Tag Archive for japan

Visiting Sensoji Temple, Tokyo #POTW

This Photo of the Week (POTW) is of Miyu at Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo (Wikipedia). This photo was taken on my first day ever in Tokyo. Yes, I have been in Japan for many years, and have never taken a trip to Tokyo ever before. I had just dropped my bag off at the hotel, not being able to check in until 3pm. I met up with my model and we made our way to Sensoji Temple and created a great set of photos.


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Miyu at Sensoji Temple, with Tokyo Skytree Tower in the background.

 

Sensoji Temple is probably the first religious site in the area that later became a town, city, and then “Tokyo”. It is said that in 628AD two fisherman came across a small gold statue of Buddha in the near by river, which also marked the approximate location that the temple should be. The statue is so sacred that it has long been hidden away from public view (if it still or ever has existed). Consequently, this temple was probably the first and oldest tourist attraction in Tokyo. The site was bombed in World War II, and has been rebuilt partly as a symbol of resurrection of the city. Today, it is the most visited ‘tourist site’ in Tokyo and possibly Japan for overseas tourists. I heard people speaking English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Korean, (probably) Thai and Vietnamese, and of course Japanese.

Photo galleries: Alamy, Ana, Joanie, Miyu, Tokyo.

Cost: Free.

Where: Closest subway station is Asakusa Station on the Ginza Line of the Tokyo Metro.

When: Any time of year. Best is obviously when the cherry blossoms (sakura) are in bloom, early summer, and Autumn with the changing colour of the leaves. Best to go early in the morning before 10am before the crowds get to thick, and in the evening when it’s beautifully lit.

What to see: Kaminarimon Gate, Sensoji Temple, Nakamise Street (shopping & souvenirs), Tokyo Skytree Tower (a 17min walk away), the kabuki and geisha districts.


A view of Nakamise Street filled with stalls selling souvenirs for tourists, and at the end if Sensoji Temple.

 

What to do: Enjoy the sights. Take a rickshaw ride and tour of the area. Enjoy a kabuki performance in the area.

What to eat: Surprisingly, there are a lot of restaurants that say they have English and Chinese menus. A lot of restaurants have pictures or wax samples of their food on display out the front. It is possible to find a good hearty meal for under ¥500 (USD$5), but more usually about or under ¥1,000 (USD$10). Also see food.


A ramen restaurant in Asakusa.

 

Where to stay: There are many hotels in the area, which are reasonably priced. This area is on one of the main subway lines, which gives good access to much of the other interesting places in Tokyo. The Ginza Line of Tokyo Metro gives you straight line access to the famous Ginza district, and Shibuya.


Friends enjoying dining out at street eateries.

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5 Things to enjoy in Nagoya Japan

It’s kind of hard to believe that this city needs an introduction. It is home of the Toyota Motor Corporation, it’s parent company, and the other subsidiaries, and the swathe of other automotive related companies. It is the home of the famous JR Central bullet trains (the white and blue-stripped ones) that service between Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka. The shape of modern Japan evolved from the Battle of Sekigahara (site is a 20 minute train ride from Nagoya station) where Japan was unified by Nobunaga Oda (born in Nagoya Castle), and Ieyasu Tokugawa (born in nearby Okazaki Castle). Tokugawa was the first Shogunate of Japan in 1603 and the Tokugawa Clan had remained the rulers of Japan until the Meiji Restoration era when the US sent naval ships to force Japan to open up to foreign trade. The Tokugawa Clan survives today, though they seem to be based in Tokyo, and manages the Nippon Yusen shipping company.


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A fashionable young man riding through Sakae.

More photos of Nagoya are on my portfolio.

Nagoya today, is a thriving city, with land prices that rival Tokyo and London. It has the world’s largest train station (by floor area, which includes a department store, offices, and a luxury hotel). It is steeped in history, and thoroughly a member of the 21st century.

