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Sunday, 7 September 2014

A Few More

These ones are a bit of a hodgepodge, but they were all taken within a week of each other.


This is a sculpture set outside the imperial palace in Tokyo.  The part of the palace that is opened to the public during specific holidays (toff birthdays and whatnot) is exceptionally boring.  It's the most dull plaza I've ever seen, quite deliberately so by the looks of things.  Sometimes designers completely misunderstand the space within which they work and you end up with things like the gherkin (something I hate and love depending on any arbitrary measure, such as which way the wind is blowing).  The designers of this place just seem to have given up trying to design anything at all, instead focussing on the gardens hidden behind vast walls and the building itself.

Fuck the plebs.


These lanterns were quite common but difficult to place in their surroundings due to their style.  I can't tell whether these are a Japanese interpretation of a long-past European style, an original Japanese creation or something else entirely.  I feel like they belong in an old German town or something.


Anyway I took a couple of pictures to show both the shape and the colour - both were rather interesting when place within the old grounds of the palace.  Although, to be fair, if you walked into the place without knowing it was a centuries old place it's entirely possible to mistake it for something much newer; and much more European.


The colours in this picture are all messed up.  The pink of the flower is as they were (at least on my non colour controlled screen) but the background green is luminous - decidedly unlike the leaves of the various lilies around Japan.


A man on a horse.  It's either a very important man, or a very important horse.  The outside shot is that it is, in face, a very important hat.


The shape of water is always fascinating when photographed.  I haven't the time or patience to take pictures of droplets, so this will have to do.  Water on a lily (I think it's actually lotus) leaf.

This one was actually taken outside Himeji castle, pictures of which follow.  It had an absolutely magnificent tea house overlooking the castle, along with a fantastic pong replete with waterfalls and enormous fish.  A perfect example of the Japanese style in such things, and a great thing to try and replicate should you so wish (and should you have the space in your own garden).



A very, very long time ago, I wrote a couple of blog posts showing pictures very similar to these.  It's interesting to come back and take another look at something that I saw four, five or six years ago.


I doubt these pictures show much in the way of my improvement when taking photographs.  There are only a finite number of vantage points by which you can view the castle, so I assume the pictures from before almost perfectly match up with these.  I wouldn't be surprised if they were in black and white too.

Anyway, that was the journey to Himeji and the surrounding gardens (and one or two other places I'm sure).  I think next up might be Kyoto, but I'll have to trawl the archives to find out.

Friday, 29 August 2014

The Promo

So IBM was once a big player in the Japanese rugby scene and as such, they commissioned promotional videos of their team whenever the new season started.

Along with the photographs and other associated silliness, they've kept that tradition alive and as such, here is this years video.

I can't get the video to embed in this post so you'll have to make do with the above link.  Sorry about that.


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Nagasaki

So I'd vowed to check out both Nagasaki and Hiroshima during my stay in Japan.  This Summer I managed to finish my pilgrimage - heading to Nagasaki by train.

It's a long, long way from Tokyo to Nagasaki.  It took the best part of 9 hours on bullet and express trains meaning it's probably in the order of a thousand kilometres between the two cities.  Japan may only have the inhabitable land space of the U.K. but it's almost as long as america is tall.

I took a fair number of pictures during the trip, but truth be told very few were up to scratch.  Whenever I go outside with my camera I set myself some challenges; this time it was to take as few pictures as possible, to try and get a 'keeper,' on the first attempt at each subject.  I didn't always stick to this plan, but it turned out to be quite thought provoking.  For the first time ever I have an album where each picture tends to be entirely different from the last and this is something of a novelty for me.  As always, it was my intention to walk away from a days shoot with one single picture that, when looked at in 60 years time, will remind me of the day and fill me with pride at having taken it.  It's always been my intention to have enough quality pictures to one day fill a book, and taking the slow and steady approach is about the only way I can think of achieving this goal.

You can judge whether I've succeeded in that aim.


I'll start off with the tackiest picture imaginable.  Aside from the scene in Schindlers list that has become infamous, black and white with a single source of colour rarely affects people in the way the creator intends.  Maybe they've become so common that no one cares anymore.  Maybe, like the tilted angle photograph of the 90's, it's a fashion that was never going to live beyond the inaugural years of photoshop.


