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  • Writer's pictureRobin Yong

The Four Seasons of Autumn 秋の四季

Updated: Jun 13, 2023















愛過一次, 就值得再去愛第二次






After a hiatus of 3 years, I finally get to travel overseas when more countries are opening up their borders. The travel industry is still not entirely ready to receive large numbers of tourists, so I picked a destination familiar to me - Japan. This is my 30th trip to this beautiful nation - after all the main aim of this trip is to visit friends and relatives.

The trip was planned in May 2022, way before Japan decided to officially open up their borders to international tourists. My usual travel agent in Singapore asked if I would like to visit Japan again - the process will be a little tedious - I have to be accompanied all the time, a tour agent in Japan would need to be my guarantor and I would need to get a visa from the Japanese embassy. I talked to Okasan and my other Japanese friends about the idea, they were all very willing to have me visit them, so we made plans for this trip in June. My geisha friends would like me to attend their Gion Odori - an annual geisha dance show, a tradition which was launched in 1952. They had a 2 year break due to the pandemic and this year they are restarting it....And of course our usual walks and informal photo sessions at the gardens.

This year, we picked the Philosopher's Path for our photo walks. The Philosopher's Path (哲学の道, Tetsugaku no michi) is a pleasant stone path through the northern part of Kyoto's Higashiyama district. The path follows a canal which is lined by hundreds of cherry trees. Usually in early April these trees explode with color, making this one of the city's most popular hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spots. First opened in 1890 and extended again in 1912, the path follows the course of a shallow irrigation channel bringing water from the Lake Biwa Canal. The route is so-named because two 20th-century Japanese philosophers and Kyoto University professors Nishida Kitaro and Hajime Tanabe are thought to have used it for daily exercise. The path passes a number of temples and shrines such as Hōnen-in, Ōtoyo Shrine, and Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji. It takes about 30 minutes to complete the walk, although many people spend more time visiting the sights along the way.

However, many people forgot about there are maple trees here as well. Japan’s cherry blossoms are famous the world over, but the fall foliage in Kyoto is perhaps even more beautiful. I like to do autumn photo shoots during early to mid autumn, where I can get all 4 colors of the autumn leaves - green, yellow, orange and red. One or 2 colors alone is too boring for me. We have 4 geishas this time, Tomitsuyuu, Tomitae, Tomieri and Tomifuku. I have known Tomisuyuu and Tomitae for 8 years now, while the other 2 ladies are new. All 4 ladies have very different personalities, each bringing a different autumn mood for my photo series.

We walk along Philosopher's Path, chatting about our different experiences over the past few years.

Tomitsuyuu is glad the pandemic is finally over and I can come and see her again. We have been planning my trip using the trial visa programme issued by the Japanese government when it is deciding about how to open up slowly.

TomiEri misses some of her colleagues who have quit the industry when everything came to a standstill.

Tomitae made use of the pandemic cycling around Kyoto and seeing much of the countryside.

TomiFuku is ever optimistic about the future. There's no point looking at unhappy matters and she's probably the new burst of energy and positivity the people around her needs.

The photo project is inspired by a concept music album from 1989 by a dear friend Ms Augustine Yeh. After all these years, I still listen to the album almost every day.

The photo series has an element of sorrow and longing that belong to autumn - the geisha community was badly hit by the pandemic. Events were few and jobs were hard to come by. Of the 4 seasons, autumn is deemed by Asians to be the most pessimistic, because after autumn comes winter. Then there is the geishas and their idealized beauty, all unchanged for several hundred years. These beautiful ladies provide a living link to the history of Japan. They are guardians of a complex set of traditions and rituals that make up this sophisticated Japanese culture. And this beauty is probably most pronounced when combined with the autumn scenery in Kyoto. The biggest feature of this photo series is to constantly find a sense of balance...

The photo series is a Platinum Award winner at the Muse Photography Awards and a Silver at the New York Photography Awards...

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