Sunday, August 09, 2009


I am feeling a little over-indulgent with my travel of late, with not so much a 'Carbon Footprint', as treading my big, muddy carbon boots across the carpet and into the living room. Indeed, checking my Dopplr record, I have clocked up 3200 kg of CO2 since June. Ouch.

Cute as a button

Anyway, I popped over to Kyoto last weekend to meet up with one my best friends from my university days in Glasgow, Robbie, and his fiancé Imke. They were there at a Neuroscience conference - flying in from Germany - where Robbie was learning about some of the recent developments in the field. It's not exactly brain surgery, as far as I can ascertain.

It's my third trip to Kyoto, but it is not too much of a hardship to return. We focused on eating some good food, a wee little bit of hiking, and checking out some of the areas of the city that I had not been able to check out previously. I have a feeling that you could be there for a month and still not run out of interesting things to see.

Luverly textures and pillars and depth of field

Stairway to heaven


Studying the largest bell in Kyoto. Or Japan. Probably.

Busman's holiday


Obligatory mirror shot

Kyoto from afar - good to get out of the city

Stumbled upon a rather nice little village of thatched houses

Reminds me of my local pub!

Sunshine of my life.

Political posters - Japan style.

Kyoto is famous for its humid and hot summer weather, but we managed to mix in a little light rain, which cooled things down nicely. Still, the drinks vending machines took a pounding, and we had some kind of magnetic attraction to the Starbucks Frappuccinos, that seemed to line the routes of the streets. We did manage to pack in some temple action, interspersed with time spent in the Pachinko and video parlours, and some rather embarrassing results from the photo machines. One for the best man's speech, perhaps.

The drumming game - after two nights of waiting for people to stop using it, we finally had our time!

Girls at play.

Adjusting the artwork

And a present for Nikki in Goettingen - we could not resist opening it, after one last bottle of Shochu.

Cheers Robbie - hope to see you out this way again soon!

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kyoto Family Fun

Kyoto map - one of several we wore out on our trip round in the humidity!

It's been almost a week since I got back from Kyoto. I think Mum & Dad should have finished their amazing hiking expedition through the Japanese Alps, but in the meantime I have sorted out the photos from our trip to Japan's old capital. It was strange in a way to meet them in such an alien place, but at the same time the most natural thing in the world. Where next time, folks? :-)

I have this suspicion that many of the photos I took this time round are exact facsimiles of my previous trip ... but it's nice to know nothing too much changes!

Hi Mum & Dad!

Dad against an orange background

Concrete background against an orange sock foreground

One of the great pleasures of the weekend was of course the food. I think the best meal of the weekend was in Pontocho - the old red light district. Door after door of intimidating, foreboding restaurants and clubs, menus with unrecognisable characters (or indeed no menus at all), and a sense that this place was 'not for us'. How delightful it was then to penetrate the darkness, pop our head round the door, and be welcomed in, to the point of the head chef wanting his photo taken with us as we left? Marvellous.

Ingredients on display - and all through the restaurant too. Very nice idea.

He was tickled pink!

Having been to Kyoto before and seen the major attractions, I fancied getting out north on the train on the second day. Recommendations of Kurama and Kibune from a friend had us hiking up into the hills in the sweaty heat, after a pleasant train ride up into the northern hills. While I didn't get any mountain biking in this weekend I certainly managed to get a sweat up hiking instead.

Quite a narrow platform

Delightful controls ... and an even more delightful train driver that was running up and down the platform in exactly the same way as British train drivers don't.

Letting the world slide by

Goofy masks on sale

Dragons in the forest

Simple folded paper makes for a striking effect

Resting in one of the many small temples punctuating the hot path up the hills - and thankfully they all had little cool springs to splash water on the wrists and face.

Roots Manuva - reminds me of mountain biking in Taiwan

Now I just need to add Dad's photo, and I think we achieve infinite regression!

A well-deserved lunch

Views through the trees on the way back to the train

Is everything in Japan personified? Am I the only one to see faces in everything?

Lost in Translation

Bird on a Wire

After an evening of showing the Pachinko halls and playing drumming games, a quite ice cream perched on a curb seemed just right.

Day two in the city, and we went to check out one or two of the temples that I had not yet seen. The main one was 'The Golden Pavilion', and the name pretty much describes what it is. Mainly though, bus loads of tourists taking gigabytes and gigabytes of the same photos on a very managed tour of the grounds.

Although we didn't know it when we booked, it was one of the major religious festivals of the year, so there was more activity in the temples and shrines than perhaps there usually was.

The Golden Pavilion. Imperial era 'Bling'

Phoenix Rising

Fabric covering the doors of the ceremonies



The major treat of the weekend was the annual 'Gozan' fire festival. Huge depictions of Chinese characters are burnt on the surrounding hills of Kyoto to help guide the spirits up to heaven (I think). It made for a really rather amazing evening, but something that cameras could not really capture, sitting on the roof of the hotel. Here is one of the 'Daimonji' being set up for the evening as we left the Golden pavilion.

Burn baby burn

Inevitable photos of vending machines

Reflecting on things before heading into one of the Zen temples

Mum & Dad!

Pooh Sticks

At the Zen temple - even the slippers are nicely arranged.

Some textures, just to keep Michael and Markus happy

Almost positive I took these photos last time

Scale model of the garden itself

Interesting to see them managing the trees for the amount of light coming through ... everything is under control, even though it looks effortless and natural.

Dad looks pensive

Getting some ideas for our own garden?

I think these banisters were being repaired when I was here last time - picture below ... what have I become?! Discussing banisters?!

Hard at work, a year and a half earlier

Grabbing some dinner (with an English menu, no less!) before heading up to the roof and the fire festival

It was like a Kimono parade - feast for the eyes and camera. I suppose it is like tourists going to Scotland and being fascinated by the Kilts. What seems normal for them (and the Scots) is rather exotic for us.


I did take a big pile of photos of the burning characters in the hills, but they were all small, shaky and rubbish - much better to check the link here for their photos of the Gozan fire festival.

The last day, and Mum goes off to buy a camera

Camera graveyard of junk outside one of the shops ... some classics and almost new stuff in there!

And something for me - buying a knife from a shop that has been making them for 500 years. What a pleasure!

Taking the long route to the station, via the river ...

Checking the time - it's always difficult to say goodbye. Even thinking about it now makes me :-(

Great to see you guys - and looking forward to seeing the photos of your second leg!

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