TOKYO LAWN TENNIS CLUB, TOKYO

Just down the road from where we live in Tokyo. There is no lawn at this club, the courts are all clay (smile).

A few HDRs from when the azaleas were in full bloom.

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The path beside the club. I walked this path for a year – until we changed offices.

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HOUSES, BANGKOK

On the canals of Bangkok. Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/2.8 USM.

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Collecting water.

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As we rode down the river, lots of people were playing music. Some with some very big speakers.

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These homes exist in the shadow of some of the world’s most modern buildings.

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Reminds me of Hong Kong.

DOWN THE STREET, HIROO, TOKYO, JAPAN

Actually, down the street from where we live – a spring view. Config: Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon 28-300mm f/2.8 USM.

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Many restaurants look like this, with the welcome cloth over the door.

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This fellow was arriving, ready for his next food delivery.

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Last shot, in black and white.

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SHRINE FOOD, TOKYO

As previously mentioned, a few weeks ago we headed to a shrine sale/market on a Saturday morning. In one area they were serving food. I love Japanese food. I love that Japanese “fast food” means that someone is cooking it quickly, from scratch, instead of mcCooking it.

A few shots. This fellow was quite artfully keeping his ashes out of my food (smile).

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These folks were cooking a very popular dish that you see at the baseball fields – octopus balls with a nice squirt of Japanese mayonnaise on-top.

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I went for the noodles.

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I am afraid that I am becoming a Japanese food bigot and will not be able to step into Canada’s version of a restaurant .. Moxie’s, Jack Astors .. without a sense of despair. I will definitely have to seek out those Canadian ‘chef owned’ restaurants actively.

Reflecting on the difference, it seems to come down to economics. More and more, Canadian restaurants are owned by business people – not chefs. It is bought as a business, not as a extension of a passion and everything from building layout to food delivery is controlled by HQ.

Very different from Japan where those holes in the wall are still family owned with the husband busy cooking while the wife runs the business. Sure, there are fast food chains, but they are a small fraction of the ecosystem.

Guess that is why Tokyo has more Michelin stars than anywhere else in the world – by a huge margin. If you come to Tokyo, explore the food. You will not be disappointed.

4:22AM

The time the sun rises in Tokyo. For some unknown reason Japan does not believe in daylight savings time. In Japan’s semi-tropical climate, no black-out blind every made can stop that UV 14 sun.

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I wake up very early every day. I guess there are worse things in the world than sitting on the deck and enjoying a cappuccino to this sunrise.

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COLORFUL INDIA

After all of my posts on India, I am left with a sense of awe. We went not knowing what to expect, a little worried and questioning if it was the right trip for us.

India is a full-on, visual assault. People, activity, honking, smells, traffic, chaos, laughter, despair – all these words describe it. But in the end, I think I would trend toward words like ‘vibrant’ and ‘colorful’ as the ones that truly capture India.

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Yes, I think the right word is “colorful”.

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It is not for everyone. It is definitely not for the first time or unseasoned traveler.

Personally, I cannot wait to go back.

THE FINAL LEG, INDIA

With Jaipur complete we faced the arduous trip from Jaipur to Delhi. How long would it take? The answer was 5 – 8 hours. Who knows? That is the joy of traveling in India. A couple hundred kilometers is a trip into chaos where anything can happen.

The good thing about that? Lots to see. A few shots from the drive.

Those are bags filled with cotton candy. Some children will be happy,

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While we were in India I read all about multinational business failure in India’s food market. It seems like the country is not ready for wide-scale, super market led food distribution. Read the article on the Journey of an Indian Onion from the Economist, fascinating.

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One of the many, many markets that we passed as we drove to Delhi.

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One of the local distribution engines in action. If you tried loading your truck up like this in Canada, you wouldn’t make it 2km before the police had you stopped.

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Of course, the police would have to find you and get to you first. It might be hard to conduct a police chase on an Indian highway .. with all of the tractors, cattle, camels and everything else in between.

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These guys didn’t seem to mind the traffic.

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One last shot of a potter, by the side of the road; who needs some help organizing.

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It took us 7 hours. Time seemed to fly by.

WALK THE TORI GATES

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Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm USM.

INSIDE THE AMBER FORT, JAIPUR

Once inside the fort, it felt different than others we had visited. More opulent.

