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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.

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Posts tagged travel
HITACHI SEASIDE PARK AND ODAIBA

Japan

day nine

Our second last full day in Japan. Today we head to Hitachinaka, just north of Tokyo, to visit the Hitachi Seaside Park. Then we head over to Odaiba island for the evening.

There’s about an hour train trip and a half hour bus ride from Tokyo to get to the Hitachi Seaside Park. This place is a lot bigger than I had ever imagined. We spent about two and a half hours and only saw a fraction of what there is to see and do. Most of our time was spent in the beautiful nemophila (baby blue-eyes) and poppy fields on Miharashi Hill. With different flowers blossoming every season, you can be amazed all year round. The park has so much more to offer though. Hitachi Seaside Park is also a huge amusement park for families with cafes, restaurants, boutiques, stores and that’s not all. BMX course, golf games, trampoline, water games, ferris wheel, a 400 metre obstacle course in a tube and lots more. You can even hire push-bikes to wander around this enormous 350 hectare park. We came for the baby blue-eyes fields and other flowers but if you decide to visit, give yourself a whole day. You won’t regret it. There’s so much to do and see here.

We headed back to the hotel a little early to relax a bit and freshen up before going to Odaiba. To get there, we took the Yurikamome, a computer operated train that runs on rubber wheels. There are no drivers nor guards onboard. Pretty cool, I must say. Another reason we took it is because it crosses the Shuto Expressway No.11 Daiba Route. Publicly named Rainbow Bridge because of it’s beautiful lights at night. We, unfortunately, didn’t get to see the multi-coloured lights. We got off at the iconic Statue Of Liberty replica for some blue hour photography. Lady Liberty is only 11.5 metres in height but looks much taller because of it’s strategic placement, overlooking Tokyo Bay and Rainbow Bridge. Beautiful views from there.

Once blue hour was over, we made our way to the Oodeo-Onsen Monogatari. This place is a complete onsen theme park. It’s literally a replica of a town from the Edo era. This place is open from 11 am to 9 am the next day. And you need all that time to experience the place. There’a so much to do and see here. There’s a food court with street foods, there are restaurants, shops, bars, saunas ,spas, onsens, relaxation rooms and tatamis, massages, the list goes on and on. Checkout my last post where I talk a little more about this amazing place. As I mentioned on the post, a must visit but give yourself a full day to appreciate and immerse yourself in the experience. Two days if you’d like to visit Odaiba.

That’s it for day nine my friends. Thank you for watching and hope to see you for the last video of Japan. Oyasuminasai.

SAKU AND SHINJUKU

Japan

day eight

Today we spend the day with my best mate and his wife, Marcin & Chie, in Saku then head to Tokyo before nightfall.

After last night’s late nightcap, we got up late this morning. In fact, just in time to checkout of our hotel, the Ueda Plaza. A small room but clean, comfortable and affordable. The hotel is also well located near the Ueda Train Station and centralised to, just about, everything else. We both wished we had more time to visit Ueda a little. Not just the city but it’s surroundings too. There’s so much to see here.

We caught the train to Sakudaira Station, the next stop on the line, to spend the early afternoon with Marcin & Chie. They picked us up from there and we drove through Saku city to the beautiful Pinkoro Jizo, the guardian deity of children. In general, Pinkoro Jizo means to wish for a long and healthy life with a quick and peaceful death. I wish for that. With a small Shinto Shrine and a couple of large Buddhist Temples, this place is beautiful, peaceful and fascinating. Very happy Chie brought us here.

As you walk out of the temple’s main gate there is a long, narrow pedestrian alley with one stall held my an elderly man. I could imagine this alley busy with stalls, people and festive on weekends or special days. The man was selling a lot of things but also did palm readings. My mate, who’s interested in that sort of thing, decided to get it done. It was a 30-40 minute reading that I won’t go into. Suffice to say, Marcin wasn’t too impressed.

On that same corner, is a restaurant specialising in carp, called Kagetsu. Cooked and prepared in different ways, it was an eye opener and a delight to the palette. No b-roll of the meal as I wanted to enjoy these last moments with my friends before heading off.

