* Tokyo-based people only
TBC = To be confirmed. Schedules and details are still being organised.
TBA = To be announced. When the schedule is fixed, you will be told the details.
Basic info: The shoot is in Tokyo Japan, and only open to anyone (aged 20 and older) in the Tokyo area. The shoot can be scheduled for the morning, afternoon, or evening. Please note that the payment is in Japanese yen, not US dollars or other currencies.
Wanted: male and female models or couples for (outdoor) traveller / tourist type of photos, and candid-like street portraiture. Clothing should be nice, simple, but of tourist-like appearance. You may also be needed for an artistic makeup art shoot.
Also, young Japanese women with kimonos, or other people in cosplay. MUA:Makeup artist to ensure the models look great and natural. Provide makeup work, basic hair setting, and nails. Also some general photo shoot assistance.
Theme: Candid street portraits and traveller / tourism Location: Streets and tourist areas of central Tokyo including Shibuya and the vicinity of Tokyo Skytree, Akihabara, or Harajuku; TBC. When: Time: TBA; Dates: 7th, 8th, or 9th January 2017. Clothing: This is a low-budget shoot, so there is no wardrobe to be supplied. Please wear something that is not high fashion, but nice, simple, and with no brands or logos. Comfortable shoes is also best.
Also, young female Japanese models who have a kimono, or has a cosplay outfit, and who is available on Monday the 9th Jan. This shoot is a collaborative project, and so it will probably be TF (trade for), which means unpaid, but you will get photos for your portfolio for self-promotion. This shoot will be with an international model who is in Japan for a very short time. Pay: TF (Trade for, unpaid) for collaborative projects.
Others: Models, ¥2,500/hour (Japanese currency) each shoot; shoots can be 2 to 4 hours. MUA, ¥5,000 for two hours, plus makeup kit expenses (negotiable). Required: Models will sign a model release to allow the photos to be used for commercial purposes. Photos will be added to commercial stock libraries. Links: For general model call information in English and モデル求人日本語, see this announcement on Model Mayhem, Contact me here, or via JapanesePhotos.Asia for more information. My main portfolio is on PhotoShelter.
General advice: Please where full length heat-tech or thermal underclothing, and no clothing with brand logos or print designs. Please do not bring large or heavy bags; you should keep them in a train station locker.
This Photo of the Week (POTW) is of Ana and Joanie at Sensoji Temple, a premier tourist attraction in Tokyo. It was great to work with Ana again, and to work with Joanie for the first time. They were great to work with and helped to make a great collection of images like this selfie. For more images like this, see the Ana, Joanie, Tokyo, and Alamy galleries.
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.
A young Japanese lady in Asakusa and Sensoji Temple, Tokyo. Miyu’s Gallery.
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.
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.
The following article was written by the model you see in the photos, Mariko. It was a pleasure to work with her, and despite the cold, she did really well. A special thanks Mariko for writing your experiences below. These photos are available in the Mariko II Gallery.
Renting a kimono in Kyoto
Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to wear a kimono? Well, if you’re in Kyoto you can rent one. It’s not expensive, and you can drop in and be on your way fairly quickly and easily. Kimonos are usually worn in winter and the intermediate seasons, and the lighter yukata is worn in summer. Men can rent kimonos, too, but this is my experience on the day of the photo shoot.
Andrew and I arrived at the kimono rental store not long after opening at 9am. When we entered, a lady behind a counter took the name of my reservation and then directed me to remove my shoes and put them in a bag, along with the rest of my belongings. I said bye to Andrew (no men allowed!), then I was led into the kimono room. There were rows upon rows of beautiful kimonos hanging on racks. There were two racks that were listed as around 5000yen, and a third rack was listed at 8000yen. The 8000yen kimonos were brightly coloured and absolutely gorgeous of course, and you could tell they were higher quality. That’s not to say the other kimonos weren’t beautiful as well, but if you want brighter colours and don’t want to pay for the more expensive choices I would suggest getting there early as there were only a handful left that weren’t more muted purples, blacks and blues.
