Archive for January 29, 2014

5 Things: Bullet Trains in Japan #infographic

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.

5 Things infographic. Inside a modern bullet train of the Central JR Company.

5 Things infographic. Inside a modern bullet train of the Central JR Company.

#POTW 27Jan 2014 Snow and mountains

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.

For this mountain + snow photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter portfolio, and my agent’s website.

5 Out of kilter things about Japan this week

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 (ABCJapan 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.

#POTW 20Jan 2014 Food in Japan

This is an interesting Photo of the Week. Japanese people pride themselves on their food. It’s almost as if anything about food is a profession, hobby, interest, lifestyle, but least and last of all, a means to live. There’s even a large magazine industry just on local eateries. There are many, many tv programs playing all day long about food, home cooking, restaraunts, and eaties in various locales around Japan. They’ve even gone so far as lodging an application with UNESCO to have certain Japanese foods list as intangible cultural assets (News on Japan). In short, food is a national obsession, one that is so ad nausem that I do everything possible to avoid it. As a consequence, I don’t have much choice of photos for this story, but they’re good.

What’s the story? In the Oxfam Food Index, Japan is ranked only, only 21st. Despite the near-extreme obsession with food the Japanese have, laid back Europe out ranks Japan.

For this photo, and others like it, see my agents website, and my PhotoShelter portfolio.

A food stall at the annual Ishidori Festival, the loudest festival in Japan.

A food stall at the annual Ishidori Festival, the loudest festival in Japan.

Top 5 Photos of 2013

Every new year needs a review of the old. Ok, yes, this is coming a little late, but timed for when most people are back at work and can benefit from this. The top 5 photos are available at both my PhotoShelter portfolio and my agent’s website.


5. 20-Somethings on a day out in Osaka.

Actually, in my list of 100 top photos of all time, nothing from 2013 appears, yet. However, on a photographer’s social networking site, 500px, this was one of the top photos, and was listed at “Popular” for a couple of days: an achievement. Both models were a delight to work with, and it was a fun morning. Thanks Ana and Brooke 🙂 This photo is available on my PhotoShelter portfolio and can be seen at 500px.

Young twenty-something friends on a day out in Osaka.

Young twenty-something friends on a day out in Osaka.


4. City Angel.

This photo also doesn’t (yet) appear in my list of top 100 photos of all time, but again on 500px it was a top performer, with a remarkable peak rating of 92.5 (squee!).


3. Naked Man Festival.

What could be more popular than the above ‘City Angel’? Naked men giving each other wedgies, of course! The Naked Man Festival is a winter event, and will be on again soon, and yes, this really is one of the top 100 photos of all time. From a quick check of my previous blog posts, I’ve written quite a bit on the annual Naked Man Festival, held in Komaki, just outside of Nagoya.


2. Korean Royalty.

I don’t know why, but Korean royalty is one of the most popular photos on JapanesePhotos.Asia. Obviously they are actors performing for tourists at Gyeongbok Palace. Incidentally, it was Japanese assassins who killed of most of the Korean royal family, paving way for a Japanese annexing of the peninsula starting from 1910 to 1945. This was a time when the Korean people were brutally treated (Wikipedia), and is still an open wound that current Japanese politicians do not or won’t understand (Japan Today).


1. One of Japan’s top jazz ballet dancers leaping.

I did this collection of photos with Ai in 2012, and this one was the top favourite in 2013. You can see my previous blog post of this photo in a tearsheet, and other previous Jazz Dance posts, too. It’s always a pleasure to work with jazz dancers, they know how to pose, they enjoy performing, and they have infinitely more energy than I. A new jazz dance project is in the planning stages for winter 2014, so keep an eye out for that, and please show support with microdonations on Flattr, every little bit helps.

#POTW 13 Jan 2014 Naked Man Festival

About this time next month there will be the Naked Man Festival, aka Hadaka Matsuri, apparently on the 12th February (Kikuko’s Website). The festival doesn’t have men who are actually stark-naked, nor are they all men, there are boys there, too. Also, you might be thinking, “Next month? But it’s winter, isn’t it?”. Yes, it’s winter, and it’s cold, and it may snow. There is a historical reason for the festival, which involved famines, plagues, and such problems over a thousand years ago, and so the religious elite decided to have a festival where people endure the pain of the cold in order to life the blight afflicting them (JapanesePhotos.Asia/blog, Japan Visitor, Kikuko’s Website).

For this photo, and others like it, see my Naked Man Festival gallery on my PhotoShelter portfolio, and my agent’s website. Also, you can see the 2012 Naked Man Festival video, to enjoy entirely free.

Yokkaichi Explosion

There was an explosion at Mitsubishi Materials chemical plant in Yokkaichi (ABC, BBC, Japan Times). It has been reported that there are 5 dead. This part of Japan has suffered numerous industrial problems including Yokkaichi Asthma, and drinking water issues. It has been known to be the most polluted city in Japan.

I believe I have taken a photo of the affected plant. According to Google Maps, the Mitsubishi Materials plant and this photo (Sony a77 GPS data) are of the same place.

Probably the Mitsubishi Materials plant where the 9th January 2014 explosion occurred.

Probably the Mitsubishi Materials plant where the 9th January 2014 explosion occurred.

The photo below was taken from the Yokkaichi Port Building, and looks over the Mitsubishi Materials affected plant. For this photo, and others like it, see my agent’s website, “Yokkaichi”.

A view of the Yokkaichi industrial area

A view of the Yokkaichi industrial area

#TGIF Sumo starts on Sunday

That’s right, the Tokyo Winter Tournament starts it’s fifteen day run from Sunday. Tickets are available from web vendors like this one (no affiliation), and you can view it online on your very own computer from morning to 6pm Tokyo time, Watch Sumo Online. The cheapest tickets are about ¥1,000 (USD$10; far back, up in the rafters), and the most expensive are the tiny box seats from about about ¥40,000 (USD$400). This year, it may be the year Hakuho loses his dominance, and a whole new generation may displace my long-time favourites. It should be an exciting year. See my sports gallery for sumo photos, and my agent’s website. Also, I do have a sumo photo video.

New #coupon for 2014

What better way to start the New Year than with a coupon for 10% off any photo purchase, but only for images on my PhotoShelter portfolio. No restrictions on the number of times you can use it, and you can pass the coupon on to anyone. Minimum purchase is USD$20, until 31st January (New York time zone).

This can be used for personal and professional uses including personal and professional blogs, licensing, gallery quality prints, t-shirts, mugs, and lots more.

Coupon code: NEWYEAR2014 (write it down, it’s hard to remember 😉


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