To a small temple in Hiroo.
To a small temple in Hiroo.
Black and white.
Color handheld HDR.
Not sure which I like better.
A few Tokyo black and whites, around Hiroo.
Police on pretty much every corner.
Cartoon figures of some type, on every corner.
The 100 Yen Shop – why are all of their signs in English?
A snow shovel for 100 Yen ($1). It snowed 2 times in 2 years when we lived in Tokyo .. not sure it is a good investment?
In Hiroo, the most expensive place in Tokyo. Hanging around the fishing hole in a park.
I wonder how many Terracotta warriors and dirt this old cart has hauled over the years?
Looks like new tires.
The Terracotta Army, Xi’an, China.
If you have followed this blog at some point you know that one of my favorite places to visit while traveling is a market. Beijing was no different. The markets are the best places to enjoy the “life” of a city.
When you stand outside a street vendor like this, it makes our North American dining experience seem so .. pedestrian.
A few black and whites.
It also seems like their food is fresher. Farmer to market …. perhaps it is different in January.
Forbidden City, Beijing, China.
To the Forbidden City, Beijing China. Waiting for our guide ….
This is the Temple of Heaven, on a warm day with the smog backdrop. We were not there on a clear blue-sky day.
The Temple of Heaven, literally the Altar of Heaven (simplified Chinese: 天坛; traditional Chinese: 天壇; pinyin: Tiāntán; Manchu: Abkai mukdehun) is a complex of religious buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. It has been regarded as aTaoist temple, although Chinese heaven worship, especially by the reigning monarch of the day, pre-dates Taoism.
To me the more interesting view is the walkway to the temple. Filled with retired people and families, enjoying each other – playing cards and different board games. There is a lot going on, and I am sure there is some money changing hands in some of those games.
Shirts optional. The Chinese men had an interesting cultural norm of pulling their t-shirts up from the bottom and tucking them through the neck, exposing their mid-sections. It was hot, but for me, not hot enough to resort to that (smile).
I think I would call this shot “friends”.
Our tour of China started with Tiananmen square. It is interesting to tour the square knowing the history. I don’t know what I was expecting to see? Obviously not demonstrators or anything of that ilk.
In the end it is a big square, with a few monuments to those deemed worth. My shots; Config Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/2.8 USM. A note on the shots: China was very frustrating. I did not bring the right filters and the haze/pollution played havoc with the shots.
One of the buildings surrounding the square.
The big communist party building beside the square, The Great Hall of the People. When you read through the history you will find that occasionally it is used for artistic performances. I found it funny that the first western performer was a country western singer. I will refrain from explaining why I found that point so humorous.
This is the Tiananmen.
The Tiananmen (simplified Chinese: 天安门; traditional Chinese: 天安門; pinyin: Tiān’ānmén), or Gate of Heavenly Peace, is a famous monument in Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China. It is widely used as a national symbol. First built during the Ming Dynasty in 1420, Tiananmen is often referred to as the front entrance to the Forbidden City. However, the Meridian Gate (午门) is the first entrance to the Forbidden City proper, while Tiananmen was the entrance to the Imperial City, within which the Forbidden City was located.
The monument to the People’s Heroes, manned by young communist party members and commemorating wars such as the Opium war, the war against Japan and the different revolutions. When you read through China’s history and how imperialist forces abused this country, it is no wonder that self defense is so important to them.
The square is filled with uniformed and plain clothes security. Many standing at attention.
An interesting stroll through the square.
I think that Yoyogi Park is one of my favorite parks. I love walking it. In Tokyo, people gather in the parks on the weekends. Families, friends, joggers, ninjas, cosplayers, dancers … everyone.
That is why it is such a great park, if you stop and look around.
There are many joggers holding a piece of rope between them. When I asked, it was explained that these people are jogging with a blind companion.
The bridge, that takes you to where the festivals are – on this day it was Cinco de Mayo day.
A few shots from Cinco de Mayo which was all about the food and .. of course, some dancing. It was amazing watching this woman balance the bottles. I wonder what made her want to learn this dance? She went to 8 bottles.
