Fushimi Inari (Ni-ban)

Since last time I got in a ton of trouble for taking a week’s worth of blurry photos in Japan, we had to return here to take a second attempt – ni-ban.

(I had a friend in college who named his cats Ichi-ban and Ni-ban, and he told me that meant “first one” and “second one”, though he wasn’t Japanese. I mentioned the cats to one of our guides, and he got a good laugh out of it. Given typical Japanese courtesy, that could mean just about anything.)

The first trip, I had just finished reading Understanding Exposure, a great book that helps you understand the three most important settings on your camera and how to use them. For someone who’s always been a little bit intimidated by big fancy cameras, for me it was revolutionary. Naturally, I jumped in to our trip with both feet, excited to now be a professional photographer.

As a result, nearly our entire first Japan trip had been documented like this:

Yep. Professional Photographer.

Some people tell you to throw coins into the Trevi Fountain to ensure that you’ll return to Rome. Others tell you not to see everything there is to see wherever you happen to go, so you’ll have a reason to return.

I submit that all you have to do is take a bunch of shitty photographs of your adventures, and then you’ll have to come back.

Fortunately, Tiffany had done a good job of resurrecting the photos we did have, so we could write about that trip at all.

This time around, I brought two more years of experience and a tripod with me, and I think we did much better. Fushimi Inari hadn’t rested on it’s laurels either, and proudly claimed the top spot in the TripAdvisor “2014 Japanese Site Popular With Foregin Tourists” category. Don’t believe me? Neither does anyone else. They’ve put up signs to prove it.

Evidently its numbers are getting hurt by the “2014 Japanese site popular with Domestic Tourists” crowd so they conveniently left them out
I’m not sure what it’ll take to become “2014 Japanese Site popular with ALL Tourists”… maybe trashcans

Despite getting here at about the same time as last time (read: o-dark-thirty), with better gear and exposure settings I was able to get some cool shots like this:

Autumn leaves, temple eaves
A chrysanthemum at sunset
Shinto lantern

Walking up through the gates is definitely surreal. They snake through what is a pretty sparsely wooded forest, a wandering flow of orange in a dark wood.

Taking long exposures in the dark makes the people disappear, if they’re moving fast enough

Almost like a tunnel, with bright orange supports to protect you from the weight of all the universe from falling down and crushing you.

These gates go on for miles up the mountain. I’ve never been to the top, but apparently there’s another shrine up there.

I’m sure somebody can come up with a much deeper, more philosophical metaphor than that but, well, pot’s still not legal in my state.

I like this picture a lot

The amazing thing is just how much light there is in the dark. The last few shots were taken when it was pitch black apart from the buildings, but look how much light the sky has.


For contrast, here’s a picture of something else taken at about the same time:


Neat, huh?

On our way out, we stopped to take a few pictures of the large gate that protects the entrance of the shrine from evil spirits. Press button, wait thirty seconds, look at results.

Through the lower gate, into the shrine itself

Or press button, spend thirty seconds hoping nobody walks in front of your camera…

Impressive entrance

…and then look at what you got.


With a tripod, anything is possible.

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