Togetsukyo during the Arashiyama Hanatouro
With the Arashiyama Hanatouro starting this Saturday night (December 14th), I've decided to feature some shots from past Arashiyama Hanatouros to give you an idea of what to expect. If you're in Kyoto from the 14th to the 23rd of December make sure you don't miss this event. Actually it will require more than one night to see it all. If your schedule is flexible avoid Saturdays, Sundays and the 23rd (a public holiday) nights as these will be the most crowded.
The Arashiyama Hanatouro starts at 5pm each night and finishes at 8:30pm. There is about 5km of lit up roads and paths with special light ups of features along the way. These special light ups include the Togetsuko ("Moon Crossing Bridge"), a mountainside, a bamboo forest, the Nakano Shima Park, Nonimiya Shrine and displays at the Hankyu and JR train stations. All of the aforementioned sites are free to view. Additionally, various other sites (mostly temples) have special light ups, but require an entry fee. Further information about what temples and other sites have light ups can be found by clicking on this link.
All of three regular train stations in Arashiyama that is the Hankyu Ashiyama, Keifuku (aka "Randen") Arashiyama and JR Saga-Arashiyama are on the Hanatouro course. Hankyu is the most convenient (and cheapest) if you are coming from Osaka, Kobe or the South West suburbs of Kyoto. The Keifuku railway is convenient if you are coming from the downtown. The Keifuku also has a subway connection which makes it good not only from subway locations, but also if your using the Keihan or Kintetsu Railways to get from the South of Kyoto or Nara and even from Outsu in Shiga. The JR line is useful if you are travelling on a Japan Railway Pass or you are coming from the Kyoto station area or transferring from the Shinkansen (aka "Super Express" or "Bullet Train"). The JR line is also the only rail option from North Kyoto Prefecture. I don't recommend going to Arashiyama by bus or private transport at anytime, even more so during Hanatouro. The roads in and around Arashiyama are way too narrow and heavily congested.
Arashiyama is one of the coldest places in Kyoto city and it's name means stormy mountain. On some nights that I've been there the temperature has fallen to 0C by lights out at 8:30pm, plus as the name implies, it can get windy and rainy, so be prepared. Wear layered quackery clothing and have a backpack you can put them in, especially if your carrying a dSLR, a couple of lenses and a tripod, you can start to warm up quickly lugging them around the Hanatouro course!
Today's photo was taken early in the evening which is the best time to get a bit of blue in the sky (otherwise you won't make out the tops of the mountains against a black sky). For this photo I used a Nikon D700 and an AF Nikkor 50f/1.8D lens with a split ND filter (2 stops) on a sturdy tripod. I aligned the dark part of the split ND filter to cover the bridge which is way brighter than the mountains. I got there early before sunset to set up, as it is difficult make out the dark areas to align the split ND after sunset. In iPhoto I applied the following edits: enhancing the micro contrast level and brightening the shadow areas slightly.