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kyonoki - 京のキー

Higashiyama twilight

Mike snuck in the back of Kiyomizu to snap a few photos without paying. Sneaky bugger.

31 10 07 - 19:47 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Mike's stroll in the grey

Following and icy photoshoot in the make-over studios, Mike left the disappointed and silently fuming girls to stroll around the eastern hills. As dusk fell, he snapped with abandon, half accosted by groups of high school students out on their annual trips to Kyoto. A cloudy day has made these photos even moodier than they should be, the onset of night transforming the sweatingly stressful crowds thronging the narrow streets into a more magical sight.

31 10 07 - 19:38 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


With most of Lou's pictures looking decidedly pissed off, I thought I would choose this one as it doesn't seem so harsh or bewildered. Perhaps there will be a death threat out on my life now I have posted this...she did warn me.

31 10 07 - 08:47 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Decidedly pissed off mutterings. That was all I could hear as I returned from work, the girls both fuming and unimpressed that their geisha transformation had been less than magical. When I had left them both earlier, supping coffee and nervously waiting for their appointment, I had been under the impression that their money would be well spent in the swank little studio behind the narrow street that winds up to Kiyomizu. Five hours later and the rain was pelting down and both girls were waving their studio photos around in disgust. To be fair I think the pictures themselves are not too bad, and will be something fond to look back on in later years, but it was the experience that seems to have got their hackles up.

31 10 07 - 08:46 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


After an age of Nickie trying to get her smile just right, she finally breaks down and gives us a cheeky little bit of tongue. I like this photo, because it shows that the whole 'geiko' experience was not completely wasted. Funny thing is that she actually doesn't look half bad.

31 10 07 - 08:46 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Koi whirlwind

The waters of Shinsen-en garden, almost a thousand years since the ponds were dug, are murky black. But come a single toss of the wafers sold at a small machine (beside a statue of buddha) and the waters practically froth to life. Hundreds of black koi emerge from the depths, some monstrously large, to fight and squabble over the few morsels of food. The daring leap from the water, while the others slurp away with their pink-lipped mouths, a swirling confusion of slippery scales and flapping tails.

30 10 07 - 22:47 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Autumn bridge

Nickie and Lou pose on the vermillion bridge of Shinsen-en, perfectly complimented by the slowly changing colour of the temple trees and still black waters of the ponds. One thousand years ago the garden sprawled across the southern stretch of the palace, pleasure seekers escaping on boats and wasting away the hours with poetry and drinking. As the city burnt and fell, rose and transformed, the garden diminished but did not vanish. And it remains still, the last bastion of the ancient imperial court. When all other history has been wiped from the city, this most elderly of reminders lingers. The small temple is heaped in mystery, dedicated to a dragon queen who was thought to control the very rain that once threatened the imperial capital. Later it helped give birth to the Gion Matsuri and now pays tribute to the hungry tourists that part with their cash to eat a few morsels of Kyoto cuisine. When the world has moved on, it has not.

30 10 07 - 22:42 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Taking the plunge

Although it was sadly not included upon the new list of the world's seven most wonderful man-made monuments, Kiyomizu Temple is one of the most popular -and rightly so- temples in the whole of Kyoto. To jump off its great veranda is much like taking a leap of faith, and a surprising amount of people survived their tumble before the practise was outlawed. From the clear springs running through its heart, up to the lofty heights of two love stones, the temple remains one of Kyoto's worst kept secrets. Winding lanes pull you up the hill, through startlingly red gates to the city framed by the old doors of the temple. And in its bowels is a strange dark crypt where visitors must feel their way through the black to an illuminated stone with the power of granting wishes. A truly magical temple, swamped by people and as popular now as it was with pilgrims in the not too distant past.

30 10 07 - 08:24 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Buddha for the fallen

Close to Kodai-ji Temple -sat bowed over a sorry looking car-park- sits a great plaster statue of buddha*, cross-legged amongst the foliage on the hillside. It is a rather odd addition to the eastern mountains, conspicuous because of its newness. Well, perhaps not odd. The largest buddha ever to grace Japan once stood not too far from the spot, a giant bronze statue housed in an immense hall, constructed by the most flamboyant of Kyoto's rulers, Hideyoshi Toyotomi. An earthquake put paid to the buddha, but now it has a rather uninspiring twin, forever praying for the souls of those lost in Japan's wars.