In Japan you will never be disappointed by the unique English translations.
You will never be disappointed by the food either.
Near Roppongi there are a lot of police – all the time. I believe that this is due to it being a diplomat area. China, Korea, Qatar, Pakistan, Finland, Germany – there are a lot of embassies near our home.
Makes you feel safe, that is for sure – but it is also a little odd.
The police have these roll out barriers everywhere. These are used for crowd and traffic control. The odd things is that to hold a demonstration, you have to file a notice with the police (read more here) so they would have lots of opportunity to deploy these when required. Instead, they are on street corners all over Minato – accompanied by cones, large plastic boxes (containing who-knows-what) and these tire busting contraptions.
This is the Chinese embassy. There is always someone in that van idling with the air conditioning on. I had to snap this shot quick, they do not like photos around the Chinese embassy for some reason ….
Perhaps the street barricades are to lean on. Of course, no shortage of pylons.
And of course, the officer is properly masked – a truly Japanese custom.
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.
Many restaurants look like this, with the welcome cloth over the door.
This fellow was arriving, ready for his next food delivery.
Last shot, in black and white.
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).
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.
I went for the noodles.
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.
A fun way to spend a Saturday morning.
This fellow was super content.
In the end we didn’t buy anything. I don’t need a $100 hand crafted wood comb. But really enjoyed wandering around.
Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm USM.
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.
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.
As people funnel on, there is no pushing or shoving – even as it gets tight.
And it definitely gets tight. Although on this day, the conductor did not need to do one of those famous ‘pushes’.
A few more shots around the subway.
The subways of Japan, the cleanest and most efficient in the world.
It occurred to me recently that I have never brought my camera along for the commute. The other week I did. Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 50mm f/1.2.
The subways have some old fashion elements – like white gloved conductors who hop on and off to guide the crowds.
My commute to work is a short one. It starts at Hiroo station – stop number 3. I change trains at stop number 8.
I seem to go against the flow of the commuters. This station fills up with people getting off the train, not on to it. Very clean.
Note the face masks. I found that very odd when I first moved to Tokyo – people on the train, in the street and in the office wearing facemasks.
As an insight into the Japan culture, often people wear masks not to avoid getting sick – but to stop themselves from getting others sick. Very polite. I have even started wearing a mask when ill (garnering a few looks) and on airplanes; it is fantastic for your throat as the air is dryer than a dessert on a plane and the worst place to catch a cold. I travelled a significant amount in 2013 (often 10 hour flights) and seemed to be catching a cold every other flight – the mask helped.
Another common reason for wearing a mask is allergies (blogged about previously).
The train flying by.
The Tokyo rush hour can become very crowded.
I think this is my favorite shot of the morning.
Next stop Ginza.
As we wandered around Tokyo seeking the sakura we came across the Imperial palace and the gardens, in bloom.
The blooming sakura stand out among the greenery.
I loved the view.
A great afternoon – finally enjoyed the sakura.
As seen on the road from Delhi to Agra, India. The farmers take this to the extreme.
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).
This vehicle was doing around 80 km/h and that last fellow was barely on.
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.
They fit in well with the water buffalo.
These water buffalo also provide insight into the speed of traffic in India. They roam free along with the cows.
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.
No one was around .. just a pair of boots.
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.
Being Canadian, seeing lemon trees like this in January when it is 6C is a bit baffling.
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.
As always, Tokyo is filled with random English.
People often refer to India as “Incredible India”. Seems like Tokyo needs a adjective inserted.
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.
The man on the left is waiting for the horseshoe – money in hand.
I was recently having a discussion with a friend about the merits of black and white versus colour photos.
I have not been a big black and white shooter (mostly because black and white is a process for me with Lightroom). However, I have become a fan of black and white for people. In a black and white photo the focus become the characters in the shot, you are not distracted by colors.
Take this shot for example, a street vendor around the spice market in Old Delhi (Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300 f/3.5 USM)
We happened to be stuck in traffic and these guys were having an animated conversation. Perhaps about the weather or the latest cricket scores? I post both shots, with the black and white being my favorite.
