Shrine & Temple Photo Tours - Exploring Japanese Culture
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Saturday, June 15, 2019
By Japan Dreamscapes
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Shrines & temples photo tours highlight how large a part of Japanese peoples’ lives shrines and temples are throughout the year, so a shrine and temple photography tour is an excellent way to introduce yourself to Japanese culture while taking amazing photographs.


Whether devout or more secular, Japanese people visit shrines from the first day of the year for a fresh start and to invite prosperity.  It’s called ‘hatsumode’.  The process is Japanese people’s quiet hope for prosperity for the new year, and the decorations adorning the local shrines are spectacular photo ops.  And if you enjoy seeing kimono-clad Japanese dutifully making their way to or returning from the shrine, this is an excellent way to capture rich cultural traditions during a winter photo tour.  The shrines themselves house many tranquil miko, or shrine maidens whose commonly red and white robes cast against the immaculate gardens on the temple grounds create another breathtaking photo op on your Shrine & Temple Photo Tour.


Shrines also have ‘omikuji’, or fortunes that predict what good fortune or less than auspicious events may be on the horizon, and in the case of needed protection, many small shrines have ‘omamoris’ or charms to ward off any less than desirable happenings.  The fortunes are then often tied off to a nearby display board after being read.  The sight of all the varying fortunes being attached to the display creates another shutter chance as part of photo tour.  Your Japan Dreamscapes (JDS) photo tour leader will help you navigate the shrine or temple grounds and take spectacular photos.


The shrine and temple grounds are always perfectly maintained as well providing autumn leaves for fall photography tours, and in spring the grounds provide refreshing green landscape to photograph as part of the shrine and temple tour.

Every part of visiting a shrine and temple is a bit magical.  Allow your JDS photo workshop guide to show you some of Japan’s most photogenic.


With enough years experience taking photographs and conducting tours throughout the islands of Japan, the JDS workshop leaders have perspective and notice the smaller elements.


One particularly photogenic element is torii, or gates.  What do they symbolize?  They are essentially markers, telling the visitors that they have left the mundane world of their daily lives and have no entered into a sacred place that is deserving of respect and reverence.   As with many Japan photo tour elements, the torii has a rich history.  The first was erected in the mid-Heian period some time close to the year 922, as that is when gates were first mentioned in a written text in Japan.  Their composition is almost always either of stone or wood, and there are gates that date back almost 1,000 years still standing as markers to shrines and rare photo ops in Japan.


Another amazing photo op for visitors to shrines and temples in Japan is shimenawas, or enclosing rope.  Constructed of rice star or hemp, it is a key element in Shinto religious practice.  They adorn the main entrances of shrines as a ward against evil spirits.  The shimenawa, like other elements of temples, vary from location to location, but your JDS photography workshop guide can introduce you and your camera to the most remarkable specimens of the enclosing ropes for your to enjoy on your photo tour.  For example, at one of the most ancient shrines in Japan, the Izumo Taisha, is home to the grandest shimenawa in all of Japan.  It is 13.5 meters long and weighs over 5 tons.  This is a must see for anyone looking for rare elements of Japanese culture during a photo tour.

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