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You can read more of the forts history here. In a nutshell:

The aesthetic ambiance of the palace is seen within its walls on a four level layout plan (each with a courtyard) in a well turned out opulent palace complex built with red sandstone and marble consisting of the Diwan-e-Aam or the "Hall of Public Audience", the Diwan-e-Khas or the "Hall of Private Audience", the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace) or Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over the water cascade within the palace. Hence, the Amer Fort is also popularly known as the Amer Palace.[4] The palace was lived in by the Rajput Maharajas and their families. At the entrance to the palace near the fort’s Ganesh Gate, there is also a temple dedicated to Sila Devi, a goddess of the Chaitanya cult which was given to Raja Man Singh when he had defeated the Raja of Jessore, Bengal in 1604. (Jessore is now in Bangladesh).[3][8][9]

There are really two key areas. The central court yard and the third courtyard. It is beautiful.

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Looking down from the walls you see the ruler’s herb garden. Cooled by the lake, it allowed the ruling family to grow foods that would not otherwise do well in this climate.

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But the highlight of the fort is third courtyard which is breathtaking.

The building to the left of the entrance gate is called the Jai Mandir, which is exquisitely beautified with glass inlaid panels and multi-mirrored ceilings. The mirrors are of convex shape and designed with coloured foil and paint which would glitter bright under candle nights at the time it was in use. Also known as Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), the mirror mosaics and coloured glasses were "glittering jewel box in flickering candle light".[4] However, most of this work was allowed to deteriorate during the period 1970–80 but has since then been subjected to a process of restoration and renovation. Carved marble relief panels are placed on walls around the hall. The hall provides enchanting vistas of the Maota Lake.[14]

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A shot where wall and roof meet.

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We wandered deeper into the fort.

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An ancient ventilation shaft. Love the way the light comes through in the shot.

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A beautiful fort, well worth the rather painful trip to get to the top.

THE ELEPHANTS OF THE AMBER FORT

There are 3 ways to the top of the Amber Fort, walk (it is long), a jeep up the side streets (our method) or an elephant ride that wanders up the hill.

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I jumped in front of this one as it made its way back down the hill.

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The road up and down the hill is packed with jeeps.  Elephants randomly walking into the middle of the street do not speed things up.

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Neither do the random cattle. Wandering free and completely unafraid.

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I had a chuckle at this sign. Not an issue.

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This fellow was moving much, much faster than we were.

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It was very hard not to jump out of our parked vehicle for some authentic popcorn. But the rule was clear, no street food, no matter how seemly innocent – not even popcorn.

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Never a dull moment.

THE AMBER FORT, JAIPUR, INDIA

Our last fort and our last site, as we finished our tour of the Golden Triangle. The Amber Fort is quite opulent, and flows across the hilltops with a great view of the town below.

A few of my favorite shots from the walls. Mostly in HDR with a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 28-300mm f/2.8 USM).

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Great views.

THINKING

A man, lost in his thoughts, on the wall at the Amber Fort, Jaipur, India.

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BLANKETS, JAIPUR

According to our guide, Jaipur is famous for their blankets – people come from around India to buy their Jaipur blankets. Very colorful.

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A blanket market .. I think.

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Unfortunately, we did not need a blanket.

A PINCH OF SALT

On the way to Delhi, India.

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THE AMBER FORT, JAIPUR

Our last tourist stop.

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ELEPHANTS, JAIPUR

While in Jaipur we made a trek to Elefantastic. From all of the reviews, it seemed the most humane, animal centric group who would give us a chance to see elephants up close. It is hard to see them in captivity, but with less and less space, their reality has now become one where they cannot roam free.

We have been to places like this before in Asia and Elefantastic lived up to their reputation. Families living with the elephants, making a living while treating them as – one of the family, in this huge communal area.

When I have the opportunity to be close to elephants, what always strikes me is the eyes. You look into them and you know, there is a deep intelligence looking back.

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Part of the tour is seeing how they live. This is an elephant home, shared with the handlers family, with a big yellow door.

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Satellite and all.

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The handlers guide the elephants with their bare feet.

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For me, the highlight was not the ride. It was simply spending time with them – feeding the elephants and being around such huge, majestic animals. Part of the tour is the opportunity to paint the elephants before they go for their dip in the lake.