To me color of his head scarf and the mangos is a distraction while the muted wardrobe of the street vendor means that he is not a focal point. The street vendor almost fades into the background.
I am going to start producing a lot more black and white. That being said, I remain a handheld HDR fan – a great feature of the Canon 5D Mark III – for other photos.
Interested in the experiences and opinions of others.
Through the gate .. down the street .. as shot from a shrine’s parking lot.
Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/3.5 USM.
In Arisugawa park on a chilly but clear Saturday. I would expect they practice catch and release.
Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/3.5 USM.
A great spot.
I do not miss snow. Not a very Canadian thing to say but it is true. Snow is highly over rated. Great for winter sports, a nuisance for everyday life.
The winter has been mild in Tokyo – quite warm, in the 10C range until a few weeks ago when the city was hammered with two storms and a chill. The chill meant that the snow stayed around.
I arrived home from a long business trip to the snow and a traveler’s flu – unfortunately an all too common incident this year despite a regime of face masks, Cold FX, Zinc, hand sanitizer and vitamin water.
I looked out the window, the snow was falling and the trees looked beautiful but I was not up for venturing out (unfortunately). I did pull out the Canon 28-300mm and snap a few shots. It would have been magical clomping around in the night with a 50mm – an opportunity missed.
Snow can be beautiful.
Tokyo is a busy city. Everywhere is always busy. Despite being busy, it always feels orderly and most of the time – the crowds are not overwhelming.
But one thing is for sure. The crowds are always there – it goes hand in hand with a population of 40 million. At times, those crowds are inexplicable to a foreigner. The popcorn stand being one of those ‘scratch my head’ examples.
I have found another in Hiroo. This line was a couple hundred meters long – which I estimate as a two hour wait (minimum – it was not moving fast).
Why? Three guesses.
“AND THE FRIET”
Yes. A tiny little French fry shop. Seriously.
We spent Christmas Eve afternoon in Old Delhi around the markets. I could have taken 1,000 more photos like these as everywhere you turned a man or woman was performing a feat of strength to get their goods moved from A to B. Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/3.5 USM.
A few of my favorites. The first is the only in color – flowers presented for sale, draped across a parked motorbike.
In the Old Delhi markets there were lots of people carry their wares. Those markets are truly “human powered”. As we walked and observed, one of the most common modes of good transportation was via the head – with some carry more than others.
There were more than a few executing a tricky head balance.
Many worked as teams – balancing the load.
Look closely at the load in the back (how did they decide who gets to sit and who has to work?)
Some had long loads.
Some had big loads. What is all of that paper for? To feed the infamous India bureaucracy?
A lucky few had something other than their own hands and legs to power their cart.
These shots are from a couple hours in the markets, are a small subset of the shots available and represent the essence of what a trip to India entails. Everywhere you look you see a unique scene.
The inside of Humanyun’s tomb had a few notable elements that Anu educated us on. The first being the meticulous way in which the tombs were placed – the Moghul’s and his spouse(s) – just a little ahead of the others.
The other was the intricate lattice work on the windows. This was prevalent through many of the forts and tombs we would visit. The lattice was carved so it was wider on the outside and would narrow toward the inside. This allowed women to see out the window clearly but did not allow someone from the outside to see in.
Each piece, carved with a small angle.
And of course, always look up.
A beautiful tomb.
Our first tomb in India, the model for many of the tombs we would see later.
Humayun’s tomb (Urdu: ہمایوں کا مقبرہ Humayun ka Maqbara) is the tomb of the Mughal EmperorHumayun in Delhi, India. The tomb was commissioned by Humayun’s first wife Bega Begum (Haji Begum) in 1569-70, and designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, a Persian architect chosen by Bega Begum. It was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent, and is located in Nizamuddin East,Delhi, India, close to the Dina-panah citadel also known as Purana Qila (Old Fort), that Humayun founded in 1533. It was also the first structure to use red sandstone at such a scale
The scale of these places is amazing but in a country like India one has to wonder, what could have happened for the people had they not built this monument to one man so many years ago? How many hospitals or schools could have been built?
Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm.
The main buildings are pristine, only the doors show the age of the place.
The lotus is very prominent in all of the tombs.
In Hinduism, the lotus (Sanskrit: padma) primarily represents beauty and non-attachment. The lotus is rooted in the mud but floats on the water without becoming wet or muddy. This symbolizes how how one should live in the world in order to gain release from rebirth: without attachment to one’s surroundings.
I am not sure how this contraption works but it appears to be some form of irrigation system. Whether it attaches to a gas pump or is powered by a human, I have no idea.
It was the dry season, so the water ways ran dry.
Throughout the grounds the workers were repairing, maintaining, cutting the grass.
Thanks for dropping by.
That is what this shot cost me. Outside Bangla Sahib temple. These guys have a good gig going 🙂 Love the colors (and so did the other tourists)
Behind them this man was sharpening knives by pedaling a converted bicycle. Interesting to watch, on the back streets of Old Delhi.
I could have spent weeks shooting the streets of Delhi and never lost interest.
At Humayun’s Tomb. He was busy repairing a side wall.
Right up until the day we left for India, there was a lot of debate around going. With all of the negative press (and shocking tourist attack right after we left), we had our reservations. We spoke about cancelling many times. Was it dangerous? Was our time there too long? Would the driving from city to city be too much? I would say that of all of the places that we have travelled, this trip was the one that was most debated. We almost cancelled several times and last minute I completely changed the itinerary – shortening it by a few days.
As our guide said “India is not for the first time traveller. Most of the people who come here have been to many places before they venture to our country”.
Well said and good advice because it is not for the unadventurous or first time traveler. While I am sure there are bus tours which put you in a cocoon, India is what I would describe as “full on”. We spent 9 days there and after the trip we left enlightened, amazed and exhausted.
To be clear, we were also cautious and had a few uncomfortable moments. I happened across this post and could not help but shudder at how this woman is tempting fate (I hope her parents read it and talk some sense into her). Would you walk down a dark alley in Toronto in the middle of the night alone as a woman? Of course not. Same goes for India. We recognized that we stood out in the crowd and with the help of our amazing guide, were smart about it.
It also turned out to be the perfect opportunity to shoot my new lens. The 28-300mm proved it’s value by being able to shoot while in the van or while walking, with huge range.
And lets just say, we spent a lot of time in the van as we moved from city to city. India’s lack of infrastructure coupled with a huge population does not make for speedy movement.
Our trip took us from Delhi to Agra to Jaipur and then back to Delhi over 9 days – the Golden Triangle. Over those days we would see many things; beautiful monuments, spectacular architecture, wealth, shocking poverty, back streets, main streets, road side markets and everything in between.
Trip of a lifetime.
On a dusty road, on a small mountain in Cambodia, a family tends their market. The children looking on.
When we drove back a few hours later they were gone. Their village was a few hundred meters into the jungle. Perhaps off to enjoy the afternoon like these children.
A simpler life.
The fellow seems quite content.
Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-70mm
With a friend from Canada, on a very busy weekend. Config: Canon 5D Mark III with my Canon 28-70mm f/2.8.
Many were saying their prayers.
A few HDRs.
Many were selling their wares. If you ever see this chocolate coated banana – don’t stop. Opinion based on experience … more pleasing to the eye than the palate (by about 50 miles)
I still find the swastikas as a temple symbol disconcerting.
But the temples are spectacular.
We were with a friend at Meiji Shrine on the weekend and there were a few things going on – weddings and children coming of age celebrations.
I enjoyed watching the posing of this wedding party, the photographer and his staff must have adjusted an arm here – a leg there, for 10 minutes.
The bride is wearing the head covering that is traditionally worn to cover her “horns”.
Perhaps this bride is happy because she does not have anything to hide (smile).
Everywhere you looked were children in colorful traditional dress, to celebrate their coming of age. Of course, parents were being parents, primping and preening – that is the same in every culture.
The path to the shrine was lined with ornate flower arrangements. No idea what they were for, but I have not seen daisies arranged like Japanese trees before. Very pretty.
