Slideshow shadow
by Akiko

Kyoto, Japan – Surrounded by Kirishima Azaleas at Umenomiya Taisha Shrine

May 8, 2014 in azaleas, garden and architecture, Japan, Kyoto, Shrine, water garden by Akiko


A Zigzag Stone Bridge with Full Blooming Kirishima Azaleas at Umenomiya taisha Shrine: the photo was listed on ‘Explore’ on flickr

Initially I visited Umenomiya taisha Shrine to admire kirishima azaleas but instead what I saw was a heavenly pond garden! After visiting Jonan-gu Shrine, Umenomiya taisha is the next garden I visited for kirishima azaleas this Spring.

When I arrived at Umenomiya taisha, I noticed that the place was entirely quiet. The shrine is certainly a deep historic place but is perhaps less known and that means less people. It is certainly the best place for fully enjoying photography!


A Hat Decorated by Framing Red Azaleas over the Wooden Bridge

Having little or large islands on a pond is one of the prominent features which invokes an essence of the 10th century Heian court culture. Heian-jingu Shrine’s garden, Shinen, holds a spectacular view of a water garden and where little decorative islands attracts the eyes of visitors. In Umenomiya taisha’s pond garden, Shinen, large islands are bridged by stones.

The stones are set on a zigzag shape. It is meant for dropping an evil spirit, akuryo, into a pond and so that it cannot go further and is cleansed in water. With a little attention, you will find zigzag stone bridges in some gardens of Kyoto.


A Zigzag Stone Bridge: guiding visitors to the azalea bush

The framing red colour of kirishima azaleas creates a powerful movement around a pond garden. While admiring an entire beauty and elegance of kirishima azaleas, visitors walk around a pond garden and are literary going through the tunnels of surrounding flowers. Flowering vivid red colours well decorate a hat, stone bridges and a stone monument in the water area and that charms the visitors’ attention.

The photographs of the pond garden locates the western parts of the entire garden. The eastern part of the garden will be introduced shortly on Please expect more photographs and info on the garden!


Seisho nagon, a renowned poet of the 10th century Heian period, celebrated the pond garden of Umenomiya taisha, which is written on the stone monument

Umenomiya taisha is one of Japan’s historic shinto shrine. In 965, Murakami emperor sent imperial messengers to report the important events of shinto which set kami as divine. Umenomina taisha is one of the 19 shrines which functioned as the imperial patronage in the 10th century Heian period. Gion Shrine, which is currently known as Yasaka-jinja, was also placed as one of the 19 shinto shrines.

by Akiko

Kyoto, Japan – Japanese Camellias by Voigtlander 125mm f2.5

May 6, 2014 in camellia, Japan, Kyoto, Voigtlander 125mm f2.5 by Akiko


Camellia by Voigtlander 125mm f2.5 at Daikaku-ji Temple

Spring is the best season for macro flower photography. In Kyoto, one of the most enjoyable macro photography is with camellia. I have been visiting many gardens, temples and shrines to capture beauty and colour lights of Spring flowers.

The Japanese camellia called otome tsubaki is an exceptional among others, a sort of a princess of all kinds of camellias. Its dreamy like pink colour, gorgeous petals and refined details cannot be compared with others. In Kyoto, Nijo castle, Kyoto Botanical Garden and Daitkaku-ji Temple are places to see the best qualities of otome tsubaki for photography on April.


My last year’s camellia work by Voigtlander 40mm f2.0 at Nijyo-jo Castle.

I saw a marvellous camellia photograph on internet a year ago. It did not take much time for me to realise that the image of the flower was from the article of Jeffrey Friedl,  ‘An Amazing Day of Photography at Some Eastern-Kyoto Temples’.

Jeffrey’s camellia image certainly inspired me for macro flower photography at the time. Since then, I have been working on macro diligently and have tested lens, Tamron 90mm f2.8 and Nikkor 105 mm f2.5, but Voigtlander 125mm f2.5 is my best favourite. The performance of the lens is exceptional.


