Sunrise Country – DAY TWELVE

Hello again. We have planned this day as a small and quick break from the frenetic, urban atmosphere of the endless Tokyo; at least the most part of it. We wanted to see with our own eyes, one of the most relevant symbols of Japan: Mount Fuji.

It is the highest mountain in Japan, with its 3776 meters height, situated about 100 km south-west from Tokyo, where in can be seen from, if the weather is clear enough. It is an active volcano, which erupted last time in 1707.

From Tokyo, we took the train JR Tokaido Shinkansen “Kodama” for a journey that lasted a bit more than one hour, until we arrived at Shin-Fuji Station. More information on this tourist site, here:

From here, we changed the train with a smaller and slower densha train from the Fuji Kyuko Line, getting us straight to Kawaguchiko Station.

The 富士五湖, Fujigoko region (which includes five beautiful lakes) is located on the northern side of Mount Fuji.  It is a gorgeous natural environment, well suited for hiking, camping, fishing, or even skiing during winter. The names of the five lakes are Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Shojiko, Yamanakako and Motosuko.

From the station, by foot, we explored the beautiful and quiet surroundings, making our way towards the lake.

From Kawaguchiko Lake, you can get one of the best views of Mount Fuji, if you have a clear day with the chance for cloudless skies.

Your visibility seems to be better during the colder seasons, also during the early morning and late evening hours. The middle of the day and summer time usually block the majestuous view of Mt. Fuji.

We were there on a warm season during the middle of the day, but the alternative was not to be there at all. For us, it was wonderful, as we had no other choice of picking the ideal moment for sightseeing.

The Kachi Kachi Ropeway will lead you to an observation point near the summit of Mount Tenjo. From this vantage point above, you can get beautiful panorama sights, which include both the lake and Mount Fuji. We did not have the time to go; our choice was to walk around the Kawaguchiko Lake as much as possible.

We enjoyed this perfect day without rain; the fact that clouds partially covered Mount Fuji, also partially sheltered us from the heat of the day, so it was almost perfect for the long walks around the Kawaguchiko Lake.

When the walk started to be a bit long, we crossed the lake on a bridge and then, we had more time to explore the quite surroundings of the locality.

Before heading to the train station, we had a picnic on the border of the lake, taking one last look at the magnificent Fuji-san.

Seeing all these serene, beautiful places is really rewarding, but talking about them is quite challenging. How can one describe the pleasant feelings and the joy of discovery when you travel to Japan, and more specific, when you are close to Mount Fuji?

Fortunately, this is a travel photography blog and the images could describe a lot more than a well-polished text.

It was already dark when we got back to Tokyo. We headed one more time to Shibuya (including a visit to a bike store). Shibuya is always the same and different each day, in the same time. We have enjoyed one more time this special and unique place, before going home (to the hotel) for our good night rest, because the next day was also the last full day of our journey in Japan.

All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2020 /


Sunrise Country – DAY ELEVEN

After the Ginza and Akihabara experience, this next day was a special one. We have decided that our 5 person group should split in 2 different groups of interest, to cover more of the amazing Tokyo, based on what we intended to visit. The first group went to the Zoo in Ueno, a destination that didn’t bring me much excitement, compared to what I had as an alternative; so the second group, me and my best friend, had a different plan in mind.

Our journey started at Shinjuku Station. It is one of the largest train / metro stations with multiple exits where you could easily get lost. This day was the time when we returned to actually the first place we visited in Japan, since coming from the Narita Airport. This was a destination with a specific purpose.

I wanted to come back to my favorite photo camera shop – Map Camera, in Shinjuku, where I needed to get a new zoom lens, the Fujifilm XF 55-200mm OIS, that I could use for what we had ahead of us in that day.

It was a pleasure to revisit those places; same fervor on the small streets, through the lines of electronic shops. As I feel more attracted to the electronics stores, than those dealing with anime, manga, spare parts and video games, I may find Shinjuku district more interesting than Akihabara.

After completing my photo bag with a new tele zoom lens, we arrived, by train, in our main place of interest: Roppongi Hills. In the center of this district, there is one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo: Mori Tower.

With a height of 238 meters and 54 floors, this building is mostly used for offices. The first floors are reserved for restaurants and shopping galleries and the top floor is dedicated to the Museum of Modern Art and finally, an observation deck, the Sky Deck that is a great place to be.

The Mori Art Museum was using an advertising banner with one of the greatest artwork of the greatest sculptor from my country: Constantin Brancusi and his “golden bird”, standing gracefully as a statement of his creative genius and powerful universal spirit.

We have visited the museum and also the Star Wars exhibition (taking pictures was not allowed) and finally we went to the top floor, the roof observation deck, that also kept the Star Wars theme alive, by playing the orchestral music from the movie and having a chance to get photographed near a very realistic statue of Lord Vader.

But we were there for the view. And what panoramic view over the entire city!

It was my first chance to test my new tele photo zoom lens, up to a maximum of 200mm focal length on my APS-C sensor inside the Fujifilm X-T1. It was exactly what I needed, to get the distant areas of Tokyo, closer into my frame.

I was enjoying switching from my standard zoom lens, with a wide perspective over the panoramic view and the tele zoom lens, when some far away details were captivating for my cityscape panorama series over Tokyo.

