had a connection with an elevated aqueduct nearby – see next photo.

Photo taken 2017/10/13

 
Aquaduct

Kyoto aquaduct

The Kyoto Aqueduct (Suirokaku Aqueduct), in the grounds of Nanzen-ji temple. The photo was taken close to the one above.

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The aqueduct was built in 1889. There was resistance to the project at the time because residents felt that Western-style architecture was out of place in an ancient Japanese capital. More can be read about the aqueduct on Japan Talk.

There is another small moss garden on the right.

Photo taken 2017/10/13



Japanese food

 
Lunch
We loved eating Japanese food, but did have trouble finding restaurants when we wanted to eat, especially ones that had space to accommodate our group of nine. Many restaurants only had seating for a dozen or so people, many only served take-away food. We found restaurant food prices to be similar to those in Australia.

Generally we had breakfast and dinner in our AirBnB accommodation, and bought lunch out. We usually found that there was a supermarket where we could buy food to heat in our accommodation within easy walking distance.

Bread was interesting; it was typically available in packages of about a half the size of an Australian loaf. These were pre-cut into four, five or six slices; even the loafs cut into six had rather thick slices. There was very little choice; almost all bread was plain white, although French-style bread sticks were sometimes available.

Cheese was generally available only in very small packs, often of individually wrapped small pieces. (Overpackaging was typical in most of the things we bought or considered buying.) Only once did we find (in Hiroshima) a place that specialised in imported foods that had packs of cheddar cheese as large as 500 gramms (at a price more than we would have paid for 1 kg at home.

Most restaurants had an English version of their menu. However, when food such as this, came we often didn't know what the individual items were.

My wife, Denece, is in the foreground in this photo, Beth, Anna and Shayne's arm are visible in the background.

Photo taken 2017/10/13

 
'English' menu
An interesting drinks menu. The title states 'Drink Menu' in large English print, with 'We serve alcohol in extra charge', and something else that is illegible, written on the bottom, everything else in Japanese. Not of much use to anyone who does not read Japanese!

Photo taken 2017/10/13
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Power lines

 
Power lines generally run down the middle of Japanese city streets. They spoil many a view.

As can be seen in the high-resolution copy of this image, many of the actual power conductors are supported by a steel cable; the power lines, the support cables, and the wiring that joins them together all add to the clutter.

Photo taken 2017/10/13

 
Giant torii
Perhaps the biggest torii we saw in Japan; possibly made of concrete rather than the traditional wood.

Photo taken 2017/10/13
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Traditional house

Channels and stone bridges

We walked along this channel for quite a while in the vicinity of the Kyoto Zoo; there were many traditional houses in the area.

Channels, most smaller than this one, and rivers were common in Japan; the place had the wet climate needed to keep them flowing.

Photo taken 2017/10/13

 
Stone bridge

Stone slab bridges

This pedestrian bridge is made entirely of stone, with six long stone slabs making up the main part of the bridge. We saw quite a few variations on this design.

This is further down the channel shown in the photo above.

From left to right; Anna, Denece, Beth, and Julia partly hidden by the willow.

Photo taken 2017/10/13
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Stone vehicle bridge

Stone slab road bridge

This bridge, also made completely of stone, was further down the same channel from the pedestrian bridge.

Photo taken 2017/10/13

 
Kyoto street
One of the more attractive of the many streets that we walked along in Kyoto. As I recall, this street led up to a shrine or temple. It's interesting that the footpath is just as wide as the road.

It was unusual to have such a broad footpath with so few people using it.

Note the nice stone wall; there were many of these in Japan, most made of granite blocks.

Photo taken 2017/10/13
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Temple and paving

Stone seats and paving

Yet another temple or shrine. I included this photo because it shows the very pleasing combination of vegetation, paving and stone seating. Tasteful landscaping is one of the defining features of Japan.

While the paving in the centre appears to be concrete surfaced with rounded gravel, the paving on the right is stone.

The photo was taken not far from the Kyoto Zoo.