30 10 07 - 08:15 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Temple of the pure water


30 10 07 - 08:14 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Geiko street

Lou poses beside one of the more famous tea-houses in the Shirakawa district. As Gion vanishes beneath a tide of concrete, this pretty little street retains an element of the old. The small stream babbles and the brilliant red fencing of the local shrine dazzles, and here in the work-day mundanity it is possible come the dusk to see maiko and geiko hurrying to appointments. Night seems to hide many of Kyoto's scars, if only it would carry away the tangle of electric wires and ugly little apartment blocks and shops.

30 10 07 - 08:00 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Lou's eastern retreat

With the sun barely up, we parked our bikes beside the road leading up to Chion-in and soaked up some of the early morning sights. As the tourists were still in bed, we had the world to ourselves. Well, us and a hundred young elementary school children on a trip...lines of yellow caps. We wandered through the great gate of Chion-in, sauntered through the rather desolate Maruyama Koen (isn't it always out of season?), past rickshaw drivers and idle taxis. Up the cobbled streets, under the gaze of bronze buddhas and stone komainu, through bamboo groves, beside the empty souvenir shops and closed tea houses. As the sun warmed up, slowly the crowds began to make an appearance. We ignored Kodai-ji and stopped briefly to look on the giant melancholy buddha that dominates an empty car-park. Down stairs, up steps, winding forever through narrower and busier spaces, pottery studios and increasing piles of souvenir tack.

And finally we booked the studio for a few hours time, the purpose of the trip. By the time I left them for work, the girls would be well on their way to becoming fake geiko.

30 10 07 - 07:59 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Good luck racoon balls

Tanuki appear often in Japanese folklore as shape-shifters with supernatural powers and mischievous tendencies. In Japanese folklore, the Kitsune (fox) and Tanuki are considered masters of transformation, as is the Tengu, the bird-man goblin of the forest and mountain who is revered as the slayer of vanity and pride. Tanuki statues are found everywhere around Japan, especially outside restaurants and bars, where the Tanuki beckons drinkers and diners to enter (similar to the role played by Maneki Neko, the Beckoning Cat, who stands outside retail establishments). The beckoning Tanuki is most often depicted with a big round tummy, gigantic testicles, a flask of sake, a promissory note, and a straw hat.

30 10 07 - 00:28 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


30 10 07 - 00:28 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


This cricket seem determined to pretend he was dead, thus the great close-up shots. Got to love him.

30 10 07 - 00:27 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Journey down from Fox Mountain


30 10 07 - 00:26 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Casualty of war

Lou spotted a four-legged spider on one of the torii gates. In spite of its unlikely survival, the little beast was still feisty and more than capable. Just goes to show that four legs are better than three, two or indeed one.

30 10 07 - 00:15 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Fushimi-Inari's mountain of gates

So what is Inari? If there are thousands of shrines dedicated to this deity, why so important? Well, Inari (also Oinari) is the Japanese kami (god) of fertility, rice, agriculture, foxes, industry, and worldly success. Inari is represented as male, female, or androgynous, and is sometimes conceived of as a collective of three or five individual kami. Inari is a popular figure in both Shinto and Buddhist beliefs in Japan. Inari's foxes, or kitsune, are pure white and act as her messengers.

29 10 07 - 18:01 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

A gate too far

Fushimi Inari Taisha is without doubt the largest and most impressive Inari shrine in Japan. It was founded in the 8th century by the Hata family and is the head shrine of no less than 30,000 Inari Shrines nationwide. The sanctuary is composed of several buildings, including the Sakura-mon Gate and Go-Honden Shrine, followed by a 4km tunnel made from thousands of red torii gates marching through the woods. The 4km walk through the torii tunnel to the top of the Inari-san hill can be a strenuous one, especially in the heat of summer. That does not discourage some joggers to use the place as a training ground, to the stupefaction of tourists. Two large ponds and several small waterfalls can be found in the maze of torii, depending on which path you decide to follow.

Statues of menacing kitsune (foxes), said to have the magic power to take possession of human spirits, alternate with torii gates. The fox is also however reverred as the god of harvest (rice and cereals), and is often seen carrying a key in his mouth, which is for the rice granary. Foxes are said to love rice balls rolled in fried tofu, which are called for that reason "o-inari-san". They can be purchased in just about any sushi shop.