What else would I paint?

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COMMON, INDIA

Shot through the window of our van as we drove through a street.

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A WANDER, JAIPUR

One of the benefits of having a private guide is itinerary control. When we arrived in Jaipur the family was ready for a quiet break from touring. I had to run an errand and Anu accompanied me – through the side streets of Jaipur.

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Once the errand was complete we stepped out and decided to take a one block loop around the shop. What fascinated me was the fact that the one block walk was a city, inside a city with a wide range of shops so diverse that the area could almost operate as a self contained unit. Food, mechanical shops, butchers, a pharmacy, clothing and apartments in a block.

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Rickshaws are like scooters in other countries, everywhere.

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Fossil fuels, specifically wood, is still used to cook and in homes around the city. This wood “store” was manned by a man and his goat.

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A micro-city, within the city, which also included a wide range of food – fruits, street vendors and of course, the local butcher.

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Last street shot. The hustle and bustle, in this case two guys trying to sell carpets. According to our guide, the women are tough negotiators.

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Highly recommend stepping into the side streets if you can.

A BLUE DOOR, JAIPUR

I love the colors and vibrancy of India.

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THE BARBERSHOPS OF INDIA

I kept seeing these sidewalk barbershops as we traveled the roads of India – often too late (our van had already whizzed by). On our last couple days in India I set a goal – get a few shots before it is too late.

Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/28 USM. Having the 300mm helped.

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I think that the blue chair might be a barbershop standard.

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This is the only barbershop that I spotted inside – on the way from Jaipur to Delhi.

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Incredible India! I just loved having a camera there.

ABHANERI STEPWELL, INDIA

Another TripAdvisor advised detour in India, we stopped at our second step well. Throughout the trip it never ceased to amaze me how advanced Indian engineering was. Abhaneri was built for one reason, to harvest rain water.

Stepwells, also called kalyani or pushkarani (Kannada: ), bawdi (Hindi: बावड़ी) or baoli (Hindi: बावली), barav (Marathi: बारव), vaav (Gujarati: વાવ) are wells or ponds in which the water may be reached by descending a set of steps. They may be covered and protected and are often of architectural significance. They also may be multi-storied having a bullock which turns the water wheel ("rehat") to raise the water in the well to the first or second floor.

I wonder when the last time this step well was full?

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We were not allowed down.

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Beautiful green water with thousands of steps and I counted 14 levels. Amazing piece of 8th century work.

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The architecture around the well was stunning.

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Random chunks of block filled the corridors, from temples in the area.

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For the traveller moving from Agra to Jaipur (or vice versa), it is an interesting detour.

THE POTTER, INDIA

As we approached the potter’s home his family gathered around. It was a simple demonstration, showing us his craft.

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I love the bright colors of the community.

With no signs of electricity into the home, it was all done the old fashioned way – by hand.

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His watch seemed an odd contrast to the surroundings.

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A SIDE STREET, INDIA

While traveling from Agra to Jaipur we detoured into a small town. We went to see how the locals live and to see a potter. Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/2.8 USM.

Every street, regardless of location, has one thing in common – water buffalo and cows.

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The potters house.

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Cow dung was spread out on the roofs of many of the houses – they use it for fuel.

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I was allowed to look inside one of the homes (below), and it was as you would expect. Simple open rooms, with a fire pit and sleeping quarters on mats. It was also filled with smiling children, staring at the gaijin.

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The potter was next.

SUBWAY, TOKYO (2)

My transfer station is Ginza. Again, it seems like I flow against the commuters with more people getting off than getting on. Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 50mm f/1.2.

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As with much of Japan’s society, it is all about order. When you stand on a platform you will notice the little colored markers where the doors will stop and people calmly and neatly line up on either side, waiting.

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As people funnel on, there is no pushing or shoving – even as it gets tight.

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And it definitely gets tight. Although on this day, the conductor did not need to do one of those famous ‘pushes’.

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A few more shots around the subway.

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The subways of Japan, the cleanest and most efficient in the world.

THE DIVER

At the back of the Fatehpur Sikri complex is a large water basin. There were two men at the base of the wall working hard to get our attention. They yelled an offer to our guide – money for a dive.

That is a long drop, but I admire their entrepreneurial approach and agreed. Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/2.8 USM.

