johnliddlephotography

Frozen moments from the infinity that is time

Everyday Tokyo

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This is my hundredth post on Japan, thus bringing this series to an end, at least until I can return to build a larger image stock. I am, however, intending to finish the year with a couple of posts based on specific individual images to ease my withdrawal symptoms. The images I have shared over this journey were taken during two separate six-week visits during the Japanese Autumn and Spring seasons, with the approach evolving as I went. From my perspective I have enjoyed the experience, which allowed me to stay in touch with Japan and to gain enhanced knowledge through comments made on photographs from time to time.

Whilst this is really a low-key finale I thought it fitting to finish with a few street shots of everyday life from the world’s most populated metropolis. The opening image (pic 1) was clearly shot in the Ginza where upmarket brands compete for attention and seem to be regarded as commonplace by local Tokyoites. Of course, I’m sure the subliminal messaging is still working. From the Ginza to the older Tokyo vibe of Asakusa (pic 2) is a big change, but kids are kids and I thought the teacher (my assumption) setting-up for a group shot to remember the outing was quite universal in its nature.

Pics 3 and 4 taken on a Sunday visit to Ueno Park are reminders of the contrasts to be found in all societies. Whilst the bike-riding drummer (pic 3) attracted a crowd, almost directly across the pathway was the homeless person (pic 4) alone with her thoughts. During my times in Tokyo I visited Ebisu often for the convenience of shopping (pic 5), as well as being a frequent visitor to Tokyo’s wonderful Museum of Photography (pic 6).

I’ve included three shots from Hibiya (pics 7 to 9) as I believe the area highlights two commendable characteristics of Tokyo life. For an area that in many other cities around the world might tend towards seediness, the pictures demonstrate the typical cleanliness of the streets and the high level of public safety.

This brings me to the final shot taken in Roppongi. Compared to the ordered chaos of the famous Shibuya crossing, the street crossing in Roppongi (pic 10) is humdrum. Nevertheless, I found it an interesting example of proxemic behaviour where those waiting to cross have each taken up positions that maximises their personal space. The classic example of such behaviour is most easily observed in elevators. Be observant next time you ride a lift.

Thank you to everyone who has visited my blog, with an especial thanks to those who have been regular visitors since the early stages of this series.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)

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This gallery contains 10 photos


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Yoyogi Park (Tokyo)

If you turn right when exiting Harajuku Station and walk up a short incline to the pedestrian bridge over the railway line you will be faced with two choices. To the right is the entrance to Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most revered shrine and to the left lies the entry to Yoyogi Park. Go right for serenity, tradition and a step back in time or go left for a fun, relaxed community space. My advice is to do both, but today my focus is on Yoyogi Park.

Yoyogi Park has an interesting and varied history. In 1910 the first successful powered aircraft flight in Japan took off and landed on the site of what is now Yoyogi Park. In 1945 it was known as the “Washington Heights” due to the site housing the military barracks for US officers during the allied post-WW2 occupation of Japan.

More topically given Japan’s hosting of the next summer Olympics, Yoyogi Park was the location for the Olympic village for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, as well as swimming, diving and basketball events at the Kenzo Tange designed National Gymnasium building. The National Gymnasium will extend its Olympic heritage by hosting the handball events for the 2020 Olympics.

The area became formally known as Yoyogi Park in 1967 and has since become a very popular venue for a wide range of activities. At 134 acres the park is one of Tokyo’s largest and has become a much-loved and used space, particularly at weekends when, weather permitting, the park comes alive with people.

The selected photographs make no attempt to show the natural beauty of the park, though that is significant, but rather focuses on the enjoyment gained from the park by visitors.

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Osaka Streets

My week in Osaka was punctuated by a number of day trips by Shinkansen, thus limiting my opportunity to get to know Japan’s third largest city. However, my immediate impression of Osaka was that of a city that does its own thing – an impression that was reinforced during my stay. Being so close to Kyoto it is impossible not to compare the cities and the contrast is clear. Where Kyoto is cultural; Osaka is commercial. Where Kyoto is refined; Osaka is brash. I am not saying one city is better than the other – that is a judgment for each individual to make, but they are different.