It’s much better to let the photos speak for themselves. The sensation and the beauty of the moment are hard to describe in words. I was simply amazed by the immense 360 degree perspective over this urban infinity called Tokyo!

We stayed for almost an hour, contemplating the power of human will in this endless urban endeavor to conquer space, shape it and build it according to a never-ending, more demanding need for habitat space.

We left Mori Tower building with a sense of awe, while starting to discover the vicinity, walking on both large boulevards and the small streets.

During the daylight, we blended ourselves into the cheerful street atmosphere. Lots of people, heavy traffic, busy streets – every corner of every street that I photographed was like a genuine symbol of Tokyo’s energetic life.

After a while, we entered a bar for a refreshing local beer and then started again to explore. But the evening was already falling over the city, as we roamed the streets and interacted with the local people, asking for specific places of interest.

The night was coming fast as I was preparing to get my last set of photographs, documenting the streets and the places we have visited on our route.

It was about time to say “goodbye” to the Roppongi district, as the clock was moving towards the hour of our meeting with the rest of the group.

We thought about what route would be best to take to meet the others, somewhere in Omotesando. We decided we should get to the rally point by foot, as we always appreciated the calm and quietness of the nights, while walking in full security on the small streets of both Tokyo and Kyoto.

We used our map and our route went on a combination of map guidance and geographical instinct, trying to find some shortcuts through Roppongi’s narrow and dark streets. It was a completely safe walk, even if we heard that Roppongi, during the night (in some areas) could be the one zone of Tokyo that offers the least safety feelings, while walking alone in the night.

After a long time of walking on our shortcuts, the streets became wider, more crowded and with more lights and more activity. It wasn’t much longer until we finally reached our friends in the right meeting spot; in front of a restaurant where we intended to have diner altogether. But the restaurant was full with clients who already made reservations, so we tried to find another one. Our group became bigger, since one of our friends met 3 of his Japanese courses colleagues that were already living in Japan for a few months. We finally found a small restaurant that was open and had a long free table for a large group of already 8 persons and the food was delicious.

After the diner, we walked together for a while until our paths went on separate ways. His school colleagues went home and we took a very late night train to Nippori, where our hotel was located – our temporary home in Tokyo. We shared our Roppongi Hills impressions as the others shared their excitement about the Ueno Zoo experience. It was, as usual, a very long day with many kilometres “on board” from our daily Japan prowling discoveries. The next day was already planned; it included a shinkansen ride. Stay close as I will tell you another story of the greatness of Japan!

All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2018 /

Sunrise Country – DAY TEN

This is our second day in Tokyo 東京 and we wanted to give Akihabara 秋葉原 a go, as one of our main destinations. Starting from Nippori, our place of temporary residence, we took the train and arrived in Akihabara Station. This place, also called “the electric town” has a specific flavor that strikes your eyes even from your very first steps, getting out of the station.

If you are a fan, of simply curious about the universe of anime, manga, electronic games, souvenirs and all kinds of electronics, this could be the center of otaku in Japan; surely for Tokyo. We started to explore the streets and we split our group in 2, then in 3, checking the electronics stores one by one, until you eventually get tired and start to visit only the places that interest you directly.

When you reach Chuo Dori, the main boulevard that crosses along Akiba, you simply melt like a snow flake, in the sea of people of both tourists and locals. It is so easy to forget why are you there and what are you looking for, when you see the infinity of products, models and the different types of stores, from huge specialized markets in big, tall buildings where each level is normally dedicated to a specific category of electronics, like a floor for computers, one for smartphones and tablets, one for audio-video and hi-fi and so on …

… to small boutiques that sell electronic pieces and spare parts and components, or just electronic devices, many of them never seen before, but only in Japan.

We were interested in souvenirs, apart from the curiosity to discover this rather vast and unique world of Japanese otaku.

It was really crowded – also because we were there after the Golden Week, when people have some holidays and travel a lot and also it was during one of the best periods to visit Japan (end of April, beginning of May), away from the rainy season, or typhoons, not too hot and humid, not too cold.

After a very welcome lunch break, we explored even more and finally found the right souvenirs we were looking for.

This place is full of surprises as well as extravagant people with extravagant things, like heavily customized cars, cosplay costumes, strange clothing habits and hairdo styles – Akihabara has its own magic, as I already recorded my powerful impression in a previous article on this blog.

The afternoon was rapidly moving towards the evening and we felt that Akiba was sufficient for us, for the first time and we already felt the excitement to get back to Akihabara Station, take the train and see another place of interest in this immense Tokyo.

By the time we reached Tokyo Station, our intermediary point of interest and the starting point for the second long walk of the day, it was night already. So, we started to follow our map and walked around Marunouchi – Tokyo Station area. Marunouchi 丸の内 is a very important business district, located between the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Station.

We continued our journey towards our final destination of the day. Not quite far from the Tokyo Station area, by foot, you easily enter the famous Tokyo’s shopping and entertainment district, featuring department stores, art galleries, specialized and super expensive boutiques, but also restaurants and night bars.

During the night, Ginza has an elegant look, leaving us a very different impression, especially after visiting Akihabara. There was a distinctive and powerful perception that we were dealing with 2 different worlds in the same day.

Collection vehicles and expensive cars, elegant people, luxury stores, this is the place where every big name in fashion, accessories, jewelry, watch manufacture, etc. must be present with its own representative store: Apple, Breitling, Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, The Suit Company, Tasaki, Cartier, Max Mara, GAP, Fujiya, Sony, Nikon, Hermes, TAG Heuer, Jimmy Choo, Geox, Zara, Bulgari, Bottega Veneta, De Beers, Hugo Boss to name a few.

