Long Time No Palace

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

I had to take my macbook into the apple store to get looked at on Tuesday.  I hate being without my laptop computer, but I hate watching my screen flash on and off even more.  The apple store is in Ginza, so I figure since I have been photographing gardens this summer that I would drop by the Imperial Palace that is smack dab in the middle of Tokyo.  It is only a short walk from Ginza.

I was trying to think the last time I went to the Imperial Palace, and it was probably when my parents were in Tokyo about 9 years ago.  There is not much to see there.  Most of the palace is closed off because the Japanese Emperor and his family all still live there.  There are some wide open spaces, and some gates that are open to the public.  I decided as long as I am so close I might as well investigate the areas that are open.

It was pretty much as I had remembered it.  Large spaces with rows of Japanese pine trees.  A huge moat that is filled with olive green water.  The scale of the Palace is amazing.  The large stone covered path crunches underfoot.  The crunching sound I remember from my first visit more than 20 years ago.

The sun was blazing.  In the direct sun I was baking, but as soon as I stepped into the protective shade cast by the willow trees the dry air was refreshing.  Japan is now in a season of flux.  The weather is changeable.  A massive, at least how the media describes it, typhoon is heading towards Tokyo.

It was good to get out and see an place I hadn’t been for many years.  It is a must see in all tour books.  Not much to see, but it is nice to refresh some memories. and stare at some aging trees.

Moat, Wall,Tree, Sky

Weeping Willow at Imperial Palace

The Little Things at Nokogiriyama

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

The fog and mist enveloped just about everything at the abandoned stone quarry, Nokogiriyama.  The fog rolled over the mountain and just drenched all the surfaces.  The stone appeared to soak up the water until it couldn’t anymore then the rocks just shone.  They were glossy and covered with moss, lichens, water, and all sorts of things in between.

The little things all add up to the big picture.  They build and accent each other.  All harmonizing together to become what I experienced in the jungle at Nokogiyama, in the wilds of Chiba prefecture.

Lichens, Nokogiri Yama

Up Through the Stones, Nokogiri Yama

Wild Chestnut, Nokogiri Yama

Nokogiriyama, The Lost Quarry of Chiba Prefecture

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

My friend Tomo and I have a tradition over the last couple years of selecting a location that neither of us have been to before.  After we find the place to visit we load up our camera gear and head out to the location.  This year we chose to go to Nokogiriyama in Chiba Prefecture.  Nokogiriyama literally means sawed cut mountain in Japanese.  It was an active stone quarry from the Edo times up until Show (20th century).  It has now been taken over by a large temple complex and the walls and carved caves are filled with buddhist sculptures.

One TV show described Nokogiriyama as a place that Indiana Jones would visit.  And this I found to be a bit true.  The jungle side of Chiba Prefecture was quickly engulfing the deep cut walls of the quarry, and there were, at times, mysterious stone steps that lead nowhere.

As my friend and I made our way up the hundreds of steps the sounds of the summer and also the autumn cicadas was deafening.  The air was as thick as miso soup, but we were fortunate because the sun was hiding behind the clouds, and therefore the weather wasn’t that bad.  By the time we reached the top of the mountain the fog was just starting to wash over the the stone face.  It was pretty amazing.  I hadn’t really seen any fog since I had left the San Francisco Bay area ten years ago.  Just standing there watching the fog roll up one side of the mountain and then dissipate over the other.

There is a lookout point called “Peering Into Hell” on the top of the mountain.  Not quite sure why they call it hell, because the view is quite amazing.  It was jungle below, with the vertical quarry walls dropping vertically below our feet.

It was a great day to wander around the sprawling complex.  So removed from the hustle of Tokyo life.  I sometimes forget that there is more to life in Japan that the daily grind.  I am thankful for my friend Tomo for driving us out to Nokogiriyama, and for reminding us both of the beautiful intersection between the manmade and the wild jungle.

The Peering Over Hell Overlook, Nokogiri Yama

Cut Wall with Climbing Vine, Nokogiri Yama

Cut Cliff Face, Nokogiri Yama

Sliced Valley with Stairs, Nokogiri Yama

The Summer that Never Happened

Friday, August 26th, 2011

I was fortunate to head out of Tokyo for the day.  We ventured out into the wild countryside of Chiba prefecture.  Chiba sits just next to Tokyo and is peninsula shaped like a dog.  On one side of Chiba is Tokyo bay and the other is the Pacific Ocean.

