Archive for AsiaPhotoConnection

Tejikara Fire Festival

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.

Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

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 (, 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.

Links: Gifu CVB, Japan Travel, Japan Travel Advice, and more.

History: Apparently, it’s been a small local festival running for about 300 years, and seems to have a little or unknown origin.

Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

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.

Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

Photos & licensing: These photos will be available at my agent Henry Westheim, and at my PhotoShelter portfolio.

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.

A food stall at Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

A food stall at Tejikara Festival, at Tejikara Shrine, Gifu Japan.

5 Things: A holiday to Vietnam

Everyone dreams of a “once in a lifetime holiday”, though in truth, many take several of these in their lifetimes, and even annually. This post isn’t for the newbie or veteran holiday makers so much, but for those who haven’t been to Vietnam yet. I have to begin with a caveat, everyone travels differently, and so the following account is based on my own personal experiences. Without further preamble, here are 5 Things about going to Vietnam.

A Vietnam Airlines aeroplane in Nagoya airport. It seems the hostesses had better English than the JAL ones.


1. Getting there is easy.

It really is. Do I need to say anything more on this? Ok, so for me to fly from Nagoya Japan to Saigon was double the price than going to South Korea or Taiwan, but I’ve already done those countries. For most people, you need to apply for a visa in advance at the Vietnamese embassy long before you fly. For certain countries who were not involved against Vietnam’s struggle for independence (including the Vietnam war), they can just arrive in Saigon and Hanoi and get a landing visa. Japanese citizens can get a landing visa, but I had to post my passport to the consulate in Tokyo a couple of months before I flew. Like many flights to and from Nagoya in the off-peak time, the flight was empty. The photo below shows that in a row of six seats, five three were empty.

The flight and food was nice, but notice the paperback in-flight entertainment system?


2. Plan your trip.

Don’t do what I did, and just have a vague idea to go to a scuba diving company, and then make up the rest as you go. For me, the flight from Nagoya Japan to Saigon was too short for me to work out other things I could have done whilst I was there. I kind of missed out, but still filled my time and leisurely way. No regrets.

May be it’s the wine talking, but diving at Nha Trang sounds great!


3. No real language barrier

Compared to Japan, I think travelling in Vietnam is perhaps easier. I’ve heard lots, and lots of stories of how travellers to Japan ask for directions, but the train station staff reply in Japanese believing the traveller will understand him. In contrast, the waitresses, some taxi drivers, have better English than some Japanese-English teachers. The hotel staff learn French and English, and are very good at English (I’ve not tested their French). So, for first timers, I think Vietnam is a better welcome to Asia than Japan.

Staff at a hotel in Vietnam.

Staff at a hotel in Vietnam.


4. There are lots of things to do

This is where you realise that you don’t have enough time for the itinerary you want to have. Hoi An has the lanterns (wish I knew about that), Hanoi is a backpacker magnet for it’s rustic charm and refusal to be dragged into capitalism. Nha Tang turns out to have a seedy reputation, but the diving is good, especially for my limited level of experience.

Vietnam is a pretty good diving destination. For general travelling, perhaps it’s safer to go there than to the Philippines and Thailand at the moment.


5. Watch out!

On my first day there, the concierge at the hotel said, “don’t go walking along the beach front after midnight”. Sensible advice, I thought. On my second day, a pair of German girls told me how another German girl had her bag snatched in Saigon, as she was walking along the street by a guy on a scooter. She lost her passport, credit cards, and smart phone. On day three, a pair of English girls said that a Canadian girl also had her bag snatched also by a guy on a scooter, and she lost her passport and credit cards. On day four, a German guy at the Nha Trang airport wouldn’t tell me why, but he was getting out of the country post haste. On day five, as I was walking along the street I heard a guy saying to probably a Vietnamese lady “they took my camera, they took my money, they took my…”. On day six, in my hotel room I discovered my toothbrush was missing! (True story). I stayed in my hotel room all morning peering out the window. The point is, leave your credit cards, passport, surplus money, and other key valuables in your hotel room safe. Oh, and choose a hotel that explicitly states that each room has a safe. When you’re out walking, keep the strap of your shoulder bag over your opposite shoulder, and keep the bag in front of you. With a backpack, have one strap over one shoulder, and also have it in front of you, too. Don’t wear anything that might suggest you’ve got money (no jewellery or Louis Vuitton labels), and only carry enough money for what you need for your morning or afternoon adventure. I’ve heard of people using dummy wallets in their back pockets as a means to protect a little money pouch in the front. It seems bag snatchers work in pairs on a single scooter. The rider comes in slow and close to the nearest person to the road, and the other guy whisks the bag off of shoulder of the victim.

Probably mum, son, granddad, youngest son.


