This limited express called Kamome runs from Nagasaki to Kitakyushu and was the first train I rode that made me feel in awe of Japanese style and technology. The seats are all soft black leather the floor is parquet and the walls are off-white (no first/second class disparity). There is a small pullout table hidden in each seat's armrest. Each pair of seats has a foot switch that can be used to rotate the seats to face the other direction making a group of four. If all four seat's tables is taken out then it will make one later table. And of course, the ride is smooth, fast and quiet. Compared to the dirty plastic, chewing gum patterned carpet, diesel fume belching trains of the UK, it felt like something out of the distant future and still shines to this day.
I took this photo in January while in Fukuoka staying at an apartment style hotel next to a hair salon. I walked past one day and was interested in the owner's style and asked if I could take a photo. I used a Pentax 67 with 105mm f2.4 lens which I really love. After waiting forever for the negative to arrive, I'm glad that this image has the medium format film look I was after. There's something about this picture that makes me think of a modern cowboy stylist that's quick on the draw with his trusty side snippers.
This is why I shoot on film. It isn't easy to get up before the crack of dawn, load a camera with film with numb fingers, focus said camera and lens combo that weighs a ton manually on birds in flight while also keeping an eye on the changing light conditions to tweak the exposure, then wait and wait and wait to finish the film, get the film developed, patiently wait for delivery (it took a month to get it back from Japan), scan the film and finally see it up close and only then realise you managed to get it all just about right enough to have a nice shot... But the feeling of joy and relief is so much more intense than shooting digital. And then you get the task of looking at every blob to fix dust spots!
I have had the privilege to know an amazing lady called Sachiko for well over 10 years who was one of my first English students while I was working in Japan. Since I have known her, she has never stopped being active, traveling the world, learning new skills and challenging herself much more than people half her age. I was lucky to meet her this time with my family while on Japan to catch up and show her how much my son has grown since last we met.
Sachiko has been busy making baskets since last we met. Each take a couple of days and involve woven string, lacquer and a lot of patience. Each of her pieces have completely different sizes, shapes and patterns of weave. I thought this basket would look good with flowers in but we will try to use it for shopping in the weekly market.
We were lucky to receive a basket from Sachiko and after getting it back home in one piece, really wanted to give a way to show her craftsmanship to the world.
On one side of the world, Brazilians parade in the heat to samba beats and tropical drinks, on the other side Germans march in freezing temperatures drink pils and throw boiled sweets into the crowds of onlookers. I'm not sure why we can't have German carnival in summer instead.
I wouldn't ever want to turn my blog into a family photo album but for my son Josh in traditional wear in Japan for his 七五三 (7, 5, 3 celebration) celebrating his third year I will make an exception!
I don't know how anyone can survive outside in a kimono with no proper shoes on when it is staying to snow.
There is a reason why Japanese shinkansen accidents are so low despite how fast they travel. The drivers follow tons of safety checks and procedures to the letter including handing over the train to the next driver at the final station.
Fires are set by local communities and families who work on the rice fields in the hope of a good harvest for the coming year. They stack up large bamboo bonfires for a few days before lighting them and roasting sweet potato, rice mochi and drinking hot drinks or beer in the cold winter air to keep warm.
I'm always amazed by how Japanese people embrace traditional methods of working in this technological era and how much effort and dedication they put into a craft that has been forgotten in western society. This man was cutting big blocks of ice into cubes, dipping them in water and then bagging them up for sale with a lot of care and precision. The shop sells frozen kakigori (Japanese slush puppies). As it is January I wasn't ready for one, but I bet they are the best around in summer!
Found the best place for coffee in Kagoshima for early mornings. Hay coffee stand is open at 7 and it's an inspiration to see the coffee begging made with every aspect of the brew weighed and times to perfection!!
Bare foot in January but unflinching.
Thanks to Daniel and his videographer for the video from our September shoot showing me missing all the cool stuff while setting up equipment and lying on the floor a lot. :-D