Temples and palaces

Today marks the first Friday of 2019. I’ve been enjoying a rather peaceful week of rest in Tokyo. 2018 was a busy work year for me. I moved to Tokyo in May and started working for a new company.

This was quite a big change as I switched from freelancing to regular employment, and I switched from UK culture to Japanese work culture.

As a freelancer I was able to take a lot of time off over the years to indulge in amateur and (a little) professional photography.

As a regular employee in Tokyo time has been much more limited.

However I am hopeful for the year ahead. Now that I’ve completed eight months I feel more settled and I should be able to make better use of my free time.

During this weeks holiday I had the chance take some photos and spend some time browsing through my old pictures.

I was reminded of many happy memories, especially during visits to temples and palaces around Asia. I’d like to share some of my favorite spots.

Japan

Up first is a familiar picture from my last blog post. I live quite close to Tokyo tower which is right next to Zojoji temple (増上寺).

http://www.zojoji.or.jp/

Next up is perhaps one of the most well known temple complexes in Tokyo, located in Asakusa you may recognise Sensoji (浅草寺)by the huge lantern in the gate. Just to the west of Sensoji there are a lot of traditional restaurants; it’s a very old fashioned area. And Tokyo Skytree is also nearby.

http://www.senso-ji.jp/

The next three photos are from Nezu. This temple complex is famous for the red Torii and is a favourite spot of mine. It’s a little out of the way so there are way less tourists. It’s also a short walk to Yanaka; another traditional area which is famed for the number of cats. If you ever visit Yanaka keep an eye out for cat ornaments on the rooftops.

http://www.nedujinja.or.jp/

Kyoto

I’ve included some of my favorite pictures from Kyoto below. Kyoto has so many temples. The biggest challenge there is it can get very busy and photography becomes a challenge.

Rather than naming each of these, if you are interested in temples I would suggest having a browse through the complete list on Kyoto’s own travel website – https://kyoto.travel/en

Thailand

Thailand is a beautiful country for a cultural tour, there are so many temples. I think Wat Pho may be the most popular spot in Bangkok, but I enjoyed Wat Arun. The next two shots are taken around the ordination hall rather than the Wat itself.

I spent a couple of weeks walking all around bangkok. I can recommend an excellent book written by a journalist and a true culture / history lover – https://www.tuttlepublishing.com/authors/barrett-kenneth/22-walks-in-bangkok

While on these walks I spotted many small temples and back street areas where I could see locals and monks going about their day to day life.

The follow was taken at an interesting Chinese temple complex in Bangkok

China

From China I’d like to include Jing’an temple (Shanghai). This is a beautiful temple complex and I had a great time walking around here. I also really enjoyed watching people throw coins into the central ornament. I imagine it’s a way to pay respects.

South Korea

Seoul is where we switch from temples to palaces. The royal palaces in Seoul are strikingly beautiful. I recommend at least Gyoengbokgung and Changdeokgung, but time permitting it’s good to visit them all.

Taiwan

An honorouble mention to Taiwan. I’ve only been around Taipei. It’s not the prettiest city; due to a period of history with little building regulation, but it’s improving and most importantly I found the Taiwanese to be among the friendliest of Asian people I’ve met. I spent a bit of time at the temple of Confucius. Not only was it nice to see this temple, it was interesting to learn a lot about Confucius whose teachings I think are still meaningful today.

Hong Kong

I haven’t had a chance to see a lot of temples in Hong Kong, but I normally stay nearby Man Mo and it’s full of beautiful lights. It’s an excellent spot to catch the vibe of locals paying respects.

If you have any favourite temples, palaces, or churches etc. around the world I would be happy if you would share with me.

 

Tokyo Tower

It’s December 1st and it was a lovely sunny warm but fresh 16 degrees in Tokyo. I decided to head out for a walk around Tokyo Tower. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and it was really a beautiful day out.

