KyotoScenic


This page houses images taken when I was in between temples in Kyoto.
There are images of the Gion Geisha district at night, including Gion Sakura
at night and several shots of Geisha. There are shots of Kyoto’s huge and
 controversial train station, street scenes, and the beautiful Sakura on the
Philosopher’s Path. All taken at the height of Cherry Blossom season.

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Nozomi700_9735


Nozomi 700-series 9735

A 700-series Nozomi (high-speed) Shinkansen pulling into Kyoto Station.

KyotoStation_9729


Kyoto Station 9729

Kyoto Station opened in 1997, amid a lot of controversy as to whether it was a suitable style for a city over 1200 years old, with an abundance of ancient temples and shrines, historic streets, and scenic views. It replaced the utilitarian concrete station which was built in 1953 to replace the 1914 Renaissance-style station that burned down in 1950.

KyotoStation_9119


Kyoto Station 9119

The new station is a monumental structure with enormous vertical spaces. The 15-story atrium is 60 meters high (50 meters inside) and over 470 meters long. The 11-story tall Grand Staircase (and escalator) leads to the upper levels and hotel. The station serves over 630,000 passengers per day, and is Japan’s second largest terminal.

KyotoStation_9120


Kyoto Station 9120

Only Nagoya Station is larger (Nagoya Station is the world’s largest train station by floor area),
but most of Nagoya Station’s floor space is in the two JR towers that loom over the station and in
the underground concourses. Kyoto Station is one of Japan’s largest buildings, with a shopping mall,
hotel, theaters, a department store, and government facilities under one roof covering 230,000 sq. meters.

KyotoStation_9725


Kyoto Station 9725

Kyoto is one of the least modern cities in Japan, with all of its cultural sites and temples
(some dating back well over a thousand years), and the station’s completion began a wave
of new construction of modern buildings. There are many people who criticize the station for
breaking down the traditional look of old Kyoto. With more than 2000 Shinto Shrines and
14 World Heritage Sites as well as palaces, gardens, and numerous ancient temples,
many people were understandably reluctant to have a modern steel station erected.

Personally, I think it is a very interesting building, but I do understand their point.

Below, you can see some of the more traditional scenes of Old Kyoto.

Kyoto_Street_9597


Kyoto Street 9597

A street scene just before the Yasaka Tower
(pagoda at far left). Looks as if it was trash day...

Kyoto_Street_9616


Kyoto Street 9616

Another street scene, with a bamboo knick-knack
shop and a small local restaurant on the right.

Kyoto_StreetLife_9615


Kyoto Street Life 9615

15 seconds before the shot taken previously... the scene is full of people including a rickshaw runner.
 

Daiunin_Gionkaku_9614


Daiunin Gionkaku 9614
 

The street scenes above were taken while walking in Kyoto between temples. We were walking in a scenic area at the foot of the Higashiyama (eastern mountains), between Ryozen Kannon and Maruyama Park. In this half-mile stretch are a bunch of temples which we passed by (we did go through Kodaiji since it was the most direct line from the Ryozen Kannon to this street, and stopped to see the Chukon-do memorial, which has since been moved to a different temple across Kyoto as Kodaiji needed to expand their parking lot). Along the path there were a few things which were interesting enough for a shot while on our way to the Heian Shrine and Ginkakuji, then to the Philosopher’s Path for sakura viewing.

One of those sights that popped up was the image at left.
 

Gion Tower at Daiunin Temple

Just around the corner at the upper left of the image shown previously, and a couple of blocks further is the Daiunin Gion Tower, just beyond Kodaiji. Built by Kihachiro Okura who established Japan’s first private museum, it is dedicated to Oda Nobunaga (one of the great unifiers of Japan) and his son who were forced to commit seppuku after being betrayed by General Akechi. Nearby is the site of Ishikawa Goemon’s grave, Japan’s “Robin Hood”, who was boiled in oil after a failed assassination attempt on Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1594.
 

