Travel

金閣寺 - The Golden Temple, Kyoto 金閣寺 - The Golden Temple, Kyoto

金閣寺 – Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto

Posted by on Feb 3, 2018 in Japan, Photography, Travel

Kyoto is brimming with temples of all shapes and sizes but one of the visual stand-outs is Kinkaku-ji, also known as The Golden Temple. The official name is Rokuon-ji  (‘ji’ Means temple) but hardly anyone calls it that. ‘Kinkaku-Ji’ translates directly as ‘Golden Temple’ and once you’ve visited it’s easy to see why the name sticks.

It’s a Buddhist Temple situated in fabulous gardens with sculpted paths and traditional gardens. You could easily be stepping back in time as you walk through the grounds and, as is usual for a temple, there’s a great feeling of serenity and peace about the place that gradually seeps into your bones as you stroll around.

There’s a lot of history to the main golden pavilion – it dates from before 1400 and survived intact until it 1950 when it was burnt to the ground by a monk. It was rebuilt (obviously) but the episode shocked Japan and was explored by Yukio Mishima in his novel ‘金閣寺’….. which is usually translated as ‘The Temple of the Golden Pavilion’. (See Note 1 below).

Back to The Temple…..

I got there very late in the day and just managed to squeeze in before the gates closed at 17:00.  I was pushed for time getting there so took a taxi as the temple itself isn’t very close to any of the metro stations. There are good bus connections – but i can recommend taking a taxi there to save energy and stress then simply taking a bus  or metro home  – especially on a hot humid day in summer when you really want to conserve energy in getting to where you want to be.

 

Kinkaku-ji, The Golden Temple

Kinkaku-ji, The Golden Temple

When you arrive and get through the paying gates you’re quickly presented with the Temple in all its glory. It sits to one side of a central lake known as Kyōko-chi (鏡湖池) – or ‘Mirror Lake’.

I figure i wasn’t there at the best time for photography since the view across the lake at this late hour now took in the setting sun and blew the sky out considerably. I guess if i had a tripod i could have used a reduced exposure on one frame to then brush in later. Tripods are not allowed here though…. and these pictures are single exposures with very little post production.

The Temple looks surreal enough as it is without some kind of hideous HDR treatment … and foliage never responds well to high dynamic ranges. In short  the pictures look surreal enough without any processing so here is The Temple and the Grounds in all its single exposure glory.

Kinkakuji - The Golden Temple

Kinkakuji – The Golden Temple

Admission is 400 Yen  (about £2.50 ) which is very reasonable when compared to similar attractions in Europe and especially The UK where the National Trust charges an arm and a leg to visit old country houses just so its directors can fly around in helicopters, take first class trains tickets and eat croissant all day.

Back to Japan….. Getting to the Temple from Kyoto Centre is not rocket science  – From the main Kyoto Rail Station there are plenty of well sign-posted buses that will bring you here. Kyoto is surrounded on all sides by large hills / mountains and Kinkaku-ji Temple grounds and gardens are placed right at the edge of the north west of the city where it borders the mountains.

Metro stations ‘Kitano Hakubai-Cho’, ‘Tojiin’, and  ‘Omuro Ninnaji’ are are all walkable and all on the same line – the Green ‘Keifuku Dentetsu-Kitano’ Line. You can get to one of these stations via metro and either walk or hail a taxi to the Temple. Every taxi driver knows the big sights of Kyoto and will take you to Kinkaku-ji with ease.

In High season though it can get pretty busy as with many of the main attractions the place is popular with every nationality as well as Japanese folk. In particular you can expect to be competing for a view with coach loads of Chinese tourists hell-bent on the perfect selfie with the Temple in the background. My advice is to let the coach party pass and then stroll  around at your own pace in the gap between large tourists parties. After all being part of a massive throng is not conducive to that feeling of Buddhist serenity and peace you are hoping to experience.

金閣寺 - Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple, Kyoto

金閣寺 – Kinkaku-ji

Walking by the side of the lake and up to the rear of the Temple Pavilion you get a closer view. As you can see here the sun is still strong and in the west  and blowing out the sky. It’s also lighting up the temple pretty spectacularly.

From here you walk through winding gravel paths that snake through the temple complex to reveal a variety of statues, steps, and smaller temples.

Buddhist Offerings

Buddhist Offerings

Coins litter the ground here in an offering to Buddha. There are many smaller such statues and a number of different viewpoints that take in the central lake. The paths and gardens are designed in such a way that new sights are offered up at intervals and the gardens reveal themselves to you gradually as you walk through them.

