Linda Grashoff's Photography Adventures

From the Archives of 2005—3

July 5, 2020

In January 2005 I accompanied my husband and 10 Oberlin College students to Japan. We were there three weeks—they to study land use, and I and my camera to drink in whatever we could. While our group saw sewage-treatment plants and fish farms and such, we also visited tourist attractions, including these two Shinto shrines.

July 8, 2020 Update

New information added in the caption to #5, thanks to a comment from fellow blogger Steve Schwartzman.

1 Aoshima is a small island off Kyushu with an unusual shoreline. In English it is known as The Devil’s Washboard, but I don’t know if that is a translation from the Japanese. If I remember right, the island itself—rather than something on the island—is considered sacred. Shinto shrines are identified by their torii gates, the orange structure in this photograph.

2 On this day the waves were strong.

3 It was low tide when we arrived, so these rocks stay at least partially submerged.

4 I could have spent days just photographing the rocks.

5 The erosion alone is fascinating. I’ve seen photographs of rocks similar to these taken in other parts of the world. Thanks to Steve Schwartzman, who commented recently, I now know that these rock formations are called tafoni.


7 Iron nodules like this are embedded in the sandstone along Ohio’s Vermilion River.

8 Bits of shell adorn the rocks like confetti.


10 Some depressions are nests for smaller rocks.

11 Thousands of torii gates wind around the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto. The beautiful Japanese characters on some of the gates give the names of corporate sponsors. I prefer to think that they are poems.


13 We arrived shortly before sunset, which offered interesting shadows.


27 responses

  1. Beautiful, Linda! The rock and water pictures were exciting especially with your photographer’s eye. I loved the iron gates at the shrine. What a great document of your trip.


    July 5, 2020 at 8:08 AM

  2. Great rocks! 🙂


    July 5, 2020 at 10:53 AM

    • Thanks, Harrie. I would have liked to take them all home with me, except that then they wouldn’t be there anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

      July 5, 2020 at 11:37 AM

  3. nannus

    Just beautiful!
    Digging into Jessica’s business line while she is stuck at home 😉


    July 5, 2020 at 11:38 AM

    • Thank you, nannus. I would love to go back. About digging into Jessica’s business line: the pandemic has a few silver linings, doesn’t it. Not many, but a few.

      Liked by 1 person

      July 5, 2020 at 11:44 AM

  4. Diana Roose

    Ooh lovely. Thanks Linda!


    July 5, 2020 at 2:07 PM

  5. Beautiful photos, Linda, especially the rocks. You can’t shoot too many rocks.


    July 5, 2020 at 3:29 PM

    • Oh, how I love rocks. Happy you like the photos, Ken. Thanks.


      July 5, 2020 at 4:05 PM

  6. Fabulous photographs.


    July 6, 2020 at 1:52 AM

  7. Jag

    Great pictures, just lovely!


    July 6, 2020 at 5:57 AM

  8. What nature photographer wouldn’t echo your comment on #4? “I could have spent days just photographing the rocks.” #5 is a sort of torii in stone. (I just learned online that the Japanese term translates literally as ‘bird abode.’) I believe the carved-out rocks are an example of what’s called tafoni. I also see that inari means “carrying rice” or “rice load.” That explains why a certain kind of sushi I’ve had is called inari sushi. And look at the leaf shadows on the orange columns in #13.


    July 7, 2020 at 7:46 PM

    • Probably other photographers have spent days photographing those rocks. Lucky them. I think I see what you mean about #5. Thank you for the term “tafoni.” Wikipedia has photographs of many other examples ( You’ll have to tell me what you see in the leaf shadows in #13. Thanks for writing, Steve.


      July 7, 2020 at 8:36 PM

      • I have a fondness for shadows per se; I didn’t imagine the ones on the torii to be anything else.

        I’ve seen that Wikipedia article about tafoni before.


        July 7, 2020 at 8:53 PM

  9. Ha! You and Steve have already had the same conversation I was thinking of regarding those rocks. So many wonderful shapes and patterns. Great shots, Linda.

    It is a bit depressing that we see so much advertisement and corporation promotion everywhere we look these days, it seems. Something as meaningful as a Torii Gate covered with the stuff seems so obscene.


    July 8, 2020 at 3:56 AM

    • Thanks, Steve. So many rocks; so little time. I’m with you about ubiquitous advertisement and corporate promotion.

      Liked by 1 person

      July 8, 2020 at 8:50 AM

  10. I’ll forgive you for forgetting that I’ve done a post about tafoni. 😉 We have beautiful tafoni in the rocks at a park just north of here, and on the Oregon coast, I photographed a place that had rock breaking up into facets, like in the 4th photo. The OR location also had spherical inclusions, some as large as cannonballs – but I don’t know if they were iron or what they were. The rock “nest” is amazing – what a find. It’s all so cool! I love the way this post illustrates what someone with a different vision can do with tourist material – yes, the torii gates are there and they’re beautiful, but wait! Look at the ground! Wow! :-0 The rock in the first photo is like waves. Re #11, ignorance is bliss, right? I’ve seen two other bloggers photograph the Fushimi Inari Shrine (I”m pretty sure it was the same place) but neither one caught the place the way you did, e.g. the wonderful shadows and the way the tree trunks echo the gate supports.

    Liked by 1 person

    July 8, 2020 at 5:29 PM

    • I’m so embarrassed. After reading your comment, I immediately searched your blog site and found several posts dealing with tafoni. The first one I looked at was As I scrolled down in wonder, I could have sworn I’d never seen it, but there was my little avatar at the end of the post. Why would that not stick in my mind??? Your photographs and words about tafoni are completely engaging. . . . Good, you got what I was trying to show in the first photograph about the rocks echoing the look of the waves. You also noticed another thing I noticed: that the torii gates resemble the trees in their midst. Do you remember Cristo’s gates in Central Park? We came home from Japan the end of January, and The Gates opened February 12. Seeing photographs of Cristo’s work was déja vu for David and me, but I didn’t know until just now that the Fushimi Inari Shrine was the artist’s inspiration, at least according to Wikipedia. Thanks as always, Lynn. And please accept my apologies.


      July 9, 2020 at 9:02 PM

  11. Those rocks are amazing, I can imagine how they pulled you in. Number 4 makes me think of a turtle, flattened.
    And to pretend that sponsor names are poems, that’s an idea I’d like to bring with me here in the Western world too, give company names more of a soul (if possible… might be challenging, but something to strive towards, isn’t it…?)


    July 29, 2020 at 2:26 PM

    • I see your turtle, now, Gunilla. Yes, who knows what effect transforming company names into poems could have on the CEO . . . the board . . . the employees . . .


      July 30, 2020 at 8:50 AM

  12. Hi Linda. I visited Japan twice with my husband in 2012 and 2018. I remember falling in love with Kyoto. Your photographs show such a different side of Japan. I loved the mountain shots in the earlier post (Hiroshima). We couldn’t visit Fushimi Inari Shrine. 😦 Looks quite stunning!


    October 4, 2020 at 9:40 PM

    • Thank you, Cheryl. I’m glad you enjoyed my photos. There is so much to see and experience and photograph in Japan. Although that’s something you could say about any place, it was especially true for me there. I’m sorry you weren’t able to visit Fushimi Inari Shrine. It is stunning.

      Liked by 1 person

      October 11, 2020 at 8:38 PM

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