A half block before the corner where Daiunin Gionkaku is located, we encountered a monument outside a Kodaiji side gate. The image is shown below right.
 

Memorial to the Goryo Eji Guards

The Shinsengumi were a special police force during the latter Tokugawa Shogunate. It is a tragic story about the period that was detailed in the story “Last Samurai”. After Commodore Perry’s ships entered Yokohama Bay in 1853, a number of events occurred between the factions loyal to the Tokugawa Shogunate and those factions who supported the Emperor. This eventually led to the Meiji Restoration.

The Kodaiji Gesshinin Temple was used as a base for a group of passionate Imperial loyalists for half a year, from June to November, 1867. They were led by Kashitaro Ito, who was born in what is now Ibaraki Prefecture, and excelled in academics and the sword, becoming known as a master of the Kokushin Ittoryu (famous sword style party). He moved from Edo to Kyoto, and joined the Shinsengumi as a military advisor, but later split from them and formed his own group, the Guardians of the Imperial Tomb, as Emperor Komei had recently died (1867). Although it was a rule that nobody could leave the Shinsengumi, it was allowed but they inserted a spy, who reported that Ito was planning an assassination.

On November the 18th, Ito accepted an invitation to come drinking from the leader of the Shinsengumi, and on his way home he was assassinated by Shinsengumi members who were lying in ambush. Seven of his comrades, who came to take his body, were attacked by 40 Shinsengumi members in the Incident at Aburano Koji. Three Goryo Eji were killed and the surviving four members of the Goryo Eji escaped into a nearby Satsuma domain residence and later fought against the Tokugawa Shogunate under Satsuma during the Boshin War (1868-69) which established the Meiji Restoration.

GoryoEji_EmperorKomei_TombGuards_9613


Goryo Eji Emperor Komei Tomb Guards 9613

MaruyamaPark_Sakura_9619


Maruyama Park Sakura 9619

A several hundred year old weeping cherry tree in Maruyama Park at the end of the little walk.
From here, it was on to the Heian Shrine, then Ginkakuji and the Philosopher’s Path for more Sakura.

Ginkakuji_View_9663


Ginkakuji View 9663

The view of Ginkaku (left), the temple buildings, and Kyoto in the distance
from the top of the hill above the chisen-kaiyushiki (strolling gardens).

Yoshimasa’s son Yoshihisa died in battle at the age of 24 in 1489.
Grieving for his son, he had the character Dai created on the hillside
behind the position this photo was taken from. A fire ditch was dug and
at the Bon festival for the dead that year it was filled with pine kindling and lit.
This is the origin of the term “bonfire” and the origin of the custom of lighting the
Dai that still appears on the hill just above Ginkakuji every August 16th to this day.

Ginkakuji_View_9662


Ginkakuji View 9662

Another angle showing the entire temple complex to the right of Ginshadan,
(seen at the bottom left of the image), and the city of Kyoto in the background.
Click this tex link for the Kyoto 1 Temples page with Ginkakuji and Kinkakuji.

PhilosophersPath_9670


Philosopher’s Path 9670

Speaking of the Philosopher’s Path (as we were earlier)...

Between Ginkakuji and Nanzenji, Philosopher’s Path follows a cherry-lined canal, continuing
for 2 kilometers along the base of the Higashiyama (Eastern mountains) above Maruyama Park.
The name derives from Nishida Kitaro, a prominent philosopher, teacher, and the founder of the
Kyoto school of Philosophy, who used to stroll this path while meditating in the early 1900s.

PhilosophersPath_9671


Philosopher’s Path 9671

PhilosophersPath_9677


Philosopher’s Path 9677

PhilosophersPath_9672


Philosopher’s Path 9672

Tetsugaku no Michi (Philosopher's Path)

Philosopher’s Path is also sometimes called Philosopher’s Walk, I suppose because
they want to remind you that there is no danger from traffic other than the occasional stroller.
This is one of the most popular sites in Kyoto for hanami (sakura viewing), as the trees
which are planted regularly along the canal explode into color a few days each year.

