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The Story Behind That Picture: "Monday in Kyoto, Japan"

By: Thorsten Overgaard

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A Monday not so long ago I had a day to hang out for myself in Kyoto. I quickly looked up the "Lost in Translation" locations on Google and then headed out by foot on my "Kyoto in 145 minutes" walkabout.

 


Heian Shrine, Kyoto. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.

 

The moment in "Lost in Translation" where Scarlet Johannson takes the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto and visits the Heian Shrine is a pleasure moment that stands as great film history. The filmning, the mood, the underlying soundtrack "Alone in Kyoto" by Air ... I've been wanting to go there myself ever since.

This was the day to do it. I had almost forgotten to set aside time to see it for myself.

 


Kyoto. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.

 

Monday morning in Kyoto after the workshop had finished, we had coffee in a small cafe close by the Leica Store Kyoto where the staff had fallen in awe with my youngest daughter Robin Isabella and put on the speakers the Japanese version of Disney's Frozen!

 


Kyoto. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.

 


Kyoto. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.

 

I'm almost ashamed to say that it wasn't until that moment - just seven hours before a car would pick us up for the airport - that I googled the Lost in Translation locations and started planning my day.

They had two locations which I figured I could both reach with a 35 minutes walk. So that gave me a space of 145 minutes to go and take it all in.

 


Kyoto. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.

 

Kyoto reminds me of Venice, Some places are unbelievable/unbearable crowded with tourists, but in the outskirts of the busy areas you find silence and the local flavor.

Kyoto is a small city where most locals are the result of locals marrying locals for 500 years or longer. It is a very closed society, even by Japanese closed double-wall standards.

 


Kyoto. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.

 

When I arived to the Heian Shrine ather 25 minutes fast walk, I bought a ticket to visit the garden. Without much knowledge if this was the right location for what I was looking for, I looked at the map and decided to visit the palces with water. That turned out to be a good strategy.

 


Heian Shrine, Kyoto. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.


The garden - which must be more correctly classified as a park - also offered some locations that I just couldn't ignore and had to spend some minutes to explore.

 



Heian Shrine, Kyoto. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.

 



The stones in the water at Heian Shrine which I remember as the main location from Lost in Translation. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.

 

But I must admit that I frankly was in a hurry. With a short time to find and explore mainly one location I remembered - the stones in the water - I was relieved when I saw that location after a 20 minutes walk in the park.

I spent about 10 minutes by the stones trying to capture something essential. The idea that someone would jump over them, as in the famous Henri Cartier-Bresson photo stroke me. The photo on top of the page was the closest I got. I also almost had a cute girl in a red dress walking over them, but then she got cold feet in the last minute and ran the other way.

 



Of the series of pictures I took, this is the one I liked the best. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.


Kyoto has that feel of a small city where the locals have learned to perform their lives in ignorance of the fact that their home just happens to be the place all the tourist busses stop by, offloading thousands enthusiasticly equipped with maps and selfie sticks. You can't walk ten steps without being preserved in minimum two selfies or iPhone panoramas.

In the Heian Shrine and other temples in Kyoto nothing and nobody goes by without being instragrammed, selfieed, videoed and photographed.

 


Henri Cartier-Bresson meets Hello Kitty. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.

 

The park has a special glow and silence to it that is quite unique. You could say that the most of Japan has that unique balance of things.

In many cases nature seem to exist in a unique balance, but other places - like the walkways - humans had spent time and energy adding a zen moment to simple things.



The sand on the walkway arranged in a calming pattern. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.


 


Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.

 

 

         
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I had to head back, and outside the park the zen moment was over, with tourist busses, postcards, cameras and all. But also that scene can be fun. I waited for a moment to capture some school kids jumping for a photo. They took pictures with me as well and gave me a card that wished me world peace.

 


A group of school kids outside the Shrine.

 

I was glad that I had rememeberd the reason why Kyoto had a special reason to visit, and that I had set aside time to visit the locations. I will return with a new workshop in Kyoto and and Tokyo in November-December 2015.

 


Kyoto in December. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95

 


Kyoto in December. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95

 

 

Thorsten Overgaard, December 29, 2014

 

   
   

 

 
 

 

 

   
   
   
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Above: "Heian Shrine, Kyoto by Thorsten Overgaard. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95

 


 


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Thorsten Overgaard
Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish-American multiple award-winning photographer, known for his writings about photography and Leica cameras. He travels to more than 25 countries a year, photographing and teaching workshops to photographers. Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via email.

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