[kyoto - heian jingu]:
I had been interested in seeing Heian Jingu early on, since we could see the torii from our hotel and it was listed as one of the five best sites for viewing sakura.
We went on Tuesday, I think. I didn't know very much about it, other than it was a Shinto shrine with a huge gate, orangish in color until you view it in overcast light, when it looks a deep red. Probably learned more from the wikipedia link above than I knew before.
There were some pretty sakura in front of the shrine with a crowd of people with cameras. I'd give up trying to photograph one tree since there were just too many people crowding me, and I'd look around for a better shot of another tree without anyone around, and I'd walk over to it. I shoulda camouflaged my actions a bit better because whenever I did that several people peeled off and ran right into my shot with their cameras.
That became a theme at Heian Jingu; making shots despite the crowds. Aiming high or taking wide shots worked a lot. So did walking to places where people hadn't crowded. Yet.
The courtyard was fairly impressive. I looked at the expanse of gravel and wondered how many trees had to be cleared and rocks crushed to originally make it.
The entire courtyard was too large for me to get in one shot, even at 17mm (~27mm with 1.6 crop factor).
There was a traditional Japanese wedding going on in that far building in that last photo. No photos allowed in there or I would've stolen one. Seemed like a nicer place for a wedding than the Hyatt Regency hotel lobby (where we saw a wedding being set up my final Saturday); at least the public was fenced off at some distance away.
After photographing the inside of the courtyard, we paid to go back into the [huge] gardens, where there were a ton of sakura in full bloom.
That first shot shows a good number of people; if you can imagine the path snaking around to where I'm standing, and every bit of that path being filled with just as many people, you get an idea of what it was like.
I missed quite a few shots 'cause of people in the way. Not as many as I did here at night, though.
This was my father's favorite place in Kyoto, since they had never been while the sakura were in such full bloom. I liked it too, especially the water shots, but I'm not sure it beat out Nijo-jo for me.
We asked, and found that they were open Thursday through Saturday nights with the gardens lit up, and a concert in that building on the water. We were leaving Kyoto on Friday morning, so we bought tickets for Thursday, after getting back from Himeji.
[heian jingu at night, or, umbrella hate]:
We bought the tickets at one of the Lawson's nearby (24hr convenience store); there's a machine in each of 'em, where you type in a search phrase for your show, then narrow it down by area in Japan, then city, then date, select how many people, then print it out and pay for it. Best part? No Ticketbastard convenience charges; the cheaper advance tickets are, in fact, cheaper. The worst part? I think you have to be literate to use 'em. Not being able to read kinda sucks.
We walked there... maybe four blocks away, in the rain. It was a nice walk, rain pitter pattering on our umbrellas. But then we saw The Line. That snaked around the front of the courtyard gate, and extended down the sidewalk, and around the corner, and down that sidewalk, and across a street, and halfway down that sidewalk. A sea of umbrellas.
We waited, but once the line started moving, it moved at a nice enough pace... a slow stroll with some pauses. We got to the courtyard gates soon enough, with puddles in the gravel (some sort of burlap or something laid down where the puddles got a little too deep), snaked around there, went into the courtyard proper, where the line disappeared through the far left gate, came back into the courtyard through another, crossed the courtyard, and disappeared into the far right gate... the sakura on the left, the lake and the concert on the right.
I didn't really enjoy being there, with all the umbrellas not only blocking my view and dripping on me, but often (several times a minute) poking me in the head or face. Countless missed shots due to umbrellas in the way. (I closed mine for more maneuverability and less awkwardness while operating my dSLR. Plus I was getting a little punchy and anti-umbrella at that point.)
Still, it was pretty. And I'm glad I went.
I think that last one shows just how many sakura there were (in just that direction!) as well as how densely packed the umbrellas were. Imagine about five more umbrellas clustered all around the edges of the frame, their metal pokey bits aimed at my face, and you've got the idea.
Then we were back in the courtyard, then over to the lake, where we heard highly compressed/effected guitar and flute, and we got to see the backs of people's umbrellas crowded all around the lake, at least three deep.
I did manage to sneak in and get some shots though. I think I'm still a bit bitter (can you tell? ;-) about the shots I knew I missed, had I just been able to wiggle through to the front for five seconds (or if they just closed their f'n umbrellas), but oh well. The ones I got are nice.
And so, after getting as many photos as we were going to get, and after squeezing through a large crowd of people who were staying to watch the whole concert, we headed back home to get dry and warm and unpokey.
This was my final photoshoot in Japan... purty but exhausting.
Gluttons for punishment can view all my Japan pics here.