Photo taken 2017/10/13

 
Roofs
The view from the upper level of our AirBnB accommodation in Kyoto; as can be seen, houses were packed in with very little space between. There was very little space for private gardens in this area, even by Japanese standards, where private gardens are typically small.

Most of the AirBnB places we stayed in were multiple level; the Kyoto place was spread over three levels. Only one place, the one in Tokyo, had a lift. As I recall, our part of that building started on the forth floor. (In Australia, the lower level is called the 'ground floor', the next up is the 'first floor', then the 'second', etc. In Japan the lower level is called the 'first floor', etc.) In Kyoto we had an entire three-level small building for our group of nine.

Our Kyoto accommodation came with bicycles for our use; they were all without gears, the seats a little low for the taller people in our group, but all quite serviceable (once the tires had been fully inflated).

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Photo taken 2017/10/14



Kinkaku-ji Temple and grounds

 
Temple entrance
Our group entering the Kinkaku-ji Zen Buddhist temple grounds, famous for its Golden Pavilion.

Photo taken 2017/10/14

 
Golden pavilion

Golden Pavilion

One of the most beautiful buildings in the world in an equally beautiful setting. Which is more important to the overall impression, the building or the setting? Or are both indispensable?

The tree leaning out over the water in a graceful curve is very important to the composition of this photo.

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Photo taken 2017/10/14

 
Golden Pavilion
A panorama of the pavilion, lake and garden.

My impression is that the pavilion serves as a focal point within the larger work of art; while it is beautiful in itself, it would be far less impressive outside of the larger environment. Japanese temples, shrines and gardens are undeniably works of art.

Note the moss garden in the foreground. How long, and how much work, would it take to establish moss and remove weeds from an area like that?!

Photo taken 2017/10/14



Ryoan-ji Temple and grounds

 
Garden
A part of the garden of the Ryõan-ji Zen Buddhist temple grounds.

The trees, moss garden, stone stairs, bamboo fence, and background traditional building, all combine into the work of art.

Photo taken 2017/10/14

 
Rock garden

The dry rock garden at Ryõan-ji

While this particular dry rock garden seems to be one of the most famous, if not the most famous of its kind, in the world, it did not strike me as being anywhere near as beautiful as most of the planted gardens. Perhaps an acquired taste?

It was certainly a great tourist attraction.

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Photo taken 2017/10/14



 
Small garden

Tiny gardens
Making the most of tiny garden spaces

This and the next photo show how the Japanese make the most of the tiny spaces available to them for gardens.

Photo taken 2017/10/14

 
Tiny garden
This and the photo above were taken while walking through Kyoto streets.

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Photo taken 2017/10/14

 
Potted garden
Some of those who had no bare ground at all, at least in front of their house, for a garden had pot plants.

How fortunate we are in Australia! Relative to Japan, even a small flat generally has plenty of space for a garden. Do we appreciate that fact?

Photo taken 2017/10/14

Kyoto railway station

 
Kyoto station
The main railway station building in Kyoto is, in itself, one of the attractions of the city; deservedly so.

On the day of our visit there was a series of apparently school orchestras giving performances in one part of the building (seen here at the far end) and a wedding in another part.

There is a walk near the top of the structure from which good views can be enjoyed over Kyoto.

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Photo taken 2017/10/14

 
Viewing deck
A 180°+ panorama of the viewing deck in the upper part of the station building.

Photo taken 2017/10/14

 
School orchestra
One of the school orchestras performing in the amphitheatre part of the Kyoto railway station.

Photo taken 2017/10/14

 
Wedding
A wedding taking place in the opposite end of the Kyoto railway station at the same time as the school orchestra performances (above photo).

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Photo taken 2017/10/14

Arashiyama district, Kyoto

This area is best known for its Bamboo Grove and Monkey Park.

 
Restaurant entrance
The very well designed entranceway to a restaurant. How much thought and skill went into planning and executing this work of art?

Rough stone has been skilfully used for the wall and for boulders placed for their aesthetic values, and dressed stone has been used in the steps.