The Ginza experience was a very pleasant one, although a bit shorter than the time we have spent in Akihabara. By the end of the night and of our Ginza tour by foot, we started to feel some weariness and we decided to return to Tokyo Station, following a different path, away from the large boulevards and main streets.

The silence of the night on those empty, small streets gave us a feeling of relief, being somewhat comfortable after such a busy day. Later, following some shortcuts that we tested with the purpose of reaching Tokyo Station as soon as possible, we finally got on the train to Nippori and subsequently back home in our small My Stays hotel room.

What an interesting, but demanding day! A good night sleep was simply excellent, to prepare ourselves for the next and very special day of our Tokyo discovery tour. Stay tuned for the next chapter, where we discover Shinjuku, Roppongi and a bit of Omotesando!


All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2018 /

Sunrise Country – DAY NINE


We said “goodbye” to our beloved Kyoto and a warm “welcome” to Tokyo. Traveling by shinkansen is always a pleasant, fast and comfortable ride.


Hotel MyStays in Nippori, located at 5-43-7 Higashi Nippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo 116-0014 Japan was a warm welcoming place for us. Situated at just a few minutes from the Nippori Train Station, it was our second Japanese home. The rooms were nice, inviting us for a quick and comfortable nap, after carrying our heavy luggage from Horikawa Dori in Kyoto to our rooms in MyStays Nippori. But we had to get out, have a good meal, explore our surroundings and follow our plan for the day.



Tokyo felt like spring, comparing with Kyoto which felt like summer, in May. It was still a lovely sunny day, but it felt you needed to put something over the T-shirt. The Nippori air was calm and cool.


We have found a good restaurant just between our hotel and Nippori Station and we had our nice “battery recharging” meal and the traditional Asahi beer, just perfect to get the energy to explore our first destination for the day: Shibuya 渋谷.



We took the train from Nippori Station right to Shibuya Station. The metro and train map of Tokyo might be overwhelming, at the beginning. My mom thought that traveling to Japan without a guide will surely get us lost. But, you know? The super well-organized transport system is so logical and easy to figure out, that travelling all by ourselves was simply great and “error-free”. Always carrying a map is very useful, too.


As soon as we went our from the station, Shibuya was welcoming us with its typical colorful and crowded landscape.



I was traveling with my 2 Fujifilm mirrorless cameras, the small and compact X100S with a 23mm F2.0 lens and my X-T1 with the pro-grade standard zoom, XF 16-55mm F2.8. No OIS on any of my lenses. And I do like to photograph during the evening and the night, but if you follow my tips about night travel photography, you will be just fine.



The first thing to do was meeting my fellow photographer friend from Shibuya. On his very busy schedule (as a full-time professional photographer), he was able to meet us between 2 business trips, on our first Tokyo day, in one of the most famous and busiest meeting place on earth:


Here! I guess the photo needs no more explanations. This famous Hachiko ハチ公 statue is located just in front of Shibuya metro station and so close to the memorable Shibuya Crossing – they say this intersection is the most crowded in the whole world.




We stopped at the red light and tried to immerse ourselves within this feeling of universality; watching a sea of people, each one with its unique feelings – quite a powerful mental experience.


After we have met, we decided to walk the streets and talk, find a nice place to stay, have a drink and chat a little more.


Meeting him was a real pleasure and I know it was a great opportunity to hear some of his teachings (encouraging, tips and tricks – the things photographers talk when they meet) – always learning, right?



During our walk, we have visited a few stores in Shibuya. This area is very popular for shopping and entertainment, dining and night clubs that receive a lot of customers on a daily basis. It is also a great place to meet artists. The vinyl record store was impressive!


Finally, we have arrived at the place he wanted us to invite to, an old and charming venue called B.Y.G bar (Beautiful Young Generation) in Shibuya. The atmosphere was cosy, intimate, the bar wasn’t too much filled with customers. It was like traveling back in time and space, with an European flavor of the 70s. Thank you, my friend for the good choice of site for the evening. We will come back there.




Time flies when you’re having fun. While talking about photography and other stuff, I guess it just opened his curiosity towards Fujifilm mirrorless cameras. What a great night it was, but afterwards it was also time to say goodbye.


On our way back to Shibuya Station and its faithful Hachiko eternal guardian, we enjoyed the cool and vibrant evening. This place is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Tokyo and we just saw it on our first day, since arriving from Kyoto.


Navigating through the ocean of people, we headed our way to the station with a little fatigue, but with a feeling of accomplishment.



Waiting for the train to come, we were contented with the resolutions of the day. It was time to go to our new home and get that well-deserved rest.


Nippori surroundings had a different flavor during the night, with all the lights turned on. Our Tokyo day turned out to be exactly like we have planned it.


Some other great attractions were waiting for us for the day to come. I wish we had more time to discover Tokyo, at least as much time as we had in Kyoto, but it isn’t easy to plan a 2 week trip to Japan and have enough time to see everything you would love to see. I felt asleep dreaming about Ginza and the Electric Town.