Similarly there are differences with Tokyo in that Osaka seems less fashion conscious and more easy going. Sometimes this manifests by appearing a bit rougher, but what is most noticeable is that the city worships food, hence its reputation as the “nation’s kitchen”. Restaurants, cafes and bars abound and all seemed to have customers. Does this mean Osaka’s homes are empty in the evenings?

Most of the photographs in this post were taken around the Dotonbori area, which is always lively after dark and a good place for people watching as well as eating. The gentleman looking contemplatively over the bridge rail (pic 2) brings back a pleasant memory of a conversation. After taking the shot we chatted for a while before he resumed his journey home from work. Such interactions when travelling are always valued for the insights one gains into the place being visited.

Except for the buildings in pic 10 the architecture is predominantly old and one hopes Osaka’s planners will opt to retain the area’s current character rather than yield to demands from developers. Losing the paved alleyways (pic 3), the night market stalls (pic 8), the earthy comfortable bars (pic 7) and the wacky statues (pic 5) would be quite tragic. Cities take a long time to build character and identity and if we are not careful it can be lost in the guise of sterile glass and steel developments.

I had not intended to comment on development until I looked again at the photos and thought about how my city has been wrecked by development and continues to be further wrecked. My apologies if I have caused offence.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


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Yokohama

Although Yokohama is Japan’s second-largest city with a population of around 3.7 million, one’s first impression is that it is part of the greater Tokyo metropolis. I travelled there by Shinkansen in under twenty minutes and even the return trip on the regular rail network took only thirty minutes. Yes it does seem ridiculous to take such a short Shinkansen ride, but I had a JR Pass and I enjoy travelling by Shinkansen. Along the route I did not discern any real geographical separation from Tokyo – it was more like riding through the apparently never-ending Tokyo metropolis.

Nevertheless, even a short Saturday afternoon touristy type visit revealed a city with a distinct character. Most of my time was spent strolling through Yokohama’s Chinatown – the biggest Chinatown in Japan, which has grown along with Yokohama’s growth as a key port city. It does not take long in Chinatown to realise that the main attraction is food. Apparently the area has more than 500 eateries of various types and most visitors seemed to be on a mission to enjoy the gastronomical delights on offer. Queues were everywhere, with people patiently waiting their turn for tables to become available and the overall atmosphere was very relaxed.

Probably the most striking building in Chinatown was the Kanteibyo Temple (pics 6 & 7), a brightly coloured Chinese temple built in 1873 and dedicated to the Chinese god of good business and prosperity.

A short walk from Chinatown is Yamashita Park, which runs along the waterfront and was full of individuals and families enjoying time outdoors. The park was constructed following the great Kanto earthquake of 1923 and seems to align perfectly with Yokohama’s history as a major port city. The most striking attraction is the Hikawa Maru, a retired ocean liner now permanently moored on the waterfront and serving a new life as a museum and affording visitors a glimpse of 1930’s style. I understand the ship mainly served the Yokohama to Vancouver/Seattle route and was well patronised by Japan’s imperial family and celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, who were attracted by the quality of the ship’s first-class cabins.

On the way back to the station I passed through the Minato Mirai area and came across an interesting juxtaposition of styles (pic 14) where part of an old stepped structure appeared to have been retained within a more contemporary shopping precinct. I don’t know anything about the old structure and perhaps that is a good reason to return and explore Yokohama more extensively.

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Higashiyama Whimsey (Kyoto)

Higashiyama is one of the eleven wards that comprise the city of Kyoto and is well known for its examples of old Japanese architecture and for a number of significant historic sites within the ward.

I have covered many of these historic sites in previous posts and today I would like to share images of a more whimsical everyday nature. Whilst I will be forever impressed by Kyoto’s better known sites, I also enjoyed my walks between these sites and took many photos to remind me of the little joys of walking around the Higashiyama precinct.

