Wow! It’s me! And what makes it even more sweet is that it is for one of my favourite photos, Poem of a Cacophonous City: Go City, Go. This series of photos was taken on black and white film with an old style magical camera trick, invented long before the word “computer” was a thing. CameraPixo has just published their latest issue (No2), this time dedicated to my favourite kind of photography, black and white, titled The Moment. You’ll find this issue’s illustrious Five-Star Editor’s Choice award winner very humbly on page 54. On the way there (page 54) and past it, be sure to enjoy all the other great and wonderful images from around the world. It’s truly a great issue, and I’m so pleased to have one of my photos counted among a great set of photos from great international photographers. Finally, thanks to my Flattr microsponsors for your support, this is what it’s about.
The Nagoya Women’s Marathon will be on this Sunday, 9th March. At time of writing I don’t have any specific news about it, but I suspect that it will have all of Japan’s top women competing, and tens of thousands of women, and hundreds (or thousands) of men, too. In previous years it has been an Olympic qualifying event attracting various internarion runners (previous blog posts, 2012 and 2013, blog tag ‘marathon‘). For these photos see my PhotoShelter portfolio and my agent’s website. I will probably attend the event, so new photos may be added.
Good luck to the competitors, and best wishes to all the runners entering. For everyone else, on Sunday I’ll be on Twitter/JapanesePhotos.
Each year on the 3rd March is Girls Day in Japan. In Japanese it’s called Hina Matsuri, which means Dolls Festival. Usually, families set up a large display in late February, like the one below, and have their daughters pose next to it for photos. The dolls are based on the Heian court, and are arranged in descending order of rank across either a five or seven tiers. Each tier and doll has a specific meaning, but generally it was or is believed that the dolls take away evil spirits. The display is usually set up in the tatami room or guest room of the house. There are special foods and drinks that girls have on the day. Some communities might host some events just for girls, but other than that, not much else happens, however, the Nagoya Womens’ Marathon is next weekend. Also see the Japan Today Girls Day story, and Wikipedia/hinamatsuri.
For this photo, and others like it, see the Girls Day gallery.
Looking for something to do this or another weekend? The very well known Japanese snow monkeys are actually Japanese macaques, Lt. Macaca fuscata, are the northern most living primates, other than humans. These macaques were photographed Jigokudani Monkey Park hot springs, near Yudanaka, in Nagano prefecture. To do the trip, you can take a special JR express train to Nagano city, or a bullet train, where you’ll see lots of reminders that the city once hosted the Winter Olympics, last century. You could stay in a hotel there, or take a 44min train ride to Yudanaka and stay in a holiday resort hotel. All the details of how to get there and other local info is available at this website, http://nozawa-onsen.com/. However, you should be warned that there is nothing to do at Yudanaka in the evening, and it seemed that the restaurants take turns on being open in the weekday evenings. Also, here’s a link to a monkey-cam with on the hour updates (local time), http://www.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/livecam/monkey/index.htm.
Since Yudanaka had a daytime high of -6°C (about 30°F), you’ll definitely need hiking thermals (shirt and long underwear type, or long johns), two layers of socks (regular & thick was fine for me), a regular undershirt, shirt, jumper (or sweater), and the thickest winter jacket for outdoor camping you’ve got. Thermals are good because they’re quick dry, and I wore regular hiking trousers, as they’re also quick dry. Regular hiking boots are fine, and may be spikes, but I didn’t use mine. Of course, you’ll need gloves, scarf, and hat. I wore a hat with a visor to keep my jacket hood out of my eyes. You will need to walk for about 30mins from a car park, and you’ll probably want to stay there for about an hour. They tell you not to bring food near the macaques, but there are lockers near the entrance gate that you can use, right next to where you’ll pay the ¥500 entrance fee.
Expect to take lots of photos.
