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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 sitting on the tatami mats on your knees is worth the experience – it’s quite unique and very Japanese. In the meantime, we could do video of other parts, so here’s a short sample of the...
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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 night at a wonderful five-room ryokan right on the main canal, we awoke to a splendid day for exploring and photographing the fabulous fall colors.    In addition to all the charming sights, however, right before we left we came upon a Japanese wedding.  The Japanese are very big on having very special weddings and they range widely from elaborate dress-up affairs in high end hotels all the way to staged photos in picturesque settings.  I don’t think they could have gotten more picturesque than Kurashiki in the fall, so we got the special treat of being able to join the hordes of tourists and the professional photographer in documenting this couples...
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Off the Map

Off the Map

We usually use those small local tourist maps when getting around in new towns and cities in Japan, and they’re usually handy.  But on a trip to Koya-san we ran into an unusual problem… the city is small and the map seemed pretty good, but it turns out that with one wrong turn or misread of a path, you are quickly off the map.  And because of the scale, we didn’t realize it for quite some time.   But getting off the map can yield some great results – we found ourselves at a wonderful temple that had no visitors and was a sea of calm on a very busy holiday weekend in this mountain town.   The stillness of the late afternoon, the half-hidden temple almost overgrown with plants, the prayer papers lining the trees and the vibrant fall colors (which didn’t translate into the photos, alas) were a wonderful...
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Moon Over Hakone

Moon Over Hakone

There are moments in travel that transcend the mundane and capture in a split second the essence of an experience.  Such was the sight at the end of a perfect day exploring Hakone – the clackety-clack of the cable car as it ascended up to Soun-zan, the precariously swinging gondola over the billowing steam with Fuji-san looming ahead, facing into the brisk autumn wind on the pirate boat ride across Lake Ashi, a quiet walk through the cedars that formed the Tokaido road,  and a typically crowded bus ride back up the mountain to a stay at the fabulous Gora Kadan.  The weather was perfect, the food sublime and the view, from the top floor in the private bath on the balcony,  was of a brilliant moon rising over the mountains...
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Many Views of Mt. Fuji – Cellographing

Many Views of Mt. Fuji – Cellographing

Japan is a photographer’s dream destination and sometimes you’re lucky. The picture of Mt. Fuji on this blog header, taken from the shores of Lake Ashi on a perfect fall afternoon is an example of the serendipity of nature.   I always tell people to not expect to see Mt. Fuji when traveling to Japan, but, instead, to hope to be delightfully surprised if it shows up.   As a result, when I traveled to Hakone recently I had no expectations of seeing Mt. Fuji.  So it was pretty funny when it showed up outside the window on our train – I was too busy taking pictures of something else and when I turned, there is was, looming directly outside.  Wow!  It’s REALLY big from the shinkansen. Then, the next day, we did the Hakone circuit, including the cable car, ropeway, pirate ship and bus ride back up to Gora (more on THAT later).  That’s when I took the more non-traditional “view” of Mt. Fuji – a cablecar full of Japanese women on a day trip who were frantically taking pictures of the famous mountain with their cell...