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Autumn in Kyoto

Autumn in Kyoto

We are often asked to recommend the best dates to see cherry blossoms and fall colors. and indeed, there is ample “factual” information available on the Internet on the subject.  However, nature doesn’t always co-operate with published schedules. This fall, for example, the peak of the maple colors is at least 2 weeks “late”. The hot summer is much talked about as the reason.   Whatever.  Kyoto is beautiful in any season, and one brilliant red tree at Kokedera (also known as Saihoji, the Moss Temple) today was thrilling...
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Zoned Out – Day 6

Zoned Out – Day 6

Today in Kyoto we had cloudy humid weather, light traffic around town and a radiation reading of — oh, wait, Kyoto isn’t even in the “zone”.   Every day in the Japan Times, on the second page I think, there is a map of about 1/2 of Japan with concentric circles radiating out (ha!) from Fukushima.  Today’s reading for Tokyo was .064 microseiverts per hour.   Today’s reading for Sendai was .074.   Today’s reading for Nagano was .041.    Today’s reading for Shizuoka was .040.   And that’s as far west as the circles go...
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Festive Kyoto – Day 5

Festive Kyoto – Day 5

Today was an unusual confluence of festival events, with the annual Aoi Matsuri and the Mifune Matsuri both falling on the same day.   Matsuri is basically the Japanese word for Festival and Kyoto’s festivals are some of the most elaborate in Japan, with spectacular costumes, floats, horses, drums, and more.   They’re not festivals in the sense of all day eating. carnival booths, fireworks, etc.   The festival activities are, like much of Japan, quite structured and predictable.  We took in both in a whirlwind day. Starting at promptly 10:30, the first...
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A Steep Climb

A Steep Climb

Warriors in full battle armor running at speed – the image that comes to mind in the Musha Bashira, one of the outside passages of this ancient castle, designed to accommodate their girth with extra width and set below the floor – but suddenly they turn, confronted by an offset route and a steep set of stairs that are difficult negotiate even under ideal circumstances. Castles, even those constructed during more peaceful times, were built with both offensive and defensive positions in mind. Many early castles were built on high walls (see Kumamoto) or in locations...
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Visit to Meiji Shrine

Visit to Meiji Shrine

I’ve started working on videoing many of the special places in Japan. Our first outings with video gave us quite a bit of shaky cam material, so this past trip we dragged along a tripod and definitely got better result. Visiting Meiji Shrine is a standard tourist activity, but few westerners know about the sacred Kagura dance that you can attend, since everything about it is in Japanese. We were lucky enough to have along one of Esprit’s guides who took us to this very special event. Unfortunately, no video is permitted, so all I can say is the 1/2 hour...
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Kurashiki’s Storehouse of Photos

Kurashiki’s Storehouse of Photos

The name “Kurashiki” means “storehouse village,” and during the 17 century Kurashiki became a prosperous market where rice, cotton, and sake were collected from the surrounding area and shipped off to other parts of Japan. The warehouses of Kurashiki are still there, and this architecture gives this town its special appeal. Full of traditional Japanese-style buildings and canals, Kurashiki is one of the most picturesque towns in Japan and a great place to take some wonderful photos. We arrived there in the pouring rain, however, after spending the...