They dropped us back at Sakudaira Station where we caught a bullet train to Shinagawa Station in Tokyo then a local train to Shin-Okubo Station. Our hotel, the Shin-Okubo Sekitei, was only a ten minute walk from there. A Japanese-style Ryokan (Inn) with decos from the Showa era. Though the rooms are small and doorways low, they are very nice, comfortable, clean, inexpensive and well located. Great as a base to travel in and around Tokyo. It was perfect for us.

We dumping our luggage, freshened up and heading back to the train station. We got off a few stops farther at Shinjuku Station. From there we navigated the underground labyrinth to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. This is the headquarters of the Government that governs all the towns, villages, cities and wards that make up the Tokyo Metropolis. It comprises of two high-rises, both with an observation deck. We were hoping to make it up there for, at least, blue hour but we almost gave up on the idea when we realised one of the decks was closed and saw the queue and bag search before getting into the elevator. To our surprise, they were very quick and efficient, and we arrived up there right on time. You are wowed as soon as you walk out of the elevator. An open, high ceiling room with a cafe and souvenir shop in the centre, and huge windows all around with magnificent cityscapes of Tokyo. I was so busy taking photos of the skyline that I forgot to take some b-roll of the interior. I tried a time-lapse but that didn’t turn out to well. Nonetheless, Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government Building is a must visit when in Japan. I highly recommend it.

We headed back to Shin-Okubo as there are a lot of places to eat and the hotel was only 5-10 minutes away. We had dinner at Tenkazushi, a small conveyor belt or sushi train restaurant. Fast, cheap and excellent quality. They have an English menu and very helpful staff. Oh and everyone says hello and goodbye. Everyone. Impossible to enter or leave discreetly. We loved this place.

OK my friends, that’s it for another day. Thank you for watching and hope to see on day 9. Oyasuminasai.

SHIRAKAWA-GO

Japan

day seven

Traveling through the mountains via coach from Kanazawa to Shirakawa is fantastic. And especially beautiful as you head down the mountain and see the village in the valley. We arrived on a cool but sunny day yet we could see snowcapped mountains in the not too distance. Shirakawa-go is a small, traditional village within Shirakawa, best known for their gassho-zukuri style minka houses. Recognisable by their very steep and thick thatched roofs designed to easily shed snow. An interesting fact, the upper floors of the two and three story houses were used for sericulture, silk farming. Not sure if that’s still the case though. One thing’s for sure, they still grow rice. All the farmhouses have, at least, one small field around the house.

We strolled though the small village on our way up to the lookout, which has a magnificent panoramic view of Shirakawa-go. There are two lookouts or observatories, the Ogimachi Castle Observatory Deck and the Tenshukaku Observatory, both with quite similar views though the latter has a couple of restaurants and a few boutiques. Not much left at the Omigachi Castle Ruins near it’s observatory deck but the best view, in my opinion.

Rain had started to fall whilst at the observatories and didn’t really stop for the rest of the day. The weather changed quite quickly and we could feel the cold now too. We explored farther into the village, getting a closer look at the minka houses and crossing paths with not-so-scary scarecrows. There’s a lot to see around this tiny village too. Restaurants, cafes, boutiques, stores, museums, Shinto shrines, the Big Bridge, the Sho River, so much to see. We were here five hour and weren’t able to visit everything.

Cold and hungry, we ducked into Shiraogi, a restaurant that serves set meals. Very nice and inexpensive. Warmed up with soup and tea… OK, I had to try the rice ale too. Once finished, we made our way back to the bus stop for our coach to Toyama.

From Toyama we caught a bullet train to Ueda where we were staying for the night and catching up with my best mate, his wife and his family. We had just enough time to check-in before meeting up for dinner at a Japanese pub called Hananomai, near Ueda train station. After dinner we accompanied his parents and aunt back to Ueda Plaza Hotel, where we were also staying. We, on the other hand, headed to Uotami, another Japanese pub, just down the road from the hotel. All in all, a great catchup.