There is a prevalent superstition about foxes among the Japanese. It is said that they are capable of possessing human beings, making them lose their minds and go wild. There are old stories of men and women who lost themselves to the spirit of the fox, abandoned their lives in the cities, and went out into the wilderness to live just as the foxes do.

29 10 07 - 17:50 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Babes in Toyland

Fashion is completely wasted in Kyoto. Just a hint girls.

29 10 07 - 17:40 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Some of you may remember the scene from Memoirs of a Geisha, when the young Sayuri skitters down a tunnel created by hundreds of torii gates winding up a hillside. It was meant to represent realisation, her rebirth, a tossing away of her old self in acceptance of her new life. Apt indeed. Fushimi Inari Taisha is in fact a series of shrines stretching from the foothills and about Fushimi Mountain, torii gates stretced out like a red ribbon, thousands upon thousands built across the steep paths. Each gate bought by a family or company for posterity or in remembrance.

Lou, Nic and I soaked up the late summer sun and walked the shadowy road that crosses the main grounds and leads the traveller up into a fairyesque land where foxes are also gods and the forest is not as kind as it first seems. Kyoto slowly falls away and you are left with the late buzz of crickets, shreds of spider-webs catching on cheek, hand and sleeve, and the feeling that the world is gone and you are somewhere else. Passing by the unfriendly old inns that could pass as the Woodcutter's cottage in Little Red Riding Hood, deep dank ponds sit in the gloom hiding their secrets. This is not man's world, and that makes it wonderful.

29 10 07 - 17:39 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Louisa cycles in from the UK

Rhod and Lou have a lot in common: a special desire to cycle erratically through Kyoto's backstreets in search of quaint old houses, hunched over old women and small shrines tucked into the shadows of alleyways. Nic and Lou pose for a photo as a little old man in his night shirt looks down, bewildered, from his balcony. Sadly he has been cut out of the shot.

29 10 07 - 17:27 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Only the brave

Grey buttery crab in a cushion of rice, wrapped in seaweed. Ummm, good luck Lou.

29 10 07 - 17:26 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Where troubles melt like lemon-drops

Rainbows are very odd things indeed...almost difficult to believe. As the rain tired itself out, a giant rainbow arched across the grey city. I cannot remember the last time I saw one, perhaps never in Japan. Slowly it vanished, seconds after I had taken this picture. No chance for a pot of gold then.

29 10 07 - 17:24 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Kimono entrance

You wait for one kimono-wearing lady, and five come along at once. Not as common as you might think, autumn brings out the best in fashion as the Japanese do love holding tight to the purse strings. Wear a kimono and you receive a big discount on temple entrance and taxis. It is the government's way of drawing in the tourists by turning back the clock and populating the city streets in brightly coloured garb. I have to admit, it makes a nice difference.

29 10 07 - 17:22 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Paper roar

Tenryu-ji's bemused dragon.

29 10 07 - 17:21 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

In the dragon's den

Many argue Tenryu-ji is the most important Zen temple in Kyoto, and who could disagree in the beautiful spring and autumn months when the garden is transformed into a palette of colour. As the painted dragon smiles upon his domain, hundreds of thousands pass under his gaze each year. We took Louisa under the covered walkways and strolled the paths below Turtle Mountain. In turns a temple, an imperial palace, and a temple again, Tenryu-ji was dedicated to the betrayed Emperor Go-Daigo who haunted the dreams of the shogun's younger brother. How easy is it to imagine a golden dragon curled up around Muso Soseki's pond, sunning himself before winter's long chill.

29 10 07 - 17:17 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Storm Mountain

Not twenty minutes from our house, monkeys roam the wilds of the mountains and storks wade cautiously through the rushing waters of the weirs. Bamboo groves sway back and forth, carpeting the wasteland about the famed temples and poets huts. Mountains sweep up from the calm stretch of the river, a far cry from the noisy rapids a little way upstream. Boaters lazily row out, pleasure seekers of the sort once found here a thousand years ago in their finery and dragon-headed cruisers. Shops crowd the narrow streets, as they always have. Tacky souvenirs may have replaced the more traditional goods, but these buildings have always catered for the weary traveler and throngs of tourists. Now the trees speckle the hills with colour as autumn slowly replaces summer's verdant months. And it is cool, and fine, and so close to our home.