So this was an interesting picture to edit.  At first I darkened both the sky and the trees somewhat - the intention was to highlight the woman (due to the angle of the picture, mostly ignoring the child she is carrying) at the expense of everything else.  It looked okay, but it lacked any kind of interest beyond the statue.  The sky was interesting enough (see: had clouds) that I felt the light (sky)/dark (trees)/light (statue) scheme worked to the point of acceptability.  Making her stand out without distorting the entire picture was the challenge, and I don't really know if I've succeeded in that endeavour.


With a portrait format the focus shifts away from encompassing the setting to settle on the figure.  I found the woman a much more interesting subject (literally everyone else was taking pictures of the child with the woman as an incidental point of focus) than the child.  It is her saving the child, but it is her generation, her peers that caused the child suffering in the first place.

At this point it is worth pointing out that the artist intended the woman to represent some kind of peaceful deity.  Knowing god and or gods are a lie, I see her as the embodiment of peaceful thoughts or actions within humanity.  She is not a child, so doesn't hold the innocence of the child and as such, is as culpable as the rest of us for the actions of our equals.  The somber look on her face isn't so much sadness at the loss of that child, or the actions of that time - it's the inescapable truth that humanity is destined to continue doing this over and over again.

As such, I find her expression much more revealing than the body of the child is saddening.


This is the last pillar standing at the church in Nagasaki.  Much like the dome in Hiroshima it stands as a monument to the devastation of war and much like the dome in Hiroshima, it stands as a symbol of hope.


This guy is symbolic of peace versus war.  One of his arms represents war, the other peace.  When I heard which was which, I couldn't reconcile the idea of why each one was as it was, so I could never commit to memory which arm symbolised what.


This is probably my favourite picture.  You could absolutely miss the pidgeon sitting on her arm, but the expression in the statue alone makes it worthwhile.  Much like the ruminations about the woman above, I couldn't decide how to edit this picture in post.  In the end I went much the same route, but this time trying to get the viewer to look at her face as much as possible before looking at the other details in the picture.

To be honest I don't think any of these are worthy of more than a couple of seconds of perusal but you never know.  Everyone has different tastes after all.

I'll hopefully be adding a number of blog posts in the coming days with (fingers crossed) a lot of pictures to accompany.

If you haven't already seen the videos of the festival and my thirty second montage of Japan this Summer, check out the posts prior to this one.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

My Summer, 30 Seconds

Just a quick video of some of my exploits these past few weeks.  An awful lot of travelling around Japan was done by me, my mum and Aunt.  I managed to capture a few videos which I've thrown together in this 30 second video.

Enjoy!

(P.S. a more substantial post including some of the pictures I've taken will go up sometime this week.  I've started writing but it's nearly midnight so this will have to suffice for today.)


Saturday, 9 August 2014

Baraki-Nakayama Festival

So my town is relatively small, despite being situated within the megalopolis of Tokyo (it's not really Tokyo, but it may as well be).  They held a local festival sponsored by the shops around the community (the lanterns in the video below have the shop names as a form of advertisment).

The centre stage was a drum, struck by various people throughout the performance.  Hopefully you'll get an idea of the relative repetitiveness of the song, despite the changing background music.  They seemed to be content with their accompaniment regardless of what the DJ decided to put on, I think they'd choreographed their dance and didn't have any backup plans for when the folk music gave way to a more dance orientated tune.

You'll also see the kind of laid back circle dancing that is quite common in Japan at these kinds of smaller festivals.  In Japanese schools they sometimes organise dances around a bonfire (often made of the detritus from the festival, wooden boards, signs and stands - that kind of thing) in which dances similar to the ones in the video are performed.

If they're feeling particularly risque they might even allow couples to dance together (don't think slow dancing, think a dance very similar to the one in the video).

And without any further ado, here it is:


Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Ninja Warrior

So some of you might know the TV show from Japan known as Ninja Warrior.  It's one of the many included in the gameshow pantheon, others being Takeshis castle and Viking along with some lesser known varities.  Ninja Warrior (hereon referred to as Sasuke (because it's easier to write)) is the serious big brother to the goofy shows we are occasionally privy to in the west.

