Friday, December 26, 2008

Black, White and Blue

There he sat in Central Park plaza as I was walking by, and it felt like an intrusion to scoop him up in my digital eye.
Too well dressed to be homeless, and as deep in thought or sorrow as anyone I have seen. I could only hope to wonder, as we will likely never meet, at what had cast him down.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Photo courtesy of the Ritz Hotel, Osaka, Japan.
Christmas eve, and full to the brim of ads for "Christmas cake".
A curiosity in Japan for someone raised on homemade fruitcake is the Japanese Christmas cake. Christmas cake, wedding cake, birthday cake.... all soft.
Tonight on Christmas eve t.v, one trivia program brings out a list of Japan's top selling cakes. I missed number 10 in the scrabble to find a pen a paper, but my apartment is small so we can go from number 9:
9 - Cheese cake
8 - Fruit cake (sponge with strawberries sandwiched in cream)
7 - Chocolate gateaux (sponge)
6 - Chocolate cake (sponge)
5 - Short cake (not the Scottish type, a soft sponge)
4 - Monblan
3 - Eclair
2 - Special shortcake ( I have no idea, but it was soft)
1 - Cheaux cream
All soft. In the first few years of living in Japan, and living through the Japanese Christmas cake commercial season, I often wondered if Japanese people were weak teethed. How would you explain the cake mania that does not include a firm fruitcake?
Some differences...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Wedding

Not long after reading this post on Damon Coulter's blog, I was asked to photograph a wedding. Believing myself to be up to the job, I said yes. In hindsight, I should have said yes after a pause.

It's not that I mind working from 8 till 2:30 without a break, then dashing to my designer friends to download the data before the after wedding party. Neither do I mind the fact that they asked me because they knew me and hoped I would do it cheaper than the hotel (not difficult).

What should have made me pause for thought was knowing that they not only wanted snaps, but also wanted them for an album which I was to produce, and although I have taken a few nice photos in my time, even some that have made a passable series, an album is a series that you shoot in a day.
The wedding began with traditional dress, and the couple entered the dining room after a short ceremony and a studio shoot in the hotel studio (not me). The dining room is variously lit, the routes are set, the whole event is choreographed and despite having attended the planning meeting I got caught out on more than one occasion as the curtains suddenly opened to reveal the backdrop of Nagoya castle, or the lighting suddenly changed and so changed the light settings I was working with.
This would have all been routine for the hotel cameraman who must have done the whole gig a thousand times, but not for yours truly. I woke the next morning with the unnerving feeling that too many of my shots were badly lit, too many had been out of focus and the album would be a no go. I dashed round to see the designer who I have worked with before and sure enough many of them were. The album, however, seems to be a goer.
I found myself lacking in many ways that day, but it was experience, and as a friend said before the wedding "well, it's digital, so you'll be o.k". What I have working in my favour is Atsuko, the designer, who like professor Dumbledor will provide the phoenix (photoshop) that will cry on my wounded images. Oh, and there are also some shots that stand on their own.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Colours (2)

I take it all back. Kyoto can be beautiful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bank Holiday

It rains on bank holidays in Japan too.
I have a cold. Sat in front of the heater watching a documentary about the animation director Miyasaki Hayao on TV. He creates one character in each of his movies that reminds him of his mother. The documentary showed him at great pains to complete a scene with this mother figure to his satisfaction and I watched, impressed that while he could have drawn anything, he took days to decide what should happen.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

That Autumn Feeling

A visit to Shirakawa park in Nagoya this time last year with a friend. The apartment buildings that loom over the north side distract from the carefully sculpted 'au naturelle' ideal of Japanese garden. And so, like unadventurous escapists, we faced inwards.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

House Guest

He came, he chased,slept, sat and purred, and went again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Hot Water

A nice article in one of the local (National - how rude!) English language rags about the importance of hot baths for the Japanese.

When my father came to Japan for the first time we took him to see Kenrokuen, a famous garden, in Kanazawa. After that and the 'Ninja Temple' we stayed in a Ryokan hotel for a night. Dad had about 3 minutes in the hotel's public bath before calling it a night.

Why are Japanese baths so hot? Find one writers opinion here.

Godzilla Sings The Blues

This outside for a change. Dark though.

The south exit of Kanayama station Nagoya is a gathering place for those with instruments to play or dances to dance. I have become to blaze about the experience I suppose. Many of them are terrible to tell the truth.

But it's not just the music, it's the people that stay and listen. Mostly high school girls with their short-skirted bare legs wrapped in Disney motif fleece quilts against the cold. Stay on the fringes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Recently, time out-doors is regularly spent underground in subways and underground shopping malls going from A to B (and back via C if lucky).

Just occasionally, there is a lull or a surge in the crowd, someone steps into a frame they didn't realize existed and 'click' goes the shutter.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Aye, Fisheye!

This is the Kenko x0.25 180 degree Fisheye Converter. You can find out more details here at the Japan Trends site.
Fisheye lenses are nothing new, but this one is designed to be held in front of or attatched to a compact digital camera or mobile phone camera lens. Below is the lens sitting on top of a Canon Ixy 8 meg (!!!) compact.

And here is how the converter converts.