Camellia by Voigtlander 125mm f2.5 at Kyoto Botanical Garden

Jeffrey, a Kyoto based photographer and IT expert, uses Viogtlander 125 mm f2.5 in many occasions. It is a 1:1 super sharp macro lens, and its optical performance is outstanding.

The lens only works with a manual focus and needs to spin the lens by hand all the time, twice around to change from a close focus to far. It takes time to focus before you get familiar with the lens. The lens is not for a professional photography use, at least for me. A large number of images and a variety of different angles are expected within a limited time at a photo assignment.


Camellia by Voigtlander 125mm f2.5 at Daikaku-ji Temple

For me, Voigtlander 125mm is for a luxury use and a pure enjoyment of photography. And yet, its delight in flower photography is beyond a scope. I forgot time many occasions and carried on shooting plum, peach, cherry, magnolia and many more at Kyoto Imperial Palace till the day ends.


Camellia by Voigtlander 125mm f2.5 at Daikaku-ji Temple

One of the golden rules of macro flower photography is to use a tripod, and so I do. The quality and sharpness of the images change dependent on with and without it. In Spring, it could be windy and too cloudy. The branches of flowers also disturb to photograph with a tripod. The photographs I show on this article are taken by both Voigtlander 125mm f.2.5 and 40mm f2.0 and selected those which were taken without a tripod because the places I visited do not allow to use it. Sharpness is still kept remarkably.

Which lens do you use for macro photography? Have you tried Voigtlander 125mm f2.5?

by Akiko

Kyoto, Japan – Kirishima Azaleas for a Tea Room at Jonan-gu Shrine

April 30, 2014 in azaleas, Framed landscape garden, garden and architecture, Japan, Kyoto by Akiko


A garden or a tea room, which comes first?

I had a conversation with Stephene Barbery, a photographer and keen tea practitioner from France, as to whether gardens are created for a tea room or vice versa? We both agreed that gardens are designed, structured and composed for tea. This discussion will be more detailed by later posts for tea rooms and gardens with the images and texts. Let me know your thoughts in a while.

In Kyoto, three different types of azaleas, kirishima, hirado and satsuki, are central. Kirishima azaleas come first in flowering. It lasts only for 3 to 4 days. The best quality of kirishima azaleas in terms of its beauty and vivid colours of red, pink and white, can be captured for photography at its peak. It was few days late when I visited Jonan-gu Shrine last year. I waited.. and waited for a year to capture the best of kirishima azaleas.


A specialness of kirishima azaleas is its history. In the Edo period (1633-1868), gardens became more fashionable among the samurai class. Kirishima has been recorded as one of the oldest azaleas to be employed for a garden design.

Jonan-gu Shrine’s garden, Shinen, was designed by Nakane Kinsaku, a Japanese garden designer of the Showa period (1926-89). Nakane also designed gardens at Taizo-in temple and Mimurot-ji temple. This extensively wide scale magnificient garden is divided into five areas. The tea room of the first photograph is situated at the Muromachi no niwa (garden). The ways of tea, flower arrangement and no had reached their maturity during the Muromachi period (1392-1573). The name of the garden is originated from the name of the era.


A stroll style water garden is situated behind the tea room. Little water falls create the sound of stream while visitors enjoy tea. The reflections of kirishima azaleas and fresh Japanese maples create a contrast of green and red colours on a water surface. Visitors can enjoy a modalities of a landscape and colours while passing through the garden. A view from a wisteria trellis is absolutely gorgeous. Any visitors are recommended to visit this tea room for bliss!


Jonan-gu Shrine locates in the south part of Kyoto, called Toba. In the Heian period (794-1185), aristocrats built their villas in Toba. Later Shirakawa emperor also founded Jonan Villa and Toba Villa. The Toba area functioned as a political and cultural centre for 150 years. Its elegant high court culture has still been inherited in contemporary and is displayed in public at Kyokusui no utage festival, which is held on 29th of April annually.


Facebook Iconfacebook like buttonTwitter Icontwitter follow button