Very much missing Tokyo at the moment. Especially after a week where first my youngest son was home from school sick and then falling sick myself. I was wishing to be back on holiday walking the streets of Tokyo. I even caught myself musing about where in Japan I would like to travel next year. I may have even looked at flights. Naughty I know but hey, you never know when a super deal may show up. As part of my day dreaming I was thinking about visiting at a cooler time of year next time. For the past three trips I have travelled there in the summer and it is so humid. And a change of season would be nice for street photography. Aside from that the editing process is slowing down as I come to the end of the images. On with the blog.
Today I share with you the second email I sent home to my family back in Australia. As is customary for me, I write the email in the morning to reflect on the previous day’s activities. I would sit at breakfast and eat my meal – a combination of Western and Japanese breakfasts foods – and think back over the previous day. I would then write my email home whilst drinking a hot cup of tea with lemon. Such a small ceremony but a nice one. Then once I was done and the email was sent I felt ready to start the day out and about.
I ventured out from my hotel quite early – before breakfast – just to have a look around and get my bearings and also a sense of where my hotel was in relation to things. My hotel was right in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings. Immense skyscrapers loom over a long wide boulevard with many other government buildings in the immediate vicinity. I remember seeing a video of the March 2011 Japan earthquake and it showed those very same skyscrapers swaying from side to side whilst the main shocks were taking place. These towers were swaying meters in each direction. Scary to consider. I didn’t venture very far but was instantly reminded of just how humid it gets in Japan during the summer. I was instantly sweating and equally annoyed that my shorts seemed to be falling down. I had forgotten to pack a belt of course. Fortunately this was a brief walk.
After breakfast and a quick costume change I decided on my camera gear for the day. I chose to take my Fujifilm X-T2 and a couple of spare batteries. I also grabbed the Fujifilm XF23mmF2 lens and the XF14mm2.8 wide angle lens. I felt confident that these two lenses would cover my street photography needs. I tried to travel as light as I could because I didn’t want to be lugging too much in the heat and humidity. Passport, wallet, headphones and iPhone and I was good to go. I set out with no clear destination in mind. I just wanted to wander and get a little or a lot lost. The sound of the morning cicadas was extreme and punctuated only now and then by the lazy cawing of a crow. Crows in Japan sound like no other crow.
From my hotel in West Shinjuku I made my way towards Shinjuku station and within minutes had left the main road and was walking down along one of countless alleys and laneways. All around me were restaurants and stores and gaming centres and Pachinko parlours. There was almost no traffic other than the odd taxi or small delivery trucks that are common in Japan. Small clean blue garbage trucks rolled along picking up the bags of rubbish left on the roadside from the night before. There were seemingly random people, mostly older, sweeping and cleaning the streets. They wore no uniforms to indicate this was their employment. Perhaps they lived in apartments above street level. But this part of Shinjuku seemed almost deserted. A few people whizzed by on bicycles. But at 9:30am on a Sunday all was calm.
Before too long I came across one of the many buildings that housed Yodobashi – a consumer goods store of epic proportions. They were in the process of getting ready to open with staff in their white and blue uniforms zipping between stores. The store that I had my eyes on was the camera building. Six floors of camera gear some of which is beyond your imagination. As mentioned in my below email, I purchased a new camera strap and a lens cleaning kit. Both of these were by the company CURA. A small Japanese operation that make gorgeous leather and loom woven silk wrist and neck straps. I picked up a red silk wrist strap. The cleaning kit comes in a zip up case and includes a bottle of cleaning solution, lens cleaning tissues and a kabuki brush. One last item I grabbed was a deer hide chamois. I felt happy with these purchases.
14 August 2017
Good morning family
My first full day in Tokyo yesterday. I am so happy to be back here! Last years trip to Osaka and Kyoto were amazing, but there is something about Tokyo that just sings to me.
My hotel is beautiful and big. My room is small but the largest I have ever had in Japan. There is a restaurant on the 25th floor where I had breakfast. Amazing view out over the West Shinjuku area and what is the gigantic complex known as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. And at 6:30 on a Sunday morning – deserted!
Going from this highly organized and ordered scene to an area that is lined with alleys and bars and shops in a clutter is only a short walk away. And that is what I spent my morning doing. Wandering through these alleys and also more open shoppings areas around Shinjuku station is awe inspiring. So much sensory overload. Everything seems to have an electronic jingle from the shops to the passing garbage trucks.