Just a couple of words on my thoughts about Shirakawa-go. In 1995 it gained the status of a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Unfortunately, it is in danger of loosing this status. Here is an excerpt from a Wikipedia article on Shirakawa:

The local economy is dominated strongly by seasonal tourism. Due to the income from the tourists who came to see the gassho-zukuri villages, the financial condition of the village has been greatly improved, and tourist traffic increased further once the village became a UNESCO site. However, the increasing number of visitors has resulted in damage to the area from pollution, and by local inhabitants their homes into hostels, gift shops and parking lots, which in turn has endangered its World Heritage status. There is also a fear growing that the change to catering to tourists will harm the charm of the area's simplicity and fundamental Japanese scenery.

Shirakawa, Gifu (village)

Having visited this amazing village, I can attest to this. I really hope they find an equitable balance to keep their World Heritage status on one hand and profit from the economics of tourism on the other.

Once again, thank you very much for watching. Hope you enjoyed it. See you on the next one. Oyasuminasai my friends.

KANAZAWA

Japan

day six

Ohayo my friends and welcome to the small town of Kanazawa, or so I thought until I saw it was more of a city. We could tell as soon as we walked out of the station. We were only here for the day and night. An early rise the next morning to catch the coach to Shirakawa-go. Which we bought the tickets for just outside the station.

I think we arrived just before 11 am and, once the Shirakawa-go tickets bought, took the JR bus to the Omicho Market. Our hotel was on the other side so we walked through it to have a look. There’s everything from meat, fish and seafood, fruits and vegetables, patisserie, ice-cream and confectionary, florists, cafes and restaurants… I think you get the gist. Quite fascinating walking through here. 

The Hotel Pacific is a great place to stay and is pretty centralised in Kanazawa. Loved the entrance, a cafe that doubles as a reception. And a beautiful cafe at that. And they make a great coffee too. Rooms are small but that standard in Japan. Clean, tidy and great service. If your on a budget, the Hotel Pacific is worth checking out.

Once we dumped our bags and plugged everything that needed to be recharged, we went back to the market for lunch. I saw a restaurant with things on skewers in a broth and thought we should try it out. Géraldine wasn’t as enthusiastic as I but she went along with it. Once the kimono girls had finished, we passed our order, a few skewers in a bowl with the same broth they’re cooked in. I ordered a Japanese beer with the meal and Géraldine an ice tea. She also wanted to try what the girls on the next table were all having, a White Horse. We couldn’t tell what it was from the menu but when I ordered at the bar, I knew she wouldn’t like it. White Horse Scotch Whisky and lemonade. Wish I had capture her face on camera. Light, crisp, not bad for a lunch drink on a hot day. The food, well, what can I say? Probably the blandest meal I’ve tasted on the trip. Everything was cooked in the same broth so it all tasted the same, really. The textures was the most noticeable difference between the servings. Overall not bad but, really, nothing to brag about. An experience though.

Once we had dessert at the market and looked around a little more, we made our way to the Kanazawa Castle. Surrounded by spacious green lawns, ponds and waterways, the castle is on a slight elevation. We could see similar characteristic to other castles but seemed to be built in length rather than height. We entered through the  beautiful, gigantic Kahoku-mon gate, which is where I took the photo of the Hishi Yagura from. Walking through the main courtyard, San-no-maru Hiroba, we saw a couple of women getting rid of weeds against the wall of the gates. The L-shape castle is very dominant and impressive as you walk through the courtyard. Then we saw a couple of men doing the same work as the women around a small fence near the Information Center. We left through the Ishikawa Gate, making our way to the Kenroku-en garden via a footbridge.

There is a beautiful little alley with shops, boutiques, cafes, restaurants and ice-cream alongside the Kenroku-en garden. Talking about ice-cream, I had to try the gold and platinum leaf covered ice-cream. Apart from the slightest metallic taste, there is nothing special about it. The ice-cream, overall, was very nice though. From the subtle vanilla flavoured soft-serve to the thick and crispy wafer and rich yet smooth chocolate tip, all the flavours and textures were well balanced and complimented each other. I particularly liked the wafer. ¥300 fee gets you in to the perfectly landscaped Kenroku-en. We were here in Spring where everything was green with beautiful flowers. Ponds, waterways and waterfalls all contribute to the harmony, tranquility and beauty of the garden too. It’s no wonder it’s one of the Great Gardens of Japan.

