Chureito pagoda – 五重塔

As a photographer, I love shooting amazing scenes. I’ll go out of the way to find opportunities to take a photo. Chureito Pagoda definitely meets the criteria of “amazing”. It is one of the best places to view Mt. Fuji and is one of the most iconic places to take a photo in Japan. You’ve probably seen a postcard or photo of the five-storied pagoda with cherry blossoms around it and Mt. Fuji in the background. It truly punctuates Japan’s image. Visiting and photographing Chureito Pagoda with Mt. Fuji was something I wanted to do, so I hopped on the train and went.

I arrived later than desired at Shimoyoshida Station. I walked from the station to the large Tori Gate (~500 meters), then started my trek up the 396 stairs to the top.

Unfortunately, when I arrived at the top, clouds were covering most of Mt. Fuji. I settled in and started taking photos for a timelapse – hoping to catch the clouds revealing Japan’s holy mountain at dusk. I wasn’t that lucky – I barely caught a glimpse of the peak, and that was only for 10 seconds. I took a few decent shots of the pagoda, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for.

It was my first attempt at creating a timelapse, and to be honest, I failed pretty hard. I didn’t account for how drastic the lighting would change. But, I was happy with the result for my first try.

Several months later, I decided to try again. This time I left earlier, and it was a beautiful, clear, day. Here are some of the photos:

For this second trip, my family came with me, and due to my wife not feeling well, we did not stay long. That just means I’ll need to go back again to get a few more photos another time.

One interesting thing that I learned after showing these photos to several Japanese friends was that this place is iconic for foreigners, but not so much for Japanese. Not one of them knew what “Chureito Pagoda” was.

It was in these conversations that I learned “pagoda” was not a Japanese word. I don’t remember when I learned what a pagoda was, but it was at that point that I thought it was a Japanese word.

This pagoda is a 五重塔 (gojuunotou), which literally translates to “five-storied tower”. When other Japanese people have asked where this is I will tell them  五重塔 if they don’t understand “Chureito Pagoda”.

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