Wednesday, April 30, 2008

day 123 - circle of wood

Not a tree, but woody grass, the bamboo (Jap: take) is found in many forms in Japan and throughout Asia. It is woven through the country's history and mythology as food-source, utensil and versatile building material.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

day 122 - circle of light

Christianity does not have a monopoly on the halo. This is one of the Roku-Jizo (6 Jizo) at the 1400 year-old Zenkoji Temple in Nagano. I especially like the tears.

Monday, April 28, 2008

day 121 - all-rounder

Sacred lotus, Kyoto.

The lotus is both beautiful and practical. Throughout Asia it is interwoven with religion and mythology, its rhizome is rich in vitamins and minerals and is used in traditional medicine and its leaves wrap food.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

day 120 - The Circle

Inspired by this sculpture on the Otemae-dori, I've decided to dedicate the next few weeks to 
The Circle.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

day 119 - Geiko, Kyoto

Maiko-san's back. White powder is mixed with water and brush-painted on, using a stencil.

The Maiko-san and The Matt... Maiko are trainee geisha / geiko.

Poster for the show where we saw the Geiko Arts of dance, singing and shamisen. In Kyoto geisha are known as Geiko-san.

Geiko still turn heads in the Gion district, Kyoto.

Friday, April 25, 2008

day 118 - bamboo, Kyoto

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to Matt & Em as they made their way to Tokyo and back to Adelaide. Lyn & I were pretty sad, but it was great to have them with us for a little while. Meanwhile, we did so much in our day in Kyoto, we still have several days' worth of photos. These are taken at the bamboo forest in Arashiyama where we finished our boat ride. (3rd image courtesy of Matt.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

day 117 - white water Kyoto

Yesterday we took the day off and went to Kyoto with Matt & Em. We left here really early to do the Hozu-gawa river trip. We caught a local train to Kameoka where we boarded a flat-bottomed boat. Very skilled boatmen used long bamboo poles to push us through the wider, deeper sections of the river until we hit the rapids and they used the poles to deflect us from the rocks. A great way to see some white water, mountains, dense forest and canyons the lazy way!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

day 116 - only one nail

Err... Is that before or after treatment?
(River City Mall, Himeji)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

day 115 - confectionary!!

Yes, it's the 25th National Confectionary Exhibition right now, and we just had to go along. There are displays of traditional Japanese sweets and what can only be described as works of art in sugar - including a replica of the Himeji Castle. The crowds and the queues were crazy on the weekend, but the art of the master confectioners had to be seen to be believed!

Monday, April 21, 2008

day 114 - Mt Shosha.

Yesterday we took Matt & Em on a 'pilgrimage' (by local bus, 'ropeway' - cable-car - and walking to see Engyoji. This temple-complex was founded more than a thousand years ago by Shoku, a Buddhist priest, in the middle of a sugi forest. Today its main claim to fame amongst westerners seems to be that it was the set for 'The Last Samurai.'
Photo 1: Sun penetrating the sugi highlights what I believe are Boddhisattva jizo, hundreds of statues of the incarnation of Buddha who protects children and the souls of children who have died. Please correct me if I'm wrong!
Photo 2: Jikido. This is the back of the great wooden hall which was constructed in 1174, left unfinished for hundreds of years, dismantled and finally reconstructed in 1963. It's nestled in a forest of momiji, Japanese Maples. I'd love to see it in autumn...
Photo 3: Dad and two kids ring the giant Bell of Mercy.
Photo 4: Maniden. The huge main building was originally constructed in CE 970, dedicated to Kannon. It was totally destroyed by fire in 1921 and rebuilt by 1932.
Photo 5: Detail of the beads placed in one of the many hands of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy who appears in so many forms throughout Asia, including male and female and having anywhere from 4 to 1000 arms.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

day 113 family reunion

Matt & Em arrived yesterday, so of course we had to take them to the castle, the Ko-koen and the confectionary exhibition, but more about that later. (Matt seen here hugging Em and one of the giant 46m pillars which support the castle!)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

day 112 - location, location, location...

How To Run A Successful Small Business. Tip 7: Always remember that first impressions are everything...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

day 110 - innocence

And now for something completely different  - thought I'd share a few shots of kids.

1. 'Sleeping family', rapid train Osaka - Himeji.

2. 'Holding mummy's hair'.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

day 109 - last hurrah for hanami

Last Saturday we enjoyed illuminated sakura at the Hana-Akari Festival. On Monday night we shared a final hanami picnic dinner with friends in the castle grounds... swirling little flurries of pale pink sakura snow dropped petals in our sushi and sake...

1. Straw-bandaged pine
2. Leaves and eaves
3. The Green Shadow People
4. I'm being followed by a pine shadow...
5. Castle-gate sunset
6. The last hurrah
7. Lights on the moat

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

day 108 - yakuza (or 'you meet the most interesting people at Hanami')

On Sunday we went with friends to picnic  under the sakura. A neighbouring group invited us to join them & after a few sakes this guy told us he was Yakuza (Japanese mafia.) He didn't need much encouragement to get his gear off and show us the amazing tattoos he's had since he was 25 (30 years ago.) His irezumi work was quite intricate and beautiful. This traditional form of Japanese tattooing was done by hand with ink and a bamboo skewer. It can be painful and very slow, sometimes taking years to complete. Full-body irezuma is an advertisement to the world that you're proud Yakuza. In an effort to keep crime out, many gyms and public bath-houses ban even the smallest tattoo. While they're heavily involved in Pachinko (slot machines), drugs and prostitution, the Yakuza are still seen by some as Robin Hood type figures and their history may go back as far as the 17th Century Kabukimono who were outlaws often championed by the poor. Even as recently as the Kobe (Hanshin) Earthquake of 1995, many people say that the local Yamaguchi-gumi responded more quickly than government authorities, effectively providing disaster relief (including the use of their own helicopter!)
(Tattoo- ban image courtesy of Wikipedia.)