All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2017 /

Sunrise Country – DAY EIGHT


Hello again on a new chapter of my personal Japanese saga as a travel photographer. This day was Osaka day. It was planned for some time, only that there are always differences between what you plan at home and what you can really achieve, on the road. In a sense that you often visit and do less than what you had on your initial “to do/to see” list.



From Kyoto to Osaka, by train, we had a pleasant one hour ride with our JP Passes. It actually took us longer to get from home to the train in Kyoto Station.


Arrived in Osaka, our first destination was Osaka Castle, or 大阪城, Ōsakajō.




Built in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, but destroyed a few times afterwards, the Osaka Castle was reconstructed and in 1931 it got its final shape, with some important repairs in 1997.


At its epoch, it was the biggest castle built in Japan, surrounded by heavily fortified walls and water channels. Now its is considered the no. 1 tourist attraction in Osaka – for us, it really was.




There are many alleys in the vast surrounding gardens. We walked quite a bit until we finally arrived at the castle. The number of tourists is impressive, but we blended in and got in the line for the access tickets.




Right after we bought our tickets, a live show was about to begin and a lot of people were magnetized by the beautiful live performance on stage. We watched in admiration, but after a while we decided to enter the castle, taking advantage of the relatively non cramped access stairs.



The castle is a museum and the rebuilding process used concrete and elevators, but they kept the original interior and exterior design. Inside it is very crowded on its narrow stairs and you must climb several floors until you get to the beautiful panoramas over the Osaka City. It is very much worth it.






Osaka is a very large and modern city. It is the second largest metropolitan area in Japan with up to 19 million inhabitants. The view from the highest accessible point at the castle is simply splendid.



After our visit at the Osaka Castle, we went to the train station to go to our second area on interest: the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, together with the Kaiyukan Aquarium.


Those two huge point of interests for tourists are situated close to each other, in the Osaka Bay Area.


This location is also called Tempozan Harbor Village and includes many other interesting things to see and experiment. First, we wanted to try the ferris wheel and get the best panoramic view over Osaka City.


The waiting line was immense and it cost us a lot of time, but from a maximum height of more than 112 meters, the view over the Osaka Bay and the city with its skyscrapers is simply astonishing.





This beautiful “photographic show” was just as promised. From above here, we clearly saw the Osaka Aquarium, our next destination.


Kaiyukan – the Osaka Aquarium 海遊館 is situated next to the ferris wheel and its biggest tank can hold about 5.400 tons of water, where you can see different species of marine life, including sharks.


The ticket is about 2.300 yen and it is also crowded, being one of the top 5 biggest tourist attractions in Osaka.



There are many corridors plunged in the darkness, so you need to use your lenses at their widest aperture value and not being afraid of bumping up the ISO. It is a very beautiful visual experience for both kids and adults. By the time we have finished our visit at the aquarium, the night was about to fall.


One last look behind, to the ferris wheel and the darkness was enveloping us, on our way, by foot, to the train station.



It was a full and busy day, but I already felt the regret, by the end of our Osaka journey, that this marvelous city has so much to offer and we have seen so little of what it could offer. We went to the train station with that inner promise we would come back and experience more.


On our way back home, we felt the fatigue of those walked and climbed kilometers, but we were pleased to visit a new place, a new city, as our first trip together away from Kyoto. Arriving at home, one of the most sorrowful things had to be done: packing. It was the last night in our beloved Kyoto 京都, former capital of Japan and former residence of the emperor until 1868. Good night, Kyoto – by far the most loved, appreciated and walked city in our whole Japanese experience! The next day, Tokyo was waiting for us.

Kyoto Station1

All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2017 /

Sunrise Country – DAY SEVEN


Welcome back to my travel journal. The Day Number Seven was in fact a “day off”. And also the day when I turned 40. This was one of my strongest desires: to spend my 40-year-old birthday in Japan, not alone, but with my wife and best friends. It turned out this wish became reality and I was really happy about that.

Kyoto Streets2

What does it mean a “day off” when you are on vacation anyway? 🙂 It means no precise destinations, no time schedule to follow, no rush, only the Zen attitude and the ability to observe and be happy with everything, enjoy every step in no predetermined direction. And this is exactly what we did.

Kyoto Streets3

Kyoto Streets9

In fact, a free day like that one was ideal for walking, discovering new streets, places, great for street photography (even though it felt like I’ve taken a day off from photography, too), well suited for occasional shopping and perfect for enjoying traditional Japanese food. And enjoying each other’s company, as well.

Kyoto Streets6

Kyoto Streets11

We started as usual, by foot, from home, heading to the center, looking for a place to have a coffee, maybe shopping, without searching for any items in particular.

Kyoto Streets12

Kyoto Streets13

Kyoto Streets15

Even though it is Kyoto we are talking about, I had a feeling of tranquility – a paradox that I have enjoyed discovering : a crowded city in a distinct quietude.

Kyoto Streets18

Kyoto Streets20

Of course this could be a very subjective perception of a man on vacation, in his day off, without the urge to run and solve problems. But the people are calm, they preserve the calmness of their environment, which could be the street, the metro, train or bus. Even here, on this crowded Shijo Dori, which leads you towards Gion, across the Kamo River.

Kyoto Streets21

Kyoto Streets25

After the Shijo Dori walk and after visiting its shops, our steps led us to Teramachi and Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcades, a place we already knew, famous for its small boutiques, full of souvenirs, clothing, shoes, accessories, small restaurants, cosmetics, tea products, sweets and so on.

