I only heard about the Tejikara Fire Festival just a few days before it was held. I couldn’t find much information on it, and didn’t really know what to expect. It seemed to be one of those small local festivals that get passed over by the big inner city events. The mystery and the festival had to be explored. In short, I had minimal directions, and minimal info, and a camera. Here is my experience.
When: Annually, on the second Saturday of April.
Time: Officially: 6.30pm to 9.10pm. Actually: Get there a lot earlier to enjoy the festival foods and atmosphere, and to find a good viewing point in the shrine. When I got there just after 6pm, things seemed to already be in full swing.
Where: Tejikara, Gifu. See Google Maps.
Transport: Take the Meitetsu train from Gifu (city) station bound for Inuyama, for about 8mins, ¥230 (Hypedia.com, 2016), then follow the crowd. Be sure to get two tickets, as there is only one ticket machine at Tejikara station, and the line up for it at 9pm will be crazy. Also, for your return be sure to get on the platform closest to the shrine for your return to Gifu city.
History: Apparently, it’s been a small local festival running for about 300 years, and seems to have a little or unknown origin.
What: I’m still unclear as to what goes on. There are lots of fire fighters, and some fire trucks around the shrine. There’s lots of guys dressed in regular shinto festival outfits, sometimes topless. There are small shrines carried on the shoulders of groups of men from particular districts around the shrine. Each portable shrine has a different display. They stop at certain intervals in their approach to the shrine and set off firecrackers. I know from my Taiwan experiences that firecrackers supposedly scare off ghosts, so this might be related. There are loud bells being struck with hammers making a racket. The portable shrines are taken into the shrine for some sort of event, that I couldn’t see. You really need to get there early and stake out a spot.
Then when it’s dark large overhead lanterns are lit with fireworks running up guide ropes. Some of these fail, and it seems to be a challenge that the crowd cheer and applaud for. There are firework canons lit to create a vertical cascade of sparks, and some sort of story or performance of a traditional nature performed at the Shrine. I really need to go back, meet a local there and learn more. Usually, I’m on top of this sort of event, but I could not find a local to ask because I wasn’t in a position to this time. I’ll probably go back next year.
Advice: Festival food is a little expensive, but the whole point is for it to be a social event, and have food that you normally can’t have. Take a fist full of change, and enjoy a range of snacks like curried french fries, fairy floss, toffee apples, deep fried chicken, mixed fruit drinks, and more.
I’ll add more to this post in due course, but I hope this information will be useful for you now. Most Japanese people are trained in schools how to respond during earthquakes. Despite the disaster preparedness and rehearsals even in most companies, there were still some bad decisions made on the 11th March 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami and nuclear disaster.
In light of this, information is still important. The first thing I’d like to share is this link. It’s the Real-time Earthquake Monitor. It’s a constantly updating website made especially for smartphone screens. It shows where there is movement in the earth, and importantly shows the radiating spread of quake ripples and their strength. Here’s the link: http://realtime-earthquake-monitor.appspot.com
As I said, more information will be added later.
PetaPixel just reported that Google is now offering photo editing software Nik for free (PetaPixel). Is it just me, or does this seem like a game changer, at least for amateurs? For me, it was a terrible idea for Adobe to move to a subscription charging service. I don’t need a constantly updated LightRoom or PhotoShop, and so monthly and annual subscriptions are bad for me; it would be money lost for no reason. Consequently, I’m using the last versions of Lr & PS that were available with licenses for perpetuity. However, at some point, I’m going to buy a camera that isn’t supported by these versions, and so I need to be on the look out for Adobe replacements.
Now Google does this? Admittedly, I’ve never heard of Nik. Is it any good? I’ve tried other photo and batch editing software before, and always LightRoom has been head and shoulders better than others. Nik? I have no idea. Is it a batch or single photo editing or processing software?
This is a unilateral decision. A couple of years ago, 500px.com launched their “Market Place”, where photographers could earn money from selling their photos. However, there were two immediate problems. First, they let Pinterest members get and use the photos for free anyway. Subsequently, I have almost stopped uploading photos to 500px, and restarted using Flickr. Secondly, they offered a measly 30% of the sale price. The cost of employing a model, makeup artist, maintenance of photographic equipment, and photographic software cannot be covered by such a payment scheme. Understandably, photographers complained and boycotted. So, 500px bumped up the pay to 70% commission, which is better, but their prices were still kind of low. So, I never joined their market place.
