Statues of the disciples of Buddha at Otagi Nembutsuji Temple in Kyoto (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
Torii are traditional Japanese gates usually found at entrances to Shinto shrines. They mark the entrance to a scared space. These gates line the path to Tankidani Fudoin Temple in Kyoto. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
A tokonoma is an alcove in a traditional Japanese-style reception room. It is the most revered space in the room and is a place where artwork is displayed, including hanging scrolls, flower arrangements and incense burners. Here is a tokonoma at Enkoji Temple in Kyoto. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
Ropes called shimenawa and paper streamers called shide are used in Shinto religious ceremonies to indicate a sacred or pure space. Here, they are hanging in the main gate in front of Heian Jingu Shrine in Kyoto. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com).
Summary: Make sure to look for the north arrow (compass rose) every time you look at public map in train stations or out on the street while traveling in Japan. North is not always at the top of the map.
While just about every traveler has a smart phone these days with Google Maps, it can’t do everything. I often find tourists very lost in Kyoto because they are only using Google Maps as their guide, which is not very good for giving geographical context.
In and around train stations and other public places in Japan, there are very useful maps of the local vicinity. These maps can show you things that that you can’t find on with your phone.
But there is a catch: north is often not a the top of the map, as you may be used to in your home country. These public maps are usually oriented to the direction you are looking. For example, if you are looking at the map facing west, then west is a the top of the map. This can be very confusing if you are accustomed north always being a the top of a map.
So, always look for the north arrow every time you look at public map in Japan. This can save you a lot of time and confusion.
Go to Kyoto Photo Shoots and Tours if you are interesting in having professional vacation photos taken while visiting Kyoto, Japan, or if you want be lead on a private photo tour, private walking tour or have private photography lessons.
If you have any other professional photography needs, such as wedding and pre-wedding photos, event, editorial or other commercial photography, please go to my Paul Crouse Photography website.
I also offer online telephone travel consulting calls through Japan Travel Consulting.
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Traditional Japanese wooden sandals called geta on the steps of a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
A Shinto wedding party walks towards the main shrine at Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com).
Pilgrims' talismans hanging from a Buddhist statue at Taninuki Dani Fudoin Temple in Kyoto. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
This is the interior of the hondo building, with an altar and dragon painted on the ceiling, at Nanzenji Temple in Kyoto. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
Bottles of donated Japanese rice wine at Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto. (Photo by Paul Crouse / Kyoto Photo Shoots & Tours)
Nicholas and Jolie of Singapore pose for a photo after Jolie accepted his marriage proposal at Konchi-in Temple in Kyoto. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
Jolie, from Singapore, shows off her engagement ring after accepting a marriage proposal from her fiancé Nicolas at Konchi-in Temple in Kyoto. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoTours.com)
Koi carp at in a pond a Konchi-in Temple in Kyoto. (Photo by Paul Crouse / Kyoto Photo Shoots & Tours)
By Paul Crouse / Kyoto Photo Shoots & Tours
The cherry blossoms are in full bloom right now here in Kyoto, which about a week earlier than average.
I was out on a tour today and the trees are fully in bloom at every location I visited, as well as everywhere I looked out the window as we traveled around town. The cherry blossoms are in the best condition I have seen for years. It doesn't get any better than this.
The weather forecast of the next week is for warm days and cool nights. Hopefully the trees will continue to stay in bloom for a while.
Here are some photos I took today:
Heian Jingu Shrine
Tetsugaku-no-michi (The Philosopher's Path)
By Paul Crouse / Kyoto Photo Shoots & Tours
Kyoto is world famous for beautiful cherry blossoms, known as sakura in Japanese language. It is a very important part of Japanese culture. It heralds the beginning of spring after the cold dark winter.
While the cheery trees are beautiful when in bloom, it can be a challenge to take a unique picture.
Avoid the Crowds
Cherry blossom season is one of the most popular times of the year in Kyoto. That means many locations can get REALLY crowded. But there are lots of less crowded spots, sometimes just around the corner.
Basically, if a location is a the on the top of a Google search, then everyone else has seen the same thing. Take a bit of time to research where you want to go.
I suggest getting up to the locations early in the morning. Sunrise is about 6 am during sakura season. The best shots are while everyone else is eating breakfast.
Have a look at my friend Chris Rowthorn’s Inside Kyoto webpage for avoiding crowds.
Take the Obvious Shot First
One of the first things I learned as a daily newspaper photographer when I was you was to take the obvious photos right away and be done with it.
That way, you’ve got the shot and have gotten the ball rolling. Sometimes the best photos are very first one’s you take because your intuition is usually the first idea the comes to your mind.
Why Are You Taking Photos?
Know why you are taking a photo. What is its purpose? Are you trying to make art? Are you simply documenting your trip to show your friends and family back home? Is this for your social media feed?
Once you know why you are taking a photo, then you know how much energy to put into it. And when to stop.
Take Time To Look
Instead of the “spray and pray” technique of mindlessly taking pictures of everything, take the time to look and to see what is around you.
In our modern, attention deficit world, we have been programmed for instant gratification. Slow down in one location and look around. Look at the details. Look at the broad scope. Look the toddler playing with her parents. Feel the sun on your face and the breeze in your hair. This can be a kind of a meditation
As you slow down, your mind will slow down and you will be notice things that you did not before. Different colors or shapes or textures.
Look for Something Different
“Great postcard” was a sarcastic insult hurled by overworked photo editors when I was a photojournalist. Translation: “Any competent photographer can make the postcard picture. Show me something different.”
For example, cherry trees are often planted in small gardens next to a house or an office building or a school as a small bit of beauty in a concrete jungle. A beautiful cherry tree in middle of an industrial complex might make for an interesting picture
Use the Sakura as a Compositional Element
Sometimes the hint of something is more powerful than the whole thing. Add the element of the flowers as part of the composition.
Put Your Camera Down and Enjoy the Beauty
Remember, you are on vacation. Enjoy it. Unless photography is your profession, you don’t need to lug 20 kg of gear around. You don’t need to rush from place to place.
Keep your photography in it’s proper place.
The sakura symbolize the brevity of our lives. We blossom for a short time in this world but eventually we all drift away like sakura petals in the wind.
Experience the world around you. Look -- really look -- at what might be one of the most beautiful moments you ever have in your life. By obsessing over your photos, you might just miss out on being alive.
It can be fun to take great photos. But often it is better to simply enjoy the beauty of the world right in front of us.
Contact me if you are want someone to take great photos of you and your loved ones while you are visiting Kyoto, or if you want a guide to take you to great photo locations, or someone to help you improve your photos.
Here is the daylight version of the same subtemple at Shinnyodo Temple in Kyoto photographed last night. (Photo by Paul Crouse / Kyoto Photo Journeys.com)
Buddhist statues at a subtemple of Shinnyodo Temple in Kyoto this evening. (Photo by Paul Crouse/ Kyoto Photo Journeys.com)
Cara and Ross at Nanzenji Temple in Kyoto after getting engaged. (Photo by Paul Crouse / KyotoPhotoJourneys.com)