Kyoto Streets23

After that, we arrived in the vicinity of Kyoto Station. Here, there is a superstore dedicated to all fans of electronics: audio, photo, video related products, anything you want, could be found here at Yodobashi Camera. As a travel photographer, I was looking for a neutral density filter for my Fujifilm camera.

Kyoto Streets30

Kyoto Streets33

I have found and bought my filter and while I was there, I was testing a fantastic zoom lens for Fujifilm cameras. If you love those kind of things, it is a tragedy when the time comes to leave the store. There is so much to discover in a place like Yodobashi Camera – you need to dedicate one day to explore every department.

Kyoto Streets34

Kyoto Station is an impressive place to visit. It feels like a heart of public transportation, a place to start a journey, do shopping, eat international, or traditional meals and also a place to meet people. An immense space, so well-organized. People flow through its wide corridors and open spaces like colorful rivers – it is a great place to photograph, too.

Kyoto Station2

Kyoto Station17

Kyoto Station10

Close to Kyoto Station was Aeon Mall, our next destination. A place we have visited before, so it was quite easy to get there, even by taking the small backside streets.

Kyoto Streets35

Kyoto Streets31

Shopping, souvenirs for some dear ones at home, this is a great place to be and to buy whatever you might need. The diversity of products is simply spectacular.



By the time we have finished our adventure at Aeon Mall, it was already night. Our path for going home was by going back to Kyoto Station and wait for the bus to get us to Imadegawa Dori.

Kyoto Streets38

Kyoto Streets40

Kyoto Streets39

Kyoto Station15

Our final target was to find a large table in a very small restaurant, located really close to our home, where we had a traditional Japanese diner for my birthday, with ramen, tempura and ice-cream for dessert, in a very cozy atmosphere. And it was a great evening, with great food in a funny, relaxing ambience. Such a great way to finalize a very peaceful day. We went home, tired, but happy, sharing travel impressions from the closing day, thinking and discussing about our next destination for the day to come, as our first time to leave Kyoto. Where to? Osaka!

Kyoto Station1

All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2016 /

Sunrise Country – DAY SIX

Fushimi Inari5

Hello again and welcome back to our Japanese journey! The sixth day was about to be a typical hot day, as springs seem to be quite warm and sunny in Kyoto. We started our journey for the day, walking the small streets that lead to Horikawa Dori, on our way to Nijo Castle. On the map, Nijo Castle was quite close from our place and we decided it was about time to see it.

Kyoto Streets10

On our way, we have found an open supermarket. The diversity of sushi, sashimi, maki, nigiri and temaki was simply astonishing. Different types of sake, too. We bought some small things to have on the route ahead, but our thoughts remained glued to the fresh fish products, just prepared in that very morning.

Kyoto Streets14

It was a nice stop to refresh ourselves in the cool air inside the shop and refill our backpacks for the long day ahead of us. Not too far from this supermarket, we finally found the entrance to Nijo Castle.

Nijo Castle1

Nijo Castle30

Nijo Castle, or Nijojo (二条城, Nijōjō) was built at the very beginning of the Edo Era, for the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Later it became a residence for the Imperial family. It is one of the most important landmarks you need to visit in Kyoto.

Nijo Castle42

In 1994, UNESCO designated Nijojo as a World Heritage Site. The feudal architecture is wonderfully preserved. The castle itself includes 3 areas : The Nonmaru Palace, The Ninomaru Palace and the gardens that surrounds the buildings, along with 2 concentric rings of fortifications, to guard the Shogun’s residence.

Nijo Castle29

This place holds, for so much time, a powerful print of Japan history. The construction was finished in 1626 and since then, it stands as an example of engineering, marvelous in its simplicity and efficiency, although its complex elements reside in the beautiful artistry, used to decorate the entrances and the buildings.

Kyoto Streets20

After leaving the Nijojo, our way drove us to the JR Nijo Station. We needed a train ride, to get us to one of the most amazing places in Kyoto (and Japan and the whole world). From Nijo Station, to Kyoto Station and then, also by train, (thanks to our 2 week JR Passes) straight to the Inari Station.

Fushimi Inari11

Fushimi Inari10

After a pleasant walk on a narrow, but very crowded streets, passing right in front of the train station, along the small Omiyage shops and little restaurants, we have finally found the right way to go.

Fushimi Inari15

We came here to see an important Shinto shrine, in southern Kyoto, named Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社). It is the essential shrine, among thousand other shrines, established in 711 in honor of the Shinto God of Rice.

Fushimi Inari9

Rice means food, it means the very basic support of life, but it also means sake and Inari is the protector of this fundamental aspect of life.

Fushimi Inari24

Grains, rice, sake are symbols of wealth. Visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha to pay your respect to the God of rice, seems like the right thing to do for many people. And we have seen a lot of people, Japanese people and also tourists from around the world.

Fushimi Inari25

Fushimi Inari27

The shrine Fushimi Inari Taisha is also acclaimed for its thousands of gates, named Torii, which are well over 10.000. They wind over the hills behind the shrine and its entrance, into the forests of the sacred Mount Inari.

Fushimi Inari30

Fushimi Inari62

Fushimi Inari42

Those trails go in a zigzag pattern. Sometimes you feel like you walk up this mountain, trapped in a maze. Although it didn’t feel like a maze of confinement, but more like a path to meditation. To self revealment. It was a place of revelations.

