An hour northwest of Kyoto nestled in the valley of the kiyotaki river 清滝川 lies the little hamlet of Takao 高雄, home of three large temples, a small residential community, and a handful of soba restaurants. I visited in late December and was pleasantly surprised when the rain changed to snow as the city bus ascended the winding road into the mountains. Above you see the temple complex of Saimyo-ji 西明寺、with easily one of the most beautiful entry sequences I've ever experienced, especially if you consider it begins with this view of the three rooflines nestled in the forest before it bounds across the river and up a steep escarpment on the far side.
Below are some of the paths that cut through the forest surrounding Kozan-ji 高山寺 down the road, which is magnificent in its own way—with high vaulted forest like gothic canopy and brilliant komorebi 木漏れ日 that pours through. The view from the main hall, or kondo 金堂, is unequaled, and intentionally not pictured. I hope that you may visit and be surprised as I was.
Finally here are some images of the roads and paths and rivers of Takao, not explicitly part of any temple complex: a wall detail of someone's private drive; a view along the road toward Jingo-ji 神護寺, the largest of the three temples in Takao; a bust stop with a proper green roof; a soba restaurant 瓦そば 松右衛門 perched above the kiyotaki river, and finally a view along the footpath from the main road to the river below. During the peak season that little stand would be selling refreshments.
35mm film, December 2017
One of the best parts about jet lag flying west is that you wake up early and there is something magic in the empty streets, as if time had stopped. Above a few people begin their days near the Shinbashi train station 新橋駅; below the narrow streets that hum with human energy late into the night are shuttered and quiet.
Below, the world-famous shopping district of Ginza 銀座, empty on a Sunday morning. Nearby is the notorious Nakagin Capsule tower, 中銀カプセルタワー and also a fun shot of two shinkansen locomotives coupled nose-to-nose at Tokyo Station 東京駅, one stop north.
35mm film, December 2017
Capturing these ancient trunks in the rare winter sun and in the winter of their lives, as it happened, was a gift, especially for all the memories spent among them over summers past. I also enjoy seeing these trees — so famous for their verdance and their champagne shades of pink — stripped to the raw form in black and white. The contrast with the built structures behind is overt and that pleases me, too. For me, the meaning of art suffers with obscurity. I'd much rather find depth in what is simple and direct. I will be chasing that forever.
Japan is a great place to ride motorcycles. It is at the same time compact and wonderfully remote, so you don't have to get far out of a city to find winding mountain roads, and you don't have to prepare for much because there will be signs of civilization another half-tank later.
There were so many beautiful places it was hard to know when it was worth stopping to get out the camera equipment. I was amply rewarded, however, by the rolls I shot at these glassy rice-fields somewhere outside Toyama around 9am. The sky was hazy and it was threatening to get hot; I shot this on HP5 which is what I use to try to reduce contrast. These towns on the sea of Japan side have a different feel than those on the south. They are isolated by those mountains you see, and it was only in the last 30 years that extensive tunnels were bored to connect this part of the country by express toll-road and bullet train to the urban core of Japan (Tokyo - Nagoya - Osaka) on the southern coast of the main island.
I rented this 20 year old Kawasaki ZRX-400 in Osaka for not much more than $300 for the week, pictured here on the "Venus Line," a privately owned mountain-top road east of Matsumoto which accesses a sculpture garden built atop a 2000 meter high plateau. I watched the sun set here, afire among this stand of wild birches, and dropped into Matsumoto well after dark.
These photographs were shot on a warm, rainy evening late in May from a pedestrian bridge near JR Osaka Station. I had lashed an umbrella to my backpack strap which sort of protected the camera from the rain, but as it happens, the one I like best has rain drops on the lens (above). Exposure times were around 30 - 60 seconds, 35mm Kodak Tri-X 400.
The final shot, below, was taken in the main plaza leading up to the entrance to "Osaka Station City," a massive aggregate of structure and infrastructure centered on the JR Osaka train station, flanked by two fourteen story department stores and packed with least one hotel, innumerable restaurants, a gym, convenience store, offices, a movie theater and public space distributed throughout on a variety of rooftop terraces all the way up to the sixteenth floor. Below there are multiple basement floors with access to two subway stations as well as the Hankyu rail line, the Hankyu department store (across the aforementioned pedestrian bridge), and the Gran Front Osaka mall, accessed via another pedestrian bridge on the other side which extends over a plaza that doubles as a temporary event space (pictured below) with an extensive watercourse winding throughout which cascades down a great array of steps in front of a day-lit underground cafe with outdoor seating.
As I was framing the shot below at 11:30 on this rainy weekday evening in the deserted plaza I was approached by a security guard who informed me that I was not allowed to use a tripod. I could understand that tripods were a nuisance in a crowded plaza but it was so dark, so late, so rainy, so nearly empty, and he had to walk so far from wherever he was stationed that I could almost not believe what I was hearing. Luckily, I got the shot. And it was time to catch the train anyway.