Steps lead the way

Steps lead the way

A Smaller Temple at Kinkaku-ji

A Smaller Temple at Kinkaku-ji

I was there at a late hour so the smaller temples were closed off – usually you can walk around the Temple pictured above and make an offering. In some ways it’s good to be there at closing time because it does calm down as people exit the complex… however it’s at the cost of some areas being shut. For my 400 Yen though the gardens and Main Temple were more than enough value.

White Snake Pagoda

White Snake Pagoda

Turn a corner and at the centre of the tranquility pond (Anmintaku), and framed by foliage, the stone White Snake Pagoda is revealed. It’s a shrine dedicated to ‘Hakuja’, (白蛇) the White Snake who controls the waters of the complex. At the base of the Pagoda there are four Buddhas – each carved into a face of the square – you can just about make them out here.

Gardens at Kinkakuji - The Golden Temple

Gardens at Kinkaku-ji (金閣) – The Golden Temple

gentle steps

Yet more gentle steps

Walking through the shaded woodland is a real treat, especially early morning or late afternoon when the heat of the day has subsided. Cicadas buzz incessantly here and the humidity makes your clothes stick to your body….this is something photographs can never capture. As a rule Japan is best to visit ‘between the extremes of high summer and deep winter, but whatever time of year you choose – it’s just a matter of adapting your timing to fit the weather. In summer, although the temperature really doesn’t drop too far in the night, it’s still cooler in the mornings, and you can get a lot of walking in before things really heat up.

Lantern Stone at Kinkaku-ji

Lantern Stone

The exit of the temple gardens is an obvious place for Taxi drivers to pick up fares… and you can find a taxi at the exit pretty easily. jump in a cab and make your way back to the centre of town. Kyoto is flanked on both sides (East & West) by rivers; Kamo Gawa (鴨川) to the East and  the broader, less channelled,  Katsura Gawa (桂川) to the West.

I find that that Kamo Gawa and its bridges makes for a great reference point and I often ask to be dropped at a bridge from where i can stroll back downtown along the path that follows the banks of the river. On a hot summers eve you can dip your toes in the cooling waters and folks often have barbecues and picnics here. I can’t think of a better (or cheaper) way to end a day in Kyoto than by dangling your feet in the water and watching the world go by.

鴨川

Kamo River, 鴨川 – Kyoto

If the idea of The Golden temple interests you, there’s a live Picture feed here.

 

 

Notes

1 – Mishima was an interesting guy….. a bit of a hangover from a feudal / warrior  way of thinking with some major hang-ups…. but then who’s perfect? He wrote a gazillion books and plays but I can easily recommend ‘The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea’ – it’s as fresh today as it was when first written and knocks the socks off some modern authors. If you think Ian McEwan invented a style – think again because Mishima was there 50 years before him. You may on the other hand find Mishimas masterpice tetralogy ‘Sea of Fertility’  to be heavy going…..

At least Mishima had the good grace to commit Seppuku after he thought he’d written everything he had to say….. instead of bothering us with crap novels and appearing on late night chat shows.

Copenhagen Harbour Copenhagen Harbour Area

Copenhagen, Nyhavn Walkabout

Posted by on Jan 26, 2018 in Europe, Photography, Travel

With only a few hours to kill in the port of Copenhagen i was still able to take in a few of the more obvious ‘picture postcard’ sights and attractions. The mermaid statue of course is on of those ‘must sees’ but it’s surprisingly small and would be easy to stroll straight past but for the hordes of tourists from cruise boats that congregate around her taking endless selfies. If you need to find her – you simply look for a crowd.

I had to get my feet wet by jumping closer and onto some boulders before i could frame -out the tourists for this photo……

copenhagen mermaid statue

The Little Mermai, Copenhagen

After taking your obligatory shot of The Little mermaid in the harbour it’s easy to walk straight to the cafes, shops and tourist centre of copenhagen, best represented by the iconic area of Nyhavn….

Nyhavn

Copenhagen – NYHAVN

Even on a fairly crappy day and with a constant fine drizzle in the air you can enjoy the covered cafes and small shops that line the streets here.

 

Copenhagen Harbour Area – nyhavn

 

Nyhavn Copenhagen

Copenhagen Harbour Area – nyhavn

The pretty coloured houses are what we’re all here to see – but there’s also scope to get your ‘art’ on and photograph smaller sights and oddities. I seem to have some kind of fixation with signs and stickers….. a semiotic fetish. This picture is artistic… you can tell because it’s in Black & White…. if i collect enough of the shots I should open up a Fine Art Gallery and fill it with stuff like this for some sucker to buy.