In the summer time Chiba is one of the close getaways spots to hit the beach and enjoy the surf, sun and sand.  This year I suspect it was bit lacking.  We made it all the way to the bottom of Tateyama Beach to be greeted by no one.  Well there were a hand full of people down on the beach, but nothing like it should have been. The beach should have been swarmed with young people oiled up and playing beach volleyball.  Instead the four volleyball courts stood silently. The beach shops stood completely empty as the owner’s gaze just looked out over the deserted beach.

My friend and I suspect that peoples fear of radiation have kept people from wading out into the water.  Even though the news does not really cover the radiation story, I guess people are worried.  The government says it is safe, but this empty beach says otherwise.

I sincerely hope that the situation improves soon.  I pray for the ground to rest.  I pray that there should be a return to the way things were, but we can never go back.  We must go forward and deal with the situation best as we can.

This was the summer that never happened.

Was There a Summer

Yellow Sand Bud

In Out, Repeat

Back to the Gardens in my Town, Tokyo

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

After a long break from being able to wander the gardens of Tokyo, I am back and happy to indulge my artistic nudges.  I went to a park I have been today called Rikugien Garden.  It was a beautiful park to visit on this summer afternoon.  Large fluffy clouds filled the skies as the cicadas mi mi miiied themselves into an absolute frenzy.

It feels like for most the summer is just about over, however, for me it is just beginning.  I have the freedom to wander and explore places that I have never been, always with camera in hand.  The park was for the most part empty.  I could wander nearly they whole way around the park without seeing another visitor.  Halfway around the pond there was a little chayasan (teashop) where I sat had a cup of macha (thick green tea) and a little sweet in the shape of an umbrella.  I just sat there and my senses just took in the sights and the sounds of the garden.  The little ants that marched single file on the bamboo fencing.  The koi (carp) that came to the surface begging for snacks, and the trace ripples of wind across the surface of the pond.

All in all a gorgeous day to be out in the park.  Soaking up the sunshine, the sounds, and the flavors of urban Tokyo.

Sky Land Pond, Rikugien Garden Tokyo

Bamboo Pond with Leaf, Rikugien Garden Tokyo

Stone Slab Bridge with Turtles, Rikugien Garden Tokyo

Rish Rush Brook, Rikugien Garden Tokyo

Sunflower, New Day, New Direction

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

First I must apologize for my absence over the last three weeks.  I had a project that needed finishing that left little time or energy for artistic pursuits.  Now that it has been finished I can happily return to working on my photographic craft.

Been thinking a lot about sunflowers.  These massive beauties that start off from lovely zebra-esque seeds.  They quickly grow reaching higher and higher for the sun.  They are one of the few flowers on the planet that I often have to look up at to enjoy.  I can not quite illustrate what it is about these yellow beauties that I am so attracted too.  Their size is amazing.  The speed in which they grow and bloom seems unreal.  The fact that the seeds make a tasty treat.

They are the new sunshine in my life.  They represent that energy that can renew the spirit.  That light that can uplift the mind and feed the soul.

A new dawn is coming.

Infinite Sunshine

New Dawn

A Few More Bits from Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Today was a bit of a lovely day.  I didn’t get the chance to go out photographing today, but I did get out on my bicycle for a good hour.

A few more details from the Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden.

Hope you enjoy them.

Grass pon Rock, Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden

Sun In, Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden

Blue Eyes, Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden

Organized Disorder at Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden

Monday, August 1st, 2011

I have been wanting to go back to Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden even since I stumbled upon it about 7 or 8 years ago.  I couldn’t remember the name, or the exact location of the garden.  So, after spending some time online I was able to track down the park and set off to spend an afternoon there.

If you are looking for a traditional Japanese garden, this is not the place for you.  To my eye this garden is neatly kept chaos.  There is no preconceived large scale plan of the park.  The garden is allowed to rest somewhere between wild and kept.

The park supposedly gets its name from the fact that you can see over a 100 varieties of flowers bloom through out the year.  The garden’s history goes back to the 19th century, and was a private garden for a wealthy antique dealer.  It was preserved as a city park in 1939.

It a real wonderful escape for this city dweller.  And its ramshackle beauty attracts my lens and spirt.

I just wandered around the park for a few hours.  Walking over the same little paths and bridges just listening to the birds and insects rise above the street sounds.  A little escape for me between projects.  I hope to get out to the gardens this summer, to begin work on some new series.

Come enjoy this wabi sabi tamed disorder with me.

Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden, Marsh Side

Brook View, Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden

Yellow in a Bowl, Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden

Crooked Pine Tree, Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden

Up the Bamboo at Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden

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