29 10 07 - 17:08 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Holding on for dear life

29 10 07 - 08:27 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


The famed crossing over the River Oi, named after the moon once reflected in the still waters.

29 10 07 - 08:27 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Floating my yenny

Sadly not a euphemism.

29 10 07 - 08:26 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Happy Halloween


29 10 07 - 08:25 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Forests of bamboo

With Lou at a loose end, Nickie being somewhat tied up, we forced her back onto a bicycle (with a lot of oooohing and ahhhing from her bruised rump) and took her to the bamboo forests growing on the slopes around Saga. Where once a golden dragon erupted from the broiling River Oi, snarling and spitting and terrorising the neighbourhood, we walked the twilight paths in amongst the eery swaying of the bamboo. Some say the dragon was real, others believe it to be the dream of Ashikaga Tadayoshi, younger brother to the shogun Takauji. Whatever the truth of the matter, Takauji renamed his newly constructed temple after the dragon, believing that the beast was the angry spirit of the dead Emperor Go-Daigo whom he had betrayed. If you look closely in the hallowed halls, you will see it smiling its menacing smile still.

29 10 07 - 08:23 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Roving Rhod

Rhod in his element...cycling around.

23 10 07 - 06:15 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Sky waves

23 10 07 - 06:14 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Ye olde streets

Rhod's ongoing fascination with the small streets and alleyways of Kyoto seems endless. He stopped dead after finding this particularly old one stuck between the overhang of the street frontage running along Nijo Street, oblivious to the new century. Although you can find them snuck in-between the throroughfares of the city, they are increasingly vanishing. Higashiyama remains their territory, a dying breed.

21 10 07 - 06:18 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Ki on the hills above the city.

21 10 07 - 06:15 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Chicken knees

While not knees exactly, these little fried bits of chicken are tiny balls of cartilage. Strangely good in a fatty, chewy kind of way.

21 10 07 - 01:02 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Red eye at Chikyu-ya

Alone drinking beer by the Kamo all afternoon, Martin later stumbled into Chiku-ya merry on beer and why not? It was great to see him, though Rachel was sorely missed. A nice few hours remembering how things once were and how sadder they are without the Oz factor.

21 10 07 - 00:47 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Great gate

As you approach the Heian-jingu Shrine there is a enormous concrete torii, built in 1929, with the imperial chrysanthemum in gold emblazoned upon the vermillion paint. The gate stands 24 metres tall with a top rail measuring aproximately 33.5 meters long. Impressive much.

21 10 07 - 00:41 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Festival of the Ages

The Jidai Matsuri began in 1895, on the 1100th anniversary of the transference of the capital to Kyoto. The festival features a huge spectacular parade with over 2000 costumed marchers. The procession depicts Japan's history and culture from the Meiji era back through the ages to the Heian period. The parade leaves the Kyoto Imperial Palace at noon and takes about three hours to reach the Heian Shrine.

This year the festival falls on a Monday and as I happily watched the procession with Erina and Kitty last year I will stay at home today. At the Heian-jingu Shrine, beneath the covered walkway, flags and wigs and costumes were carefully laid out for the impending parade.

21 10 07 - 00:40 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Seeing red

Rhod and Grev look around the Heian-jingu Shrine on the eve of the Jidai Matsuri.

21 10 07 - 00:38 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

1 yenny

A 1 yen coin (yenny) floats in a stone basin at Eikan-do. Though not a wishing well, many people have tossed coins into the water for luck. Feeling more like toy coins than the real thing, yennies are annoying and I often see them tossed away on the street and stuck to the pockets of my trousers. Because they are made of aluminium, it is possible to float them on water.

21 10 07 - 00:28 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Turning colours

Woe to anyone visiting Kyoto in the autumn. The population of the city seems to triple and it is hard to get a coffee, a seat on the train, or a small spot of park to yourself. While the native citizens go about their business, tourists flock to the trees in the hope of catching the blaze of colour that flares and dies in the few short weeks of autumn.

Eikan-do is best known for its maple trees and fall foliage (and a magnificent 30-inch high statue known as the 'Turning Amida'). 'It is a stunning work, which has its head turned around towards the back'.

21 10 07 - 00:26 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


From Eikan-do's hillside pagoda it is possible to look down across the sprawl of the city, from the small hill of Mt. Yoshida to the right (with its own pagoda), across to the International Centre on the far left of the scene. In the crisp air of mid-afternoon the cityscape was about as clear as it ever gets. While shorts may soon have to be folded away and sweatshirts aired, for the time being the sun is warm enough for t-shirt cycling.