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Awesome jump (smile).

FATEHPUR SIKRI, INDIA

Outside of Agra is Fatehpur Sikri, a small city that would often serve as the summer capital:

The city was founded in 1569 by the Mughal emperor Akbar, and served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585.[1] After his military victories over Chittor and Ranthambore, Akbar decided to shift his capital from Agra to a new location 23 miles (37 km) W.S.W on the Sikri ridge, to honor the Sufi saint Salim Chishti. Here he commenced the construction of a planned walled city which took the next fifteen years in planning and construction of a series of royal palaces, harem, courts, a mosque, private quarters and other utility buildings.[2] He named the city, Fatehabad, with Fateh, a word of Arabic origin in Persian, meaning "victorious." it was later called Fatehpur Sikri.[3] It is at Fatehpur Sikri that the legends of Akbar and his famed courtiers, the nine jewels or Navaratnas, were born.[citation needed] Fatehpur Sikri is one of the best preserved collections of Mughal architecture in India.[4]

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Ornately built with incredible detail everywhere. It is an architectural wonder, and quite the “summer home”.

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While we were there it was quite cloudy and foggy. We are just fortunate that the entire trip was not that way.

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The most interesting part of the fort was the insight into the male/female lifestyle. At different spots through the fort Anu (our guide) would point out where they celebrated – with dancers and musicians – always pointing to where the women would be located/segregated, often behind some type of screen or up on one of the balconies.

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Interesting insight into a Moghul’s summer life. As an aside – a point on literacy embedded in the Wikipedia entry:

Fatehpur Sikri has a population of 28,754. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Fatehpur Sikri has an average literacy rate of 46%, lower than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 57%, and female literacy is 34%. In Fatehpur Sikri, 19% of the population is under 6 years of age

We had many conversations with our guide on literacy, education and the class system in India. It became apparent that there is a lot of local skepticism around the claimed national literacy average of 72%.

THE CAMEL, INDIA

This fellow was very proud of his camel and the grooming. A majestic animal. He was offering rides outside of Fatehpur Sikri.

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Love the intricate designs. He loves his camel.

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TOKYO SKYLINE

I love the view of the clouds over Tokyo. Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-70mm USM.

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MONKEYS, INDIA

There are a lot in India. Nature and people collide all over the country and like the raccoons of Canada, monkeys clamber amongst the sprawling population.

I love shooting monkeys, they are so interesting to watch. Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/2.8 USM.

This group of families was at the entrance to a park as we travelled to a wildlife sanctuary.

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They are such an intimate species. Clustered together, jumping, playing, taking care of each other.

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As I watched this young man came out of the back of a building. It caused quite the racket as they obviously knew what he was about to do.

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He smiled the entire time, feeding the group.

TUCKED BEHIND

An old set of buildings, jammed between new ones in Tokyo, Japan.

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SAKURA CROWDS

Part of the sakura season in Tokyo is the celebration; gathering friends, throwing down a blanket on the grass and hanging out. This usually involves food and of course – drink.

It gets very crowded under those trees.

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I cannot see what the sign on the left says but I think it says that you are not allowed to have food there.

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Public alcohol is not a problem in Tokyo, it would appear. This shot (above) was taken at Arisugawa park. A beautiful park near Hiroo station in the heart of Tokyo.

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FLOWERS DOWN A BACK STREET

Last Saturday the sakura were still out – although fading fast. It is such a short season and after two full bloom, “peak” days, it rained for 3 days straight with wind. Down came the sakura.

The sun was out Saturday afternoon so I decided to take a quick walk – a last walk to enjoy the season. From our balcony I could see a few big trees in bloom. As we made our way down the alleys, we came across these huge bushes, in full bloom with perfect, pink flowers.

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It never ceases to amaze me to be in these temperate climates where flowers abound. In Canada, flowers are a concerted effort.

Around the corner, in a small park (5 trees wide), the last of the bloom.

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The local baseball field is surrounded with blooming trees.

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An entire city turns pink.

THE IMPERIAL PALACE, TOKYO

As we wandered around Tokyo seeking the sakura we came across the Imperial palace and the gardens, in bloom.

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The blooming sakura stand out among the greenery.

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I loved the view.

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A great afternoon – finally enjoyed the sakura.