I will restrict my comments to brief mentions of the Tokei-ji Temple (pic 14) and the Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine (pic 15). Tokei-ji is a small temple that dates back to the mid 18th century, which was transferred to its present site in 1860. Also known as Akiba-san (after the main object of worship), the temple is seen as a guardian against fire-related calamities and robbery, as well as for safety at home.

The Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine was established in 1053, with the main deities enshrined being the Emperor Ojin and his parents, Emperor Chuai and Empress Jingu. The shrine was moved several times before settling at the present site in 1605, with the present shrine buildings dating back to 1654. A four-day pottery festival is held from August 7th through 10th each year in commemoration of the deity of pottery (Shiinetsuhikonomikoto) who was enshrined here in 1949.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


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Arashiyama (Kyoto)

It is said that “word of mouth” is the best advertising and I suspect that Arashiyama benefits from this form of advertising. If you are a first-time visitor to Kyoto and seek advice from others of where to go, there is a very good chance that Arashiyama will be recommended. That was my experience and now when I am asked I always recommend visiting Arashiyama.

Why is this so? Well, rather than complicate the answer, my view is that Arashiyama is simply a pleasant, relaxing and interesting place to visit. One can enjoy beautiful natural scenery, visit spectacular temples, stroll through beautiful gardens, watch life go by from cafes and restaurants and meander through Arashiyama’s laneways. Most visitors seem to do most, if not all of these activities.

There is, of course, major attractions for which Arashiyama is well known such as Tenryu-ji, the bamboo grove and the gardens of Ohkochi-Sanso Villa. Each has been covered in earlier blogs and there is no reason to revisit them here. Instead, this post shows glimpses of everyday life that one may encounter during a visit. With the exception of the Togetsukyo Bridge, a prominent local landmark, the images shown are quite nondescript. This is not unlike life, which, if captured photographically would be replayed as many nondescript images punctuated by occasional highlights. Rather than celebrate the highlights, I hope this post may demonstrate that there is much to celebrate within the nondescript moments of our daily lives.

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Kyoto streets by day

Following-on from my last post of Kyoto at night, this post shows sights that one encounters wandering Kyoto’s streets during the day. When selecting the images, I have intentionally ignored the shrines and temples for which Kyoto is famous, choosing instead to show aspects of the city that one may encounter moving between the more famous attractions.

Kyoto is a great walking city and will reward those with the time and energy to meander through its streets and laneways. As well as getting a better feel for the city, one may find hidden gems the equal of the more popular tourist sites.

The shots do not require explanation, but let me make some observations nevertheless. Arashiyama (pic 1) is simply a delightful place to spend time and should be a must-see on any trip to Kyoto. The bridge in pic 5 is wider than it appears, but not recommended for those who may have had one too many drinks. Above the tunnel (pic 7) is the Keage Incline – a popular and magnificent place to view Sakura during the cherry blossom season. My apologies to the taxi driver (pic 8), though I can report that he was amused at walking into the picture. Although the dish hails from Hiroshima, Kyoto’s okonomiyaki (pic 11) is worth trying. Last but not least, the parked car (pic 16) was one of the more amusing examples of creative parking I came across, albeit not conducive to a quick getaway.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy these little windows into the real Kyoto.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


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Night Moods (Kyoto)

I imagine that if people were asked to imagine a night-time image of Japan, most people would visualise the bright, in-your-face, high energy images of areas such as Tokyo’s Shinjuku at night. I know I would respond in this way despite my fondness for Kyoto, as Japan’s second city has an altogether different night-time vibe.

Kyoto is always interesting and entrancing, including after the setting of the sun. However, it beguiles rather than beckons; coaxes rather than grabs; and promises rather than teases. In a word, Kyoto is moodier at night, with fewer bright lights resulting in more shadows, though not of the threatening variety. Meandering through Kyoto’s streets and laneways at night is just as safe, pleasant and interesting as during the daytime hours, perhaps even more so as people are more relaxed and the pace a little slower.

