Kyoto Diaries – Arashiyama Revisited

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Not a rolling stone in sight.

One thing I’ve definitely found out over the years is that weather is a huge component of photography.  It’s true even if you have the best equipment in the world, but if you’re skating by on the bare minimum, it’s even more of a crucial factor.  Nothing makes cheap cameras look decent like ample natural light, and there’s just no substitute for a sunny day.

Absent that, there’s snow.  I’ve had some of my best-ever travel days in snow (including maybe my best ever), not just because I love it but because snow has a way of making the mundane beautiful and the beautiful unearthly.  I didn’t get much sun in Arashiyama, but I did get snow – unexpectedly, too.  It came in short squalls, where the temperature would plummet 6-7 degrees in a minute or less, the wind would start howling and the air would fill with flakes.  Magical – and then, just like that, it would be over.

I’ve been up to Arashiyama a few times, but I’ve never managed to make it up to the Northwest part of the area, and always wanted to.  It’s filled with historically preserved streets and small, idyllic temples but far enough off the beaten path that it isn’t heavily touristed (which is Arashiyama, overrun with tourists every day, is a major plus).  My main reason for heading up there was to see Gio-ji, a tiny temple with one of the best moss gardens in Japan.  I’ve never been to the most famous – Kokedera – which costs ¥3000 and required written reservations weeks in advance.  For ¥300 and the place almost by myself, it’s hard to imagine Gio-ji could be beat – and it’s a plus that moss looks especially good on overcast, misty days.

This, by the way, Is Nisoin-in – the temple (at the foot of Mt. Ogura) where Fujiwara no Teika is said to have compiled the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu.

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  1. Z

    Indeed, sunlight conditions are a photography basic. Morning sun is drastically different from afternoon.

  2. Yeah – it's very Ghibli somehow…

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