20 10 07 - 21:33 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The buddha looks back

In the early hours of February 15th 1082, in the freezing cold of morning, the then priest of Eikan-do (the Abbot Eikan 1033-1111), while intoning the Nembutsu, was walking around the statue of Amida (is that not a lot of commas). As dawn broke, Amida came down from his pedestal and began walking away, beckoning to Eikan. Eikan could do nothing but stare, speechless and unable to move. Amida looked back and called to Eikan, urging him on in a soft voice. So moved was he by the whole experience, that Eikan begged Amida to keep that form forever and thus Eikan-do's Amida statue is looking over its shoulder still.

It was Grev's last day in Kyoto, so we took him to see the iconic Amida statue of Eikan-do. Photography is banned in the halls themselves, though I snapped the courtyards, labyrinthine verandas and snaking stairs. The green of the trees has faded and in places tints of yellow and red are beginning to peek through the foliage. Momiji season is fast approaching and the flood of tourists will soon drown the relative peace of Kyoto's backwater temples and secluded parks.

20 10 07 - 21:26 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Things be bloody

Insect is actual size. Well admittedly a little gross, but you will understand why this splash of blood is deservedly paraded and the insect done away with, for the blood is my own and that creature had just been supping on it. With rain forecast and the weather cooling, a mosquito population seem to have invaded. The blood-suckers are speckled black and creamy yellow, and exceptionally hungry. I am not sure whether my memory has slid, but I do not remember getting such very big spots from English mosquitoes.

19 10 07 - 09:31 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Now you see me, now you don't

What with all the rain, it seems that insects are making for the inside of the house when I would much prefer to see them on the outside. This creature lay perfectly camouflaged by the post-box. So well in fact, that I did not notice there were an entire army of the things stuck to the wall.

19 10 07 - 09:26 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Welcome to Japan's Birmingham* ladies and gentleman, not exactly the picture perfect beauty of tourist guides and promotional posters is it.

14 10 07 - 05:49 - kieren - Photostory| three comments - §

Oh little creature in my laundry, what are you?

14 10 07 - 05:47 - kieren - Photostory| three comments - §

The dark tower

14 10 07 - 05:46 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Happy Birthday Mi-chan

30 is coming for you!

14 10 07 - 05:40 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

When is a museum not a museum?

When it's Osamu Tezuka World in Kyoto. Essentially just a TV screen and a gift shop.

14 10 07 - 05:38 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


The rather fancy golden hinges on the folding doors of Daikaku-ji's main hall.

11 10 07 - 05:21 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Once upon a time Emperor Saga decided that close to the marshland and hunting grounds of the countryside, beyond the boundaries of Heian-kyo (Kyoto), he would construct a palatial villa for himself so that he could relax far from the ravages of court and retire in relative peace. In 876, after he had passed away, the villa was handed over to the Buddhists so that it might be transformed into a temple, according to the traditions of the time. Saga Palace was renamed Daikaku-ji and slowly it fell into ruin. Then, in 1307 Emperor Go-Uda became head priest and decided to renovate the whole temple, expanding the buildings and constructing beautiful gardens. Nowadays it retains the feel of a palace, covered walkways linking buildings that sprawl across the grounds and reveal gravel courtyards and rock gardens to the visitor.

The simplicity of the buildings is a little hard to take in after the excesses of other Kyoto's temples, but it is the palatial feel to the place that makes it far more interesting than it otherwise might be.

11 10 07 - 05:19 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Arashiyama's mountainscape at dusk, reflected in Ogawa Pond.

11 10 07 - 05:07 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The moon in the pond

I cycled to Daikaku-ji today because of all the temples in Kyoto, it is one that I cannot find a single photo of in my album. I vaguely remember visiting it with Rhod a few years back, but it seems I did not think to snap any pictures. Beside the temple is the old Ogawa Pond, once part of the grand gardens that sprawled about the Saga Imperial Villa. It was dug and landscaped in the 9th century by Emperor Saga, who sought to recreate a famed Chinese pond. Over time the palace fell into disrepair and the pond was left to slowly rot away, its buildings collapsing and the waters clogging with silt.