After visiting the garden, we walked our way towards 1 Chrome Higashiyama suburb in hopes of seeing Geishas. Arriving at the Asanogawa Bridge though, we got a little distracted by the beautiful and tiny suburb of Kazuemachi. Where wooden structured homes and restaurants lined small alleyways running along the Asano River. We kept walking upriver to a small bridge that had a view of the Asanogawa Bridge. We crossed the river and made our way back down, deciding to head back to the hotel for a shower and rest before dinner.

The restaurant we wanted to go to was booked out so we ate at a small Kaiseki restaurant just down the road from the hotel, called Kokochiya. We were able to get a table but not before the chef made himself understood that tonight was a set menu. A set menu of which we have no idea of what it comprises, all for it. We were lead upstairs to be seated and, literally, closed off to the rest of the tables. Very private. Though we were served tea, we ordered hot and cold sake. The hot sake was for Géraldine, I don’t particularly appreciate it. I didn’t film all the servings, mainly because my stomach had the upper hand on my state of mind. There were ten servings all up and suffice to say, the whole meal was delicious. Sure, there were a couple of things that had gooey textures but delicious nonetheless. We quite enjoyed the whole experience and even had a bit of a laugh at the end. No one had come back to check on us for quite a while after the soup was served. So not knowing whether there was another serving or they were just waiting for us to finish up and leave, we thought we’d check downstairs to see what was happening. We slowly made our way down the stairs like kids sneaking out of their bedroom to see what their parents are doing. A waitress suddenly appeared and startled us as I was peaking around the bottom of the stairs. Rushing back up we quickly realised we were being quite childish for a pair of adults. It was time to leave.

Hope you enjoyed this little video. The next one will be of an ancient little village in the middle of a valley. Oyasuminasai my friends.

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.

KOBE, YAMAZAKI AND KYOTO

Japan

day four

First of all, I’d like to apologise in advance for the lack of video of the Yamazaki Distillery and the Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine. I was pretty sure I had recorded something but I couldn’t find the clips. And now I’m uncertain if I deleted them by accident or if I never took any in the first place. In any case, I’m very disappointed with myself. I added photos instead to help tell the story. Hope you enjoy the video.

After an uneventful sunrise, I went for a stroll around the Meriken Park looking for something to photograph. Lucky I took a shot of our hotel, we have no souvenir of our room. I also photographed the Starbucks with the Port Of Kobe Tower just behind it, before heading back to the room. We packed up a little, once Géraldine was up, then headed out for breakfast. It was still too early for places to be open so we wandered around the Meriken Park and the Mosaic before heading back to Starbucks for breakfast. Once our stomachs were full, we finished packing our stuff at the hotel, checked out and caught the hotel bus to Shin-Kobe Station.

At the station, we put our luggages in storage before making our way to the Nunobiki Ropeway. The cable cars took us to the top of the Nunobiki Herb Gardens. Magnificent views, on the way up, of the gardens and Kobe city. A beautiful building at the top with stalls, boutiques, a cafe and lots of flowers. We took the walking path to get back down which gave us the opportunity to check out the Nunobiki Falls - Ontaki and more views of the city. It’s also a beautiful forest walk.

The Yamazaki Distillery was our next visit for the day. It doesn’t look like much from the outside and we didn’t do a tour of the distillery itself but visited the museum and whisky tasted. The museum is very interesting, informative and quite amazing. Even Géraldine, who isn’t a whisky drinker, loved the museum. In the main hall and at the end of the museum, you’ll find a bar arranged in a circle. Here you choose the whiskies you’d like to test from a menu. I was surprised when I saw the Hakushu and Hibiki on the list. My choice was the most expensive whiskies on the menu. My favourite, the 25 year old Hakushu Single Malt Whisky.

We end the day back in Kyoto. We’re here for two nights. On full day. Once we checked in our tiny hotel and relaxed for a few minutes, we went to visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shinto Shrine. Didn’t realise there was going to be so many people there. I thought most would visit in the day and not so much at sunset. This place is amazing. Beautiful. I was able to get a few photos with very little to no-one in them. We were too tired to walk the senbontorii (thousand torii) all round the mountain but did a small portion which showed small, medium and large torii. They’re stunning to see. And so are the shrines. Small and large alike.

