Kyoto Three Sisters Inn Annex

Nikon FA, Nikkor C 35/2 O.C, Kodak Porta 4000

We had the great pleasure of staying at the Three Sisters Inn Annex for our stay in Kyoto.  It is a traditional style Japanese ryokan inn, although it caters primarily to western visitors.

The inn is located right in the middle of the scenic east side of Kyoto.  It is literally a next door neighbor to the Heian Shrine and served as an excellent base of operations for our stay.

Another plus of the Three Sisters was that Kyoto City buses going virtually anywhere stop within a few blocks.  I can think of only one time we had to perform a bus transfer during our whole stay, otherwise we made point-to-point trips every time.

The Inn and grounds are quite beautiful.  Above is a view directly out of our room, and the garden in the front was an excellent view during our morning breakfasts.

Speaking of breakfast they offer either western or Japanese style breakfasts.  They are both excellent, and at the moment I would gladly enjoy either!

The best thing about the Inn however is the staff.  They are very friendly and helpful and gave us many tips for getting around Kyoto, eating the food and seeing the sights.

When we were leaving I could not convince the sweet proprietor Kay-san to let us walk to the bus stop alone.  She insisted on helping us pull our luggage even though we had plenty of hands to spare.

One final tip about travelling within Japan: use the Ta-Q-Bin service to send your luggage from one inn or hotel to the next.  It is incredibly cheap (~$15 US per piece) for large luggage, arrives in less than 24 hours, and saves you the hassle of lugging it around on the trains.

Kyoto Ginkakuji Temple

Nikon F6, Nikkor AF 35-105/3.5-4.5 D IF, Fuji Velvia 100

Our second major destination in Kyoto was the Ginkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Silver Pavilion.

The Ginkaku-ji Zen Temple is nestled in the foothills on the east side of Kyoto.  It includes a few historic buildings, a beautiful sand garden and sculpture, and several connected ponds and woods.

Its construction began in 1482 and it originally served as a retirement home for the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa.  After his death in 1490 it became a Buddhist temple according to his wishes.

Unlike at the Heian Shrine, tripod photography is not allowed at the Silver Pavilion.  While the overcast weather afforded some soft lighting, it also made handheld shots with Velvia 100 quiet challenging and I often had to resort to resting on a post or against a tree to stabilize myself.

You encounter the main temple to the right as soon as you have entered the main grounds.  You also see a finely sculpted Zen rock garden and sculpture in the shape of a cone.


Walking around the main rock garden you start to enter the rest of the grounds.  There are several other buildings and side gardens along the way.


There are a few paths which wind around ponds, a wishing well and small grassy areas.  The main path starts to wind up hill with a mixture of rock and bamboo steps along the way.


And if you keep going to the top you are rewarded with a view back down towards the rock garden and temple.


You can casually explore the whole grounds in half an hour or so, but if you want to linger at all (and I recommend that you do!) plan for an hour or more.

Even though they say the temple closes at 5:20 PM they actually mean they expect you to be completely off the grounds by then.  The caretakers start to politely but firmly usher you out shortly after they play a ritual drum cadence at 5 PM.

Note: If you find your 3-year old has fallen asleep on your shoulder or lap when you get there shortly before closing, you may not want to rest in the covered area near the rock garden.  The drum ceremony at closing is not conducive to nap taking!

Kyoto Heian Jingu Shrine and Garden


Nikon F6, Nikkor AF 35-105/3.5-4.5 D IF, Fuji Velvia 100

Our first destination in Japan was Kyoto, the former imperial capital which is full of historical, religious, and artistic places to visit.

We stayed at a charming traditional ryokan called Three Sisters Inn Annex.  It was a gorgeous inn with charming staff and excellent breakfast and warrants its own post.

However, I can't wait to share photos from the first site we visited, the Heian Jingu Shrine and garden.  Since it was literally right around the corner from our inn we figured it was a good location to drag our jet-lagged selves to.

This Shinto shrine was built in 1895 to commemorate the 1,100 year anniversary of Kyoto becoming the capital of Japan.  The shrine itself is incredibly striking with its bright red buildings and green tile roofs.

There is a dragon guarding the fountain near the front of the shrine which has cups with handles to pour the purifying waters over yourself.


We weren't prepared for the beauty of the gardens which are hidden from view until you pass through an entryway inside the shrine. The first section starts with a narrow stream inhabited by some very friendly koi.


Walking to the next section reveals the first ponds which feed the stream.  They are full of lily pads and irises which happened to be in full bloom in June.


Further ahead were more ponds, but now there were a few sets of stepping stones crossing them in places.  Our two boys had no end of delight chasing each other across these, it is a minor miracle neither fell in!

And the final section included the largest pond yet, a bridge crossing it, and a smaller building across the way.  An bonus is that tripods are allowed inside the shrine and gardens, so I was able to make the photo at the start of this article as an 8-second exposure to smooth out all the ripples in the water.

Japan Expedition

Nikon F6, Nikkor 85/1.8 AF D, Kodak Portra 400

Well, in case you couldn't guess or you haven't caught it from my Dear Sweet Wife, we recently returned from a family expedition to Japan.  We also hit Hawaii on the way back because… well, it was on the way!

We spent two days in Kyoto and five in Tokyo, but of course there were a couple travel days around and in-between.  Then we soaked up the sun at pools and the beach in Hawaii for about three days.

It was an amazing trip in many ways, and we had a total blast.  This was our biggest family vacation ever, and our 6- and 3-year-old sons had a great time.

Above is the totem pole from Robot Park, with some Roppongi Hills towers visible behind.  This was an extremely cute playground and a very welcome opportunity for our kids to use up some energy.

My DSW came back with plenty of quilting goods, I managed to nab some photography toys, and our boys practically filled a suitcase with Anpanman and Catbus stuffed dolls.

I have plenty of tales to tell in future posts along with a mound of film to scan in the process.

Back in Town

Canon S90, taken by my Personal Photographer (DSW)

As my personal photographer (Dear Sweet Wife) has already mentioned, we have been k-kinda busy lately.  We have just returned from a big family vacation, in fact the biggest to-date!

You may be able to guess from her post's image as well as the above where we may have been.  She took this photo of me while I was contemplating my next composition at one of several scenic locations we photographed.

One more hint: I toured the most amazing camera shops I have ever visited, all within a few subway stops from each other…

While we took some digital snapshots, we mostly shot film and we have only just begun processing it.  Look for more updates soon as we work through our digital images and start getting film back.