Of course the real question here is….. who is Reverend Screaming Fingers ?

Copenhagen Harbour Area B&W

Not really the weather for it today … but you can take a very pleasant harbour cruise …. the one below is (strangely enough on this sodden wet day) completely empty.

River cruises Nyhavn Copenhagen

Nyhavn Copenhagen

Moving on ….  who wouldn’t point the camera at a wall with lifejackets stuffed into it…… very colourful… but could do without the building skip in front of it.

Copenhagen art

Copenhagen Nyhavn

A hop skip and a jump from Nyhavn is Frederik’s church (Frederiks kirke). It’s also known as the Marble church and is a pretty prominent part of the skyline and a good reference point for when you’re wandering about. It’s slap in the Frederiksstaden District and pretty much neighbours the Amalienborg (see more on that below).

Frederiks Kirke

Frederiks Kirke

Frederiks Kirke or church

Frederiks Kirke

Another of the sights to tick off your list is Amalienborg.

This is the winter home of the Danish royal family, and features of four symmetrical palace façades facing around an octagonal cobbled courtyard. It’s literally right next door to Frederik’s Church – just due west.

Amalienborg

Amalienborg

Entrances are guarded by some splendid  looking soldiers or guards, dressed in royal blue and sporting the busby style hat. Perfect for that cold winters day. It’s not a look i could pull off though.

Amalienborg guards

Amalienborg Guards

By this stage i had only been walking around for about an hour… but the constant fine drizzle had got through my rain cover and was starting to creep through the seams of my clothes. It wasn’t a cold day either so i felt hot and wet… like a race-horse. Time to go home.

Do not feed the hippies Welcome To Stonehenge

Stonehenge Winter solstice 2016

Posted by on Dec 22, 2016 in Travel, UK Landmarks and Visitor Sights

Why it makes sense to visit Stonehenge at the Solstice

I’m often at the winter and Summer solstice celebrations that take place at Stonehenge in Wiltshire – and I’m not always working; mostly i’m there just for the hell of it because there’s  something quite special about getting up early and going to such a landmark to welcome the dawn.

 

Druids gather to celebrate the solstice

Druids gather to celebrate the solstice

Each year there are two solstice celebrations – one in Summer and one in Winter and as this is the only time each year you’re allowed to touch the hallowed stones, or even get really near them, it can make sense to plan a solstice visit.

Contemplation at Stonehenge

Contemplation at Stonehenge

The solstice attracts a wide variety of folk – from druids witches and warlocks to curious tourists and families. All are welcome and the best thing is that the usual entrance fee to the stones is waived each solstice morning and entry is free.

Witches at large

Witches at large

 

pagan amongst the stones

Pagans take cover

This year there was a lot of organised singing in the centre of the stones from Shakti sings choir.

Inside the stone Circle

Inside the stone Circle

Jigging and Spinning

Jigging and Spinning

One of my fave guys to see – under the rags and colour is an accordion player who spins and plays around the stones.

A chance to touch the stones

A chance to touch the stones

Of course one of the best things about the solstice is the chance to actually touch the stones rather than walk around them via a perimeter path.

Walking amongst the stones

Walking amongst the stones

Entrance is free on solstice days as it’s an act of celebration and worship to many people. Organised parking is £5 but it’s quite possible to park in the nearby village of Larkhill for free and simply walk about a half mile to the stones.

reveller at stonehenge

The sun in winter is low and cool

Moss and lichen on stones

Moss and lichen are clear

 

Moss on monoliths

Moss on the monoliths

The Drove at Stonehenge

The Drove at Stonehenge

One of the main semi-public thoroughfares near the stones is called the drove  – and hard-core devotees can arrive early and park up and overnight for free. There’s no shortage of good humour as this home-made sign makes clear…

The drove leads pretty much from Larkhill village straight to the stones. If you park up in Larkhill simply follow the other revellers down the drove, or listen for the sounds of the drumming for directions …

 

Do not feed the hippies

Welcome To Stonehenge

 

Happy Solstice!

Cretaceous Coastline Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Whale Chine, Isle of Wight

Posted by on Oct 29, 2016 in Photography, Travel, UK Landmarks and Visitor Sights

I was Visiting Chale Bay Farm B&B for a well-known online Travel company (hem hem trip advisor cough cough). It’s a well placed B&B close to St Catherine’s Point and with good prices and smart owners so i can recommend you stay there if you wish to escape the seething elderly hordes and coach parties of shanklin and Sandown… see the note at the end if you want info on accommodation).

