First and foremost sorry for the delay in getting my blog out on its usual day of Sunday. The previous week I published the gallery of my first full day in Tokyo for 2017. Very excited to have gotten those images onto this site. If you want to check them out then please head to the gallery. I have used a new layout for the gallery this time. In the past I would just publish the full size image on the page. This time there are rows of thumbnail images and when you click on them the image expands and you also get the details of camera setting for each image. I like that about it, but if you have any feedback then please let me know. Then on the Sunday just past I was in a bit of a funk – have been for over a week actually – so I didn’t write.
Not that I am feeling much better, I still wanted to write tonight. I want to get my story out before the good vibes of my Tokyo 2017 trip fade at the edges. So this is Part 3 and as you have seen in past blogs I include for you the email I sent home to my family that acted as a bit of a travel journal or diary of my activities. It allowed me to keep my kids and my family up to date on what I was doing and also knowing that I would use those emails in my blogs. I miss Tokyo. And the more I think of it the more I feel that at some stage, when the kids are all grown up, I would take a longer trip to Japan. Perhaps a few months and use that time to explore not just the big glitzy cities but also rural and country Japan. I could see myself doing an extended photography project about Japan. One day.
This was a huge day of exploring Tokyo and photographing the streets and back alleys of this amazing and massive city. Given that I fell asleep so early the previous night, I was wide awake and up at 4am. Rather than try to go back to sleep or read like a normal person I took a stroll through the Western parts of Shinjuku with my camera in hand. It was very dark and the mist was hiding the tops of the buildings and there was a persistent drizzle. The cicadas had not started but every now and then the call of a crow off in the distance made me aware of just how still it all was. It was still very humid – usually I found early morning more humid than any other part of the day.
Prior to taking this trip one of the themes I had thought of focusing on was Tokyo in an abandoned state. Not easy to imaging with 33 million people living in the Tokyo region. But it was worth a shot. The truth of the matter was that Tokyo may have quiet moments but it is never truly asleep and nor is it anywhere near possible to get a consistent set of images of different scenes in an abandoned state. Shinjuku was no different with deliveries being made to restaurants and stores, garbage trucks patrolling the streets (Japanese garbage trucks are tiny and they don’t smell at all – unlike garbage trucks in Australia), and of course some of the restaurants that stay open all day and all night. And let’s be honest, Ramen at any time is amazing.
So with all those activities in mind there are people about even at 4am. This has always added to the level of safety I have felt in Japan. Just your average people walking along checking out the menus of restaurants, tourists tugging suitcases, people in work uniforms and big Australian ginger bearded photographers drifting through the early mornings. Their paths illuminated by the overhead neon signs. After a good walk I returned to my hotel to prepare for the day ahead. Breakfast in the top floor buffet style restaurant as always. Then a check of my gear and off I went.
I walked back to Shinjuku station and took a train to Harajuku. This was an area of Tokyo I did not get to explore in 2015. And even at 9:30 in the morning all the shops – with the exception of MacDonalds and the convenience stores – were shut. But that was ok. I was not there to shop but to shoot street photography. It was an overcast day that made for dull lighting but I feel that added to the mood of empty streets and the early stragglers of the day. I made a commitment to myself to return here at peak time before I finished my time in Tokyo. Before I moved on I found a little cafe that served the most amazing Matcha Latte.
From there I jumped across to Asakusa. This is a fantastic part of Tokyo as it mashes together such a terrific sense of history and tradition with the Senso-Ji temple complex and then the hype and hurry of a shopping precinct. And it was packed. Jam packed with tourists. It was in 2015 too and at the time I focused more on capturing the architecture and the design elements of this incredible facility with its iconic structures. This time, it was about capturing the street scenes with these elements more as backdrops. Before I left Asakusa, I made a stop for some late lunch. I managed to find a restaurant on a side street that served Katsu Curray. This is by far my favourite Japanese dish and one that I now cook at home on a regular basis. Think rice, with Japanese golden curry and a fried chicken fillet laid across the top. I am drooling now just writing about it.
A bit of a sleep in this morning- 5:30! Just having breakfast.
Had a huge day yesterday. As I mentioned in my last email, I was up super early so took a stroll around Shinjuku. So many places are open all night and there are people going about there business.