PhilosophersPath_Sakura_9691


Philosopher’s Path Sakura 9691

PhilosophersPath_Sakura_9693


Philosopher’s Path Sakura 9693

PhilosophersPath_9675


Philosopher’s Path 9675

An absolutely breathtaking experience. If you ever get to Kyoto in cherry blossom season...

By the way, the canal that the path is parallel to is part of the Lake Biwa Canal, a waterway
that was built during the Meiji period to transport passengers, freight and especially water
from Lake Biwa (Japan’s largest lake) into Kyoto. When the capital was moved from Kyoto
to Tokyo at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, Kyoto lost population and experienced a
 decrease in industrial activity and investment. To address this issue, the governor of Kyoto
Prefecture started a project that was devised to bring water into Kyoto for use in industry,
for the generation of electricity, and for the transportation of passengers and freight.

Kyodai-na_Kagayaki_NioMonDori_9710


Kyodai-na Kagayaki Niomon Dori 9710
“Giant Glitter”

(Kyodai-na Kagayaki literally means enormous radiance)

Kyodai-na Kagayaki, located next to the Biwa canal off Niomon Dori street,
represents a man opening an enormous gate bringing water into Kyoto.

Before the construction of the canal, the only method of getting goods and water from Lake Biwa
was by people and horses. The transportation of massive goods or large quantities of water was
very difficult, and further development of Kyoto required addressing this issue. The plan required
the creation of tunnels through the mountains, 20 kilometers from Otsu to Keage. The first tunnel
in Japan that was excavated from both ends (with shafts running between) was for this project.

When the first hydroelectric power was generated in the US in Aspen (1888), a young engineer
from Japan went to see it. He was appointed to head the project, and he immediately instituted
a plan to add a hydroelectric plant to the project, which was Japan’s first. The project also had
to address a problem with a 35 meter height difference between the canal terminus and the
center of Kyoto. Boats can not traverse the slope, so an inclined railway was built and used
rail-trucks to carry the boats down a 587 meter incline. Overall, this was quite a project,
and it was successful in stimulating the recovery of Kyoto. Later, a water purification
plant was added which allowed the use of the water for people as well as industry.

Kyoto_Riverboat_BiwaCanal_9712


Kyoto Riverboat Biwa Canal 9712

Kyoto_Teapot_Lane_FanShop_9521


Kyoto Teapot Lane Fan Shop 9521

For hundreds of years shops have traded with tourists and
pilgrims on the street leading up to Kiyomizudera temple.

Kyoto_Teapot_Lane_FanShop_9522


Kyoto Teapot Lane Fan Shop 9522

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GIon at Night

Gion is the Geisha District, an area of tea houses and restaurants just across from
Maruyama Park and the Yasaka Shrine. Founded in the 1500s, Kabuki began in Gion.
Theaters, geisha quarters and tea houses are exactly where they were when the Gion district
was first established. The most famous tea house (Ichiriki Ochaya) is 300 years old and has ties
to both the story of the 47 Ronin and the plot against the Tokugawa Shogun that led to the Meiji
Restoration. Ochaya, which are exclusive places of entertainment, are not for drinking tea.

It is really beautiful at night, and attracts lots of people for food, drink and entertainment.

YasakaShrine_Night_9411


Yasaka Shrine Night 9411
(Ro-mon Gate)

At the edge of Maruyama Park, facing the Geisha District of Gion, Kyoto, is the Yasaka Shrine.

Founded in 656, the Yasaka Shrine (also known as the Gion Shrine Gion-sha, or Gion-Jinja)
is one of the most popular and important shrines in Tokyo. It is dedicated to the Shinto Kami
of Medicine (Susano-o no Mikoto), his wife Inadahime no Mikoto and their 8 children. In 869,
thousands prayed to Susano-o for relief from an epidemic. This event led to the Gion Festival.

Maruyama Park is easily accessed from the Gion District through the Yasaka Shrine,
and as it happens to be the height of Cherry Blossom season, and Maruyama Park has
a famous, several hundred year old Cherry tree lit at night, we should go in and see it.