Bonus. The people are friendly

They are. They will help you and the English speaking ones are normally very happy to talk to you. Just ask them questions and learn about their life and country from their perspective. I’ve seen lots of travellers ask about things, and then answer their own questions (and merely reiterating stereotypes), but not letting the local talk. Ask your question, wait (they might need time to process your language), and then they’ll start talking, perhaps tentatively at first. But ask more questions about their responses. They’ll warm to you.

Beautiful (and tacky) souvenirs and cheap clothing in Ben Thanh Markets in District 1, Saigon.

#POTW Hieu in an ao dai

It has been quite a while since I’ve had time to do a Photo of the Week (POTW), and I apologise. Life gets a bit wild, busy, hectic, stressful, loaded, crazy, fun, and more. This photo was taken last year with a great model, Hieu, in Vietnam. For this others, and more like it see Hieu’s gallery in my PhotoShelter portfolio, and my agent’s website.

A young Vietnamese lady wearing an ao dai.

#POTW Saigon has become a modern city

This Photo of the Week (POTW) is of Hieu at the Ho Chi Minh Museum in central Saigon, Vietnam. The museum building itself is over a hundred years old and is full of history itself as the former governor’s and vice president’s residences in the French colonial and South Vietnam eras. Now the backdrop of modern Saigon is beginning to encroach on the backdrop of it. More photos like this for licensing can also be found on my agent’s website.

Hieu at the Ho Chi Minh Museum.

#POTW Taking a cyclo in Saigon

Yes, they still have them, and you too can get a ride in one almost anywhere in the main tourist precincts in central Saigon, District 1. Unfortunately, there are some restrictions on where they can go, but they can get you to all the key central tourist destinations. Here is a great model, Hieu taking a ride past the Ben Thanh Markets, Saigon, Vietnam. More images for licensing can be found on my agent’s website.

Hieu taking a ride in a cyclo, in Saigon.

New photos from Vietnam

JapanesePhotos.Asia has photos from other countries, and Vietnam is the latest on the list… or rather, the new gallery in the portfolio. Many photos of Vietnam are already available for immediate purchase, and more are still being processed as you read this. Other galleries in the portfolio include Australia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam (Bella Vu & Hieu), and even England and some European countries are in the archives. Genres include art, cityscapes, landscapes, model release photos, portraits, rights managed photos, seasons, transport, and more.  In all honesty, I just realised that I have a load of Taiwanese film-based photos that I haven’t migrated to this decade. Hmm… I’ll have to get the scanner out and get to work in this winter’s rainy days. In any case, my photos are available at my agent’s website, and my PhotoShelter portfolio.

A young lady in a cafe in Saigon, Vietnam.

A young lady in a cafe in Saigon, Vietnam.


This Photo of the Week (POTW) comes from the Ho Chi Minh City Museum. It seems most tourists either arrive in Hanoi or HCMC, and travel to the other city. Everyone I met was either going south to north, or north to south. There seems to be an itinerary that most people follow, almost religiously and it includes Da Lat, Ho An, Nha Trang, Ha Long Bay, etc, but mostly keeping out of HCMC. However, I hung out in HCMC and had my own fun. A lot of people I met on the tourist path said that they were so glad to get out of the hustle and bustle of HCMC, but I didn’t mind being there at all. There are plenty of things to see and experience.

One such place that is unhurried, relatively empty, a place out of the rain, really cheap (entry is about 75 US cents or 15,000VNM Dong) is the HCMC Museum. It is the former Vice President’s palace of South Vietnam. Construction completed in 1890 and originally known as Gia Long Palace, it became the residence of the Cochinchina Governor when under French rule (Wikipedia). During the South Vietnam era, it became the Vice President’s palace when the president built something even grander than this (now known as Independence Palace). Gia Long Palace is very grand, very elaborate, and it’s a proper mansion. Far more than what you’d expect the vice president of any country would get, let alone a newly independent former French colony. The entrance way is so grand, that today wedding photographers have a standardised course, images, and a routined array of angles for photographing newly weds. The rooms are so large that most are bigger than my entire apartment. And there’s even a bunker and escape route too connecting to the Independence Palace. Not that it helped in the end. What is really worth seeing, though, is history as told by the winners. It is their history, experienced, written and told by them. The perspective is really different. The building itself has not been well maintained, and so there are walls with paint flakes missing. The former South-Vietnamese Air Force jet fighters on display outside are in serious disrepair, even for display items. Cars out back need renovating, too. However, it is an escape from the city, and something worth experiencing.

This photo, and others like it will be available for licensing very soon at my agent’s portfolio (Asia Photo Connection), and my PhotoShelter portfolio at the Vietnam gallery, and Hieu’s gallery.

A young lady exploring the Ho Chi Minh City Museum (former Vice Presidential palace). Model: Hieu.

A young lady exploring the Ho Chi Minh City Museum (former Vice Presidential palace). Model: Hieu.

