Before setting off on my current trip, I wanted to give myself at least one “photo assignment”: some goal I could aim to accomplish by pretending like I’d been given an assignment by some employer.

This is the first of what I hope will be many. The assignment here is to try to capture the atmosphere of eastern Kyoto’s traditional streets at night.

A couple of things I had to plan for: Kyoto is a bit far from my hostel in Osaka, so I made sure to make a day trip out of it. Also, I wanted preferably a somewhat rainy day, which would make the ground more reflective.

One more thing: the more shots during magic hour, the better. The sky ends up a lot more beautiful that way.

Ok go, let’s have a look at what I ended up with!

Walking up the path towards Hokan-ji Temple (Yasaka-no-to, Yasaka Pagoda) (法観寺五重塔)

Walking uphill through the shops that are just closing, approaching the pagoda. Not quite magic hour yet.

Vending machines lighting up the path

The light the the vending machines is completely blown out. I took some bracketed shots of this, but I don’t want to deal with the HDR right now… maybe later.

Just a funny note: instead of the RAW file, I actually ended up postprocessing the HDR JPG for this one accidentally. Took me a while, but I finally corrected my mistake when I was seeing weird artifacts appearing.

Looking down on Ninenzaka Street (二年坂)

I had a tough time trying to crop this one. The posters on the right side are interesting and I wanted to zoom in more on them, but couldn’t find a way to make it work.

Hydrangeas on Ninenzaka Street (二年坂)

Some hydrangeas on a wet street. This is more like it, this is the kinda shot I came here to take! There really was no one around at this time. Most of the folks in the area were camped out with tripods to duplicate a shot they had seen on reddit (which I ended up doing later…).

Street near Hokan-ji Temple (Yasaka-no-to, Yasaka Pagoda) (法観寺五重塔)

Not sure about the composition here, in terms of the balance. But I liked the design of the window on the left. Reminded me of something elven, like it came out of the Lord of the Rings.

Bar Main Higashiyama Kyoto

Before I took the following shot, a bartender dressed in fancy clothes skurried past to return after his break. Actually wasn’t so sure about this photo was worth taking when I was here, but it ended up turning out pretty well!

The bluish light cast a nice reflection on the still-wet ground. Quick, keep snapping pictures before it dries up!

Shōren-in gate (青蓮院門跡)

The ground dried up by the time I made it here…

I remember crowds up people lined up around here at New Year’s 2013, waiting to ring in the New Year by ringing the bell at the nearby Chion-in temple (知恩院). It was a cold night, and I ended up bailing out of the line after more than an hour of waiting.

This time I revisited on a warm night, with kind of a creepy atmosphere with no one around. There was just this imposing gate dimly lit, with signs explaining that it’s closed for the day. If you look closely, you can even see a little security camera up there.

I ended up walking through a LOT of Kyoto late at night this night. I walked up to the Path of Philosophy and saw a few fireflies on the way.

I eventually went up to Hyakumanben neighborhood, to the delicious Tenkaippin ramen place near where I used to live and go to school.. had delicious “stamina ramen” with kotteri broth with a ton of other folks around 11:30pm, then ended up walking back towards the Kamogawa only to realize that the trains were out of service for the night.

Ended up walking back to my hotel near Kyoto station, but not before passing even more fireflies by the Kamogawa. Returned to my hotel around 2am or so… this was a fun night, really reminiscint of that first time I quit my job to come live here for the summer.

Where I sometimes wandered around aimlessly at night, thinking what in the world I was doing here. Never imagined I’d return here five years later to do the exact same thing, to be at the exact same point in life with seemingly no progress made whatsoever.

I came here not without a purpose this time, but it looks like my time here is almost at an end, and I still have no answer.

For better or worse, it’s time to keep wandering. I will try to take pictures while I keep wandering!