Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art – Japan Edition

Taking a break from my travel entries to do another weekly photo challenge entry. Time for some cover worthy pictures!

Was browsing through Japan Guide website yesterday and came across this Kyoto feature. Realised that I had a similar shot of Tenryuji Temple taken during my trip last year – taken from outside the temple where the room acts as a sort of ‘frame’ for the Koyo/Autumn Leaves. After some post-editing using Snapseed to submit this picture for a photo contest a couple month back, the colours looked pretty similar post-editing to the one highlighted in Japan Guide. Also mine was taken on 20th November 2013 …… just a few days apart. Nice co-incidence 🙂

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Another one of my favourite shots, also taken in Kyoto …… when I was leaving Kiyomizudera. Unlike the 1st picture, no filter for this.

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And also my favourite ‘egg-yolk’ sunset shot taken on top of the Tempozan Ferris Wheel in Osaka. Similarly, no filter. Used this as the cover photo for my personal facebook as well 🙂

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And one more …… this time from my 2012 Winter trip. One of my favourites as well of the Tokyo Metropolitian Government Building. Took this as we took the short walk from our hotel (Shinjuku Washington) to the observatory located in this building. The juxtaposition of the winter trees shorn of its leaves contrasted against the building was just perfect ……

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The original photo challenge entry here

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Some Snapseed Magic

Ever since I finished up my last blogging project – which is my 12 day Japan trip last year, have not done much serious blogging, be it reflection entries, daily slice of life, picture/photo entries etc. as I was admittedly in a bad slump in June.

Really miss sitting down, recollecting my thoughts and touching up pictures (and playing around with various effects while editing them) …… so on my way to the gym yesterday afternoon while on the MRT, decided to pick out one photo to ‘play’ around with!

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This was the walk through the famous ‘Bamboo Groves’ during my visit to Arashiyama last year when I was in Kyoto.

Had found the original picture to be a little dull in colour so decided to do some editing via Snapseed. Compiled the edited pictures into collage form.

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1st did some colour & contrast adjustment, before adding on saturation (in order to bring out the green colour) & shadows …. Then added on a tilt shift in the 2nd picture for a ‘blurring’ effect …. Then added on a black-and-white filter for some contrast & difference in perspective!

Japan 2013: Day 7 Kyoto Part 4

DAY 7 (CON’T)

The journey back from Kameoka to Saga Torokko. Due to change of plan, only managed to get a ticket for the free standing cabin right at the end of the train for the return journey.

Despite having no seat, and having to stand for the good part of the 25 min 1 way journey …… being in the free standing cabin actually gave me a way superior view of the autumn foliage and surrounding Hozu River (the very reason why I included this as a must-do in my itinerary) …… and also enjoyed the cold wind blowing into the cabin (the windows are open air unlike the reserved cabins).

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There were also some dressed up characters who went onto the train to take photos with the passengers (and probably sell them later if I’m not wrong) …… not in the mood for that though. So no pictures 😛

Got back to Saga Torokko around 415pm …… and begin my walk down to the Togetsukyo Bridge. Got on to the left side of the bridge (the plan was to head north on the left side …… then make a round turn back on the opposite sidewalk).

Still pretty bright (around 435pm) although the sun should be starting to set by now …… The bridge is right across the huge Hozu River (what I saw earlier on the Sagano Scenic Rail was only part of the river). Nice expansive views while watching the sun gradually set ……

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At the other side of the river after crossing the bridge. It is a park that looks out to the river. Saw a few street food stores set up randomly in the park area ……

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Started taking pictures of the long bridge, exploring various angles and shots, as well as the river below the bridge ……

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Then crossed over to the other side of the bridge. Saw more clearly the bulk of the autumn leaves on the mountains behind the bridge.

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More close-up views of the shops across the other end of the bridge, the bridge and the river ……

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Originally slated in the sample itinerary was a visit to Monkey Park Iwatayama. Given its closing time at 1700 Hrs + not exactly that interested to visit (let alone even walk another 15 min there) …… skipped it and headed on the bridge walking back to where I came from.

More photo taking on the walk back. Saw some old style fishing boats on the moutain side of the river. A pity that my digital camera zoom could only go as far as it could ……

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It was already 5.05pm when I finished my walk up and down the bridge. Sunset!

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Left the bridge and walked back to the shops further down for a much needed toilet break cum coffee/snack break. Went in to explore this particular building with loads of food stalls (very much like a food stall concept). Did not manage to find any nice Japanese cafe in the vicinity (there was a Trully’s located in the building though) …… so ended up with a Koayu crepe from one of the stalls instead. It is a Japanese style pancake wrapped with a filling. Chose cappuccino flavour …… the piping hot pancake was great comfort food with the slightly chilly weather (even with my down jacket on).