Now, PetaPixel reports that 500px is again unilaterally readjusting the price. All non-exclusive market place members will have their commissions cut to 30% (again). 500px claims that in order to be competitive, they need to ‘restructure’. For photographers to be competitive, and to create photographs, we need money, and cutting the amount paid is is utterly ridiculous. The quality of product will suffer, and so will 500px’s sales. In any case, it doesn’t affect me, as I don’t take 500px seriously, as they don’t seem to take the whole thing and photographers seriously.
Tokyo is an exciting city with many things happening all the time. If it’s your first time, I really recommend you stay at a hotel in Asakusa (Google Maps), so you’re close to the rickshaws, Sensoji temple, kabuki theaters, the vibrant restaurant districts that are typical of Japan (but these ones have English menus), and a casual walk to Tokyo Skytree Tower.
1. See the Shibuya Crossing
It is said that in peak hours about a thousand people cross at each light change (every two to three minutes). I guess this is in the evening when people are coming from and going to work, and going to a night out with colleagues. This is the crossing that has featured as “Tokyo” in various movies including Resident Evil, and has it’s own Wikipedia entry (Wikipedia). You watch could watch this fascinating coordination of people scrambling from the Loccitane Cafe (pictured, the yellow place behind the tree), the Metro station, or Starbucks 2nd floor in the Tsutaya building (pictured, to the right), and you might be lucky enough to get a rarely opening window seat. You’d have to case out the place and figure out who is camped out for a few hours, and who are there just for the view. The ones who are there for the view will probably be bored after about half and hour and leave. Be ready to grab your tray and claim a spot quickly. Interestingly, “Tall” is the largest size this Starbucks serves.
2. Visit Sensoji Temple
Sensoji Temple is in Asakusa near the Asakusa Metro station on the Ginza Line. It is perhaps the oldest or first religious site in Tokyo, and the most visited tourist attraction. Despite the ominous promise of crowds, it’s not that bad, and other tourists are nice and respectful.
3. Rent a kimono
It is possible for men and women to rent a kimono for the morning, afternoon, or the day in Tokyo and Kyoto. The best place in Tokyo is probably in Asakusa, near Sensoji Temple. It’s a small area, and so you don’t have to walk far wearing it, and have all the great photo ops you can imagine. A model of mine has written about this experience before, see here for Mariko’s kimono story.
4. Try the food
DON’T do McDonalds! Ramen is a cheap, classic, healthy, and hearty food. It’s quick and easy to order, and is a real friend to weary travelers at the end of a long day. Also see previous blog posts on food, including ramen and sushi blog posts.
5. See the sumo
Sumo is held for middle two weeks, every second month. It also is held in different cities. The schedule is January-Tokyo, March-Osaka, May-Tokyo, July-Nagoya, September-Tokyo, November-Fukuoka. Tickets go on sale about two months before the tournament, and can sell out quick. It is possible to book tickets online in English. See previous blog posts for more info about sumo.
Bonus: Rickshaw rides.
Rickshaw rides are best had near Sensoji Temple, Asakusa. The rickshaw pullers have some English language abilities, lots of energy, and will tell you about the neighbourhood they’ll take you through, with lots of unique photo ops you’ll never get back home. They can even give you some additional advice and perhaps discount offers for other unique Japanese things like tea ceremonies and more.
I’ve only been to Tokyo once for two short days, and couldn’t even scratch the surface of this busy city. There’s lots more to see and experience, including maid cafés, kabuki, Japanese tea ceremonies (held at some hotels), restaurant pubs, the city view from the Mori Building, and lots more. My advice is spend at least a week there, and may be do a day trip to Mt Fuji. Finally, make plans to go back for more exploration.
It was my first trip to Tokyo, and it seems I got the best and worst of Tokyo weather in two days. Day one, 20°C; day two, 8°C. It was great working with Miyu, who knew exactly what to do. We were lucky and blessed with beautiful warm weather, and lovely breeze which was hinting at Spring and coming summer. However, day two was cold, dreary, and wet. Below is a sample of the shoots, and more photos will be added to galleries and portfolios in the coming weeks.
Day two was a reprise with Ana, and a first time with Joanie. Both were fantastic to work with, and they worked great together. However, the glue of the operation was Ksara our makeup artist. She did a great job in keeping everyone’s spirits up on a cold and dreary day, and helped us all pull through and do well. Her work, her attention to detail, and commitment are all great.