So, all these places, the Nunobiki Herb Gardens, the Yamazaki Distillery and the Fushimi Inari Taisha should be on your to-do list when visiting Japan. If your a photographer, you’d probably want to visit the herb garden and Shinto shrine at sunset. All worth a visit but give yourself a few hours to, not only, see it all but to really appreciate your surroundings.

That’s it for day four of our little trip in Japan. Day five brings a very busy day of visits. Oyasuminasai my friends.

HAKURO-JO

Himeji, Japan

Himeji Castle, also known as Hakuro-jo or Shirasagi-jo meaning White Egret Castle, is a prototypical architectural example of Japanese castles. It is magnificent ! Even from afar you can tell it is something spectacular.

Himeji was only a quick stop for us before heading to Kobe for the night. We didn’t want to visit the castle, just have a quick wander around the grounds and take a couple of photos. You need a half a day to visit the castle and it’s grounds. You can actually see Hakuro-jo as you approach Himeji Station and it’s only a ten minute walk from there. We couldn’t resist the stop-over.

Again here, I used one of my split-tone presets to give the ancient era feel to the image. Check out my last post for a quick rundown on my editing process for these types of images.

75 mm, 1/4000th second @ ƒ/2.8, ISO 100

JINRIKISHA

Himeji, Japan

Leaving Miyajima, we headed to Hiroshima Station to catch a Shinkansen to Himeji to visit their famous castle. Surprisingly, you can see castle from the Himeji Station. From their you just follow the main street straight to the castle. Easy-peasy.

Along the way though, we saw these beautiful jinrikisha, literally meaning man-power-vehicle. Or rickshaw in English. Women pulling rickshaws are very rare, apparently, I haven’t seen any and the men I’ve seen were very fit and young. We saw jinrikisha here in Himeji and in Kyoto as well. Specifically around the bamboo forest. We didn’t try them out but saw Japanese in kimonos and tourists use them.

I edited this image with my favourite split-tone. The jinrikisha, the castle and the old stone and chain barrier lend itself to an old fashion photograph. Well, my take on it anyway. Editing these kinds of images I always set my white balance first before converting to black and white. Then I edit the monochrome image to my liking and finished off by adding my split-tone preset over it. Tweak it and that’s it.

53 mm, 1/200th second @ ƒ/11, ISO 100

STONE TORII

Miyajima / Itsukushima Island, Japan

Leaving Miyajima was quite difficult. It’s such a beautiful island with so much to see, visit and experience. It’s also one of those places that transforms itself with the passing of each season. A place that makes you long to come back and discover it’s other facets. A word of advice, if Miyajima is on your bucket list, move it to the top of it. And stay a minimum of two nights, you won’t regret it.

Since the day we arrived I’ve wanted to photograph the Stone Torii of Itsukushima Shrine. It was the first stone torii I’ve ever seen and, to tell you the truth, didn’t know they existed. In stone, that is. We were slowly making our way to the ferry to leave the island, when I took this shot. Not the best composition, I admit, and I don’t know why I didn’t take the time to find a better one. From the get-go it was going to be a black and white image. Apart for the trees and sky, the lack of colours, a lot of stones and sand, I could only see this image in monochrome. Taking the shot at midday added contrast and a little interest to the image. Oh and before I forget, the lights next to the lion-dog weren’t on in the middle of the day, I added that in post. It attracts the eye just enough to make you notice the, otherwise, camouflaged lion-dog. This is a snapshot, nothing more. Glad I got something though.

28 mm, 1/3200th second @ ƒ/2.8, ISO 100

SHISHIIWA OBSERVATORY

Miyajima / Itsukushima Island, Japan

Absolutely stunning panoramic views of the Seto Inland Sea from the Shishiiwa Observatory atop Mount Misen. It was a beautiful sunny day with a bit of haze and very thin, low lying clouds only a few kilometres away. It was ethereal and mysterious. This is where the Miyajima Ropeway ends it’s ascend.

We spent a little too much time here and didn’t realised that we needed, at least, another hour for the return trip to the Misen Observatory. And that’s without allocating time for photographs. Very disappointing as there are relics and temples there. We had a long day trip ahead of us today and had to make a choice.