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Explored further into the building and realised that the very building itself is actually the Keifuku Arashiyama Station – where another private railway line Keifuku Railways run here. It is also known as the Randen – as the Arashiyama line is tram based. Did spot the ‘Kimono Forest’ at the platform but didn’t take any pictures.

Thinking about it now, as I am blogging this, I could have just taken the Randen tram back to Omiya (20 min journey), and from Omiya change either the Hankyu rail or bus back to Shijo (faster route overall) ……. as versus to taking the JR Sagano line back to Kyoto as I did eventually. There are probably lots more stuff to see and do in Arashiyama, and would have loved to enjoy a tea break/dinner at one of the restaurants alongside the river (e.g. Yoshimura) but since my plan was good for 1/2 day at best, left Arashiyama and headed back to Kyoto Station area as the sky begins to darken rapidly.

Japan 2013: Day 7 Kyoto Part 3

DAY 7 (CON’T)

As per recommended itinerary, walked out on Tenryuji and onto a bamboo-lined path. This is none other the famous Bamboo Groves walking path.

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As per the itinerary guide, the path starts in the direction towards Okochi Sanso (a conservation villa that I did not include in my itinerary, but heard glowing reviews about).

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A pretty nice and cooling walk amongst the bamboo groves, despite the crowd. The still-ness of the air gives one the feeling of being in 竹林深处 (Wang Lee Hom has a song of the same title). Believe the walk is quite a long one, but somehow didn’t really explore the path full distance as I walked back to where I came from again ……

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Decided that I would head back out to the main road (leading to the JR Station) so that I could grab some much-needed lunch (its already 130pm) and then continue on to the Togetsukyo Bridge along the riverbanks. Simply followed the crowd until it lead out to a main road lined with restaurants. After glancing through one or two restaurants along the street, settled on this restaurant – the first one I chanced upon right on the main street!

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This turned out to be the Udon O’zuru restaurant that I had marked down in my travel notebook from the gurunavi website in the morning. Perfect luck in finally locating one of the places I earmarked to eat at after the disaster that was Pontocho the night before 😛

O’zuru is a basic no-frills restaurant that specialize in udon noodles. The english menu was definitely a plus!

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Chose the tempura set with udon (served warm) that comes with a bowl of rice (with chicken and vegetables) since I was really hungry + you get more things with a set for just 500 JPY more as compared to ordering just ala-carte udon alone. Chose tempura instead the duck soba as I have yet to have any tempura in my 7 days in Japan so far ……

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Very delicious meal as I was hungry. The udon was really soft, and felt smooth when eaten. While the soup actually tasted flavourful as well …… Furthermore for the 1780 JPY that I paid for this meal (one of my more expensive lunches so far in the trip), the portions (udon noodles), tempura and even the rice (bigger portion that the pictures indicate) are pretty decent. Thinking of it now, I would have loved to try the duck soba instead as it seemed to be a local Kyoto speciality less commonly found (as I couldn’t find it back in Tokyo later on) …… but ultimately the temptation of piping hot fried tempura on a cool day won out! It doesn’t take away the fact though that it was a very satisfying and filling lunch!

It was already 230pm when I’m done with lunch. As Tongetsukyo Bridge (next on the itinerary) seemed quite a distance away (based on the road signs that I saw) …… decided that I should head back to Torokko Saga Station (start point of the Sagano Scenic Railway) which is just right beside JR Saga-Arashiyama Station where I originally came from.

Before that, more street views of Arashiyama. Spotted a tofu and beef restaurant right opposite O’zuru. Seems like Kyoto is well known for its tofu. Once again, am blessed with a clear blue sky and bright day in Arashiyama ……

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After passing by the building with the wood suface called Black Paint (note: it is actually a beauty place known for its charcoal masks, apt business name indeed :P) …… discovered a sign at the corner of the building which indicates I’m just 300m to 400m away to Saga Torokko. I’m way nearer then it seems. Yahoo!

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Went on the corner pathway with the crowd which brought me back to the station. Reached at around 2.48pm, and have some time before my scheduled ride at 3.07pm (tickets reserved the day before at JR West office at Kyoto Station). Mid to late November is the peak tourist season in Kyoto (due to autumn foliage). Thus apart from the railway being open on Wednesdays (usually closed on Wednesdays for off-peak seasons) …… one is also strongly advised to reserve tickets a few days ahead, or else you will end up squeezing in the free standing area. As you can see, the last train at 5.07pm only has free standing seats left.