Fushimi Inari34

Well, when you get a moment of silence and loneliness, away from so many groups of visitors, you can touch that inner silence, blending with the outer silence.

Fushimi Inari48

It is magic. It feels like this is the place to be, to think. A place where you must return, as soon as possible and as many times as you can. Fushimi Inari Taisha have imprinted in me a strong emotional message, that I have tried to talk about here, in a previous article.

Fushimi Inari59

Fushimi Inari54

We have explored those paths for quite some time, until the evening made its presence. I didn’t want to leave, there were still many other paths left unexplored. We made a promise to ourselves that we should return. Explore more, feel more of it.

Fushimi Inari75

Fushimi Inari84

We have noticed many statues around the shrine. The kitsune foxes are Inari’s messengers. Some of them had a key in their mouth, the key for the rice granary.

Fushimi Inari3

Fushimi Inari89

Fushimi Inari100

I was time to go. It felt like there were less tourists, than when we came. For a travel photographer, less tourists or no tourists, in such important venues is a real treat. I had my Fujifilm X+1 and my pro-grade zoom lens XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR all the time. The results in low light were quite good.

Fushimi Inari79

Fushimi Inari92

Fushimi Inari82

Fushimi Inari105

We have left a little Torii on a wall full of similar wooden Torii, as a reminder of a magnificent day we had together in such an extraordinary place. Then we left, heading our way to the Inari Station, back on the route we came, by train.

Fushimi Inari91

Kyoto Streets23

From Inari Station, we didn’t travel for too long, until we have arrived at Kyoto Station. This is an impressive place. The impression of vastness is only surpassed by the real dimensions of this station : it is much bigger than you see it.

Kyoto Streets22

Kyoto Station12

Kyoto Station9

Outside, we were immersed in the cool and fresh air of the night and a beautiful show of light and water with classic music in the background, caught our attention. And every time I was at Kyoto Station, I simply loved the image of the Kyoto Tower, mirrored in the immense glass wall of the station building.

Kyoto Station15

Kyoto Station21

Then, the final stage of our journey for the day : waiting, in line, for the bus to get us home, on Horikawa Dori. It was, as usual, a long day, but filled with beautiful things that we saw and felt.

Kyoto Station18

Kyoto Station23

Just before getting home, we had our usual “Briefing Room” moment. We were a little dry after such a long journey and the beers were really tasty : Asahi Super Dry, Kirin and Sapporo. Family Mart, in times of need, is a trustworthy friend. The next day would have no important venues to visit. We just set that day as a free day, to celebrate in a relaxed mood, my 40th anniversary.

All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2016 /

Sunrise Country – DAY FIVE

After Shopping1

The fifth day on my travel journal was a day of relaxation (not that we had to work hard on those other days, but it was a day without a travel plan). A great day for trying special food, walking without any hurry and shopping. Sounds like fun! It was a day when our team got separated for the fist time : two of us had some business to attend to in Nagoya, the rest of us remained in Kyoto. And we were here for a treat!


As usual, we started our day on Horikawa Dori, admiring the small shops in the vicinity. Fabric boutiques, selling all sorts of traditional textiles, scarves, in different colors and imprints, quite expensive.


Our main destination was to get to Gion, across the Kamo River and explore the famous street on Pontocho Area, filled with restaurants. It was the right time for a special, traditional lunch in one of the most beautiful places in Kyoto.


We have finally found a nice place to eat and admire the view.





The food was excellent and fresh and it might have been the most expensive meal we had until then. But the whole experience was worth it.


We thought about our friends in Nagoya and what a truly delicious and wonderful thing they have missed (without knowing that they, too, had some traditional cuisine surprises in Nagoya, as well).


So we left the restaurant in contentment and enjoyed our walk on this narrow street, ready for the second part of the day – the shopping experience.



We headed downtown, where the malls are located and we started to blend with the streams of people, flowing along the streets of central Kyoto. The malls, situated on Shijo Dori and Kawaramachi Dori didn’t took us so many time as we anticipated, though.


The sportswear zone was our main interest and we have found a big Sports Hall in Takamiyacho area, named Sports Mitsuhashi.


That was a place where we spent quite a while. Asics and Mizuno are the names that captivated us the most.



Afterwards we had a good long walk in downtown area, visiting some of the small shrines we found in our way. The evening was about to fall and we had to prepare our final stage in our shopping chapter in Kyoto.



As a travel photographer, on such a relaxing day with no reason to run anywhere, I thought it would be great to travel even lighter than I already normally do (since I have switched my DSLR with a Mirrorless system – more on that here, on my Blog), so I have left my main Fujifilm camera at home and took the small and light, yet powerful Fuji X100S, which I have used to capture my memories through the whole day.


The last part of our shopping time was in the Teramachi and Shin Kyogoku Shopping Arcades. It is all about two covered streets, designed only for pedestrians, filled with small shops, boutiques and restaurants that sell any king of goods and especially souvenirs – our last point of interest for the day.




Interested in buying something or not, the whole participation in meandering through the shopping arcades is a very eye-catching one.







There are places where you could sit and gather your strengths, get social, talk on the phone or just wait and look at the people.


We stayed here for maybe two hours, looking for the perfect souvenir shop with the best prices. We found more than one – there are many boutiques with a huge variety of amazing products and the prices were really attractive.