May all the chocolates, flowers, kisses you want come your way. St Valentine’s Day is celebrated in different ways in different countries. For instance in Europe and North America, it’s a day when couples both treat each other, well, usually it’s the guy who organises a special dinner at a restaurant, flowers, and chocolates. However, in Korea and Japan, it’s the woman who makes the first move by giving a guy she likes a small box of chocolates. Then on March 14th the guy reciprocates. However, in Korea on 14th April, if a guy didn’t get anything from a girl on 14th February he then needs to eat black food (usually black soybean noodles) so his soul doesn’t wander forever lonely if he should die without finding love. For both Korea and Japan, the Valentine’s ritual is just for young couples, and not so much for married people. For this photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter portfolio and my agent’s website, or go here for the St Valentine’s Day gallery.
It’s the annual Foundation Day holiday today, 11th February. So, here are five facts about the public holiday. It used to be celebrated on the lunar calendar equivalent, but for convenience the Japanese have abandoned it for the Gregorian calendar.
1. What. This day marks the time when Emperor Jimmu created the throne to rule Japan in 660BC (Wikipedia/Public Holidays in Japan) and began the imperial order. The actual year is contested, and the emperor is said to have died at the age of 126 years (Wikipedia/Emperor Jimmu).
2. Why. At the time when Emperor Jimmu established the Japanese empire, much of the main island was inhabited by both Japanese and Ainu people, of which there were also Japanese tribal chiefs that Jimmu had to still militarily defeat. Jimmu was unsuccessful in defeating the cheif of Naniwa (now ‘Osaka’), but continued trying to expand ‘Japan’. Emperor Jimmu himself expanded the empire further east and north, to modern day Kii Peninsula (south of Nagoya, but east of Osaka; Wikipedia/Emperor Jimmu).
3. Legacy. Japanese expansionism in the pre-war era was attested to this emperor, and was used in Japanese propaganda, which was abandoned in 1945. The modern holiday was established in 1966, and first celebrated in 1967. In my whole time in Japan, I only came to realise the holiday existed after I took the photo below. Usually, to celebrate the holiday, young people go out on shopping dates. Not much else happens that I’m aware of, I guess because the neighbours would complain about any overt Japanese patriotism associated with the day (Wikipedia/National Foundation Day).
4. Religion. Though the emperor of Japan is also the head of Shinto, and is said to be a descendant of Jimmu, the name Jimmu is of Chinese origin and is related to Buddhism (Wikipedia/Emperor Jimmu). His mausoleum is in Kashihara, Nara.
5. Etymology. Final interesting fact, the word “Japan” does not even come from the Japanese language. This place is locally known as ‘Nippon’, ‘rising sun’. The word Japan was adopted into European languages from Malay, via Dutch explorer-traders. In fact, the word originates from Chinese, ‘Jih pun’, meaning ‘sunrise’ (Etymonline).
Photo taken on film on 11th Feb, 2012. A young couple out in the trendy shopping district of Sakae, Nagoya. The Japanese national flags are seen on the side of a department store building (photo on my PhotoShelter portfolio).
This Photo of the Week is of the Naked Man Festival to be held this Wednesday. The festival began over a thousand years ago in Nara, and is held in Kounomiya, about a 20 minute train journey from the centre of Nagoya on the Meitetsu Line. It typically involves over 13,000 men (and boys), and unsurprisingly, over 180,000 spectators (more if it’s on on a weekend). The public spectacle begins at about 1pm (though you need to be there by about 11am for a good standing space), and it’s cold, and it has snowed in previous years. More information can be found in previous blog posts, and at Japan Visitor.
For this photo, and others like it, see my Naked Man Festival gallery on my PhotoShelter portfolio, and at my agent’s website. Also, here is a Naked Man Festival video for you to enjoy, entirely free.
It’s not often I can do a “5 Things”, and it’s even less often I can do an infographic… so much so this is my first. The 1st October will be the 50th anniversary of the first run of it (Wikipedia). The image used here, bullet train interior, can be found at my PhotoShelter portfolio.