It was a sunny day that was both humid and hot. I stopped for lunch in a Sushi restaurant and had the most amazing and fresh sushi I have ever experienced. A cold beer and rest of the feet and I was on my way back to base but not before dropping in to Yodobashi Camera Store. A 6 storey camera store with some truly incredible photography gear. Financial ruin awaits. I picked up just a couple of small sensible purchases – a new camera strap and a lens cleaning kit.
Spent the afternoon wandering West Shinjuku. The hotel next to mine is where they filmed most of Lost In Translation- Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Isobel and my favorite film. I didn’t get to go up to the famous NY Bar on the 50th floor last night. Perhaps tonight – I went up there with my friend Nick and his partner Michael back in 2015 when we met here.
Then a visit to a local park. Full of families and children and the noise of cicadas. I crashed very early by accident. Lay down for a nap around 3 and woke around midnight! Clearly still catching up on lost sleep. Oh well.
It meant that I was bright as a beaver this morning and have already been out for a 4am shoot in deserted Tokyo. Mind you, Ramen and Udon restaurants, karaoke, pool and dart halls and the like open all night. So never truly deserted.
Today I plan to take a Subway to Harajuku and then to Asakusa. Then later this afternoon am meeting up with a few Tokyo street photographers for a street walk.
Busy day ahead. But first breakfast – I seem to have missed dinner!
Love you all.
Back out on the street and I tried to focus more on actually taking photos versus drooling over lush camera gear. It was purely unintentional that I came across the Map Camera Store. I had heard about this store from some photography friends. Another amazing camera store of several levels. MAP sells new cameras and lenses as well as second hand ones. I made my way to the floor that was dedicated to Fujifilm gear and was amazed at the line up of camera lenses and camera bodies they had on offer. I dragged myself out of there before my credit card burned a hole in my pockets.
After a couple of hours of shooting in this area of Shinjuku, I was hot and needed a rest and something to eat. I came across a large sushi place called Kizuna Sushi and sat at the bar directly in front of the sushi chefs preparing fresh meals. I ordered a salmon plate and was not disappointed by the size and quality of the sushi. I have never had sushi so fresh. I am going to write a separate blog on eating in Tokyo but let me just say that this was probably my absolute favourite place to eat. I ate here a couple of times. Fresh sushi and cold beer was exactly what I needed. Actually it turned out to be two plates of sushi and two or three cold beers but who is counting?
After lunch I ventured further toward Shinjuku Station and got my first taste of Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho. This was a network of two main alleys – one large and the other small and narrow – that ran parallel to the train lines running out of Shinjuku Station. Along these alleys were countless little bars and restaurants. A lot of them were still closed as they usually only opened up later in the day. But there were a few that were open serving cold beer, sake and their own small unique menu of dishes. Some of the spaces looked impossibly small to be restaurants.
I made my way back to my hotel early afternoon – I was tired. I tried to rest in my room but all I could think of was what I was missing being inside. So heading back out I walked to the nearby Shinjuku Chuo Park. It was very hot – around 30 degrees – and the sun was out in force. The park offered cool respite with the shade from the trees and the misting sprinklers that were running along the pathways. The sound of the cicadas was almost as loud as the sounds of playing children. The park was full of young families and children playing in the fountain area and eating shaved ice. The small cafe selling cool refreshments also sold tall bottles of Japanese beers. So I sat in that beautiful park watching the families and drinking cold beer. Such a peaceful and relaxing moment.
Back in my hotel a little later on I had a long soak in a deep both. After that I was more than ready for a nap. I didn’t set an alarm as I was on holidays for one thing. But also because I truly didn’t expect to get into a terribly deep sleep. I was still feeling very excited about being back in Japan and had intended to spend the evening exploring more of Shinjuku. Turns out my body had other ideas as when I woke it was after midnight. So that was the end of that day quite literally. I think my body was still obviously trying to catch up on lost sleep from the night before my travel day.
That brings me to the end of my summary of my first full day – not counting a nine hour nap. I was so incredibly happy to be back in Japan and back in Tokyo. I had not spent much time at all in Shinjuku when I had been there in 2015. And on that trip I had been mostly based in Shibuya. Shinjuku was something incredibly different. Shinjuku is a huge suburb and I was just starting to get a taste for exploring much more of it. But I was also determined not to knock myself out trying to see everything I could. I wanted to enjoy my time and what would be would be.