There are no pranks here - no people dressed up as giant monsters, no ritual humiliation (well okay, a little humiliation) and no jokes.  This series is serious.

Takeshi's castle is voiced by Craig Charles, who is absolutely perfect for the kind of stupidity found within.

The Takeshi's Castle classic 'knock knock,' epitomises the fun side of Japanese 'sporty,' gameshows.

Viking is primarily celebrities and thus nowhere near the level of competition of Sasuke.

Viking is the halfway point between serious challenge and comedic wipeouts.  Incidentally if you were wondering how the BBC came up with the concept of Wipeout (or whatever it's called now) then look no further than the above clips.  Genesis!

Anyway, Sasuke is very difficult.  The first stage is open to a hundred competitors; some famous, some comedic, some hopeful.  If you can pass the first stage you move onto the second and so forth.

The challenges often change, but the competition is always very difficult.  In the twenty odd series that have been made, only four or five people have ever completed the course.

If you can look past the stupid commentator (not present in the English version, thankfully) then the challenges show how athletic the participants are.

Upon close inspection you'll also see a huge bias towards smaller, lighter, more gymnastic sorts.


Anyway, you're wondering why I'm writing all this.

Well, they opened a park where you can try your hand at some of the events as shown in the programme, so I went along and had a go.  I took footage of my attempts and I'm in the process of editing those videos now, but in the meantime here is a picture:


Spoilers for when the next post (and hopefully the video) are up:  I didn't finish the course but I nearly finished stage 3.  The cliffhanger is a killer for someone who weighs as much as me!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Cloudy With a Chance of Typhoon

So an absolutely ENORMOUS typhoon floated over Japan.

As you can see from the following images, the typhoon was roughly the size of a quarter of the planet, which is pretty big.

I love looking at these kinds of pictures; they really hammer home how small the earth is and how little control we have over everything.


I did not take any of these pictures, in case you were wondering.


Also, in case you were wondering, Japanese TV shows people being rescued much in the same way they are in England - boats in knee deep water.  Of course I understand that the infirm will need this kind of assistance, but it still looks like overkill whenever they pull out inflatable dinghies.


In terms of the impact this particular typhoon had; I think it's safe to say it was naff.  The above picture is actually from a different typhoon altogether (I think).  Okinawa is a tiny island hundreds of miles south of Japan (but still Japanese property) that always feels the full force of every storm that makes its way across the sea.  The island is the first stop for seemingly every kind of natural disaster and as such, gets all the camera crews.  I'm fairly sure that any footage you'll have seen of this particular storm was from Okinawa, or from the very south of Japan.  Those areas were somewhat more affected than the huge population centres (rural areas are hit hardest, who would have imagined) and make for much more dramatic television.


Also, to draw a little more light to the ridiculousness of the photographs above, of course half the planet was not engulfed by the storm.  It looks far more impressive if the entire frame is filled up with clouds though, so that's the image most editors use.

I have no idea whether this picture is from this typhoon or not, but it also looks pretty ruddy big so I'm going to use it to illustrate my point.  That circle of clouds is vast by almost all standards, but nowhere near the size the other pictures make it out to be.

You don't need photoshop to lie with a photograph!

In summary, the typhoon was mostly rubbish and very uneventful.  The upshot is that I didn't get any time off, and now that all the clouds are gone it's 33 degrees and 95% humid.  I've never seen the humidity dial cranked that far round.



All this viewing the earth from orbit made me think of this:



Thursday, 3 July 2014

O.A.P - A.O.K

Japan has the largest number of pensioners (in terms of percentage of population) anywhere in the world.  What's most impressive isn't their collective age, or the age for which most people live, but the fact they remain mobile and independent for so much of that time.

Today I came across a quartet walking down some platform stairs.  Walking in two pairs, they were blocking the only way onto the platform bar an escalator heading upwards (we were all heading down).  I met them as they were just beginning their descent, with a full two minutes before the train was scheduled to depart.  Unfortunately they took an extremely long time - so long that I said 'excuse me,' a couple of times (politely) to no acknowledgement.  After a minute we were roughly ten steps down which meant we were obviously not going to make the train, so I turned around and headed upstairs, passing a dozen or so people on the way up.