It's a great little toy and it only costs 10,000 yen (50 pounds). The trends site mentions nothing about larger sizes, but my friend mentioned that it also comes in medium and large sizes, and thought that the larger size would cover and convert a 50mm lens on an SLR.

October 21st: Sadly these don't seem to be available to cover 50mm lenses. A shame. The three sizes available are still only to suit the smaller compact cameras, but I'm holding out for an adaptor.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A few clouds in an otherwise blue sky...

I'm taking a short break from posting. Just a little busy, that's all.
(-0-) v

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Drawing Lines

Some similarities indeed. This is an article I never imagined I would write:

At what age do we become adults? In Japan people legally come of age at 20 years old. There are coming of age ceremonies for new adults all over Japan each year.

Now in the U.K as this article explains, former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has proposed a similar coming of age ceremony for sixteen year olds.

After the tube and bus bombings in London in July 2005, there was a lot of talk about the lack of national identity and cohesion amongst the modern youth of Britain. This proposal is perhaps a predictable institutional reaction to such sentiment, but is it without merit?

Aside from the affirmation of national identity comes the question of legal responsibility. As this editorial explains, the legal age of adulthood in Japan is a current hot topic. Should the legal age be lowered to 18?

There is the possibility of big change in both countries. There is also the proposed introduction of a registration card for foreign residents in The U.K which would mirror the much maligned 'Gaijin Card' system in Japan. Another similarity that I never imagined commenting on.

Lines are being re-drawn, with both countries trying to cope with internal changes.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

All White Again

Last weekend we spent two nights in the holiday home of a friend who asked me to take some illustrative winter shots of the home for his brochure.

The house is in Hakuba, in Nigata prefecture. The rear windows pictured in the second photo look out onto the entrance to the ski slope and the base of the ski lift. A prime location with underfloor heating (very comfy).

Sadly, no skiing for me (not that I'm any good, I have only been twice). The long drive and the two day weekend meant that we only had a day and a half to get the inside and outside pictures. With more people than just my group staying, it meant a constant flow of bodies in and out of the house which made trying to get a shot of the interior minus cast off ski wear and tired bodies very difficult. There was also the problem of the local Sake being very good!

Finaly a series of 12 shots made the grade. Less from the outside as the wind and heavy snow even closed the ski lift on the final day. It was good to get out of the city though, and see some mountains close up. I'm told that the skiing was good too.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


A lucky shot from the car on the way back from the mountains at the weekend. HOTel.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Modern Japanese Woman

The front cover illustration of "Goodbye Madame Butterfly" courtesy of Pingmag.

This month the Tokyo based online magazine Ping Mag features an interview here with Japanese author Sumie Kawakami. In an unusual deviation from their regular topic of design, the article instead focuses on the relationship between sex and marriage in Japan.

Kawakami’s latest book entitled “Goodbye Madam Butterfly: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman”contains accounts of the sex lives of eleven Japanese women.

While the term ‘modern’ is used in the title, Kawakami's interview seems to point to a situation which for the women themselves seems to be anything but. Having not read the book I am unable to comment further, but Kawakami seems to suggest that the lot of the Japanese woman could only be modern in the sense of being current.

It is an interesting interview that relates the lack of sexual activity after marriage to the long working hours of the Japanese business man, and the sense of identity that Kawakami says Japanese society ‘demands’ of Japanese couples after having children.

Take ten minutes to read the article for a brief introduction to sexless Japan.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Men at work

A priest inspecting drainage repair work today outside Shiogama Shrine in Yagoto, Nagoya.

It's nearing the end of the financial year in Japan. The most noticable signs of this are the road works.

Each local government department recieves a budget from the central government. The size of the budget depends on the spending from the previous year. If spending was less than the alloted amount in the previous year, the budget for the next year will decrease.

This system encourages departments to use their entire budget, and so in the run up to the end of the financial year, only slightly worn roads are resurfaced, barely wetted drainage is remade and the full budget is guaranteed for another year.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Photo Words

When searching for a definition of the term "pot life", I found a link to Photo Guide's "Photo Words" section. Wish I had found it a couple of years ago.

"PhotoWords aims to help English-speaking photographers learn basic Japanese words related to photography. "

(introductory remarks from Photoguide Japan Photowords page)

Translations are written in both Japanese and a romanized version. It brings together on one site the language of the consumer and the studio photographer, listing part names, tool names, and slang.

Word lists are arranged in alphabetical order and include useful remarks about the Japanese by the author of Photoguide Japan, Philbert Ono.

All White

Yesterday saw the heaviest snowfall in Aichi in at least a couple of years. It has all but gone now, with the snowfall turning to light rain in the afternoon and the sunshine melting the ice today.

I took a walk to Shiratori Park in the afternoon. In the last two hours before the drizzle, the snow fell heavily. Tall buildings turned to grey in the distance and after leaving the main road, the only sound was from the parks and side roads where children played.

As I had imagined, the park was busy with Rotographers, with only the occasional younger visitor. Shiratori park is one of Nagoya's Japanese gardens, and a focus for those who enjoy observing the changing of the seasons.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Local Brew

At the end of the year come the end of year parties, and at the beginning of the year the new year parties. For todays Shin Nen Kai (新年会 = New Year Gathering) a friend arranged a Sake tasting for us with four different types of Nihonshu from three different regions of Japan.
Lucky me!