There is, of course, one iconic group for whom the pace quickens after dark and I refer to Kyoto’s Geisha, or Geiko and Maiko as they known locally. This is their working time and they are often unexpectedly encountered rushing between engagements as elegant and traditional as always. There were times when I felt sympathy for Geiko and Maiko trying to go about their work under the duress of attention from the public (local and foreign) seeking to capture a Geisha moment. Gaining access to Gaiko and Maiko is difficult and I may never have the privilege of photographing them in a relaxed environment, but I am happy with my memories and the blurred images as they rush by do, at least, accurately depict an often overlooked part of their profession.

I do hope this selection of shots provides a glimpse of Kyoto’s night moods.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


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By the Kamogawa (Kyoto)

 

The Kamogawa flows through Kyoto and translates literally to Wild Duck River. At only 31 kilometres, it is a relatively short river with its source in the nearby mountains around Mount Sajikigatake. Kamogawa is locally regarded as a gift from the gods and considered to be one of Kyoto’s natural treasures.

I always enjoyed my strolls by the river and it is easy to understand why it is a much-loved location for people to relax and enjoy the company of friends. The photographs shown here were taken around the Pontocho area, mostly between the bridges crossing Shijo and Sanjo streets, which is one of Kyoto’s prime entertainment precincts. Whilst it is naturally busiest during weekends and evenings, one would generally find people strolling or sitting quietly by the river at other times.

Kamogawa suits Kyoto with its quiet energy, thus further enhancing the charm and warmth of this traditional Japanese city.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)

 


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Ueno

Ueno is one of those places that creep-up on you – in my experience at least. Before visiting Tokyo I was only aware of Ueno Park as the hub for several attractions such as museums and a zoo and perhaps I will cover the park in a future blog. Today, however, I want to show other aspects of the area.

Ueno still has the look and feel of old Tokyo, albeit blended in with the encroachment of newer buildings, as I have attempted to show in pics 1 to 12. These shots were taken within a few blocks and give some idea of what might be experienced by those wandering through Ueno’s streets.

The old temple (pic 1) within the shadow of taller buildings is a familiar juxtaposition around Ueno and indeed other parts of Tokyo. I don’t know the temple’s history, but perhaps the street sign is an indication that it may still be functioning as an educational facility. Imagine turning ninety degrees and looking down the street (as I did for pic 2) to see the dominant form of Skytree looming large. In fact, when walking around any of its adjoining areas, Skytree is a virtual guarantee against getting hopelessly lost and being reduced to walking in circles. If lost, walk towards Skytree.

One block down the street on the right I came across a captivating old house (pics 3 to 5), which a local resident advised is more than 100 years old. Sadly, one can only speculate as to how much longer the old house will survive. As can be seen at pic 5, it abuts a more modern building and the adjacent allotment is currently used for short-term car parking, most likely a means to generate income until the site is redeveloped. Perhaps this is the story of this picture.

Crossing the road and moving a few buildings along from the old house, one finds an oasis of urban calm (pics 6 to 10) in the form of a shrine and small cemetery overlooked on all sides by higher-rise structures. I am sure the delightful garden and koi pond serves as a place of respite and contemplation for neighbourhood residents, as well as occasional passers-by.

Finally, whilst the building at pic 11 has the appearance of age, I suspect it is a case of appearing “old by design”. By contrast, the building at pic 12 is what realtors would market as a development opportunity. In these few photographs I am not pretending to represent Ueno’s architecture, but by selecting images from a few blocks of one street, I hope it has shown Ueno as an interesting and diverse place to wander.

The remaining shots show the busy pedestrian crossing outside Ueno Station (pic 13) and the popular Ameyoko night market (pics 14 to 21) that occupies the streets and lanes running parallel to the elevated train line, which can be seen in several of the shots. Ameyoko started as a black market after World War 2 selling sweet potatoes and sugar, which is far removed from today’s market where a wide range of food and other goods are sold. Whenever I visited Ameyoko, I was always impressed by its relaxed vibe and how happy people seemed to be. Given that Ueno Station is on the JR loop around greater Tokyo, as well as being a Shinkansen station, access is easy and recommended.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)