This is a Chinese style golden gate, known in Japanese language as karamon (唐門, lit. Chinese-style gate). You can see some of those gates here, including the pictured one, only before its restoration. This particular gate is located at the back end of the Kencho-ji Zen temple complex in Kamakura, and it underwent a complete renovation back in 2011. It looks absolutely amazing, especially when the sun hits it directly. The lavish decorations and all the golden reflective details are simply mind blowing. If you are visiting Kamakura, I highly recommend you stop by the Kencho-ji temple. On my both trips to Kamkura, I spent about four hours on the grounds of this temple, and I would not mind going there once more, and take my camera with me.
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The entrance to the Japnese Zen Buddhism Kencho-ji temple is guarded by a massive gate, known in Japanese as sanmon (山門). Sanmon literally means "mountain gate", though it has also other names. The gates rank from rank one (smallest) to rank five (largest and most impressive). Although the Kencho-ji temple gate is classified as rank one, it is rather large. I will write a separate article about this gate, especially that I took a really interesting photo of the Kencho-ji sanmon.
The picture that you see below, shows a small wooden figurine of a seated meditating monk, placed at the base of the temple gate. The writing in kanji reads 喜捨 (Japanese: kiya), which means "alms giving". It is believed that this statue, when touched by whoever is passing by, will take away all sicknesses and will bless with longevity. I took another close-up photo of this sculpture, in which you can see it in greater detail. It must have been touched millions of times, as the paint is completely gone in some places, and the wood surface is smooth as if it was lacquered.
The Warding off Evil grand festival (厄除大祭) is one of the Japanese Shinto religion ceremonies, which is held in major shinto shrines. It involves prayers, symbolic purifying fire, ritual dance performed by the shrine maidens, and traditional Japanese music. Below photo shows two Shinto priests, who play traditional Japanese instruments - the Japanmese shime daiko drum (締め太鼓), which is a small drum played with sticks called bachi (桴(, and the flute, that looked to me like kagurabue (神楽笛), which is a transverse flute used for Shinto religion ceremonies, mainly for the kagura dance. I gave this photo an antique look. I think it fits the mood perfectly.
The peony garden of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine (鶴岡八幡宮) in Kamakura is located near a large pond, just to the right side of the main entrance to the shrine. The garden itself is quite small, and although its main attraction are the peony flowers, I was drawn to the traditional Japanese buildings and a small Japanese style garden just at the entrance to the park itself. I think it is the simplicity and refined aestetics of the traditional Japanese arrangement and architecture. I find it soothing and relaxing just to look at. It is far less decorative than its Chinese counterrpart, yet, in my opinion, more appealing. Everything has its place, there is neither too much or too little of any of the design components, and they all fit together harmoniously. For the bonsai lovers, if you look closely, there is a bonsai tree to the left of the stone path. I will publish another picture that show it in greater details in my next blog posts.
Although Japan is known for its technology, robotics, anime, minaturalisation, and so on, the old traditions live on, and are not only cultivated by the older generation. I was on my way to one of the Zen temples of Kamakura, and since I hate crowds, I sticked to the narrow abandoned streets where no one goes to, as there are no stores there. But those streets are full of secrets, and events that could be so easily missed.
I was just coming around a corner and I nearly bumped into this fiercely looking riksha driver. I looked up and saw those two girls wearing kimono, and I thought that this is one of those photos I came to Kamkura for. This is my reward for getting up at 3 am on a rainy Sunday morning. I asked them if they would like a picture and they happily agreed. I love this photo so much. The contrast between what is very feminine and delicate, and the masculine warrior-like face expression of the riksha driver is fantastic. Then we have nature as a background and a fragment of an old wooden structure. This is the Japan you want to see when you come here. This is the Japan I hope will not get lost in the rush of every day life that we lead. I am waiting for a mail from the girls to send them the photo. I hope they will like it as much as I do.
