Japan has been on my list of places to go for a while, and it definitely did not disappoint.  In fact, as I mentioned last week, I got a good number of images from there that I’m excited to share, and I’m struggling to decide how to chop it up for content, without just overwhelming everyone with images from a single destination.  I’ll figure it out though!

Anyway, I thought it fitting to start my series off on Japan with this image I captured of the Biwa Lake Torii.  In the Shinto tradition, the torii are gateways to important shrines (in this case, the Shirahige and Iwato-sha Shrines).  When I think of Japan, these gates are definitely one of the first things that come to mind.

How I got this particular image is a bit of a funny story.  I had been dying to do some night photography while in Japan, and either the timing or the conditions just hadn’t worked out. BUT, I’d rented a camera I was considering buying, and I really wanted to put it through its paces (how well a camera captures the Milky Way is currently my selection process, as it’s the one thing my current camera doesn’t do well).  Well, as it turned on my second weekend in Japan, while I was staying in Osaka, the conditions were clear, and so was my calendar.  There was one catch though, I had no car.  This was a particular problem because while there is a train that goes all the way out to a town close by, the last train left the station at 11… and the Milky Way didn’t appear in the sky until after 1AM.  Furthermore, I’d likely be able to get a cab *to* the gate, but I’d probably have to walk back to the town where the train station was (by my estimation it was a little over a mile… not that big of a deal).  Sooo…. I got myself out to the town, loaded up on snacks, and got a taxi to take me out the shrine (the driver looked at me funny for sure).  By this point it was around 9:30PM… there were two trains left, so I had time, but not much time.  I sat and stared out at the lake, and at all that light pollution from Osaka, and likely even Tokyo…  I wondered if I’d ever be able to get rid of it.  I wondered how bad the passing cars would mess with the shot (I was sitting on a wide flight of stairs that went down to the lake from the side of a highway.  I decided I’d come all this way, I might as well stick it out (I had nothing else to do!)… so there I sat, on the side of a highway… all by myself…. until about 1AM, and then another photographer showed up, and then another, and then three more… before I knew it, I was surrounded by about 12 – 15 other photographers, all enjoying the Milky Way as it rose over the torii.  I was clearly at the right spot!

After I was done taking pictures, I packed up and walked up the side of the highway.   I was the first person to the train station, and one of the few people on the train when it came.  I was exhausted, but happy!  What an experience!

–Dan Thompson

TitleAddress Description
Biwa Lake Torii
Ukawa, Takashima, Shiga Prefecture 520-1122, Japan

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