28 mm, 1/200th second @ ƒ/11, ISO 100

MIYAJIMA ROPEWAY

Miyajima / Itsukushima Island, Japan

There are three hiking tracks to the observatories on Mount Misen but if that’s not your thing, the Miyajima Ropeway is your only other option. It’s done in two phases and takes about twenty minutes. The first part are these cable cars that sit six people comfortably and the second, a larger car standing twenty people comfortably. Magnificent views from both of Hiroshima city and bay. Not to mention the beautiful Momijidani Park below. This ride must be stunning during the Autumn and Winter seasons. The ropeway stops at the Shishiiwa Observatory where there are gorgeous panoramic views of the Seto Inland Sea and Hiroshima Bay. Unfortunately, to reach the Misen Observatory, you have a 30-40 minute walk ahead of you. There is no other way to get there. The extra hour walk, not including the time for photographs, was out of the question for us. A little disappointed but we had a long day trip ahead.

I can’t stop wondering what this park would look like in Autumn with it’s maple leaves canopy in tones of red, orange, yellow…

46 mm, 1/160th second @ ƒ/11, ISO 100

MOMIJIDANI PARK

Miyajima / Itsukushima Island, Japan

The Hotel Kikunoya were kind enough to let us store our luggage after check out so we could visit Mount Misen Observatory. You can hike there but we wanted to jump on the ropeway for a different experience. And it’s a lot quicker. There’s still a 20 minute walk to the cable cart but well worth it as you stroll through one of Japan’s most famous maple leaves valley parks, Momijidani Park. An easy walk with a couple things to visit along the way. Like the Shinomiya Shrine and the Momiji-so restaurant. Of course, you’ll have to cross couple of these uniquely beautiful bridges.

Approaching this bridge from the shade of the forest and seeing the sun light the middle of it and illuminating the leaves around it, was just beautiful and tranquil. I asked my friend, Géraldine, to stand in the middle to show scale. It also makes for a beautiful travel photo that could have been taken anywhere in Japan.

If it’s anything like what we’ve experienced on our little walk to the ropeway, I can only imagine the amazing hike to Mount Misen Observatory.

28 mm, 1/1250th second @ ƒ/2.8, ISO 100

TAHOTO PAGODA

Miyajima / Itsukushima Island, Japan

Though there was a thin layer of cloud in the sky, beautiful golden light blanketed the forest. Golden hour was here and had transformed the landscape. It was upon these trees that I first noticed it and seeing the second story of the Tahoto Pagoda protruding above the canopy was too beautiful not to photograph.

I wish I had a longer focal lens though. I would've preferred to have isolated the pagoda within the forest. Minimise distractions and simplify the composition. I like this image nonetheless.

Tahoto pagodas are very interesting and unique in their own right so check out the link above to learn more.

I’ve mentioned this on a previous post but let me stress again that the links I provide on my blog posts are purely provided for extra information and I am in no way remunerated. They are not affiliate, sponsored or commercial links and I am not payed in any way, shape or form to providing these links. If this changes in the future, I will let you know.

75 mm, 1/13th second @ ƒ/11, ISO 100

O-TORII BLUES

Miyajima / Itsukushima Island, Japan

I got up very early this morning with hopes of capturing the Grand Torii of Itsukushima Shrine at high tide and I wasn’t disappointed. Not quite a full high tide but enough for me to capture the image I wanted. Without a soul around, I had this whole area to myself for about an hour before I saw a local woman doing her morning walk. It was so quiet and peaceful. And beautiful.

I’ve posted a sunset photo of this torii if you want to check it out.

Blue hour is the only time of day where everything is equally exposed. So I didn’t need multiple exposures nor filters for this image. My objective was a long exposure with lots of breathing room around the subject. People who’ve seen this Grand Torii for themselves, will tell you this photo doesn’t show the grandeur of the gate. And they are right but it wasn’t my objective here.

I have photos with people at the base of the torii and if you’d like me to post the photo, head over to my Facebook or Instagram profile and let me know in the comments below this photo.

28 mm, 30 seconds @ ƒ/2.8, ISO 50

HIROSHIMA AND MIYAJIMA

Japan

day two

Ohayo my friends and welcome to day two of our trip in Japan. Today we leave Kyoto and head to Hiroshima. From there a local train then a ferry to Itsukushima Island, also known as Miyajima.