As the crow flies the fastest access to the fossil rich cliffs and beaches from here is via the old footpath at Whale Chine. The path is heavily eroded and has been shut for a while now but anyone with a liberal attitude to personal safety can still use it…..

In the picture below you can clearly see Whale Chine with a couple of people on top of the cliff and with the remnants of the old wooden stairs to the right and descending the cleft in the cliff. If you look really closely you’ll see one of the trickier parts of the remaining path way in the form of a ladder descending a sheer part of the rock face.

The descent is worth it as it takes you back in time to the Cretaceous Period – 65 million years ago and just before the mass dinosaur extinction. In other words this is home to T Rex and all those other rather groovy dinosaurs that make great film stars.

Whale Chine Isle of Wight, UK

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

A little closer and the ladder (which is in fact two ladders strapped together) is indicated.

Details of Path at Whale Chine Isle of Wight

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

In the picture below i’ve indicated the pathway with a thin green line. The ladder(s) are secured at the top with a piton driven into the earth/rock at top. The piton is a little wobbly and as the ladders are bound together at centre with old rope the feel of the descent is…… enough to give you a cheap thrill.

Access Path at Whale Chine

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

I made the descent with a camera bag slung over a shoulder and carrying a tripod in one hand. I would not have done this had conditions been wet as the slope is full of loose earth and prone to becoming very muddy. The descent when the slope and cliffs are dry is reasonable for anyone with a head for heights and good footwear…. but it would i think be foolhardy to attempt in wet conditions. There are areas where you need to stand on heavily sloped mud and once you start to slip…. you aren’t going to stop until you reach the bottom.

If that happens you may be leaving the beach via a helicopter and a stretcher.

One more thing….. there’s a rather nasty section after the ladder where you may need to hold onto some rope and swing around on a ledge…… I didn’t photograph this as….. i had my hands rather full at the time. It’s not as bad as it sound though and if you can come down the ladder… you can ‘do’ the rope section.

Whale Chine, Isle Of Wight UK

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Once at the bottom of Whale Chine,  the beach is often deserted simply because  it’s hard to get to. There won’t be any elderly folk or fat people with lardy thighs bad tattoos and mobility scooters…. and at best you will encounter another rambler and the occasional fossil-hunter or photographer.

The atmosphere is serene and all you can hear are the waves hitting shingle; It’s really a little ‘other-worldly’ and truly peaceful.

Cretaceous Coastline Isle Of Wight

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

The Jurassic layer is below sea -level here… with the cretaceous at sea-level and above. This means cliff erosion of the friable materials facing the sea reveals new cretaceous fossils at regular intervals. Large ammonites are regularly found here and at low tide on this coastline dinosaur footprints and casts are very much in evidence. (Although for the footprints I think you really need to be at Compton Beach  – slightly further North West of Whale Chine and the tide needs to be a spring low rather than at Neap levels).

The area here is attractive to fossil hunters primarily because it is harder to get to than other areas and therefore there is less competition for ‘finds’. Good luck with getting that 20lb Ammonite in your back pack and up the ladders though…. you may be better off lugging it up the coast to Compton Beach and taking an easier route back to civilisation.

Cretaceous Coastline Isle Of Wight

My Own Footprints Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

The cliff strata and the beach itself seem rich in Iron – hence the lovely reds and oranges.

Cretaceous Coastline Isle Of Wight

Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Closer to the rock face there are plenty of signs of ancient plantlike, burrowing, and coral or aquatic creatures. There are rocks that seem agglomerated with coral remains (correct me if i’m wrong) and there are many rocks that seems to show ancient tree stumps.

Fossilised tree stumps

Fossilised tree stumps, Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

Fossilised tree stump

Fossilised tree stump, Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

It’s easy to see the sedimentary strata on this side of the isle of Wight and the area at Whale Chine – although harder to get to quickly as you need to walk a long way along the beach from one of the more accessible areas or take the perilous ladder descent it’s well worth a visit simply for the relative isolation and sense of peace. For any geologists or fossil hunters it’s really a splendid place to spend some time – certainly at low tides.

Rock Strata and erosion

Rock Strata and erosion, Whale Chine Isle Of Wight UK 2016. (Photo by Grant Pollard)

As noted above, the closest B&B near here and by far the most reasonable  – (with excellent bang for your buck) – is called Chale Bay Farm B&B. It’s got some scenic views and a good choice of accommodation with excellent parking and easy access to both ends of the Island and many top spots such as St Catherines Lighthouse and the Oratory. The owners are well travelled folk with a real grasp of hospitality and it’s really good alternative to any of the resort hotels in nearby towns.