UENO PARK, TOKYO

Last year we missed the blooming sakura, Tokyo’s famous cherry trees. One of the most famous is Ueno park, truly breathtaking in the middle of a city of 40M.

Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/2.5 USM.

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Down the main path – the sky was filled with blossoms.

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As with everywhere in Tokyo, there were large crowds. Everyone enjoying Hanami;

is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers, "flower" in this case almost always meaning cherry blossoms ("sakura") or (less often) plum blossoms ("ume").[1] From the end of March to early May, sakura bloom all over Japan,[2]

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Truly spectacular. Should have brought some sake to sit with the crowds …

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FIELDS OF YELLOW, INDIA

I was told they they are filled with rapeseed, a popular crop used to yield rapeseed oil which can be used for cooking and biofuel. 13% of India’s farmland grows the crop.

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It makes for a beautiful field.

BLOW YOUR HORN, INDIA

Our trip to India involved 3 cities (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur) with driving in between. What would be considered a fast and simple drive in Europe or Canada was arduous in India. The country is filled with half completed roads, which (I was told) stands as a testament to the bureaucracy and corruption that plagues the country.

For a tourist that means long – bumpy drives. Each city would be 5-7 hours apart. We booked a van.

The benefit of that distance is that you can open the window and watch the people go by. As we drove I truly enjoyed watching the trucks.

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In Canada, truck drivers pride themselves on how shiny their truck is. In India, it is all about the colors and the bling.

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Another big cultural difference. In Canada blowing the horn is an act of anger – done infrequently.

In India, everyone does it, all the time. I mean, all .. of .. the .. time. It is one of the things that makes traveling in India such a full on, sensory overload. On almost every truck, they actively encourage it.

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I also learned that inflammable is not the opposite of flammable. English can also be a mysterious language. I particularly enjoyed the “specialist advice” to stay upwind.

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Incredible India.

HOW MUCH CAN YOU CARRY? INDIA

As seen on the road from Delhi to Agra, India. The farmers take this to the extreme.

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All along the route, there was much to see. People still collect wood to cook and heat their homes. Agra at this time of year is coolish (6C).

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This vehicle was doing around 80 km/h and that last fellow was barely on.

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In India you see everything and the contrasts are significant. As you drive you will see a $250K Mercedes driving beside a camel. There were a lot of camels.

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They fit in well with the water buffalo.

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These water buffalo also provide insight into the speed of traffic in India. They roam free along with the cows.

TREE TRIMMING AND CONES, TOKYO

As I wandered around Chofu I started to get lost. Fortunately I had my iPhone and used it to locate where I was and where I had left the car. Somehow I had gotten quite far off track so I cut through a park to get closer.

I came across these gents heading out for work. They were trimming trees in their tiny little truck. There seems to be a lot of little specialty vehicles in Japan.

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You are not allowed to do a lot of things in the park. The “no golfing” was the one that caught my eye.

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I do not know why, but apparently this guy is a lucky man. Why does his poster have English on it? You have got me.

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I wandered past a train station. It seemed like everyone on the platform was looking at their phone.

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It never stops amazing me how many bikes there are in Tokyo. Probably one of the reasons why there are very few obese people in Japan, they all ride bikes (and don’t eat western fast food). The bikes are everywhere on the streets and at certain train stations, they even have their own parking lot.

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A friend of mine is constantly writing about the cone culture in Japan. They are literally everywhere and often, head scratchers. Cone madness.

The “this is a sidewalk” coning.

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The “garden in waiting” coning.

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The “please don’t walk into my air conditioner that is closely tucked away and you would never hit it anyway” coning.

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My final shots of Chofu. As you walk through Tokyo, a land of 40 million, you will also come across random plots of land that have remained farm land. This “farm land” is often crammed in between apartment buildings and 2 story houses that are 500 square feet per level (including land).

And like so many farmers that I know, they have a tough time throwing things out. You never know when you will need it …

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A greenhouse waiting for spring.

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Love the look of this building. I cannot begin to guess the age.

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A good wander.

CANON’s HDR

I love the Canon 5D Mark III. The only thing that I wish it had was integrated GPS. I have to use a GP-E2 which connects to the hot shoe – I find it bulky.