I started from Hamamatsucho (浜松町) just 15 minutes walk to the East of Tokyo Tower. While Tokyo Tower is a major tourist attraction the surrounding area is to a certain extent  a business district. Due to that I was lucky enough to find a few really nice independent coffee shops that were quite quiet due to it being a Saturday.

I recommend Byron Bay coffee at Hamamatsucho and Towers cafe at Higashiazabu.

A few pictures on the way to the tower follow. I definitely have a soft spot for morning light on glass buildings. And of course my favourite thing ever is day to day street scenes.

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Coming towards Tokyo Tower from the East you can walk through Zojo-ji temple (増上寺). The following photos are taken on the walk up to the temple and in the temple grounds.

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I’m really happy with today’s photos. A few favourites here.

I loved these worn concrete steps leading up to the main temple buildings, so I wanted to capture them strongly in the foreground. Of course I find people the most interesting of things and I thought the elderly gentleman walking down the steps looked good in the frame.

I was also lucky to catch the other elderly gentleman praying in front of the temple entrance and could take a picture w/out disturbing him.

And I think the autumn trees from the small park framing the tower was a nice view.

It’s worth mentioning the delightful little children statues. I will quote directly the nearby placard:

“These are ‘care guardian deities of children’. They are dedicated for the safety growth of children and grandchildren, as well as for the memorial service for still birth or miscarried children.

To protect and keep warm their heads, “red hat” “red apron” and “windmill”, were dedicated to the guardian deity of children image.

After existing Zoji temple grounds you arrive at the base of Tokyo Tower:

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The diagonal shot is the won that I’ve often seen on instagram and facebook. The little squirrel was part of a Christmas display at the base. They also have a little garden featuring if I remember correctly about 80 types of coniferous trees, it would be nice to go back at night and see the lights on those.

I also took the front on shot of the tower with the aim to take a less photographed angle.

Finally i walked around the surrounding areas in the North, West and South directions, one more photo worth sharing from the South side.

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This time of year truly is beautiful in Tokyo. The mild weather, the blue skies. I love it.

24 hour sushi in Akihabara at Isomaru・アキバの磯丸水産の寿司居酒屋

Tokyo is a beautifully colourful place.

I really appreciate good design in life. When people, businesses and local authorities make an effort. A lot of elements come together to make a place enjoyable. The shape of the buildings, the colours, the cleanliness, the ease of getting around.

Life can be busy, it can get tiring commuting around, rushing to work, rushing to meet people. Everything is a better when the places we go feature interesting and beautiful design.

One of my genuine beliefs is it shouldn’t just be about minimising costs and maximising profits, it should be about making the world a better place.

Japan nails this in some aspects of life.

A few years ago on one of my first trips to Japan I took a photo of a man looking into a sushi restaurant in Akihabara while scratching his head.

At that time I hadn’t eaten in Isomaru Fisheries (磯丸水産).

It’s a 24 hour seafood restaurant and bar. The one in the picture is in Akihabara – a famous district for electronics and manga / anime goods.

I went back to Isomaru in January this year to eat a few times. On this trip I decided to take a second picture of the Akihabara branch to show the full view of the store front, it’s a very colourful multi-story building with a cool billboard picture of a fishing boat at the top.

Isn’t it awesome?

They have really well priced Sushi. Not exactly premium quality, but pretty good.

On top of the sushi there are lot’s of cooked dishes including some food you can cook on a grill at your table. One of the recommended dishes is crab meat in a special sauce you can cook on the grill yourself. You can also cook various kinds of fish yourself. I had a pot of muscles.

Zurich – A Hidden Gem

This last Wednesday I had an overnight trip out to Zurich for a business workshop. It was a 4.30 am start, but totally worth it.

The reason I love travel so much is the joy of having a change every day. Even a business trip is an opportunity to meet new people, try local food and if lucky have enough time for a stroll at the end of the day.

The Zurich trip was busy, but I managed to fit in an hour long photo walk around the old town area between eight and nine pm.