My first stop was Harajuku – but it was too early for the shops to be open so the number of people out and about was minimal. Took a subway across to Asakusa. I visited here in 2015 and took extensive photos of the Senso-Ji temple complex. I walked the nearby market that was packed with tourists. I also visited a statue that I saw back in 2015 as it reminded me so much of Belle. Got the same intense feeling this time also. It is a tribute to motherhood.
I spent the afternoon and night with a Japanese street photographer named Hitoshi. We have been talking on Facebook for a number of months. We walked the Golden Gai, Omoide Yokocho and other tiny alleyways lined with tiny restaurant/bars. The owners cook all sorts of skewered meats on little hot coal fires and serve chilled beer and sake.
After a long street shoot Hitoshi and I landed at such a bar. 6 seats. That’s all. And we met a couple of Tokyo locals and spent the night talking life. Communication wasn’t always easy but we managed and had an incredible fun time. Such an incredible experience.
Today I am heading to electronic town Akihabara then on to central Tokyo to say hi to the Emperor.
Hope you are all well. I miss my babies – both standard and furry.
Lots of love.
After my delightful meal, served with an ice cold mug of Kirin beer, I made my way back to my hotel for a rest and restock of camera gear. I had a very special event planned for the night ahead. Over the past couple of years I have connected with many street photographers from all over the world. This has been achieved mostly via Facebook and as a result I have been so very fortunate to have made connections with hundreds of Japanese photographers. Photography in Japan seems to be a bit of a national custom. Let’s face it, a lot of the big brands originate from Japan. Nikon, Canon, Sony and Fujifilm all originate from Japan and the camera stores in Japan sell some of the most insane camera gear I have ever seen. Prior to my trip I had posted an event in Facebook to notify some of my peers that I would be in Tokyo and would love to meet with anyone at a certain time on a certain day in a certain place.
Enter Hitoshi Yoshida. A humble engineer who travels into Tokyo for work every day. At night, after he finishes his work and before he takes the long train journey home, he shoots street photography all over Tokyo. Over the course of our Facebook friendship Hitoshi and I have shared our common love for street photography and have admired each others work. Like me, Hitoshi also uses Fujifilm cameras and lenses. We met at the entrance to the Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho – an impossibly narrow alley lined with tiny bars and eateries. Some bars could only seat four or five people. And the proprietor would cook skewers of meat over a coal brazier and serve cold Japanese beer or sake. My Japanese is limited to say the least. Fortunately Hitoshi spoke some English – quite well actually. And with this we walked the streets of Shinjuku photographing street scenes and learning from each others technique. He was a fantastic tour guide. We visited Centre Gai and Golden Gai in Shinjuku as well as walked many connecting alleys and laneways away from the main strip.
As per my email, once it became full dark I invited Hitoshi to join me for a cold beer to toast our friendship. He was more than obliging and we soon found a small bar in Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho where we sat on stools facing the tiny bar and its rather grim owner. Seated next to us were two Tokyo locals and that is how we spent the remainder of the night. Drinking cold jugs of Japanese beer and talking and working through communication barriers. We dined on obscure cooked meats and at one point I think Hitoshi introduced me to a fish guts broth. I ate with delight probably thanks to the copious amounts of beer we consumed. It quickly became late and our fellow bar-mates made their good-byes. We had to stand and step out of the bar so they could exit.
Hitoshi and I made our way out of the bar and into the busy Shinjuku night. We parted with words of thanks and praise and drunken laughter. This was by far one of the greatest experiences I have had to date in my trips to Japan. Walking Tokyo streets with a knowledgable Tokyo street photographer, eating with the locals and sharing a fun and care free night amongst friends. It was the greatest. You will notice that there are no photographs of Hitoshi amongst this blog. He expressly forbid that I post any photographs of him and of course I agreed. I vaguely remember the walk back to my hotel and that is about all that remains of this incredible day in Tokyo.
I realise that this is a rather long blog but it was a rather long day and one that I wanted to capture in detail. For a more comprehensive gallery of the images from this day please click here. I will try and return to my usual schedule of publishing a blog every Sunday night (Australia time) and look forward to recording my adventures in Tokyo. Happy shooting.