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Nothing much to see at look at the train station itself, so got into the quene leading to the waiting platform for the train to get ready for the next item of my agenda – the Sagano Scenic Railway!

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Decided before heading to the platform to purchase a return ticket from the end point of the ride (Kameoka) back to Saga Torokko. The original plan was to take a 5 min walk from Kameoka to JR Umahori station (that would have saved me 600 JPY one way) …… but since I will be heading to the Tongetsukyo Bridge after the Scenic Railway ride (less rush as I would have more time to enjoy the sights around the bridge), decided that spending 600 JPY on the return journey back to Saga Torokko would be a more sensible choice than trying to save 600 JPY by changing JR train back to Saga-Arashiyama …… as either way, it is still a 15 min walk to the bridge!

Off we go on the railway!

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Some background information on the Sagano Scenic Railway as extracted from Japan Guide. This is one of the must-do items during autumn season in Arashiyama.

The Sagano Scenic Railway (嵯峨野観光鉄道, also known as the Sagano Romantic Train or Sagano Torokko) is a sightseeing train line that runs along the Hozugawa River between Arashiyama and Kameoka. Its charming, old fashioned trains wind their way through the mountains at a relatively slow pace, taking about 25 minutes to make the seven kilometer journey and giving passengers a pleasant view of the scenery as they travel from Arashiyama through the forested ravine and into rural Kameoka.

Originally part of the JR Sanin Line before it was replaced by a faster, straighter route in 1989, the scenic railway route was preserved and outfitted with nostalgic trains featuring wooden benches. The views along the line change with the seasons, and the train is particularly popular during the autumn color season from mid November to early December when the leaves along the ravine change color. Trains do not operate in winter from December 31 to the end of February.

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Struggled to get some good shots on the train (despite having a window seat) as the moving train meant that I had to constantly adjust the ISO and shutter speed in order to get more stable images. However did manage to get a shot of a group of people who actually stopped and waved to us when the train passed them doing the Hozugawa River Cruise. Really spontaneous and sporting of them!

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Took more of the river stream (Hozu River) close up admist the rocks and emerald green water while I still struggle to get a good camera setting to do justice to the beautiful autumn leaves along the rail way ……

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Reached the end terminus Kameoka …… and the last minute change of plan to purchase the return ticket back to Saga Torokko turned out to be a godsend! Surrounding Kameoka was mainly farming plots. How on earth I am going to figure out how to get to JR Kameoka station from the terminus stop. Guess the simpler and more convenient alternative would be to just spend the 600 JPY extra on the return train, which was whatI did 🙂

Japan 2013: Day 7 Kyoto Part 2

DAY 7 (CON’T)

Having the JR Pass meant that I was able to take the JR Sagano Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station (6 stops from Kyoto Station) without having to buy addtional subway and bus passes. Being the peak season, plus Arashiyama being a popular autumn foliage spot, the trains were all packed to the brim.

Reached Saga-Arashiyama around noon. Once again, same as what I did the day before, decided to follow the itinerary set out in Japan Guide for Arashiyama. So the first place on the agenda was Tenryuji Temple. Unlike what the maps indicate, Tenryuji was not so easy to find. Had to walk into a Lawson’s to ask for clearer directions before finally reaching Tenryuji around 1230 Hrs.

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Beautiful autumn leaves along the long walk to the temple’s main buildings ……

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Fallng maple leaves (close-up) along the way ……

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There’s a Zen Vegetarian restaurant located on the temple grounds. Also spotted the main hall being barricaded (under renovations till year 2014). Tenryuji is also registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and part of the Historical Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.

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Not able to go into this buildng but spotted a photo taking opportunity when I saw 1 or 2 photographers taking photos of the autumn view through the door/window – which serves as a frame for the photo itself. (Note: Edited the original by doing some cropping and colour saturation via snapseed to bring out the colours) ……

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Right in the middle of the temple buildings is a garden with a beautiful pond. The landscape garden has gorgeous autumn colours!

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The Zen Vegetarian restaurant with its entrance adorned by autumn leaves ……

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Venturing off to a footpath on the hilly side of the temple (as the temple is surrounded by the Arashiyama mountains) ……

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One small little tibit about the above collage. There was a woman who put her son (in stroller) at a spot while she went down to below the footpath to take a picture of him. Luckily Japan is a pretty safe country.

Colourful autumn leaves admist the bamboo trees on the Arashiyama mountains ……

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Juxtaposition ……

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Guan Yin Statue and wishing well ……

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Finally back one round to the other end of the pond ……

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Am grateful that it was a bright and clear day, and yet cooling …… which made the walk around Tenryuji a pleasant one (despite the crowds) ……