We had a late night and thus didn’t want to get up for the early train to Hiroshima. We decided to wait after peak hour to avoid the locals going to work and school. We had breakfast at Delifrance (of all places) but ate things that weren’t very French. Delicious though and their coffee brewing method is interesting to watch.

By the time we arrived at Hiroshima Station it was lunchtime. We left our bags at a luggage holder and went looking for something to eat. One of the dishes my friend, Géraldine, had on her to-eat list while in Japan was the famous Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. To our great surprise we saw advertisement for the dish everywhere as we were walking through the station. A couple of floors up and we found a corridor of restaurants with two or three of them specialising in okonomiyaki. We picked the one with the most crowd, Goemon Okonomiyaki, and sat right at the counter in front of the hotplates. A very memorable experience. From watching them prepare the dish in front of us, to tasting the meal, to seeing every single staff member saying goodbye to every single client leaving the restaurant. That was amazing. It was quick, delicious and surprisingly fun.

With our stomachs full, we started our long walk to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial or more popularly known as the Atomic Bomb Dome. Though long, it was nice to see a little of the city along the way. The landmark is quite impressive in itself but to see how everything has been rebuilt around it, is just a amazing. It makes you wonder if there ever was a atomic blast. Walking around the park felt like I was on religious grounds. I’m not a religious person but I felt an inner calmness and peace. A respect for what had happened here and the courage and strength the people of Hiroshima, of Japan, had to get through it. And build a park that evokes peace. A well named park.

On the way back to Hiroshima Station, we walked by Carp Castle, better known as Hiroshima Castle. Actually, it’s the castle’s second compound that you see here. The original castle was, obviously, destroyed in the atomic blast and a replica built in it’s place. Now though it serves as a museum of Hiroshima’s history before World War II. We didn’t get to visit as time was short to get to Miyajima before sunset.

Back in Hiroshima Station, we jumped on a local train to Miyajimaguchi to catch a ferry to Itsukushima Island, better known as Miyajima. This is a gorgeous place. Little town atmosphere on the shores of Hiroshima Bay. The old and the not-so old architecture. The Itsukushima Shrine is amazing and it’s Torii is just a wonder. We got here in time to drop our bags at the hotel before heading straight back down to the torii. We stayed about two and half hours taking photos of it and the shrine, and watching the sun set. What a beautiful sunset it was too. Then we made our way to the town to have a look around and find one of the very few restaurants still open. Both Géraldine and I loved the main street of Itsukushima Town for it’s old look and atmosphere. It gave us the impression of being in a different era. We chose to eat at Mametanuki restaurant. A wonderful little place where the owner is, I think, English but the cuisine definitely Japanese. Very friendly place with good service and delicious food.

Once full and warm we made our way back to our hotel, Kikunoya. A beautiful hotel with a restaurant and onsens. When we told the receptionist we weren’t going to have dinner there, they happily showed us the locations of restaurants that were going to be open and advised not to eat to late as their kitchens close quite early. Very friendly and helpful. Oh and they have a foot spa at the front entrance.

Well that’s it my friends. The end of another wonderful day in Japan. Hope to see all of you for day 3. Oyasuminasai.

ITSUKUSHIMA TOWN

Miyajima / Itsukushima Island, Japan

The staff at Hotel Kikunoya, where we stayed, were very friendly and helpful. Really can’t say enough great things about this place. They have their own onsen and restaurant. We had dinner in this street though, in Itsukushima Town. The town pretty much shuts down after sunset and only a small handful of restaurants stay open for tourists. It looks very empty here but I promise you it’s packed with tourists and locals during the day. We wandered down this little street and ultimately back up to a restaurant called Mametanuki. The owner speaks English and is, maybe, British but the restaurant is very much Japanese.

Though this is a long exposure photo, I had a couple walk in the frame and stopped just long enough to appear as ghost figures. So I used the first shot I took of the street to mask them out of the frame. Otherwise, it’s a single exposure.

It’s these types of streets and alleyways that really make me feel like I’m in a different country, a different world. We both wished we’d organised, at least, two nights here. So much to see and visit.