The night was already there, but we made sure we have checked almost all possibilities.



And when we finally had found what we were looking for, we decided it was time to head home.


After we got out of the bus, a few meters away from the bus station, we found a very small and nice restaurant. We were hungry and the atmosphere inside was inviting us, along with a good and powerful flavor of a delicious ramen. The menus in English were quite funny – everything looked friendly and cozy.



The place was really small, the music was good, the food was delicious. And so close to our home – I decided this was a good venue where I could invite all my crew for my birthday, which was coming two days later.


We left the restaurant and walked just a few minutes our way home, where our arrival was synchronized with the arrival of the other two “Cousins”, coming a long way from Nagoya. We finished the day with a small briefing (what did we see, do, eat and buy versus what did they see, do, eat and buy). A very close Family Mart store provided the “logistic support” for our late night meeting, discussing and planing the adventures for the next day. Magic!

All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2016 /

Sunrise Country – DAY FOUR


This was a perfect day! A great complement to the previous day, when we have seen a part of the history-enriched Gion and the prodigious Kiyomizu-Dera temple. Well, the following day was about to be even better – perfect.

1Horikawa Dori1

We started by foot from our base-camp on Horikawa Dori and took a bus to our first destination of the day. And what a destination : The Golden Pavilion, known as Kinkaku-Ji.

1Kyoto Streets1

The Kinkaku-Ji 金閣寺 is located in the northern side of Kyoto and it was on our initial lists of “sites to be visited at all costs”. It is one of the most important tourist and cultural attractions in whole Japan.

2Way To Kinkaku Ji1

2Way To Kinkaku Ji2

2Way To Kinkaku Ji3

2Way To Kinkaku Ji7

This was a sunny, warm day, but not so hot as other days we’ve seen in our spring journey. And talking about crowds of tourists… it was crowded. Outside, more buses filled with tourists kept on bringing more groups, so we decided to step up the pace and enter the inner gardens.

2Way To Kinkaku Ji8

2Way To Kinkaku Ji10

This place was marvelous, a real iconic site enriched with history and beauty. The gardens keep the same usual natural balance, everything seems to be in the right place with the right shape. There is no need to change anything. And after a few steps, there it was :



This golden pavilion, as its name says, has the 2 top floors covered in gold leaf, with its structure built overlooking a large pond. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history, including twice during a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and once again more recently in 1950 when it was set on fire by a monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.


Surrounded by gardens, in a go-around style, this is a place where you could stay much longer than anticipated. I’ve seen some photos of this beautiful architectural masterpiece taken during the winter. Contemplating Kinkaku-Ji covered in snow, surrounded by the beautiful scenery, is pure poetry, something I cannot describe in words, not even the words of my mother tongue.

2Way To Kinkaku Ji13

Indeed, this is an ideal venue for contemplation. Just stay here for a while, and make peace with yourself and your thoughts. Of course, this would be one of my most important locations where I should go back on a different time of the year. The autumn and the winter, too, should bring a perfect background for this marvel.

Going round on the alley in the garden, we have reached the souvenirs shops and finally the exit.

4Way To Arashiyama1

4Way To Arashiyama13

After a traditional lunch break with excellent fresh food in a very small restaurant (around 700 yen per person) it was the time for our next destination for the day : the lovely Arashiyama area with the unforgettable Bamboo Groves.

4Way To Arashiyama17


We went to Arashiyama by Keifuku Railway train. The small and beautiful train connects Arashiyama with Omiya Station at the intersection of Shijo Street and Omiya Street in central Kyoto. Keifuku Railways, or Randen also provides access to Kitanohakubaicho Station in northern Kyoto, not far from Kinkaku-Ji, Ryoan-Ji and Ninna-Ji Temples. One transfer of trains is required along the way. Keifuku Arashiyama Station is placed in the center of Arashiyama.



This was the most glamorous railway station we’ve ever seen in Kyoto with very nice decorations – it wasn’t a classic railway station, more of a museum of art. Getting away from the Kyoto’s center, in such a small train was already creating the feeling of a relaxing journey to the silent beauty of western Kyoto’s outskirts.




After going out of the station we were enveloped by a unique atmosphere of rural, yet perfectly civilized paradise. Across the Nagatsuji-Dori street, we had a modern and elegant shopping center and this was our first stop, since our arrival in Arashiyama.




We stayed here for a while, admiring the small boutiques with souvenirs and traditional commodity. I had no idea this was the place where my friends had a plan for my birthday, which was about to come really soon.




The gift I was about to receive in a few days from this moment, was quite a perfect gift, especially for me, being there in Japan : elegant traditional chopsticks, beautifully hand-crafted with my name and my birthday date engraved on them.


There were so many models and sizes, it was really a hard choice. From 2 – 3.000 yen up to more than 40.000 yen, a pair of chopsticks, well, there were models, sizes and colors for every taste and whim you could imagine.



I was waiting for them, quite a while. Staying outside, on a bench, I just felt it was the perfect moment to admire the people, their quiet rhythms, gather my thoughts and dive into the beauty and tranquility of the moment. Carpe diem!


When the group was ready to leave, we commenced walking north, along the Nagatsuji-Dori, looking for the entrance to the Bamboo Groves. The street was quiet, not so much traffic – the only traffic we have got was from the tourists. We were in no hurry, even though the sun was on its way to set.