 

Getting to Nagoya:

Nagoya is very well connected. It is serviced by a domestic airport at Komaki (on the Meitetsu train company from Nagoya Station), and the Centrair International airport (aka Chubu airport), on a different Meitetsu train line. Nagoya is on the main Tokaido bullet train line between Tokyo and Osaka. It can also be reached from Osaka by the cheaper Kintetsu train company. Commuting in the city is really super easy with the Nagoya City Subway (aka chikatetsu), Meitetsu, Kintetsu, and JR train companies. The buses are mainly part of the Nagoya City Subway system. The most popular transport ic card used is the Manaca (but buying single-use tickets with coins is normal, too).


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So, what is this best kept secret of Japan? Here are five things to introduce the city to you (there are of course more, but this is a start).

 

1. Nagoya & Inuyama Castles

These two castles are night-and-day different to each other. They are a world apart in so many ways. You must have a “castle day” on your itinerary. Firstly, see Nagoya Castle (Wikipedia). It’s a replica, or reconstruction, though the locals don’t put it that way. They prefer “rebuilt”, especially since the US air force fire-bombed the original. This reconstruction was completed (with concrete and an elevator for lazy samurais) in 1959. Today it’s a museum, and not a military strong-hold any more.

A young lady using a guidebook in Japan.

A young lady at Nagoya Castle. Buy this Cormorant Fishing photo

In contrast, Inuyama Castle (Wikipedia) is in original condition, with timbers hundreds of years old. Low beams to duck under, and a deck you can walk out on for excellent panoramic views, including the battle field of Sekkigahara, where the Tokugawa’s won Japan. There are great local festivals there, especially worth seeing the cherry blossom festival and portable shrines. Also, as seen below, there is cormorant fishing demonstrations at night for the middle months of the year. Because of the nature of Inuyama Castle, I’d really recommend you spend the morning at Nagoya Castle, have lunch in nearby Sakae, and then go to Inuyama Castle for the afternoon. It’s great to experience the modern, and then authentic in this order.

Cormorant Fishing
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Above, cormorant Fishing near Inuyama Castle

To get to Nagoya castle from Nagoya station, take the subway (yellow Higashiyama Line) to Sakae, and change to the Meijo (purple) Line. Get off at Shyakusho Station. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes. To get to Inuyama Castle (Google Maps), from Nagoya station, take the Meitetsu train company on the Inuyama Line to Inuyama station or the one after it, Inuyama Yuen Station. From Nagoya to Inuyama Yuen Station it takes about 30 minutes for about ¥600. Stroll through the town until you get to the castle. See Hyperdia.Com for train schedules and current ticket prices.

 


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Nagoya Castle

 

2. Shopping

Ask anyone in Nagoya what their hobbies are, they typically reply “shopping, eating, and sleeping”. I agree, these are not hobbies per se, but this is how they do spend their time. The main places for shopping is in the underground arcades in front of and behind Nagoya Station. These are called Esca and Unimall. Also in Sakae at the street level department stores, back alley shops, and the underground arcade. Finally, young people love to hangout at the street level arcades at Osu. There are lots of fashion stores for women, electronics stores, and some bookstores. Osu often has events on, and the visually striking Osu Kanon Temple is worth checking out.

To get to Sakae, from Nagoya station, take the subway two stops to Sakae (¥200, about 5 minutes). To get to Osu from Nagoya, take the subway one stop to Fushimi and change to the Tsurumai (blue) line, and go for one stop and get off at Osu Kanon Station. Total travel time is about 10 minutes, ¥200. Follow the crowds to and past Osu Kannon Temple. See Hyperdia.Com for train schedules and current ticket prices.


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Osu is the centre of Nagoyan youth culture, and shopping.

 

3. Restaurants / Nightlife

Nagoya is a Japanese-foodies heaven. There are restaurants galore everywhere around Nagoya station, Fushimi, Sakae, Sakae-Machi, and Osu. I cannot recommend one, simply because you cannot swing a cat without hitting it against some kind of bar, café, restaurant, or other eatery. Food is really cheap, like about ¥1,000 (USD$10) for a good plate or “set menu” of quality food. If you had to shoe-string it, you can get noodles or a bowl of beef and rice for under ¥400 (USD$4).


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Restaurants use curtains, like shown above, to indicate that they are open for customers.

