Sakura in Kyoto, 2014

After the grand production last year, I really wanted to do a low-key hanami this time around. Last year, I didn’t make it to Kyoto in time before the sakura fell, so this trip was my second time seeing them in the city (since coming to Japan three years ago). On the day of this trip, all the weather reports predicted a high chance of rain — while it did drizzle slightly at one point, it was blue skies for the rest of the day. (Moral of the story: Kyoto will always surprise you)

My travel buddy this time around was the sweet KT, who lives and works in the “city” next to mine. She probably quietly freaked out when I asked her to be my model for the day, but then she agreed anyway (hehe).

Hi, KT!

Hi, KT!

Our first stop was to the little-known Keage Incline in the eastern part of Kyoto. There used to be a railway station there, but with the introduction of the subway, it fell into disuse and was eventually abandoned.

The  disused tracks make for a very interesting background

It makes for a very interesting background

The "incline" part of Keage Incline was no joke

The “incline” part of Keage Incline was no joke

This is what greeted us when we scaled the incline!

This is what greeted us when we scaled the incline!

Abandoned railway stations don’t necessarily attract crowds, particularly when everyone has limited time and are lining up to visit the more popular locations in Kyoto. However, Keage Incline is an exception.

Mainly because of this stunning view from the top of the incline

Mainly because of this stunning view from the top of the incline

While it was more crowded than I had imagined, one of the benefits of Keage is the slanted ground — even if many people are in front of you, you can still get a good view of the landscape. Another benefit is that you can actually get quite close to the sakura trees themselves.

(We even saw a couple taking their pre-wedding pictures here!)

A typical shot, I know, but I couldn't resist

A typical shot I know, but I couldn’t resist

Sometimes tourists do the silliest things....

Sometimes tourists do the silliest things….

A more dignified walk down

A more dignified walk down

It should be noted that I took only my 45mm f1.8 lens with me on this trip. I’ve realized that if I don’t force myself to go out with one lens at a time, I will stick to my default zoom lens and never touch my prime.

As expected, I missed a number of shots due to its focal length, but the pictures I did get were very blog-worthy. I really have a love-hate relationship with this lens…

A chance moment on a platform overlooking the area

A chance moment on a platform overlooking the area

The view from the platform (that's a HUGE torii gate...)

The view from the platform (that’s a HUGE torii gate…)

Remember how I asked KT to be my model? I put her to work right away. It must have been weird since I was standing so far away (ugh, 45mm!) and we had to constantly wait for people to move out of my frame, but I’m quite happy with the end results!

Posing on the tracks at the edge of the incline

Posing on the tracks at the edge of the incline

One of my favourite pictures taken with the 45mm

One of my favourite pictures taken with the 45mm

It was a nice day, so we took a walk to a bus stop that would get us from Keage Incline to our next location. We strolled along the river for part of the way too!

It's touristy, but it makes for a very nice picture!

The boat’s rather touristy, but it makes for a very nice picture!

Both of us had never been to Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavilion Temple), so we took this chance to look around. There was a steady crowd there, but we got lucky and joined the entrance queue right before 10 other people lined up behind us!

Mossy grounds off the paved paths were left undisturbed

Mossy grounds off the paved paths were left undisturbed

The buildings within the temple complex were rather understated, but very well-maintained

The buildings within the temple complex were rather understated, but very well-maintained

KT and I had a good chat while we walked through the temple paths. My knowledge of Ginkaku-ji was a bit lacking, so nothing really stood out to me. We very quickly finished a circuit around the complex, then made a stop at the omiyage shop (haha).

There was a small private ceremony being held in this building when we passed by it

There was a small private ceremony being held in this building when we passed by it

Since it was the sakura season, the nearby Philosopher’s Path was a hub of activity and teemed with tourists all intent on walking along the stream and enjoying the many trees there.

Crowds on both sides

Crowds on both sides

The famous stream

The famous stream

The area is quite charming all-year round, but it's really at its best during the sakura season

The area is quite charming all-year round, but it’s really at its best during the sakura season

We stopped at a cafe for a quick bite to eat. Of course, I could not give up this opportunity to eat cake!

We stopped at a cafe for a quick bite to eat. Of course, I could not give up this opportunity to eat cake!

Another one of my favourites taken with the 45mm

Another one of my favourites taken with the 45mm

It was a bit of a rush, but we went all the way out to Arashiyama on the opposite side of Kyoto. It was another new place for both KT and me — I really wanted to see the famous bamboo forest there. However, what we saw there wasn’t quite what I had expected…

The bamboo grove wasn't as large as I had thought

The bamboo grove wasn’t as large as I had thought

Either parts of the grove had been “trimmed” or certain areas had been blocked off — either way, the forest we wandered though was not nearly as plentiful nor as large as other people had made it seem. I’m still not convinced I’ve seen the entire forest yet, so I will probably go back later this year…

Another part of the forest

A different part of the forest

Another chance encounter; this time, it was an adorable little girl

Another chance encounter; this time, it was an adorable little girl!

By now it was getting close to “golden hour” and after an entire day wandering around with me, KT was considerably more relaxed around my camera.

See? So much sass

See? So much sass

A proper picture (haha)

A proper picture (haha)

Without really planning it, we had ended up on a street that ran east-west; just then, a particularly beautiful ray of light lit up the entire area…

So beautiful...

So beautiful…

The best picture from this entire trip (thanks, 45mm)

The best portrait from this entire trip (thanks, 45mm)

We had some time before we had to board our limited express trains back to Mie Prefecture, so we returned to Gion for dinner and one last walk through Maruyama Park.

Spots that have been staked out by group parties

Many people came out to enjoy the sakura at night

There were food stalls set up around the park to feed all the people who came to the park for evening hanami

There were many food stalls set up around the park to feed the evening hanami crowds

The star attraction of the park

The star attraction of the park

Compared to the last time I saw this tree, this time it was far more magical. We were there at its peak, and this famous 65-year-old shidarezakura tree did not disappoint! (Also, I was pleasantly surprised the 45mm did so well under these conditions.)

Leaving the park through Yasaka Shrine

Leaving the park through Yasaka Shrine

This post has taken a while to upload, but better late than never, right? This marks my 4th official trip out with the 45mm since I bought it almost a year ago (clearly, I love my zoom lens too much). I’m getting better at making the type of pictures I want with it, but it still has some issues I’m trying to work through.

Either way, I would say this trip to Kyoto was successful, especially since it turned out that it was my only chance to enjoy the sakura this year (I was too busy during the rest of the season).

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In other news, I found a job! I will be officially living and working in Kobe (!!!) as of August. It’s still sinking in that I will be in a big city again (and can access all the conveniences and pleasures of urban life). The best part is I will still be in the Kansai region, and closer than ever to my beloved Kyoto.

This blog will probably also undergo a slight change after I settle down, which is why I really rushed to publish these last couple of posts before the end of July. Fingers crossed the transition will be smooth and I can adjust quickly to my new city!

See you in Kobe!

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