At the height of its popularity, nobles would flock to the pond to boat, and to enjoy the cherry blossoms in Spring and the moon reflected in the waters during the autumn months. It is one of the oldest gardens still in existence, and original features such as the Gosha Myojin Shrine (founded by Kobo Daishi), and the Kiku and Tenjin islands (as well as rocks arranged by the artist Koseno Kanaoka) remain untouched. Fujiwara no Kinto composed a poem 'Though the waterfall Ceased its flowing long ago, And its sound is stilled Yet in name it flows, And in fame may yet be heard' in memory of the Nekosonotaki waterfall that has long since vanished.

11 10 07 - 04:14 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


As I leant over the river bank at Kiyotaki, struggling to photograph a yellow and black striped spider, I found it impossible to snap a shot without using the flash. In the dusky light of the valley, I discovered later that the flash had reflected from the spider's eyes, giving it a rather ominous look. A Doctor Who villain if ever there was one.

11 10 07 - 04:08 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Kiyotaki gives its name to both the river and the small settlement that reach down into the upper reaches of the Hozukyo. The stream gushes through the mountains west of Arashiyama, from the famous temples at Takao and hiking trails clinging to the rocky banks below Mount Atago, Kyoto's tallest. Before autumn transforms the trees, Kiyotaki is a ghost town of crumbling inns and deserted streets. Apart from a group of old women guarding the town's only carpark, the silence is almost complete. Down by the deep pools men fish with nets billowing out into the river, a few hikers puff on their way towards Arashiyama, but all else is insect noise and the splashing of the water.

Atago's shrine is far, far above the valley and a mouldering torii gate is the only indication that there is anything special or sacred about the area. To reach the small group of houses by road, it is necessary to walk through a long, dark tunnel that is so old it has but one lane and is only sufficient for small cars. The mountains soar all about, and it is easy to forget the city is so very close. Like all countryside towns on the edge of Kyoto, there is a somewhat melancholy feeling about the place, the 90s economic crash leaving the hotels empty and the residents struggling for a living. And that is why, perhaps, it is so special. Come before the momiji-hunting tourists and you can find that you have the world to yourself.

11 10 07 - 04:03 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The bike paths of Gosho

Where once there was a small town of imperial and noble villas, embassies and bustling streets, there is now only a vast park about the once Kyoto Imperial Palace. When the emperor moved to Tokyo (Edo), so his entourage moved with him and the town was dismantled, leaving a gaping hole in the heart of the city. The bare land was transformed into a public park and now it remains a green oasis for birds and people alike. It is also a handy short-cut across the city if you happen to be on your bike.

07 10 07 - 23:06 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Show me the way to go home

Tom has left us! Nooooooooo.

06 10 07 - 08:15 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Tom appears

Before Tom's departure from these shores, he came to Kyoto for a whirlwind tour under Rhod's charge.

06 10 07 - 08:13 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Rhod is ready for Spiderman. Oh kawaii!

05 10 07 - 20:44 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Bright lights! Bright lights!

Green means cloudy weather tomorrow. The Tempozan Ferris Wheel tells me so.

05 10 07 - 04:07 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Jumping jacks

Moody Bon-Jovied Chinese acrobats, hoops, poles and flags. So much potential and it ended up a little too 80s cabaret. Not that I can do any of their tricks, but it seems that because they were forced onto a tiny strip of carpet outside the almost invisible China Town in San Francisco USJ, all showmanship vanished in an instant.

05 10 07 - 04:06 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Living the dream

So we lived the dream! Tom battled off plastic sharks, my jaw-dropped at the rather gay Monster Rock and Roll Show, Rhod giggled as he hurtled through the air, Mika drove us back through time, Yoko hung out with Spiderman, and the most over-the-top actress in the history of the world entertained us before we were terminated. As we sweated in the shorter weekday lines, time seemed to hurry past too quickly. We lived the dream alright, but there were some quite worrying hints of a darker world beneath the squeaky, child-friendly veneer of USJ: the sexy dancers in the Sesame Street show and a photo opportunity in which Elmo rubbed his butt all over a woman. After a childhood of being tickled by a generation of kids, is it little wonder that the red furry beast has gone off the rails and become a little pervy. A great day out, and it was terribly sad to say goodbye to Tom and the ladies. I may have also accidentally bought another Grover. Well, with all the kinky muppets about, best to free one.

