Nature

Kyoto – Gion, Maruyama Park, and Kiyomizudera / 京都ー祇園、円山公園、清水寺

Kyoto was once the capital of Japan and arguably the country’s cultural centre. Its countless temples, picturesque landscapes, and elegant character continues to attract visitors from the world over. The photos below were taken in the city’s old district, an iconic park, and a temple which is designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Gion: While Gion is commonly known to tourists as the old part of town with traditional teahouses and restaurants, it was a flourishing entertainment district back in its time. This photo was taken on an alleyway in Gion and shows that the area continues to offer characteristic Japanese performances and shows.

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Lawson Convenience Store (“Lawson“): Lawson is one of Japan’s largest convenience store operators. It prides itself on being innovative and tech savvy – recently adding banking services, child care services, and even cancer screening services to its product mix. It’s iconic logo, a chirpy mix of white, pink, and blue, is often displayed on a large lighted sign at store entrances. Not in Kyoto though – Lawson traded the flashy lights for simple tones of black and white on traditional Japanese paper (wagashi) out of respect for the cultural and historical heritage of Gion and the district’s elegant style.

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Weeping Higan Cherry Tree Prunus pendula (“Weeping Cherry“): The Weeping Cherry is the lone wolf of cherry trees, perhaps due to the sheer space demanded by its expansive root system. Their weeping blossoms and soft curves portray grace and elegance. Miharu Takizakura, an old Weeping Cherry in Fukushima, even came to symbolise hope after the 3/11 tsunami. This photo was taken in Maruyama Park a little too early – if only the tree was in full bloom!

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Koi Cyprinus carpio haematopterus (“Koi“): Koi is a descendent of the common carp and still bears a resemblance to its ancestors, both physical and behavioural; e.g. they both have bottom feeding tendencies, an omnivorous diet, and barbels. This photo was taken at a pond in Maruyama Park – floating feed, popcorn in this case, was used by visitors to lure them to the surface.

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Kiyomizudera: The view from the Kiyiomizudera platform, images of the temple itself, and the surrounding gardens are so captivating that one hardly stops to think about the building’s structure. Three features never cease to amaze: the pillars that support the platform are made of giant Zelkova (Keyaki) trees, not a single nail was used in the construction of Kiyomizudera, and the thick roof is made of strips of Japanese Cypress (Hinoki) bark that are meticulously fixed together by bamboo nails. This photo offers an alternative view of Kiyomizudera, from the bottom.

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Temple trinkets: It is custom to purchase good luck charms from temples. These black faced buddhas were on display at the exit of Tainai Meguri, a dark passage that takes you to…

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Japanese White Birch Betula platyphylla (“Birch“): Birch groves offer the best view when they have a full set of leaves, the green of which contrast splendidly with its white trunk. This photo was taken near Kiyomizudera when the trees were still bare from winter – the color contrast was provided by the ground shrubs instead.

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Oxidised copper tiles: Beautiful yet practical – in addition to its aesthetic appeal, copper tiles are also a sturdy roofing material. They do not rust or corrode, require only minimal maintenance and repainting, and do not break during earthquakes. Old oxidised copper tiles have also found a home in potters’ paint palettes – the government recently sold old tiles from the Imperial Palace to ceramicists who found artistic use for the unique shade of bluish green. This photo was taken during a walk through the gardens adjacent to Kiyomizidera – it’s the roof of a small place of offering near an Inari shrine.

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