A lot of places, including department stores and regular shops, are open late, like up to 9pm. Note that Korean and Taiwanese stores are often open later. In Japan, though, there is a caveat. Most Japanese people don’t go out to mix and meet new people; that’s really rare. So don’t expect to find much in the way of pubs and nightclubs like back home. Instead, they spend time with people they already know getting drunk at restaurants known as an ‘izakaya’ (kind of a restaurant-pub). Food there is usually high quality. However, I’m finding (things are changing) that cheap prices is starting to equal cheap food. Good prices equal properly good food. Also, if you think you’re going to enjoy a good Italian restaurant, think again. It’ll be a Nagoya take on Italian style. So expect shrimp on your cabonara, Japanese-rice seasoning on your spaghetti, or a side of rice with a seaweed seasoning on top. The only thing that really annoys me is that cheap restaurant’s (or expensive restaurants scamming their customers) idea of salad is simply shredded cabbage with dressing. If you really did want to go to a pub or nightclub, these places are typically frequented by the expat community, so it’s a great way to meet expat locals. In Nagoya notable places include Shooters, The Hub, Coopers, and probably the best of the bunch, Red Rock (see Nagoya Info).

Regarding transport, be aware of the last train times for you. The last train is typically 11.50pm or just after midnight. Taxis are about, but expensive. Finally, Japan is not a rowdy, raucous type of country. So nights out are typically peaceful and light-hearted.


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Fashionable young women out at night shopping in Sakae.

 

4. Events

There are a whole bunch of things happening in Nagoya for much of the year. For instance (there are many others):


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Contestants in the Nagoya street dance competition, “Domatsuri” in Sakae, Nagoya.

 

5. Atsuta Shrine

This shrine attracts about 9 million visitors each year (Wikipedia), and is one of the three most important sites for Shinto, the state religion. The three important places are Ise Shrine, Atsuda Shrine, and the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Ise Shrine, two hours away in Mie prefecture, is like the Vatican; and Atsuta Shrine is like St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The third most important place is where the Emperor lives, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Each of these three sites have one of the three important relics (Wikipedia) that give the right to rule to the Emperor. There are no known drawings or photographs of these items, and so there is no independent verification that these items are housed at the purported locations, or even exist. The sword is kept at Atsuta Shrine, the mirror is kept in Ise Shrine, and the jade is kept in the palace in Tokyo.

At Atsuda Shrine, there are many little wooden buildings on the grounds, and each of these house a god of some specialty. Usually, there are retired men hanging around the grounds. Often, these men want to simply keep their English up, and so they like to just introduce themselves to tourists and offer a kind of free tour and some info. Take them up on their kind offer, they are friendly and actually quite informative. Take some sort of sweets to share with them; I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.


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There are festivals and events held often through the year. The shrine is insanely packed with people shuffling shoulder to shoulder on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of January each year. They return the previous year’s wooden arrow which brings fortune, pray for the new year, and get a new wooden arrow for the new year. Each year, these arrows are ceremoniously burnt as an offering to the Shinto gods. There is a ceremonial archery event on the 15th January. A lantern festival is also held in July. Every weekend there is something happening, usually Shinto style weddings, and Shinto-christenings for infants are often held here.

Take the Meitetsu train from Nagoya to JinguMae station (about two stops) for about ¥230, or JR for ¥190. See Hyperdia.Com for train schedules and current ticket prices.


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One of the main buildings at Atsuta Shrine.

 

There is of course more to see in Nagoya. These are my picks, but you might find something more to your taste here at Nagoya Info, Trip Advisor, and Lonely Planet websites. However, I can offer you a…

Naked Man Festival, Kounomiya
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The Naked Man Festival, at Kounomiya, usually held in February each year.

 

Bonus: Nagoya City Art Gallery

This is the oddest thing I’ve experienced so far this year. I went to the city owned art gallery and discovered that they had an exhibition of not one, but a few Andy Whorhols, Calder, and a Chagall. They have a good permanent collection, and often something interesting on most times through the year. Annoyingly, the “English website” for this gallery is actually just an old pdf document, but it’s here, Nagoya City Art Museum (also see Trip Advisor, & Wikipedia). The gallery was designed and constructed by renowned Kisho Kurokawa between 1983 to 1987, and opened in 1988. It is a five to ten minute walk from Fushimi subway station, which is a 2 minute ride from Nagoya Station on the Higashiyama (Yellow Line), or 2 to 5 minutes from the Osu Kanon Station on the Tsurumai Line (Blue Line). Follow the signs, and see Google Maps. See Hyperdia.Com for train schedules and current ticket prices.