This Photo of the Week is very simple. For most expats and tourists their idea of Japan at this time of year can be summed up in this simple equation:
Winter = Snow + Mountains
The number one group of tourists to Japan in this time is apparently Australian skiers, who apparently flock to Hokkaido. I’ve not been anywhere near that far north, but this is as far north of Japan I’ve been so far, and it’s still a water freezing, bone chilling -10° Celsius, it’s Shirakawa, the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Short and long term residents quickly realise that Japan is a place of contradictions, but also forget that their own countries have contradictions as well. Here in Japan some of these contradictions made it to national and international headlines.
1. ANA “Racist” TV advertisement
The All Nippon Airways airline released a new TV advertisement on Saturday 18th January in Japan (ABC, Japan Today, see on YouTube). The actors in the ad speak English (though with a clear Japanese accent) and it is subtitled in Japanese. I’m not sure who the ad is aimed at, especially as it was released in Japan, though it’s in English, and most Japanese people haven’t the foggiest when things are said to them in English. The end of the ad shows an ANA pilot wearing a blond wig and a long strap-on nose. I think most non-Japanese people in the world are not actually blonde, and I’ve not met a single person in my life with such an exaggerated nose. Such stereotypical exaggerations may remind some of the World War Two era, American anti-Japanese posters. On Monday ANA has apologised, initially said they would not withdraw the ad, but then Tuesday said they would alter it.
For this photo, and others like it, see my Transport gallery in my PhotoShelter portfolio.
2. Prime Minister visits Yasakuni Shrine
Yasakuni Shrine is controversial. Not because it honours Japan’s soldier who have fought and died for Japan, but because some of the names enshrined includes convicted class A war criminals. So on Boxing Day (26th Dec, 2013), the increasingly right leaning Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits Yasakuni Shrine to pay his respects (BBC, CNN, Huffington Post), a move that angers China and Korea and others, and should also anger some allied nations like Australia and the UK who have lost soldiers to Japanese war crimes.
3. The Prime Minister welcomes international visitors & workers
The number of workers available to work in factories is declining. However, since the crisis of 2008, many of Japan’s companies moved their manufacturing overseas to Thailand and China, and have no plans to return production here. Despite the extremely low participation of women in the workforce, especially with forced retirement after giving birth (The Asahi Shimbun), the government decided to bring in foreign workers (Japan Today). Also, Japan welcomed its 10 millionth visitor(s) 2013, a Thai couple (who do not have blonde hair or long noses), and expects this number to rise ahead of the 2020 games in Tokyo (Japan Times).
4. Japan refuses entry to Malaysian politician
Earlier this week, Anwar Ibrahim was refused entry into Japan. As I understand, he was an important figure in Malay politics and was a real rival to some other politicians. It also appears that in 1999 some charges were laid against him in an effort to character assassinate him and ruin his political career. Japanese customs just simply refused him entry, and without adequate explanation (ABC, Japan Today).
5. China honours assassin, and a dolphin hunt
China recently unveiled a portrait of a Korean who assassinated Japan’s first prime minister and the Japanese governor of the occupied Korean peninsula (Japan Times). I agree, it is distasteful for a government to sponsor such a thing, but still, the Japanese prime minister honouring war criminals is perhaps worse, and may lead to a further drop in Chinese and Korean tourists to Japan (China Daily Asia, The Asahi Shimbun). Further still is the recent Twitter outrage at Wakayama Prefecture’s dolphin hunt, where the current US ambassador Caroline Kennedy and Yoko Ono have condemed the hunt (Japan Times). Yoko Ono also cites international criticism as a valid reason to cease the hunt. Also, to lend their wait to the protest, Anonymous hacked Wakauama Peefectures website and shut it down.
For this photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter portfolio.
It does look like Japan wants to engage internationally, but it doesn’t do so sincerely or worse. I think it’s best to remind the reader that all countries have their contradictions, and it’s always easier to see these when you’re on the outside looking in.