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Author Topic: The Shoguns & Nikko – How three Samurai shaped Japan  (Read 531 times)


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The Shoguns & Nikko – How three Samurai shaped Japan
« on: July 20, 2020, 06:01:07 pm »

Thanks Blain for this insight into one of the most interesting places for photography in Japan.

Like you I also spent a complete day trying to photograph Yomeimon, which gives credit to its name(s). This was shortly after the Heisei renovation works in 2018 and the restored carvings had a natural saturation that barely needed a boost in post. This must be the place where Fujichrome Velvia was conceptualised. ;D

I would recommend an overcast day with rain showers for visiting Nikko, to reduce the high dynamic range in pictures of buildings and in forests, as well as for the general atmosphere. Also, be sure to visit Nikko last in a trip to Japan, otherwise most of the regular Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples will appear bland in comparison. A week for the whole area (including the upper Nikko plateau) is definitely not a bad idea.

Since the article has a wealth of details about historical events and architectural details, the humble tourist that I am would be tempted to correct some of the inexact information that escaped initial editing. I hope the Buddhist historian won't mind too much.  ;) 失礼します。

  • Sengoku Jidai didn't last for most of 500 years. It started in 1467 (Onin War) and ended with the Siege of Osaka in 1615.
  • To the best of our knowledge, Ieyasu did not select Nikko as his burial place. As stated in his will, he was buried at the place that would become Kunozan Toshogu (near Shizuoka) by his son Hidetada. His grandson Iemitsu supposedly relocated his remains to the Nikko Toshogu, were Ieyasu stated in his will that a shrine should be built one year after his death (but said nothing about a potential move of his physical remains there). Both shrines were built after his death and feature a tomb. It is unclear where his remains now lie. Each shrine has a different story to attract more visitors. ;D Fact is, he is enshrined in both and numerous other shrines, so that doesn't tell anything about the physical remains.
  • There is a gate name confusion in the article. Yomeimon and Higurashi-no-mon are two alternative names for the same gate, which is the main gate! The other inner gate which appears in the article is Karamon.

Enough pedantry for a whole year! Time to go back to photography.  :D

« Last Edit: July 20, 2020, 06:04:25 pm by FabienP »


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Re: The Shoguns & Nikko – How three Samurai shaped Japan
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2020, 09:16:58 am »

Sorry for my late replay Fabien. I have been busy in the Japanese highland on assignment filming the Japanese Macaques.  And Your welcome, and thank you, Fabien, for your cognizance.   

☞The Yomeimon is defiantly, a place where one does not have the need to push the saturation slider.  Just checked the fridge I have over 100 rolls of Fujichrome Velvia in ISO 50 and ISO 100.  I see in color, and so I don't shoot in b&w often unless it's a scene or subject that calls for more contrast, and it suits my taste.   For 15 years, I did a column for a Japanese magazine of temples across Japan that was done in b&w.  I love working in b&w, but I am not color blind, so I don't publish much without saturation, and I do enjoy pushing the slider from time to time.