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The World Cosplay Summit will be promoted on ANA


The Nagoya based World Cosplay Summit (WCS) will be promoted on All Nippon Airways (ANA) flights in February and March this year. It seems to be a part of the “Cool Japan” public relations the Japanese government has been promoting for a little over a decade now. The short video will have both English and Chinese subtitles. A preview can be seen here, https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/contents/cosplay/ Unfortunately, their campaign doesn’t seem well planned, especially with the title, “Is Japan Cool?”. I’ll let you answer that for yourself. The photo above is from the 2012 Taiwan contingent on the red carpet event in the hot August morning.

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#ModelShoot Japanese in business suit

Models: I need basic portraits of Japanese men and women in regular business suits (dark and light coloured suits are fine).
Make-up artist: Provide a normal but photogenic look (schedule depends on the models availability).

When: any time before 30th November 2015.
Where: Anywhere major city in the Tokai area (like Nagoya, Gifu, Yokkaichi), or Osaka and Kyoto.
Where: Firstly, simple street shoot in places like Sakae, Shin Sakae, Meieki, or Namba and Yodoyabashi (Osaka). I’m sorry, I cannot fly you into Japan for this shoot.
How much: ¥5,000 for two hours (not USD$)
How long: Depends, but possibly additional follow up work may be available. I do like to work with the same people and people I know.
Who: Preferably Japanese ethnicity. I have never demanded this before, but photo buys to specify things like this, and I must guarantee that my images meet their exact requirements (event location details must be accurately reported for most cases). So, if you are not Japanese, I’m sorry; however, I would still like to work with you on other projects.
What: Business suit, young working professional. Most likely it will be a street shoot. This is a low-budget shoot, so please wear your own suit. If requested, I can supply a make-up artist (if one is available on the day of the shoot).
Why: I get requests for photos of professionals in Japan, and this is a gap in my photo library.

Contact me for more details. This was also posted at: http://www.modelmayhem.com/casting/2242272. Please share this page with people who might be interested.

A young caucasian and a Japanese women taking selfies together at a wine bar.

A young caucasian and a Japanese women taking selfies together at a wine bar.

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#POTW Japanese restaurants at night

Japanese restaurants are a dime a dozen. Japan has a reputation of being a very expensive place to live, especially with $100 watermelons! However, the Yoshinoya restaurant chain makes it possible for you to get a bowl of rice and beef or pork and walk away full for about $4. A typical meal out with friends, at a nice restaurant, good clean décor and premises, style, and great menu options, can cost under $20, and that’s without skimping. Here is a great model I had the pleasure to work with, Allyce, who’s leaving a restaurant. The curtains across the entrance indicates the place is open for business.

A young lady travelling in Japan leaving a restaurant in the evening.

A young lady travelling in Japan leaving a restaurant in the evening.

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#POTW: A beautiful lady in a kimono in Kyoto

This is the first Photo of the Week in a long time. I have been busy, and so I’m sorry for letting this fall off. So, it’s with great pleasure to re-introduce the POTW with this one from Mariko earlier this year. You can see her story about her kimono photo shoot. You can purchase a licence to use this photo at Alamy.

A young lady renting a kimono, enjoying walking around Gion, Kyoto.

A young lady renting a kimono, enjoying walking around Gion, Kyoto.

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Summer festivals

It’s that time of year when many towns are starting to have their festivals. It’s a time when the heat forces people to become nocturnal, don their light weight happi or yukata, and relax and enjoy life in their communities. See here for summer festival photos like this one below. Japanese festivals often involve a parade of portable shrines, food stalls, cold drinks, and hanging out with family, friends, and neighbours. Learn more about festivals like the Kuwana Ishidori, Nagoya Dance Festival, Nara Lantern festival, the Osaka Tenjin Festival.


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Buy this photo. Nagoya Dance Festival Gallery.

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