Shimbashi, Kyoto

Magical.

Even know, many months later, that is the only word I can think of to describe Shimbashi.  That street is absolutely magical.  There is no other way to put it.

As much as I sometimes like to think that I am not, I am a creature of habit.  My habits may change far more rapidly than with others, but I do like a bit of routine.  On my trip to Kyoto it was no different.  Every morning, I awoke before sunrise, double and triple checked my gear, and went out shooting.  At some point during the day, I would pull my hammock out of my pack and stretch it between a couple of trees for a bit of a rest.  And every evening, after I had finished my photo work around sunset, and had something delicious to eat, I would head to Shimbashi.

That first night it was all planned.  I fell in love with that picturesque lane on a previous trip to the Old Capital, and I knew that it was one of the first things I wanted to shoot when I went back.  After finishing an afternoon of wandering the Path of Philosophy, and temple hopping, I got the subway back down river.  The sun was just beginning to dip over the horizon as I was getting my tripod set up.  Shimbashi was its usual busy self.  Young couples walked hand in hand.  Tour groups in all different languages stopped in front of the little Shinto shrine for explanations on the street’s significance.  Delivery boys zipped by on bikes and mopeds, rushing to make dinner deliveries to the various tea houses in Gion.  It was all so perfect.  I took my time getting my shots, shooting super long exposures of over a minute.  There’s a form of magic that only Shimbashi generates for me, and I was basking in it.  I lingered for a while after I had finished, but eventually the weariness of a day spent walking sunk in and I made my way back to my apartment.

After that first night I didn’t really have any plans to go back to Shimbashi.  With only a week to work with, my shooting schedule didn’t really allow me the time for repeat trips unless it was absolutely necessary.  The shots from the first night looked good, so as magical as it was, Shimbashi was crossed off the shooting list.  Yet it was not finished with me.

Every night that week, after my photo work for the day was finished, and my belly was full of sushi or ramen, my feet instinctively led me to the same place.  The magic drew me in.  I stopped at a minimart to pick up a cool drink, and then I found a nice spot to relax on a wall or fence.  There was no shooting photos, no wandering, just sitting, and observing.  It was the same as the first night.  There were young couples, tour groups, and delivery boys.  Occasionally, someone would ask me to snap a photo for them.  They would ask a few questions, and we would chat for a minute, but eventually they would wander on.  I simply stayed put, basking in the atmosphere.  There was no where else that I wanted to be.

Even now, just thinking back, I can still feel the magic that Shimbashi generates inside me.  There is no way to adequately describe the feeling.  It was like seeing an old friend, or an evening spent in the best of company.  It was not anything spectacularly interesting, and yet it was amazing in its own special way.  Long after I left Kyoto, the feeling still lingers with me.  Shimbashi is simply magical.

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