About this site

Despite its remote location and high cost of living, Japan is a great place to visit. After spending just a week in Kyoto in 1999 I became interested in Japanese history and culture, which led me to read the Heian-era classic of Japanese literature The Tale of Genji. This in turn led to an interest in ancient Japanese literature and the places mentioned in old texts and poems.

Genji playing Go

Genji lives!

This site is an ongoing effort to photograph places featured in The Tale of Genji and other Heian-era diaries and chronicles, mainly in the area around Kyoto and Nara, the ancient capitals. Some of these temples and shrines still exist, more or less as they did a thousand years ago, and I have included information about pilgrimages which were an integral part of ancient Japanese religious and social life. Unfortunately, I only spend three weeks a year in Japan, so the work is slow.

If the temples and shrines in the photos appear deserted, it's because I often visit them near closing time on weekdays or in bad weather. At weekends the larger shrines and temples can be quite crowded, and pilgrims may be seen at relatively remote mountain temples.

The primary textual sources used for this site are the many books listed in the bibliography, while secondary sources are leaflets obtained from temples and shrines. Exterior photographs are all my own, but pictures of statuary are almost all taken from shrine and temple publications.

If you'd like to contact me, my email address is . In the meantime, take a look around.

20 September 2008