Those old Chinese painters were not exaggerating. I had always thought their romantic depictions of fantastic rock formations, with tiny hermitages hiding behind swirling whips of clouds, were pure fantasy. But they were only painting what they saw! It is a four hour climb to the top of Yellow Mountain (Huang Shan). In the old days hermits and monasteries clung to the peaks. Now there are a couple of hotels, which require a constant stream of porters streaming up loaded with stuff to keep replenished with towels, food, and fuel.
Three Bai girls flirt at the South Gate of Dali. Bais are a prevalent minority group in Yunnan. The girls are talking to my 10-year-old son, who happens to speak Mandarin, but doesn't look very Chinese. Fancy dress like this is usually worn by older women everyday or young women on special occasions, or to please tourists. To my eye, there is more pink in their version than is normal for the traditional dress, which tends to blue.
Farmhouses are without heat so Tibetan families stay warm by piling quilts on top of a futon-like mattresses which are spread on the floor. During the day they fold the blankets up and stash them in a cubby, freeing up the floor. The decoration around the room is as ornate as the quilts are colorful. In this photo there is also a shopping bag adorned with anime faces.
It was a Japanese temple garden, it was spring, and it was beautiful.
I was walking down a street in a suburban village on the island of Kyushu and I saw this guy working in his garden in front of his house. He was dressed in these very traditional clothes. They seem almost ornamental. It is possible they were not his usual work clothers since they weren't soiled at all. I took a couple of snapshots of him and he simply let me shoot, while he posed patiently. I had the sense he was very "centered."
Fresh baked squid "muffins" are served at this small shop on a street in Kyushu. The hot snacks are snatched up by students.
Extravagent costumes, acrobatic gestures, quasi-martial arts, and drama -- that's kubuki to me a westerner.
Shinto priests blow a conch horn to announce the beginning of a ceremony marked by a big smoky bonfire of green juniper.
During this ceremony the priestess ascended up the stairs until she was out of view, almost as if she had entered heaven, and when she returned he carried a leafy branch, which she waved.
This priest is playing a shinoku (sp?) a traditional Japaness bamboo pan flute in his garden at the peak of spring.
A farmer in the southern island of Kyushu trues his saw, after he sharpens it. I love his boots with big toes -- a very traditional style.
An old snack stand serves up finger food along a lane that pilgrims to a local temple trek. Though small, the stand is full of wonderful brown textures of wood, hand-dyed cloth, and bamboo.
In the beginning of a drama acted out by these large-scale puppets, the puppet masters are clothed and hooded in black, so their presence won't distract views. By the second act, the puppets are so real and life-like that the puppeteers take off their hoods, and the audience no longers "sees" them.
Throughout Japan, shrines and offerings to forest spirits are quite common. I would often see a stone pillar in the middle of a glade or along a wooded path. Here people have cloaked the gods and left offerings of coins and flowers. The colors are bright and baby-ish, as if these were children of the forest.
In the northern part of the Japan Alps, a small village has an old fashioned footbridge.