One of my favorite features is the HDR. It is a little trick shooting hand-held HDR with the camera as you get some odd effects and at times it will end up out of alignment. That is why I use the setting which keeps all of the pre-HDR shots. If the HDR shot doesn’t work, I can process one of the others.

It is much more convenient than doing it post processing and candidly, I just don’t have enough time to be fiddling and building the images. Sure, it means that the chances of my shots getting to the front page of 500px are nominal, but so be it.

While on my “Chofu wander” I was mixing between hand held HDR and “normal” shots with my 28-300mm lens. I accidentally selected emboss. It came out quite interesting.

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Not sure I would use this setting other than by accident?

OBVIOUS

Wandering around Chofu (a district of Tokyo) I came across this place. I am not sure what is going on, is it a shop?

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There was a very helpful sign in English. If anyone could help me out with the translation, that would be great.

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Foreigner in a foreign land.

TOMB OF I’TAMAD UD DAULAH, INDIA

We visited this tomb on the same day we visited the Taj Mahal. I have to say, I found this landmark more interesting. Beautiful grounds, a spectacular and visually stunning building, smaller crowds and a beautiful view of the river.

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Via:

Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah (Urdu: اعتماد الدولہ کا مقبرہ‎, I’timād-ud-Daulah kā Maqbara) is a Mughal mausoleum in the city of Agra in the Indianstate of Uttar Pradesh. Often described as a “jewel box”, sometimes called the “Baby Tāj”, the tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah is often regarded as a draft of the Tāj Mahal.

The mausoleum was commissioned by Nūr Jahān, the wife of Jahangir, for her father Mirzā Ghiyās Beg, originally a Persian Amir in exile.[1] who had been given the title of I’timād-ud-Daulah (pillar of the state). Mirzā Ghiyās Beg was also the grandfather of Mumtāz Mahāl (originally named Arjūmand Bāno, daughter of Asaf Khān), the wife of the emperor Shāh Jahān, responsible for the construction of the Tāj Mahal.

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The walls outside are incredibly colorful and ornate.

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And even more colorful inside.

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As always, look up.

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At the back of the grounds it opens up to a magnificent view of the river. People washing their clothes, water buffalo drinking and a few magnificent viewing spots.

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A brief note on the entrance … it is adorned with carvings of wine. Supposedly the Mughal loved his wine.

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I am not sure this is a big stop on the Agra tour. We did not see any tour buses. If in Agra, make the stop.

SHOTS AROUND A TEMPLE, TOKYO

A small temple, tucked off the road in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. As seen by one of the many mirrors on the road. The mirrors are in place as the buildings are so close to the roads that it is almost impossible to see around corners.

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No one was around .. just a pair of boots.

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The temple was across from the tracks. Everything in Japan (and Tokyo) is so tightly packed in and usually close to some type of train track.

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Being Canadian, seeing lemon trees like this in January when it is 6C is a bit baffling.

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Near the temple was a workshop of some type. Odd seeing what appears to be a machine shop in the middle of what feels like a residential area.

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As always, Tokyo is filled with random English.

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People often refer to India as “Incredible India”. Seems like Tokyo needs a adjective inserted.

CARS, TOKYO

No matter where you are in the world, people love old cars. Japan is no different. I happened on these while killing time in Chofu.

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There was a shop restoring them.

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All good junkyard like shops have vicious guard dogs. This one was not happy that I was lurking near the cars.

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Remember, always look up. When I was a kid I did a lot of Japanese Tamiya models. It would appear that the owner likes working on all sizes of cars.

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One more car. I wonder what is under the tarp?

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And the config, as you might guess:  Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/3.5 USM. Might need to blow the dust off the other lenses soon.

THE TAJ MAHAL, INDIA (part 2)

The Taj Mahal, wonder of the world, ode to love. Well an ode to his 3rd wife. Not sure how first 2 felt when he embarked on this 25 year building spree to remember her.

None the less, one of the “must sees” when in India.

Our first glimpse was from down the river. It was a little bit hazy, but luckily not foggy and the sun was coming out. (Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/3.5 USM).

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Once past the gates you come to the large entrance – effectively called “The great gate”

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Our first peek at the Taj Mahal.

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As we walked through the gate it came into full view. It was quite a unique experience.

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Even thought it was an official holiday, it was not as busy as I had expected. But there were a lot of Indians. With the recent collapse of the rupee there has been a sharp decline in travel abroad as Indians looked to more affordable travel within the country.

