PhoTophe

BLOG

Photography has changed the way I see the world around me.

Through it I discover new things and rediscover old ones. Like my island, New Caledonia.

This blog is just me sharing my world through my photography.

Hope you enjoy.

Posts tagged gion district
KYOTO

Japan

day five

Ohayo my friends, an early morning rise meant no breakfast until we got to our destination, Arashiyama. We were hoping to come across an open cafe for breakfast once we got off at Saga-Arashiyama Station and made our way down towards Katsura River. It was still quite early so most places were closed but we found Hirose, a little mom and pop coffee shop, literally. A small place with big vibes and wonderful atmosphere. You could tell the, quite old, couple have been doing this for a long time. Each were very efficient in their own work and together. Very friendly and helpful with customers. We were served in beautiful sometsuke (blue and white pottery) cup and saucer. We had a quick little breakfast, coffee and cinnamon toast. So delicious though, we had seconds.

Once we arrived at the river, we saw the saddest thing of our whole trip in Japan. Old and young men, women, kids and even school kids in uniform with their teachers, all volunteers on a Sunday morning cleaning up the banks of the river of rubbish left by tourists. There were even groups in diving suits in the river. It shows that a lot of tourists have no respect for their surroundings, their environment and worst, the people that live there. It’s a shame because Arashiyama is a beautiful place. And Katsura River run pretty much through Kyoto. A very sad scene.

Our first big visit of the day was the Monkey Park Iwatayama. I was a little apprehensive of the conditions I would find the monkeys in but was reassured once we arrived on the plateau and saw them all wandering freely. Only one cage was visible and that was part of the shop where you buy food, water and feed the monkeys from. Or just get a bit of shade or escape the monkeys and relax, enjoy a drink. Magnificent view of Kyoto from up here as well. The monkeys seem to stay in and around the plateau but I’m guessing that’s because of the food. I’m sure if they head back into the forest once the park is closed. There are a number of supervisors making sure there’s no monkey business going on. I felt safe surrounded by the monkeys but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t careful. They can get aggressive with each other, as we witness just as we were making our way back down, which can be very dangerous if you’re caught in the middle. It was broken up fairly quickly by a supervisor. Watching them, you quickly realise how similar they are to us, humans. The way they act and react to things and each other, the emotions they show each other and have in their eyes, even moments between a parent and a child. And talking about kids, the baby monkeys are just adorable. So funny seeing them playing around the pond trying to catch fish without falling in. Typical kids.

Our second visit was the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Located just on the other side of the river from the Monkey Park, we strolled through the town a little before ducking into the forest. Unbeknown to us, we took a turn that make our visit quite short and miss half to two thirds of the Bamboo Forest. And it wasn’t the best part either. We left Arashiyama Bamboo Forest unimpressed but not just because of that. We got there at the wrong time of day, midday, and there were hundreds of people, tourists and locals alike, strolling through the forest. I think we would’ve enjoyed it a lot more if we’d visited before the Monkey Park and the crowds. And of course, the whole forest would’ve been nice to visit. I think a great way to visit the Bamboo Forest would be on a jinrikisha or rickshaw, as the two young ladies in the video did. They have their own path and stop for photo opportunities. And they’re not that expensive. Next time?!

Third visit of the day was Kinkaku-ji or Temple of the Golden Pavilion. For that we had to leave Arashiyama and head a little farther north. Located on the Rukuon-ji complex or Deer Garden Temple complex, Kinkaku-ji is magnificent. Absolutely stunning. I was worried I wasn't going to be able to avoid the crowds in my photographs but I worried for nothing. Though there were hundreds of people around, the pond in front of the temple made it possible to captured beautiful photos void of humans, people. A very impressive temple and even more so in real life. Even the small islands in the pond look like miniature gardens on their own. Just wonderful. The walk through the complex is beautiful and quite peaceful, even with the crowds. Near the exit there are stalls of food and souvenirs, and a beautiful teahouse to experience.

Our last visit of the day was the Gion District but not before heading back to the motel for a shower and relax little. There are no video of our night in Gion because I left all my gear back in the room, except for my camera. Done on purpose, I wanted to concentrate on photography and take a break, chill, relax a little this evening. Thus the reason for only pics of the area. Gion has a great vibe, atmosphere. It’s lively. Géraldine and I both loved the small streets and alleyways that lead to bars, cafes, restaurant, boutiques. Some plain, some colourfully decorated and most lit with different types of lanterns. We saw Geisha or Geiko as they prefer to be called in Kyoto and Maiko, apprentice Geiko. Beautiful women in magnificent kimonos. They were one of the reasons we wanted to visit Gion. So happy we got to see them. We ate dinner in one of the restaurants along the river called Ponto. More an informal Japanese pub (Izakaya) but looks more like a restaurant to me. Pulled out my phone for the food but I think that was a mistake. Did the best I could with the clips. Lovely restaurant, especially dining on the terrace at sunset, beautiful. Great food, drinks, service. Glad we could experience a restaurant along the river. After dinner, I thought we’d checkout a bar I saw, as we were strolling the alleyways, called Bar Hop Seed. They claimed to have a variety of Japanese whiskies so, a nightcap we had. They had Japanese whiskies I’ve never heard of but tried one I did and have wanted to taste for quite a while. The Suntory Hibiki Japanese Harmony. Very nice. They also offer their own rum arrangements. Géraldine tried their apple/cinnamon rum and loved it. The place was almost empty when we arrived but filled within a half hour or so. Mostly tourists and a handful of locals. Though small, Bar Hop Seed is cosy and has a nice, lively atmosphere. Anyways, on our way to the bus stop, I thought I’d take another photo of Yasaka Shrine. It looked beautiful illuminated in the night. Didn’t catch the bus though, saw a taxi and caught that instead. Home in ten minutes. Excellent.