41 mm, 25 seconds @ ƒ/11, ISO 50

ITSUKUSHIMA SHRINE

Miyajima / Itsukushima Island, Japan

Check out my last post if you haven’t seen the torii to this magnificent Itsukushima Shrine. When we arrived for sunset, I was a little disappointed to see it was low tide but glad it was for this shot. Though my friend was cold and we were hungry, we stayed a little longer after blue hour to capture more images. We were only here one night thus wanted to make the most of it. I wanted a centred composition with the reflection but to get it I had to get my feet a bit wet. Well, I tried to avoid it but it was a failed mission. I got the shot I wanted and that’s all that counts.

I have to say I’m blown away by my new camera and lens. It took me a long time to get it but the combination of the Sony a7 III with the Tamron 28-75 mm ƒ/2.8 is just awesome. In regards to this photo, though taken a 30 seconds and ISO 50, the raw file was very dark. Everything behind the shrine and the foreground was in darkness. The dynamic range on the raw file was amazing. I was able to bump up three stops of light noise-free without loosing any sharpness. I’m literally blown away by this camera lens combination and the quality of the images.

28 mm, 30 seconds @ ƒ/11, ISO 50

TORII SUNSET

Miyajima / Itsukushima Island, Japan

We arrived on Itsukushima Island, also known as Miyajima, with enough time to drop our luggage at our hotel and make our way back down to the majestic Torii of Itsukushima Shrine. This gate is humungous ! I’m 180 cm tall which is the high tide level on the torii. It must be at least three stories high. Every time I see these huge architectural feats I wonder how they were accomplished in their era. And how are they able to weather time for so many centuries. Just amazing.

I wanted a clean shot of this torii meaning I didn’t want anyone in the photo. So I took two photos. This one and another a few minutes after. Hoping people wouldn’t stay still longer than that. I used this second image to mask people out of this photo. Taken toward the end of golden hour, I really like the contrast with blue hour coming in. The luminosity on the torii is a warm coloured spotlight located just off frame to the right of the photo. Just perfect with that sunset.

38 mm, 0.8 second @ ƒ/11, ISO 100

KYOTO BLUE HOUR

KYOTO, JAPAN

This is one of my favourite photos from Japan. Blue hour with warm colours for contrast, my friend in action with an icon in the background to show where she is, the blurred background, the lighting… definitely one of my favourite photos of the trip.

If you have read my last post, you’d know we were unable to go up Kyoto Tower because of a bomb scare. The men in black were still in position. So we took photos of the tower from the Kyoto Station side. We were also surprised by a small water, light and music display which is what Géraldine is photographing here. It was quite delightful.

1/80th second @ ƒ/2.8, ISO 1600, 28 mm

KYOTO STATION TOWER

KYOTO, JAPAN

The tallest non steel-frame construction in the world, Kyoto Tower. Abosutely stunning at blue hour. My friend noticed the reflection on the glass facade of Kyoto Station. The contrasting colours, patterns and, of course, the reflection all came together for, what I think, a beautiful photo. Thank you Géraldine.

We, unfortunately, didn’t get the chance to go up the tower. Don’t get me wrong, we wanted to but were stopped by police from doing so. Let me explain. Late that afternoon I wanted to go up just to see the view and the kind of photos I could take later around blue hour. As we arrived at the tower, sirens were blasting and cops were coming from everywhere. We thought they were after someone and kept walking towards the entrance. We were stopped by a policewoman from entering and motioned to step back. So we did and waited in hopes it would end quickly. The policewoman came back to see us and showed a translation on her phone saying “There is a bomb alert. Please move away from this area.”. She didn’t have to tell us twice, we took off. We came back just at the beginning of blue hour, in hopes it was all over. But the police were moved to the other side of the road and replaced by men in black. No kidding. Black suits, black ties, black in-ear communications and black unmarked cars. They were positioned at all entrances. Very impressive, I must say. Still surprised they didn’t evacuate the whole area though hmmm…

Hence the photo from the station side. We took a few photos from here and even saw a small light and water show. I might post a photo of it otherwise you’ll see it in the video of our first day in Japan.

1/80th second @ ƒ/2.8, ISO 800, 75 mm