Unfortunately, this means that if you are a local, you can expect a very, very long line. Fortunately, as foreigners we were able to skip the lines. The lines wrapped around the Taj Mahal multiple times.

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And on that note, what else is there to say? It is the Taj Mahal. A spectacular monument that you simply stand back and soak in.

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A unique Christmas day.

THE TAJ MAHAL, INDIA

When we went to India over the Christmas break we did not realize that we were taking such a risk. When I say risk I am not talking about safety. I am talking about weather.

Little did we know – it was a terrible time to go to India. In the evenings it gets cold and that causes fog. Lots of fog. According to our guide he went to places like the Taj Mahal many times and all they saw was fog. How terrible would that be?

With this new insight we made a plan as we traveled from Delhi to Agra; the weather would dictate where we would go when and Anu would pick when we went to the Taj Mahal.

It turns out, we were very lucky. According to our guide .. very, very lucky.

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Before I get into the Taj Mahal, I need to backtrack. The experience is an interesting one. You stop off at the tourist arrival area where you board electric buses to head to the Taj. This is in an apparent effort to reduce pollution. 

They also provide you with some clear guidelines on what you should not do. I am very glad I left behind my nife, colors and helmate.

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Very glad because the Ministry of Defense was ready to jump into action in their very intimidating car.

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You get dropped off and have to walk to the entrance – through stalls, craftsmen and tourist hawkers. Oh yes, we also had to stop for water buffalo. They were crossing .. near the Taj Mahal.

They came up from the river bank onto the road and back down .. a normal day in the life of a water buffalo, passing through thousands of tourists.

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It has to make you smile. On your way to the Taj Mahal, and you get stopped by a herd of buffalo. Incredible India. I expected the sights below, not the water buffalo.

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In moments we arrived. This ticket got us past the long local lines and in to see one of the wonders of the world.

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The Taj Mahal.

THE USED HORSESHOE

I thought it odd that this man would re-shoe his horse in the middle of a busy Old Delhi street.

It turns out that used horseshoes are very valuable in Indian culture. Business people buy them for good luck.

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The man on the left is waiting for the horseshoe – money in hand.

OLD DELHI MARKETS, INDIA (Part 2)

The Old Delhi markets are a real mix. Inside a city block you can find everything; spices, food, textiles, with a little bit of everything in between.

When it comes to colors and textiles, the Indian culture is all about color.

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The Indian culture also loves their marigolds. Street vendors were selling them everywhere – especially near temples.

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Did I mention that watching the street vendors and not being able to try any of the foods was torture?

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This fellow was making these amazing deep fried, cinnamon, crispy sweet cakes. How do I know? They had them in the hotel at breakfast – a place where we could eat the food.

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The Indian spice markets are like the textiles – filled with colors. I had one vendor try to sell me a huge bag of cardamom for a couple dollars – definitely not Tokyo prices.

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A wonderful “wander”.

STAY AWAY EVIL SPIRITS, INDIA

Throughout India you see these on doors, walls and hanging in the air – to ward off evil spirits. In this case they are warding the spirits and locking them out.

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Remember, always look up. They were hanging all around the markets.

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I think it is a lime – with chilies.

THE DELHI MARKETS, INDIA

How do you describe the Delhi markets? Many words come to mind. Rich, alive, colorful, crammed, dusty, packed, rambling, chaotic. All apply including “interesting”. On Christmas eve day, we wandered the textile and spice markets of Old Delhi. Every alley filled with sights.

These are two of my favorite shots – capturing the essence of the alleys of Old Delhi (Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/3.5 USM)

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This sign was hanging outside a string of fireworks shops.

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A few fireworks with very interesting names.

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The fireworks were right beside the “Dental Depot”.

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And this empty office, which our guide said was the sanitation office – they must have been out and hard at work.

2013 12 24 Old Delhi-69 More tomorrow.

GUESS THE WEATHERCOCK

The use of English in Japan can be interesting. Take a guess at what this company’s business is?

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The definition of weathercock:

A wind vane (or weathercock) is an instrument for showing the direction of the wind. They are typically used as an architectural ornament to the highest point of a building.

I only figured it out by looking in the window (smile) and noticing the colors that are inside of the lamp by the door.

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