I’m in Travel + Leisure Mag (June 17)

Good news!…

I’m in Travel + Leisure June 2017.

A couple of months ago one of their researchers contacted me about Shenzhen photos. Last year I spent a day in Shenzhen’s contemporary art centre; OCT Loft. I really love the ‘former industrial building’ becomes ‘contemporary art centre’ thing.

I think re-purposed industrial buildings hold a certain artistic commentary on life and hence provide an interesting contextual background to contemporary art.

I often enjoy art that makes surprising / interesting / thoughtful statements on life, a big part of which is work.

If you are into this kind of thing I also recommend Moganshan 50 in Shanghai. There is also Tate Modern in London, even if the art on display isn’t great, the former power station is a delight.

If you can find a copy of Travel + Leisure I recommend picking it up, the article on Shenzhen is fascinating, – I wish I had the author’s knowledge before I went.

This inspires me to research my destinations better in future, think like a journalist!

It’s tough to be commercially successful with travel photography – I am so delighted to get into a major magazine!

It’s especially awesome to contribute photographs to an article that focuses on the development of creative and artistic culture in modern China.

Portable Loft, Yangjae Citizens Forest, Seoul and; Fish in The Pool

I found the cutest local cafe in Seoul with the friendliest owners.

It’s called Portable Loft. They also have a craft / design store – Portable Lollipop.

I found their blog; you can see some pictures of Portable Loft and the owners plus their friends / family here http://blog.naver.com/jungurion/220896163629. The Lollipop website http://www.portablelollipop.com/

The cafe and store are located in Yangjae Citizen’s Forest; totally off the tourist route, but not far from Gangnam. About ten different buses from Gangnam pass by the area.

It was a lucky find, I happened to stay in an Airbnb apartment above the cafe for the week.

The owners don’t speak English, but despite that they made me feel super at home. Through pointing and gestures I managed to order their delicious hand drip coffee in the morning. They also have two draught craft beers on tap and a selection of other drinks.

The owners gave me one of their postcards which is based on a hand drawn sketch of the cafe. You will recognise the lady in the postcard and blog pictures by the distinctive hairstyle 🙂

Portable Loft really inspired me. If I were to have my own cafe / shop business this is pretty much the blueprint I’d love to create it based upon. Some of the charming features I loved were:

  • Hand chosen craft beers and hand drip coffee that show care and love for quality
  • Beautiful natural interior decoration – a little bit ‘Scandinavian wood feel’
  • They do have a food menu, but it’s literally one cooker behind the bar, so cute
  • A lot of customers appear to be friends and I saw groups come and enjoy relaxing and talking to the owners
  • The cafe and shop show an interest in art and design and they have built a really interesting collection of products.
  • They are off the beaten path so I think most of their customers are local or may come based on word of mouth etc. no unappreciative tourists!
  • They have a music system in one corner and they have a pile of vinyl and CDs next to it and their selection of music is beautiful. A lot of acoustic and calming sounds.

Talking of music I came across the fish in the pool by Hekuto Pascal album while sitting in Portable Loft. I didn’t know what it was, but realising it was Japanese I snapped a pic of an empty CD cover with Japanese text on it. I later found the album on Spotify:

This is some seriously beautiful music.

I’m slightly embarrassed to say this music actually brought me to tears a few times.

The album is mostly instrumental, but the final track has lyrics and there is something soft, sweet and magical about the melody and vocals. Perhaps there is an undertone of sadness. It’s a songs that makes me feel an appreciation for people and places, but also a sadness for lost opportunities and lost times.

Portable Loft is one of the reasons I love to travel. Forget the tourist checklist, I really appreciate the chance to see a corner of local culture and to meet people that care about art and design and customers.

I recently came across a book called Do / Design: Why Beauty Is The Key To Everything by Alan Moore.

It’s a great little book that takes about good design and why that matters in life. This resonates strongly with me and I think design along with community are two of the most important things that can bring enjoyment to everyday life.

Portable Loft hit’s both of these perfectly.