My intention was to run down the escalator.  Which I did.  As I got about halfway down most of Japan decided to head in the opposite direction.  As both sides of the moving escalator were now full, I gave up and went back to the top.

The conductor waited about fifteen seconds past the departure time (if you know of Japanese timekeeping and their trains, this is equivalent to holding a head of state in customs - it just isn't done) before it became obvious they weren't going to make it.  That was the last train departing from that platform for a while so the only option was to go back up and get to the next platform over.  Some time ago everyone else had realised what was happening and left, so I was once again behind them and I couldn't help but laugh.  It wasn't hearty, just a quiet chuckle; upon hearing this they all turned and started asking each other (while still standing on the stairs) why the foreigner was laughing.  Upon hearing this I laughed even harder and trudged back upstairs.

I watched as they passed the elevator and started walking down the other set of stairs.  Luckily they were substantially wider so despite their going in a line (instead of in pairs) they couldn't quite block it off.

There's no real point to this story - it just made me laugh.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Cold Day

So I've got a cold today.  The trainer at rugby took my temperature and sent me home (apparently having a fever is tantamount to bio terrorism in Japan) so I have my first Tuesday off in months.  Obviously I went to work today with the fever that I didn't know I had, unsurprisingly it was very hot today.

Anyway, it's been slow lately what with the huge amount of practice, gym, rugby and work.  In the meantime, here are a couple of videos I made for no particular reason!



The top one is a train journey with bad elevator music over the top (you really should just put your own music on and watch this while reading a book.  It's particularly relaxing).

The second one is the ferris wheel at kasai park.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

IBM vs Secom

Secom are a team in our league.  IBM beat them last year, making them the only victory of the season.

As this year has started with a couple of positive results, we could have been expected to go on and further improve despite the four days of solid, heavy rain prior to the occasion.  Amazingly enough, it wasn't particularly wet underfoot (the field must have immense drainage) and there was no rain in the air - so it ended up being fairly dry.

Unfortunately, a week ago during the game against Fuji Xerox (which we won by forty or fifty) I'd pulled my left hamstring scoring my second try of the day.  I was only on for fifteen minutes.  In that time I made 1 tackle (still 100% for the season) and effected one turnover along with the two scores.

Needless to say I was disappointed not to be playing today - a game in which we won by only two points.  Seemingly neither team could catch a ball, and we were constantly pushed off the ruck meaning we lost momentum all over the place.  Having said that, we won, which considering the backwards and forwards nature of the game is impressive.

Anyway, that aside, I took a few pictures.  

I'm particularly tired today because I hit the gym hard afterwards, so the colour balancing on a lot of these is somewhere between wrong, and completely wacko.  Try not to think about it too much.


















Thursday, 29 May 2014

A Park and A Wheel

So last month (during the cherry blossom season) I went to a park with the camera in order to capture one or two of the trees in bloom.

I completely forgot about the picture until yesterday, when I had a day off and ventured into another park without the trees.

Some of these are from before - some from yesterday.  It's up to you to choose which are from which.


It wouldn't be a set of pictures from me without a black and white one.  This shows the texture of this rock pretty nicely I think.  Uninteresting for all but me, but this is my blog so tough.


Kasai Rinkai Koen has a lot of poppies blooming at the moment.  I don't know why; they certainly weren't there last year.

Maybe it changes yearly.


This is another shot of the same set of fields.


The ferris wheel will make a comeback later in the post.


This outcropping looked pretty nice with the reflection so I just took a quick snap.  It turned out to be one of my favourites.


This is a heron from a month or so ago.  He didn't seem to be too perturbed by the people passing by, we even saw him catching a couple of fish.


Bear in mind my lens is only a very mild zoom.


This blossom is pretty indicative of the millions of other cherry blossoms around Japan.  Once you've seen one of them, you've pretty much seen them all.


Having said that, when they're dropping they do look pretty incredible.


See?  This is a slightly lighter version of the one above.


I think this is a heron.  I've no idea what type.  It might not even be a heron, I don't know.  This one was slightly more shy, and the camera struggled with the whites so there's not much detail in the feathers.  Having said that, it's amazing how close you can get if you just go slowly.

And this is the next vision of the ferris wheel replete with bad elevator music.


And that's all for today.