MaruyamaPark_WeepingCherry_9440


Maruyama Park Weeping Cherry 9440

A famous old weeping cherry tree, lit at night
for the appreciative crowd in Maruyama Park.

MaruyamaPark_WeepingCherry_9438


Maruyama Park Weeping Cherry 9438

MaruyamaPark_WeepingCherry_9426


Maruyama Park Weeping Cherry 9426

These were all very difficult handheld shots. The image above left was 1/13 at f/2.8.

Maruyama Park is at the east end of Gion, at the base of the Higashiyama (eastern mountains).
 Opened in 1886, it is the oldest public park in Kyoto. Famous for this weeping cherry tree, it is the
site of several temples and shrines, and the entrance to the southern end of the Philosopher’s Path.

SakamotoRyoma_NakaokaShintaro_Maruyama_9450


Sakamoto Ryoma Nakaoka Shintaro Maruyama 9450

As long as are in Maruyama Park at night, how about a dramatic night
shot of a statue of two of the more famous figures in Japanese history...

Sakamoto Ryoma, a Bakamatsu era (1850s-1860s) pro-Imperial (anti-Shogunate)
loyalist, is shown standing alongside his lesser known compatriot Nakaoka Shintaro.
Nakaoka was a close associate of Sakamoto, and he died as a result of the wounds
he suffered in the Omiya Incident on the night the Mimawarigumi assassinated Ryoma.

(Originally the Shinsengumi were accused... the group from the Goryo Eji Guards monument).

Ryoma became the leader of the movement to overthrow the shogunate during the Bakamatsu period.
Ryoma engineered a bloodless revolution that transformed feudal Japan into a unified nation determined to
modernize. His influence became a danger to the shogunate when he helped unite the Choshu and Satsuma,
two powerful factions who were previously foes, and who were instrumental in the overthrow of the Shogunate.
Because of the danger Ryoma posed, he was an arch enemy of the Shinsengumi. He was assassinated by
the Shinsengumi at the Omiya in 1867 (the Shinsengumi seems to have done a lot of assassinations).

The weak government of the Shogunate had backed down to the foreigners, signing the Treaty of
Kanagawa which opened the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to the Americans and was followed by
other treaties which established extraterritoriality for foreigners and low tariffs for imported goods.
The Japanese hated the unequal treaty system (not unlike that set up with the Native Americans)
and this was a primary cause of the unrest which eventually led to the end of the Shogunate.

Izumo_noOkuni_9339


Izumo no Okuni 9339

Monument to Izumo no Okuni, early Edo-period founder of the Kabuki.

Her father was blacksmith at the Izumo shrine, and she was a Shrine Maiden (miko).
Known for her skill in dance and acting (and her beauty), she was sent to Kyoto to dance
and raise contributions for the shrine.In Kyoto, she became known for her Nembutsu Odori
(a dance to honor Amida Buddha), that by 1600 had become a folk dance (her version was
known for sexual innuendo). She also performed several humorous skits regarding lover’s
trysts in public places and other risque subjects. Her performances drew large crowds.

The name Kabuki derives from 16th c. colloquial kabuku meaning shocking or forward leaning.

In 1603 she gathered up female outcasts and prostitutes in the area and taught them
to act, dance and sing, and formed a troupe. Her all-female group played male and female
roles (Okuni was best known for her roles as a samurai or a Christian Missionary). The styles
she developed became so popular that it began to be imitated (especially by brothels). Okuni’s
style became known as Okuni Kabuki. Her fame spread throughout Japan. She retired in 1610
and disappeared. In 1629, a moralistic outcry caused the shogun to decree that only older
male actors could perform Kabuki... a policy that continues into the modern times.