05 10 07 - 04:06 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Grev the owl

Tom, Mika, Yoko, Rhod and I gladly took our seats on the sidewalk in front of the Spiderman attraction in the cool shade. We eagerly awaited the gathering crowds and the start of the first of Grev's shows. USJ staff bustled back and forth, their ridiculous Halloween hats stripping what little authority they might, on regular days, have. Children were called to show off their Halloween costumes, technicians checked the safety wires, and the atmosphere built. The Sorciere Halloween Show is a mixture of acrobatics, aerial tricks and dancing creatures, all gathered about a great metal structure from which an almighty purple and orange spider emerges. Babies wailed and cried as the ungodly band of demons, ravens, spiders, pumpkins and witches paraded onto the stage. And there was Grev, a skin-tight owl costume of energy. All the rest was a blur of blaring music, exploding paper fireworks and gleeful celebration. Frogs bounced through the air, witches flew in and out of hoops and Grev, spun, twisted and leapt on great rubber bands. I could have taken down a couple of the demons who obviously thought they were the sexiest beasts on the planet, but I loved the whole thing.

05 10 07 - 04:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Hollywood dream and dread

My cheeks filled with air, pulling my mouth open and creasing my face like silly-putty. Rhod and I were hurtling down ten storeys, my stomach waiting at the next bend of the rollercoaster. Then I caught my breath, but instead of the scream I had intended, I began to laugh maniacally. Every time I imagined there would be a reprieve, the machine flung us around, pulled us down, threw us up, made sure that there was not one second of respite between the time we had rocketed into the air and until we came to a rest. The newest addition to USJ is a rollercoaster, the track of which twists above the entrance, welcoming guests with squeals of delight that grow and diminish as the people hurtle past at a million miles an hour. Although the whole theme of a 'Hollywood Dream' is more than lame, with fake facades of Max Factor stores and elegant New York (?) shop-fronts, the experience was the terrifying highlight of the day. Forced to remove every single item from our person we were ushered almost instantly into the waiting coaster. And it was then that I decided that I hadn't perhaps thought things through: that hating heights did not bode well for the whole experience. As speakers blared J-Pop into my ears, I clung to Rhod and thought of the agonising climb to the first drop. Only the ascent was incredibly fast, so fast that the scream that was forming never came. We dipped and the rest was.....AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

05 10 07 - 04:05 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


The photo speaks for itself.

02 10 07 - 03:24 - kieren - Photostory| three comments - §

Don't doodle!


02 10 07 - 03:22 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Kitty, blue sky, green grass

Within the precincts of Nijo Castle, hidden behind Ninomaru Garden (originally created by Kobori Enshu, but renovated for Emperor Gomizuno-o in 1626) is the Honmaru -Inner- Palace. Added in 1626 by Tokugawa Iemitsu, he had a five-story castle tower (donjon) constructed at one corner. In 1750 the tower was struck by lightning and burnt to the ground, followed in 1788 by parts of the palace that fell in a city-wide fire. The present buildings were taken from the Katsura Villa in 1847. The foundations of the tower remain and you can climb them to get a good view of the moats and sprawling grounds, with Kyoto's mountains serving as a perfect backdrop.

02 10 07 - 03:19 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

The nightingale floor

I damn well spoke too soon, for the cold has vanished in a startling heat and pure revenge on my hopes of an early autumn. Temperatures soared as I strolled the grounds of Nijo Castle with Erina, Kitty and baby Gil. It is a funny thing to take such an amazingly beautiful building for granted, but I do just that as I cycle past every day on my way to work. The tourists throng here in their thousands and so it always seems wise to give it a wide berth.

The castle is more like a fortified palace, famed for both its nightingale floor and gilded paintings that stretch from ceiling to floor, across walls, doors and cupboards. Nijo-jo acted as the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, though it took a good twenty-three years from 1603-1626 until it was fully completed. By then the third shogun, Iemitsu, was ruling the country and the castle gained many of the structures dismantled at Fushimi-Momoyama Castle.

When Yoshinobu, the fifteenth Tokugawa Shogun, returned sovereignty to the Emperor in 1867, the castle became the property of the Imperial Family. In 1884 it was renamed the Nijo Detatched Palace and in 1939 donated to the city of Kyoto, now under the name of Nijo-jo.

02 10 07 - 02:47 - kieren - Photostory| No comments - §


Rhod and Ki's tour of life in Kyoto, Japan.


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