World Photography Day #WPD2014

Tomorrow, 19th August is World Photography Day. Though it’s an annual thing, this is the 175th year of photography, so it deserves special celebration. Photography contributes so, so much in our daily lives. We use it for sharing photos of family, for memory keepsakes of holidays and good times with friends, weddings, birthdays, for communicating in media, documenting crime scenes, documenting historical events, selfies, food porn, instagramming, and so, so much more. Photograph making devices are now so prolific, and are no longer confined to large, expensive, single function devices. Cameras can be found on computers, tablets, phones, door bell security systems, movie studios, handheld devices, drones on farms and military applications. Cameras are now so embedded in our daily lives that it is now hard or impossible to imagine our lives without them. In short, our society loves photography.

A model, Brooke, I’ve worked with before. This photo is available for licensing.

Be sure to check on discount coupons for photo licensing and purchases.


New #TGIF Photos out now and more coming

New TGIF photos of my favourite models have finally been completed (it’s been a painfully busy time for me). The first batch are already on my PhotoShelter portfolio (Chihiro & Brooke), and more will be soon added to my agent’s website.

A caucasian and Japanese woman in a bar with wine.

A Caucasian and Japanese woman in a bar with wine.

5 Things about Japan that totally rock

I try to make these monthly lists unique, and without repeating what others have already said to ad nauseam. So, here are 5 things you might not know already about Japan.


1. Trains

There’s lots of them. They’re everywhere. Even if you live here, you don’t really need to own a car at all. I know a family who rents a car two or three times a year, whilst most people don’t bother buying one; otherwise they’re an unnecessary expense. Cities are connected usually by city government-owned subway trains and buses, as well as some private train and bus companies. Then, satellite cities that feed into major metropolitan cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Yokohama have mainly private train companies and Japan Rail (JR). Then cities are linked mainly by JR East, JR Central, JR West, or JR Hokkaido companies. This includes the infamous bullet train (see 5 Things about Bullet Trains).

A local train that services rural towns and feeds to a satellite city of Nagoya. To see this image, and others like it, see the Transport gallery.


2. Unique festivals

How many other countries or communities you know has a penis festival, and can be very open about it? Well, to be more descriptively precise, a fertility festival, the video below shows the male fertility festival, and there’s also a female one held some weeks later (no pun intended). There’s also a Naked Man Festival, a Stone Bringing Festival, Doll Festival, dance festivals, and many other festivals.

A YouTube video of the Tagata Fertility Festival, see here for the Tagata Fertility Festival gallery, and past blog posts.


3. Fishing

Yep, how often do you see someone in a wooden boat, with a huge fire, catch fish with birds. Yes, I really do mean they use cormorants tied to rice hemp lines to dive into the river water, catch some fish, and then come up and cough them up into the boat. The lines keep the birds from getting away and from swallowing the fish. After watching the fish catching display, you can retire to a nearby restaurant to sample these fine hacked up aquatic cuisine. Cormorant fishing is done in various places including Inuyama, and is a summer thing that usually runs from May to October. The trip costs about ¥2,500 for basically an hour wait and a 20 minute one-run along the river, and then it’s over.

For this photo of cormorant fishing at Inuyama, and others like it, see the Night in Japan gallery.


4. Convenience stores

Convenience stores are everywhere. I heard that at any time (usually) you’re never more than 300 meters from a convenience store. Which is better than what I hear about not being more than 3 meters from a rat in New York. Anyway, in some small towns these small modern general stores serve as pseudo supermarkets, and for everyone a refuge from the winter cold or summer heat. They have a huge selection of drinks, snacks, and even lunch sets, and even hygiene supplies for office staff who were either too busy to go home, or too drunk to catch the last train. Lawsons (pictured) is starting to offer space with tables and chairs, too. Though this is coming 15 years after similar companies were doing the same in South Korea.

For this photo see see it in my PhotoShelter portfolio, and other convenience store photos see my agent’s website via search: “Japanese convenience store”.


5. People leave you alone

Basically, you’re left alone and people don’t bother you. The police are hard to find, mainly because they don’t need to come out of their police stations, unless they really have to. I cannot think of a lazier police force. People don’t pass judgements of you, and so you get an illusion of total freedom. Of course, some travellers and expats mistake this as a license to horse around and behave like juveniles, so please don’t. Tourists and expats have been banned from the famous Tokyo fish markets already. If you have tatoos, cover them with plasters or t-shirts. Don’t wear tracks suits or sports suits in public, people usually wear these as pyjamas. When my family came to visit, people somehow sensed they were tourists and were very warm and welcoming, and helpful. For me? Maybe I look like a local now, and so nobody cares.

For this photo of a naked guy giving a pink ribbon to a high school girl, as a policeman watches on, and others like it, see the Naked Man Festival gallery.


There’s of course many more things, but this is just a taste. You’ll have to come and see the rest for yourself. There are thousands more photos at my PhotoShelter portfolio, and my agent’s website. Also, 5 Ill Conceived Things in Japan coming next month.

« Older Entries