☞Overcast skies in Nikko can be interesting even more interesting in a typhoon.  In 2015, I was leading my annual Nikko Pre-Autumn Photography Tour/Workshop when Super Typhoon Etau slammed into Kanto, Japan. Torrential rains laid waste to a small city north of Tokyo. Houses were ripped out of their foundations, trees were uprooted, and hundreds of thousands of residents were forcibly evacuated. In one incident, one of the buildings that were part of the Kinugawa Grand Plaza Hotel was swept away by the raging river created by the Super Typhoon Etau’s rainfall. Heavy winds and the fallout from the typhoon caused extreme travel chaos. No one knew what to do because they relied on TV, Radio reports, and internet information, not me.  On that fateful morning, I woke up to birds chirping and beautiful skies at our lodgings. After luxuriating in my morning onsen ritual, clients were sitting enjoying breakfast, and I sat down to join in on the morning meal. Then, the hotel owner came in to alert us of the incoming typhoon, and the magnitude of the situation and told us we couldn’t stay that night. He reported that we had to evacuate his lodgings and leave Nikko. All I had were questions. He was giving me information with no backing besides the News and TV reports. We had breakfast and checked out. I then traveled directly to the first responder's government agency to get information based on facts. As we left the hotel, I could see the exodus of tourists and the buses that brought them. Once we reached the agency building, everything was suspiciously still. I was in shock. I got out of the vehicle with my staff and talked to the fire chief and asked him, “So, what do I do?” They were overwhelmed and more than helpful because someone had the good sense to ask about the correct course of action. The chief showed me the weather charts and the course of the Super Typhoon approaching.
We could see that there was only a small window of time to get from Nikko to Tokyo before people would be stranded in transit. The highways were soon to be clogged with hundreds of thousands of tourists who were all going the wrong way.  I have Aerial photos that show only one small section of highway and region and where the river water had overflowed the roads, making them impassible. In fact, they turned into 10 km lakes in many areas where there hadn’t been before. Over 50% of those who had fled were stuck for three days at road stops, or in cars before the waters receded. Military helicopters plucked stranded residents from roofs after waters surged over a wide area when the raging Kinugawa river burst its banks in Joso, north of Tokyo, swamping the city of 65,000 people. Dramatic aerial footage showed whole houses being swept away by raging torrents, in scenes eerily reminiscent of the devastating tsunami that crushed Japan's north-east coast in 2011.
Back in Nikko, that afternoon, my group and I checked into a comfortable lodging declared safe by the Nikko government agency, and we continued our photo tour/workshop of Nikko. That evening, we enjoyed dinner and good company, but as a precaution, I limited libations to a one-drink maximum per person. The typhoon passed that night with no impact on us. The rain continued until the middle of the next day while we photographed in Nikko. Moreover, the city is naturally fortified, so there was little wind, just rain to contend with. Nikko holds the most lavishly decorated mausoleum in honor (body-remains?) of or for Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, so we and some of the residents of Nikko knew we were safe. The city was founded in 766, in the middle of a mountain with perfect drainage. Water flows away from Nikko, but it doesn’t linger for long in the city. Below Nikko, about 20 kilometers, is a plateau, a yellow-red zone, where we were told to stay away from. This is the same region where the hotel building went mobile, and some of the tourists who left Nikko that morning were stranded and couldn’t get to safety.
As a final word of caution, if you want to take a Japan photography tour or any tour safely in the world, make sure you travel with an experienced adventurer who has a full team and has logged months or preferably years in the region’s planned itinerary. Your leader should understand the weather patterns for the four seasons, and have knowledge of emergency evacuation procedures, prepared for anything that could happen.

☞Sengoku Jidai, started with the Onin war? By dates, this is not incorrect or correct.  But for us,  historians Philosophers and sociologists, we take into account the Minamoto and Fujiwara and the (Genpei War) 1180-1185 is the beginning of a feudal state in Japan!  This is always up for discussion, and I have had many discussions on this matter with colleagues at Tokyo University and Waseda University historians society. Most of us agree with the timing/beginning of a feudal state in Japan withe the Genpei War. You are more than welcome, and I am open to discuss the facts and dates from a political DRY factual standpoint, and please take into account our meaning in Japan of maboroshi 幻! 

☞Ieyasu's resting place, along with Takeda Shingen's and several others, is up for debate.  You do realize that if someone were to know the true resting place, it would need 24/7 security.  In Japan, we prefer to let the show go on and let maboroshi 幻 take over.   
Fabien, this pedantry reminds me of the alert-alter, the dull-alert, the alert-dull, and the dull-dull.  Alter-alert are those who are very quick on the uptake when they are told to do something.  They are so good that they are few in number.  Dull-alert are those people who fail to clearly understand at first what their duty is.  But in finally putting their duty into practice, they perform splendidly and with no delay.  Alert-dull are those people who, when told to do something, accept very graciously and willingly, but they take a long time to fulfill the task.  There are many such people.  The rest are the dull-dull, and they are the majority, those who whisper in corners and live for 幻.

Imagery and articles are not a virtual tour, sorry we will work on this for our next article. For full captations, you are welcome to join us in Nikko or elsewhere in Japan, and I always welcome friends and sometimes clients to one of my three home studio's in Japan.  I do hope international travel will open by the spring.  And we can entertain you with a 30 some year old rare Yamazaki single malt.

Namaste, Blain in Japan🇯🇵
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