Few more shots from Nara

Here’s a few more photos from Nara that I liked but did not particularly fit into the narrative of the previous travelogue post.

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Taken at Todaiji Temple during the religious procession. The young chap decided to strike a pose when he noticed I had my camera pointed at him.

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Another shot taken at Yoshikien Garden. Really enjoyed wandering around the garden all to myself.

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Taken at Nara Park. I tried to shoot from various angles to isolate this lone tree from other distractions in the scenery. I finally found a composition that I was happy with by lying the camera on the grass.

Chasing The Sun #05: Raffles Marina

Raffles Marina is located on the western end of Singapore, very close to the second link bridge that connects with Malaysia. In fact, you can see the bridge in the background of today’s photo. It’s a working marina but is open to the public. Photography is allowed as long as you’re not pointing the camera at any of the private boats and yachts that are parked in the marina… which works for me since all I want to shoot is the sunset overlooking this beautiful lighthouse.

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Today’s photo is another slow exposure shot. Notice that the sky is also smooth and silky like the water surface. It was a windy day and the clouds were moving fast enough that a 30 second exposure was enough to capture the motion.

Chasing The Sun #04: Lower Peirce Reservoir

No, that is not a spelling error. The correct spelling is indeed Peirce as it was named in commendation of Robert Peirce, municipal engineer of Singapore from 1901 to 1916 (Source: National Parks website).

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This is another reservoir popular with the shutterbugs for sunset photography. I was shooting low from the water’s edge. I used a slow shutter speed to give the water that silky smooth texture. Sky was a bit on the cloudy side but provided some interesting detail.

A Day Trip to Nara

<Backlog alert: This trip was made back in 2014. Some details and information may be outdated>

Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan established back in the year 710. It houses many significant cultural and historical treasures which are somewhat concentrated in one area making it a perfect day trip destination from Osaka or Kyoto (both places are less than an hour’s train ride away).

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I followed the walking course as recommended by Japan’s tourism board. I did cut a few attractions out though due to insufficient time since I’m naturally a slow traveller due to the distraction of photo taking.

Coming in from Kyoto, I arrived at the Kintetsu-Nara station and headed to the Sarusawa-Ike Pond as planned. It was a beautiful spring day with some fantastic weather for a day out.

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If you look closely you can see the tortoises that are sunbathing on the log.

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Nearby is the Kofukuji Temple. There are many buildings in the temple grounds such as the To-kondo (East Golden Hall) and Five Storied Pagoda.

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Visitors saying a prayer and ringing the bell at the To-kondo.

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This is the Nan’endo (South Octaganal Hall).

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Next stop was the Yoshikien Garden. This is a lovely and peaceful garden. There were not many other visitors when I visited so I had much of the place to myself. Perfect for getting away from the throngs of tourists outside.

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The best part was entrance for foreign visitors is free! (250 yen fee apply for locals).

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Finally, we come to the mother of all attractions in Nara – Todaiji Temple. The main hall, Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) is the largest wooden building in the world. It houses one of the largest bronze statues of Buddha in Japan.

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There seemed to be some grand event in Todaiji when I visited. There was a big procession of monks and the religious into the temple. I never did find out what the event was though.

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Those shoes do not look comfortable. Imagine having to negotiate that steep flight of stairs.

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Police personnel helping with crowd control as the procession of monks and religious exit the temple after the event.

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After the event was over, I went inside the temple. Here’s a closer look of the towering bronze statue of Buddha.

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One of the pillars in the hall has a hole at the bottom. The story goes that if you can pass through the hole you will be granted enlightenment in your next life. The hole is rather small though so it’s mostly children having a go at it but that doesn’t deter some adults from trying… and getting hilariously stuck in the process.

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I passed by the Nigatsu-do (Hall of the Second Month) on the way out of Todaiji. This is a temizuya where worshippers wash their hands and mouth before approaching the building of worship. I really liked the drawing and the dragon fountain head.

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The light was too good not to stop for a few photos!

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Now, we come to Kasuga Taisha, Nara’s most celebrated Shinto shrine. It’s famous for its bronze lanterns which have been donated by worshippers.

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Blooming wisteria flowers found inside the shrine.

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Finally, I ended the day at Nara Park to do some deer watching. Similar to Miyajima in Hiroshima, deer roam freely in Nara as they are considered sacred messengers of the Shinto deities. The deer in Nara have actually learned to bow when asking for food! Even the animals are polite in Japan.

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It was a good day trip to Nara and I would highly recommend you take a day to visit Nara if you are staying in Osaka or Kyoto.

Chasing The Sun #03: MacRitchie Reservoir

Reservoirs make for a surprisingly good location for sunset photography. It’s no different from a lake as the large body of water provides a clear, low horizon to photograph the transition of dusk.

MacRitchie Reservoir is the oldest reservoir in Singapore. It is named after the municipal engineer who oversaw it’s expansion in 1922. Today, the reservoir is open to the public as a nature park.

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The weather was slightly on the cloudy side that day. This was shot after sun down. It was a similar scene to CtS #02 where the color of the sky seem most intense after the sun has set beneath the horizon. I decided to include the couple in my composition to give it a relaxed, romantic atmosphere. They seem too entranced in their own world to care about that weird guy with the camera and tripod. Ah, the joys of love!

My First Anime Pilgrimage!

<Backlog alert: This trip was made back in 2014. Some details and information may be outdated>

Toyosato is a small town located in Shiga prefecture. It’s completely off the tourist trail so most people would not find any reason to visit … unless you are a fan of popular anime series K-ON! K-ON! tells the story of 5 Japanese high school girls who join their school’s Light Music Club – basically they form a band that plays contemporary J-pop music. The animation team based said school on a real existing school, Toyosato Elementary School.IS7A0652Actually, the functioning school has moved to an adjacent new building. You can see the new building through the window in the photo below. This old building was almost demolished if not for local residents who petitioned for it to be preserved as a historical site.IS7A0618Today, it functions as a library and doubles as a shrine for K-ON! fans. Over the years, fans have left various merchandise, instruments and props at the school to decorate and recreate scenes from the anime in real life.IS7A0633This is the recreated club room where the characters spend their after school hours having cake and tea and the occasional band practice.IS7A0621Some of the props and merchandise are displayed in a viewing area next to the gift shop. I’m not sure if these instruments are still in working condition.IS7A0637I visited on a gloomy, rainy day but was greeted by this beautiful evening sky as the sun was setting. All in all, it was an interesting day venturing off the beaten path.IS7A0665

Chasing The Sun #02 – Punggol Beach

Punggol Beach is located on the north-eastern part of Singapore. It’s a well known sunset spot among photographers due to the rocks scattered along the beach which provide an interesting foreground. It’s not the most accessible location though but the excellent views are well worth the trouble.

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This shot was taken after the sun has set beneath the horizon. I find that the colours of the sky are most intense at this time. Using a slow shutter speed, the waves are captured in a smooth, misty effect. I would’ve preferred a more exaggerated misty effect but alas the sea was rather calm that day.

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