Ryoanji – 龍安寺

Over the last 14 years I’ve visited the zen garden Ryoanji (龍安寺) several times. I love that every time I visit this beautiful dry garden (karesan-sui) it feels different. It is like watching the same movie while noticing that you are growing old, and each time you notice and feel different details.

The first time visiting Ryoanji I was twenty three years old and I had just finished graduating from computer science. At that time, my rationalistic approach to engineering made me try to explain the beauty of this place in a scientific way. I even wrote a long post about it in my Spanish blog explaining how you could mathematically divide the geometry of the garden by analyzing the empty space between the rocks.

I learned that the important thing are not the rocks but the space between them, but I was a fool thinking that we can explain beauty following a scientific approach. I think I fabricated all the mathematical explanation just to feel comfortable with the fact that an art piece so simple as rocks placed on gravel is of such beauty and importance for the Japanese people.

This time I visited the place with different eyes and heart. I just sat down and enjoyed the scenery without wondering why it is so beautiful and trying to explain it. Now, I’m 36 years old and I grasp the fact that art is never complete without taking into account the subject observing it.

It is my consciousness, through the act of observing the dry garden, who makes the place beautiful and unique.

Is not enough to explain the garden in order to understand its beauty, you have to know yourself.

0

Bathing in a free access rotenburo

Rotenburo 露天風呂 are outdoor hot-spring water baths. Usually, you pay an entrance that will give you access to the bathing area. An onsen 温泉 (Hot-spring) dedicated business, a hotel or a ryokan are most of the times managing the baths. But if you go to remote areas, sometimes you can find baths in the wild where you can just get naked and soak in warm water for free. Bathing in onsen waters is one of my favorite things to do in Japan, especially after a nice hike.

This is the exact google maps location (Shin hotaka yu, 新穂高の湯) (Gifu Prefecture) of the bath we found.

shinhotakayu _dsc8303 img_5867 img_5869

0

Japanese Alps hiking

On our third day we drove one hour to the East from Takayama and found ourselves in a valley that reminded me of Switzerland. The first western explorers, after the Meiji opening of Japan, found the mountains of the Hida range that divide Gifu and Nagano prefecture to be utterly similar to the European Alps and decided to name them Japanese Alps. The name stuck with the Japanese people and now the the Hida, Kiso and Akaishi mountains are all officially called Japanese Alps.

We arrived at the Shinhotaka ropeway and parked our car before nine in the morning. We were almost alone, surrounded by nature and the sound of the water hiting the rocky river. But suddenly, three buses filled with old Japanese people (probably retired) arrived and we found ourselves queuing in order to ride the Shinhotaka Ropeway. I’ll never get used to queuing in Japan, there always queues even in remote places where you would not expect it 🙂

The views from the top of the Shinhotaka Ropeway are astounding, pure nature beauty. From there, we started walking up into the mountains following a beginners route called Nishihodoku (西穂独標): Shinhotaka Ropeway ― Nishiho Mountain Cottage ― Maruyama (丸山) ― Nishihodoku. There was no snow at this time of the year and it was a very easy hike that we enjoyed very much. But beware, in winter it can be a very dangerous area: more details about the difficulty of Hotaka hiking routes.

 

japanesealps6

img_5820

img_5824

img_5826

Photo of us with a Japanese Post at 2,156 meters of altitude

img_5833

This is the Nishiho Mountain Cottage. There is food (Ramen!), drinks and you can spend the night here.

img_5837

Photo of us at one of the summits.

japanesealps1 japanesealps2 japanesealps3 japanesealps4 japanesealps5

1

Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine

Our second day in Takayama was NOT planned.  I’m a very J on the last component of the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, I like to plan everything beforehand. In order to “fight” against my personality (My confort zone) sometimes I do things that are totally against how I would normally do. For example, not planning a trip is something that brings me out of my confort zone 🙂

We parked our car near the Takayama station and started strolling on the east side of the city. We soon found ourselves walking in streets filled with traditional houses. Beautiful alleys but also filled with tourists, ironically, not planning our day, brought us to the Sanmachi Suji, the most touristic place in Takayama. We crossed several bridges, contemplated the carps swimming in the river and walked northbound until we found ourselves almost alone.

It was then, when we serendipitously found the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine surrounded by green nature and lightened by the sunset ocre tones. The legend says that this shrine was build to protect Takayama against the monster Ryomen Sukuna, a beast with two heads and eight extremities.

When we entered the grounds of the shrine nobody else was there, it was magical to be there alone. Planning the day would have make it a totally different experience.

sakurayamahachimangu1 sakurayamahachimangu2 sakurayamahachimangu3  sakurayamahachimangu5 sakurayamahachimangu6

 

me

That’s me taking the previous picture!

0

Still discovering new places in Japan

During the last two weeks I’ve been traveling and discovering new places I’ve never been before here in Japan. I’ve been living in Tokyo more than ten years but I feel that I still don’t know anything about these islands and that’s probably what keeps me here. I like the feeling of wonder when I walk randomly and discover a hidden shrine in a forest or find an utterly beautiful garden in an area where there are apparently only ugly buildings (Yes, Japan is also ugly).

I always travel by train, it is so convenient! But this time I chose to challenge my comfort zone and drive a car. I thought I could reach almost anyplace in Japan by train, but I was wrong. Japan by car is really beautiful and I will repeat in the future.

During the next days I will write here about the places I discovered during this trip to Gifu and Fukui. These are two of my favorite pictures from the trip 🙂

fukui

ontake

0

Photographing Sakura

One of my favourite things to photograph is the sakura blossom, I took so many pictures of sakura this year that it took me a while to process them using Lightroom. One of the most difficult tasks after taking tons of pictures is the process of selecting the ones that you think are the “best”. It is very difficult for me to decide which ones to keep and which ones to delete. This is my final selection for this year!

sakura1

sakura2

 

sakura4

sakura5sakura3

sakura6

sakura7

sakura10

sakura8

sakura9

sakura9a

High resolution versions on my Flickr

More blogposts about sakura:

0