Till next time my friends, Oyasuminasai.

YASAKA-JINJA

Kyoto, Japan

Our long day in Kyoto and beautiful night in Gion ended with this photo of Yasaka Shrine. Though it was late, around 10 pm, there were still a number of people going in to visit or worship. A stunning shrine located on a main road and surrounded by greenery. Behind this entrance is a huge park with many shrines, gardens and ponds. Magnificent.

I took two photographs of this shrine. This one and another with light trails in the foreground. The light trails weren’t criss-crossing the way I liked so I kept this one. I went with a desaturated look with one of my split-tone presets added on top of it. It’s the same preset I’ve used on a number of other photos from Japan. Now, I wasn’t sure about keeping the dead space in the foreground but without it, the mood of the image changes. It becomes cramped and busy. Not forgetting the aspect ratio changes to panoramic. Keeping it, I found, pulls the viewer back, showing a more tranquil scene. Less busy. Showing a few people instead of a small crowd. Makes all the difference.

We were going to catch a bus, just to the right of the image, back to the motel but when I saw a cab approaching, we jumped in that instead. Home in 10 minutes, fantastic. And the cabs are super clean and quite affordable. We hesitated taking them for the first two, three days of our trip, thinking they were expensive. Hearing they were expensive. Not the case at all. The only time we caught them though was to head home quickly at the end of a night. More sleep. Sleep is important hahaha! Goodnight.

28 mm, 1/30th second @ ƒ/2.8, ISO 3200

MAIKO

Kyoto, Japan

One of the reasons we wanted to visit the Gion District was in hopes of seeing a Geisha or Geiko as they prefer to be called in Kyoto and Maiko, apprentice Geiko. We were not disappointed as we saw a handful of them while strolling the alleyways. They are just stunning. Beautiful. And we both wished we had booked in advance a restaurant where they performed. Next time.

I’m not a portrait photographer but on very rare occasions I’ll tempt it. This evening didn’t start as one of those occasions but ended as one. We had seen a few Geiko and Maiko on our stroll and though Géraldine captured a couple of portraits, she wasn’t satisfied with the results. Not her fault though but largely due to seeing them too late and not being able to frame in time. Don’t get me wrong, we kept our eyes open but they seem to come out of nowhere. So I thought I’d try as well, hoping between the two of us, we’d come back with, at least, one satisfactory portrait. And we got lucky. Seeing these Maiko early enough to be able to snap half a dozen photos from full body to head shots. Unfortunately, only two are usable but two more than we had and are happy with.

So how did I get the shot? Preparation.

  1. I needed a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action and get a sharp photo. Because of their attire, Geiko do not walk very fast so I thought 1/250th of a second shutter speed would be fast enough.

  2. I wanted a shallow depth of field to blur the background. ƒ/2.8 is the widest my lens opens too so I used that.

  3. Have an ISO high enough to give me a proper exposure. In those little alleys nearing sunset it was 400.

All I had to do now was frame and shoot. But I forgot one thing, to put my camera in Continuous-Auto-Focus mode. I had left it in Single-Shot-Auto-Focus which isn’t ideal for subjects moving towards you. Hence, getting only 2, out of 6 or 7, shots in focus. A real shame because the close-up portraits were pretty good but unfortunately out of focus. A lesson learned for me but, I hope, a lesson for someone out there.

Now you’re most likely to see a Geiko and/or Maiko from an hour before and after sunset as they make their way to an appointment. They’re not on the streets for very long as their place of preparation and their appointments are not far from one another. Just keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready.

This post was updated on the 24/07/19. I previously said the main subject in this photo was a Geiko but is in fact a Maiko, an apprentice Geiko. A huge thanks to my friend, Géraldine, for correcting me on that. The lady in the light pink kimono to the right is a Geiko. Sorry for the mistake.

75 mm, 1/250th second @ ƒ/2.8, ISO 400

GION DISTRICT

Kyoto, Japan

After a very long day visiting the Monkey Park and Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama then the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, it was time for us to relax a little. First we headed back to the motel for a shower, dressed up and came down to the Gion District.

We love this neighbourhood. Especially it’s little streets and alleys that run along the back of all these restaurants. Everywhere actually, on both sides of the Kamo River and the main road that lead up to the Yasaka Shrine. In fact, the restaurants’ front doors are in those alley. Lively little streets with lots of, well, restaurants but also bars, cafes, boutiques, people everywhere and the occasional Gaisha or Geiko, as they prefer to call themselves in Kyoto, and Maiko, apprentice Geisha. You’ll also see many Japanese wearing traditional attire.

After wandering the streets and alleys for a couple of hours, we had dinner at Ponto, the third place along on this photo. Not haut cuisine like some restaurants here but what they call an Izakaya restaurant. A type of informal Japanese pub but Ponto looked more like a restaurant than a pub as we know it. Anyway, great food and drink, service is good, the view is magnificent and the atmosphere just wonderful. Oh and some restaurants have Geisha performances but you have to book in advance for those.

Gion District, a must when visiting Kyoto.

28 mm, 1/500th second @ ƒ/2.8, ISO 100