5Way To Bamboo Grove5

Houses, bars, restaurants, small shops, the street was quite a tourist attraction itself. And just when we were wondering where would we find the entrance to the bamboo forest, there it was.

6Bamboo Grove8

6Bamboo Grove1

6Bamboo Grove7

I have dreamed about this place, seen so many pictures on the internet and frankly, I hoped it wouldn’t be so flooded with tourists – for my photos. The sunset wasn’t that far, the light was beautiful, until I have realized that we will make our way through a deeper and thicker bamboo forest. This means even less light for photography.

6Bamboo Grove15

I was worried about my photos – I think I just expected them to be perfect, with the ideal light and not so many noisy tourists, unaware of getting in front of my camera, just when I was ready to take my shot.

6Bamboo Grove21B

6Bamboo Grove24

6Bamboo Grove22

The photos don’t always represent the accurate reality. It was a little cold and quite dark, so I had to raise my ISO and try to get my shots staying as still as possible. This is one of the times when you would trade your lens for another one with image stabilization, or a super fast lens, with a very wide aperture, like F1.4.  Mine was used at F2.8, its maximum constant aperture with quite good results, the pro-grade Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8.

6Bamboo Grove27

Because of my photographs, most of the times I was left behind, so I always had to run and catch up with my group. The alleys in the forest, the peace and the silence, the ocean of pure green and the fresh oxygen were fascinating. Breathless! You walk those places in a state of continuous admiration. Man and nature, reunited for a common purpose: Beauty. Contemplation. Nature does this by itself, following some secret, sacred laws. Man destroys nature, most of the time, but not here.

6Bamboo Grove23B

I wished those moments could be locked in time. Surely they will never be lost in time. I will treasure them for the rest of my life, because they were pure beauty and for the modern man, if there is something that we terribly lack in our modern, metropolitan lives, well, it is the contact with the nature.

6Bamboo Grove28

We need to get out of our “comfortable” and “plentiful” homes and embrace nature in its beauty. Meditation, contemplation, self-acceptance – we must re-learn those things from the old ways of Japanese people.


The maze through the Bamboo Groves in Sagano is much bigger and deeper, but we have found a way out and discovered a very peaceful neighborhood, filled with houses and beautiful gardens. One of my favorite things to do, while traveling to Japan – to walk the small streets, away from the maddening tourist crowds, to taste a bit of a peace and silence that surround those places and those people.

Arashiyama End15

Arashiyama End19

Arashiyama End25

Traditional houses, modern houses, some of them mixing up the new with the old, it was a pleasure to discover those areas. The beautiful gardens added the right amount of exquisite flavor to each house. After leaving the Sagano bamboo forest, we had encountered not a sigle tourist. In fact, the evening was very near so the streets were completely silent and empty. All for just the five of us.

Arashiyama End28

Arashiyama End29

Arashiyama End32

After a while, we have realized we were really lost. Impossible to follow the same route we took when we came, but that was the beauty of it. Explore! A map in your pocket and a smartphone with a digital map, based on GPS and you are good to go.

Arashiyama End34

Arashiyama End39

Arashiyama End40

The fact of getting lost, revealed to us some more amazing small streets. Eventually, after consulting our map, we had our clear way to a train station, so we could return, back to the center of Kyoto. A few more streets, passing under a bridge, walking close to an important building named “19th Century Hall SL & Piano Museum”, where an old steam-powered locomotive was exposed in perfect condition and there we were, at Saga Arashiyama Station.

Arashiyama End45

Quite tired, after such a long day, we decided to take the train to somewhere in the Kyoto’s center. After leaving the station, we begun to do what we did best : explore.

Kyoto Night1

Kyoto Night3

Kyoto Night10

And we headed our way to the shopping street of Kyoto – the Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcades. It was 8:30 PM, already dark and quite late for shopping, where almost every shop was closed. But our last point of interest in our plan was not to go shopping. Very close to this shopping street was the famous Musashi Sushi restaurant and we really had to give it a try.

Kyoto Night11

Kyoto Night14

This small restaurant, located on Kawaramachi Dori is one of the most pleasant attractions in Kyoto. Really small, really crowded, so we had to wait for a while, on a long bench just close to the door, to get some free seats (we were 5 and we preferred to stay together, so 5 free places in a row – not so easy). Just 140 yen for one small plate and I had not more than 5 or 6 plates with different kinds of fresh, raw fish.

How would I summarize this experience? To be short : Sushi and Sashimi (capitalized) at the highest level in this world! Exquisite!

Musashi Sushi

Kyoto Night17

After this amazing diner it was time to make our way home. Walking in Kyoto by night is one of the greatest experiences as a traveler : you feel secure, there are no hazardous back alleys, not a single reason of intimidation. The main streets are still full of people, cars and lights. Enough light to easily read a book, in the street and still get great pictures at reasonable low ISO settings (ISO 640 at F2.8 as an example for the picture above).

Kyoto Night25

Kyoto Night30

Leaving the exuberant Kyoto’s center with its “quiet” & civilized crowds, we arrived at home, after some good miles of walking and, of course, urban exploring. So we were back on the same sweet pattern, that we held so dear : Horikawa Dori, Family Mart, Asahi Super Dry for the take-off, the late night briefing and a most welcome good night sleep!

Such a perfect day! I wished it would last forever. One of the finest days of my life. A perfect day!

All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2015 /