This was my second visit to Kamakura this year. Last time I went there, I took my time photographing various places, and one day was simply too short. Today my main focus was the Kenchō-ji temple (建長寺) and the Hachimangu (八幡宮) shrine. Below you can see the interion of Hattō (法堂), the largest wooden temple building in eastern Japan, which is one of the buildings of the Kencho-ji temple complex. Kencho-ji is the oldest Zen training temples in Japan, and it was founded in 13th century. The dragon image is painted on the ceiling of Hattō, which is a Zen lecture hall of Kencho-ji temple. The painting is absolutely amazing, and shows a horned dragon coiled in clouds. If you are visiting Kamakura, I highly recommend you go and see it.
When I went to Yokohama earlier on this year, I spent hours and hours on walking from one place to another, seeking good places and subjbects for my photos. I was enjoying it so much, I had forgotten that I was hungry. It was half past twelve, which translates into the lunch hour in Japan, which is when literally everybody goes out and eat, as if this was written in constitution or something, that one has to eat lunch at noon. Since I hate crowds, and enjoy solitude, I bought my food and brought it outside near the small green square in front of the Minato Mirai. The moment I started to eat, I noticed more and more pigeons around me. You know, the fat little birds who would eat anything from anyone. But when I started to feed them, I noticed two seagulls landed nearby. Now once those two arrived, there was no chance for the other birds to catchy any bits of food. Their agility and reflexes were unreal. I was lucky enough to capture a few nice shots of them, and let me tell you, throwing food while trying to handhold and focus a 200 mm 2.8 lens, mounted on a camera armed with a batteery grip is not easy. Japanese calligraphy reads 自由, and it means "freedom".
We usually associate Japan with technology, modernisation, automation, gadgets, bullet trains, and so on. However, there is a trend in Japan that celebrates the vintage world. If you are out on the streets of Tokyo, or any other city, you will ever so often see those old forgottten cars, passing proudly among their new and more advanced successors. What is more, those vintage cars are often imported vehicles, made by Mercedes, Porche, Rolls Royce, MG, and so on. Below picture is a fragment of the side window of an old Porche 356 Turbo, which was manufactures in early '60s.
Since I arrived in Japan back in 2001, I have been to Yokohama several times now. I absolutely love this town, which, on a side note, is a rather silly name tag if one knows Tokyo well enough. Tokyo has about 100 km in length and 40km in width, and Yokohama is just a part of this huge metropolis. Both cities blend together in a way that when you travel from centrral Tokyo to Yokohama, the only way to tell where one city starts and where the other ends is by the names of the train stations. However, once you get off in Yokohama station, you will feel that it is a very different city indeed. Yokohama has vast streets, it seems to have more relaxed infrastructure and architecture, and it is really spacey.
There are many fascinating places there to photograph, but one has cought my eye in particular. It is known as Osanbashi Pier, and it is a a international terminal for accross-the-sea travellers. Anyways, this pier is a one giant wooden futuristic structure, and it is a fascinating subject to photograph. Below shot was taken right there on that pier. I used the sudden drop off of the wooden deck, to create an illusion of a cliff, and add a bit of mystery.
Ginza is a fascinating place. There is so much going on there, so many things to photograph, it is like a candy shop for any photographer. From the very first day since I came to Japan my attention was always drawn by the amazingly aesthetical store and restaurant fronts. Especially those that are kept in the spirit of Japanese traditions. I find this style very appealing. It is often simple, yet rich in content. Often times, the traditional Japanese displays are stunningly beautiful.
This particular photo shows the entrance to a Japanese grill restaurant. There is a whole variety of those, and they have different names, like yaki tori (lit. grilled chicken), yaki niku (lit. grilled meat), and so on. Although they are mostly of Korean origin, the Japanese are well known from adopting anything and everything to their own needs and taste. It happens with food, writing system, fashion, you name it. It is not always a good thing, from a Western point of view, but sometimes the result of such conversion is quite original and artistically satisfying.