Shimmering shrine

Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, is one of Japan premier attractions and one of it’s most-photographed religious shrines. Seven centuries ago, it served as residence for a powerful aristocrat before being converted into a Zen Buddhist temple. While its appearance might normally lead one to conclude the structure is the original one, that is simply not the case. The wooden structure has burned down at least twice, most recently seventy years ago, before being rebuilt. When I visited, there were scores of other photographers—many with large, heavy tripods—moving around and looking for the best locations to set up and capture the interplay of color and light. Considering that other visitors simply wanted to linger or stroll around the scenic grounds, one often needed to wait some time to get a shot like this.

Island with a past

It’s not every restaurant with a view like this. The small tropical island in the background looks inviting enough, but today you can only go there by special invitation. In the past, you didn’t want to go there, invitation or not. Devil’s Island in French Guiana was part of France’s colonial penal system, and while it was gloomy enough for prison officials or soldiers to be there, it was worse for the poor imprisoned souls who had to languish on the island. The most famous internee was Captain Albert Dreyfus, an innocent man convicted of treason and condemned to serve a life sentence there in 1895. Dreyfus was Jewish and the Dreyfus Affairs exposed the malign influence of anti-Semitism in French society. It was said that any time an unknown ship came close to the island, a French soldier pointed his revolver at Dreyfus’ head in case, lest someone try to rescue him. Dreyfus was released in 1899 and exonerated in 1906.