Is the little space on the left of the steps aimed at providing parking for a very small Japanese car, or perhaps for several bikes?

Photo taken 2017/10/15

 
Temple entrance

Rough stone used for steps and walls

An entrance to a shrine or temple. It has some obvious similarities and differences to the entrance above.

A very Japanese use of topiary trees, tiny garden spaces, and very skilfully and tastefully done stonework.

Unfortunately the hand rail looks out of place. It is probably an acceptance of modern needs, legal and practical requirements, and realities.

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Photo taken 2017/10/15

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

The bamboo grove is in the grounds of a temple (Tenryu-ji) and the temple grounds are well worth visiting even without seeing the grove.

Tenryu-ji Temple grounds

 
Tenryu ji
The dry stone garden and a temple building of Tenryu-ji.

Photo taken 2017/10/15

 
Temple garden
What can I say? Tenryu-ji temple garden.

I recommend looking at the high definition image.

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Photo taken 2017/10/15

 
Bamboo Grove
A forest of grass: the famous bamboo grove of Tenryu-ji Temple. As can be seen, it is a major tourist attraction (granddaughter Anna at bottom right).

This is certainly not the only bamboo grove in Kyoto, my wife and I came across several others; but this one was by far the most crowded.

There must be something about the Kyoto climate and soil type that suits bamboo very well.

Photo taken 2017/10/15

 
River branch
We crossed the Katsura-gawa River on the way from Tenryu-ji Temple to the Arashiyama Monkey Park. This is a small branch of the river that ran around a small island (on the right).

Again, the skilful use of plants and stone is conspicuous in the very limited available space.

Photo taken 2017/10/15

Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama
and a view of the Kyoto Basin

 
Monkey Park
This is a great place for kids to get up close to, and feed monkeys. My granddaughter, Anna, is watching a monkey under the seat on the right, there is another monkey in the centre.

There is no public transport from the foot of the hill up to the Monkey Park, it is a fair climb, although there is nothing difficult about it, the trails are good.

As a bonus, there is a good view over the Kyoto Basin. The city of Kyoto, so typically for Japan, is on fairly flat land surrounded by steep, forested, hills; the Monkey Park is on one edge of the Basin.

Photo taken 2017/10/15

 
Monkey Park
People are encouraged to go into this shed and feed the monkeys through the wire, for safety. My granddaughter Elizabeth in the foreground.

There was steady rain much of this day, but it did not stop us from doing everything we intended. Umbrellas seem to be a necessity in Japan.

Photo taken 2017/10/15
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Weir and restoraunt
A restaurant on a channel off the Katsura-gawa River near the Arashiyama Monkey Park.

A very aesthetically satisfying blend of water, forest, garden and building.

Photo taken 2017/10/15

 
Rubbish under nets

Rubbish for collection

Denece and I went for a walk before the rest of the group were ready to go out on the morning of the 16th. We headed toward where a couple of temples were marked on a map to the west of our accommodation, but found that they were not open for visiting. However, the area was very interesting and attractive anyway.

This is the way household rubbish was put out for collection in this part of Kyoto. The nets are apparently to stop crows picking holes in the plastic bags.

The boxy car in the distance was a very popular shape; maximum internal space for minimum length ‒ to suit very limited space for parking in Japanese homes.

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Photo taken 2017/10/16

 
Streetscape
A streetscape near one of the temples showing how the Japanese like to landscape, not only the grounds of temples (or homes), but also the roadsides. Every square metre needs to play its part.

Photo taken 2017/10/16

 
Bamboo grove
Denece and I came across this bamboo grove near a simple little shrine on our morning walk. It did not seem to have any particular significance to the local people, it was just in land that had apparently had no economic use (except perhaps for harvesting the bamboo?).

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Photo taken 2017/10/16

 

Cemetery

What appeared to be a small and very crowded grave-yard. It is interesting that it was right up against private homes.

Note the bamboo in the background.

This is the last of the few photos from our morning walk.

Photo taken 2017/10/16

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