As always, lots to see at Meiji shrine.
We have a friend coming over from Canada this weekend and he is very tall – 6’ 4ish. He will probably have a tough time with the doors in Japan … This is a not-uncommon door frame height in older buildings.
Grilled. Shot with a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 28-70mm f/2.8.
I have been playing around with black and white lately. Not sure if I like sake in green or B&W?
On a Saturday stroll. 2nd time there, interesting place.
All of the restaurant statues were different. I do not know who would buy this paratrooper?
I wonder how tall you have to be to see over the edge of these balconies?
We are pretty selective on what we collect these days. I personally liked this fish plate, very unique and I thought distinctly Japanese.
Kapabashi, good for a Saturday wander.
It is hard to describe why being a foreigner in Japan is so hard. The people are friendly, they mistake me for American all the time and Japan loves the US. English is more prevalent than I thought. Why so hard?
I am not talking about the business side. That is a different conversation and as a multi-cultural Canadian with a previous expat under my belt, that is going exactly as I expected.
I am talking about living in Japan as a person, as a family. Is it because it is such a busy city? Is it because the expat community is so much smaller due to people leaving after the earthquake; leaving only the semi-gaijin behind (ones who have localized or married a local)?
As I took the subway the other morning, something happened that encapsulated the experience and perhaps, though a story, a point of view and an explanation.
I have been commuting to a new office for weeks now and tried a few different subway routes, settling on the quickest and easiest. 5 stops, up the stairs, 50m, down the stairs, 1 stop and 250m underground to our new office.
I have found the Tokyo subway commute interesting. On this particular morning I stood on the packed train and took a good look around. Men reading manga .. I still find that odd, especially when you glance at one and notice how graphic they are. People on their phones. A man standing oddly trying to read a huge paper. An ad for whisky that made me laugh. Observing, learning, enjoying the "foreignness".
Stop 8 – Ginza (It is easier to identify by the number than the name). Time to change trains. Step out, head up the stairs and … what?
Everything is different.
Where is my next line 50m away? Where is the red circle to guide me? Where am I?
What has changed? (it starts dawning one me). This time instead of stepping on to the last car, which is busiest, I walked up 2 cars.
The smallest of changes. A tiny shift.
I am lost.
Wandering around I find signs and trudge what feels like 1000m around corners, up stairs, down stairs. How is this possible? The change between trains is a hop, skip and a jump. A long walk, it feels like my 2 minutes is now 20.
Finally, I get to my change over. Back on track. One stop, short walk, at the office.
That is the Japan expat foreigner experience.
Over that first, painful year of learning you build your cocoon of knowledge in this foreign country where everything is different, where there is a “way things are done” which allows 40 million people to live together and create the safest, cleanest and one of the most functional cities in the world.
The problem is that when you shift a millimeter right or left, that cocoon is torn asunder. Your understanding is blasted apart and you are left wondering, where am I? (This often happens when you are under a time pressure).
Drifting in an ocean where everyone understands, except you.
If you don’t believe me, rent a car and a GPS in Tokyo and try driving across town. GPS’s don’t understand 3 level freeways. One minute it will say go straight for 13km and the next, it thinks you are on the first level and is screaming “U-turn .. exit left in 150m .. recalculating .. Turn right!”
That being said, year two is about 200% easier and as always, fascinating.
Japan has reaffirmed my opinion, rap music is not to my taste regardless of language.
Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8.
I enjoyed their enthusiasm and had a good chuckle at their creative intermingling of the f-word into the Japanese lyrics .. but the music hurt my ears. I stayed for a single Asahi super-dry under a nice Red Bull umbrella (thanks Red Bull, it was 42C)
Keep on rocking in the free world, young Japanese …
This fellow had it all going on. He was driving barefoot, had things dangling everywhere in the taxi, 2 CB radios and no less than 10 cell phones; not a single one manufactured after 2007 or 2008.
I had gotten into quite an eclectic taxi.
I smiled when I looked over the seat. He had a lot of things plugged in.