GionNight_9342


Gion Night 9342

Gion is the Geisha District, an area of tea houses and restaurants just across from
Maruyama Park and the Yasaka Shrine. Founded in the 1500s, Kabuki began in Gion.
Theaters, geisha quarters and tea houses are exactly where they were when the Gion district
was first established. The most famous tea house (Ichiriki Ochaya) is 300 years old and has ties
to both the story of the 47 Ronin and the plot against the Tokugawa Shogun that led to the Meiji
Restoration. Ochaya, which are exclusive places of entertainment, are not for drinking tea.

It is really beautiful at night, and attracts lots of people for food, drink and entertainment.

GionNight_9343


Gion Night 9343

GionNight_9345


Gion Night 9345

This image and the one below are of Ochaya (Geisha Tea Houses)

OchayaEntrance_9336


Ochaya Entrance 9336

The nondescript corridor leading to the entrance
of an Ochaya. The low-key character is intentional.

Ochaya

Ochaya are far different from Chashitsu (tea rooms). Ochaya are entertainment houses where Geisha perform. Geisha entertain with dancing, singing and flirtatious banter. Some, like Ichiriki Ochaya, have been in Kyoto for over 300 years, catering to men of status and power, especially those in powerful business and political positions.

The Ichiriki Ochaya performed a service in one of the famous events in Japanese history, the 47 Ronin of Lord Asano, who was forced to commit seppuku for drawing a sword in Edo Castle and injuring Kira, a court official who had insulted him, leaving the samurai masterless (ronin) and unemployable.

The head ronin (Oishi) visited the Ichiriki Ochaya for over a year, cultivating the reputation of a drunk to throw off the spies of Kira (the court official who had insulted the daimyo and who was worried the ronin would take revenge) until Oishi thought that Kira was off his guard, then the ronin broke into Kira’s house, killed his bodyguard, and offered him the option of seppuku. When he refused, they beheaded him and took his head as an offering to the daimyo’s tomb. They then turned themselves in.

The shogunate officials didn’t know what to do with the ronin. They had followed bushido code by revenging their master, but they had also defied the Shogun’s order not to attempt revenge. The people admired the ronin, and petitioned the Shogun for clemency, so even though he had to sentence the ronin to death, he allowed them to commit seppuku rather than executing them as criminals, and reinstated the daimyo’s lordship allowing his retainers to become employable and returning much of Lord Asano’s property to his heirs. This had been one of the ronin’s primary goals.
 

GionNight_9347


Gion Night 9347

GionNight_9362


Gion Night 9362

The side streets of Gion. You’d think from this shot
and the one following that there are very few people
in Gion at night. Au contraire, my friend. Remember,
it’s cherry blossom season. They are all elsewhere.

GionNight_9361


Gion Night 9361

Gion is all about the night life. The district is really very beautiful at night.
I just had to take a few dramatic street scenes while searching for my primary
 target: I was hunting the wild and elusive Geisha in her native environment.

Geiko_Maiko_RunningLate_9356


Geiko Maiko Running Late 9356

Tracking down the wild Geisha can be very tricky. Stealth is not often required, but
luck can be a big factor. The only time you can catch them is between appointments.
Often, they are in a big hurry, and remember, it’s night. These are very difficult shots to be
taking handheld without flash. The one above was taken while panning with the running
geisha at 1/15 second. Try it sometime, the next time you’re in Kyoto. It’s challenging.

Geisha_9387


Geisha 9387

A stately walk is this geisha’s style.

Geisha_9394


Geisha 9394

On the other hand, the geisha above is in a
big hurry, and looks a bit worried as well. Maybe
she is very late getting to her appointment...

GeikoSumoMaiko_9384


Geiko Sumo Maiko 9384

A sumo, retired geisha and a maiko (apprentice)
stopped and posed for me (that was nice of them).

Geisha_9408


Geisha 9408

This geisha in a beautiful kimono also posed...

Geisha_9409


Geisha 9409

Another one of those tricky long exposures of
a fast moving geisha (this one at 1/20 second).

Geiko_Maiko_9400


Geiko Maiko 9400

The geisha on the right is not wearing a clown nose.
It is just an unfortunate positioning of part of the lantern.

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