A size chart hanging on the wall listed sizes as being S,M,L and LL, these refer to height! Compared to Japanese women, I’m pretty tall (174cm / 5’9”) so I chose size L and that worked well for me. It was really difficult to choose a kimono! They were all so lovely and there were so many of them. There were lots of young Japanese women also choosing kimono and we were all taking our time looking through the racks. Finally I settled on a purple flowered kimono and then came the next tough decision; the obi, a kind of cummerbund for women’s kimonos. There were shelves piled with obi of every shade of every colour imaginable. At this point I needed a professional and so asked the opinion of the lady working in the kimono room (who also spoke a little English). She recommended me a yellow obi telling me it would look “nihon-poi”, Japanese style, which goes well with the purple kimono I chose.
Taking the kimono, obi and the bag of my things in hand into the next room I waited for my turn to be dressed. There were two women working very efficiently in the room, wrapping and tying kimonos onto women in front of full-length mirrors. The first thing they put on you is a lightweight plain undergarment, a kind of a kimono-slip. After that goes on it is easy to remove jeans or other bottoms without showing everyone your underwear. It’s a good idea to wear a tank-top or some other non-baggy top that you can keep on under the kimono if you’re uncomfortable undressing fully in front of other people. Because it was late winter, I wore heat-tech, a kind of thermal undershirt popular in Japan.
After the slip, there was a second under-kimono that was yellow and a little less plain, and then finally the purple kimono. In the photos you can see the elegance of the yellow layer under the purple. I only needed to stand there while the woman worked around me, occasionally raising my arms as she wrapped, tied and tightened. After the kimono and obi were on I was told to choose either a shawl or a kimono jacket from the back of the room as well as a purse. I chose a light shawl for the photo shoot, but if I were hanging out with friends in winter, I’d prefer the kimono jacket. Then I was sent to another room for hair.
At the hair station I could choose which style I wanted from photographs hanging on the wall. The hairstylist worked very quickly and the result looked great! As a finishing touch I picked a yellow flower hairpin from an assortment of pins and combs. I transferred my important belongings to the purse I borrowed, while the bag with my shoes and my regular purse was put in a back room for safe-keeping. After paying for the rental I slipped on a pair of zori (kimono shoes) and went back down the elevator with Andrew, ready to walk around Gion dressed in beautiful traditional Japanese style.
After the photo shoot we returned to the store and returned the kimono. I left still with my stylish hair in place, and I could keep the tabi, which are a kind of sock for kimonos.
Note from Andrew:
Mariko looked fantastic on the shoot. The colours were complimentary, and the main patterns were striking and others subtle. Also her hair was absolutely elegant, and her hair decoration nicely matched her obi. Her zori nicely matched the kimono, so the whole look was superb. We returned the kimono to the store, but some stores allow you to return it to your hotel reception, but double check the details first. We couldn’t really walk fast in the kimono, as walking seemed a little restricted for her, so we casually had time to properly enjoy the sights around Yasaka Shrine and the main Gion tourist area. In all, it was great working with Mariko, and a fun shoot.
If you’re in Gion or in the Kiyomizu Temple area and you see women in kimonos, a “maiko”, or a “geisha”, and if you think she might be Japanese, listen carefully, she might actually be Taiwanese or Chinese, though many young Japanese ladies do rent kimonos in Kyoto, too. Kimono rentals are quite popular, where this one kimono store we went to apparently handles about 200 clients a day, and there are quite a few in Gion. You’ll see some young couples and groups of ladies enjoying strolling about the tourist areas of Gion all dressed up, and some stores can dress you up in full maiko or geisha garb. Some stores will even give you a special “passport” which can give you discounts at certain stores, including two-for-one lunch deals in high class restaurants, but only if at least one person is wearing a kimono or yukata.
So, why not enjoy the experience yourself. It’ll be a photo op and bragging rights you won’t soon forget.
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 of the Week (POTW) is from the recent Nara Lantern Festival (in Japanese, “Tokae”). English language information about this event is quite hard to find. I’ve seen tourists in Nara, right where the event was set to occur that night wonder what was being set up. So what can be found? Nara is attributed as the first permanent capital of Japan over 1,300 years ago, until a revolt by senior Shinto priests who moved to Kyoto and successfully set up their new capital (the current imperial lineage comes from the renegade priest). Nara is also the sister city of Canberra Australia, Gyeong-ju Sth Korea, Toledo Spain, Versailles France, and two Chinese cities. See the blog tag ‘Nara’ or a friend’s website Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips for more info.
The Lantern Festival began in 1999, and is situated in the main tourist areas of the city, including Nara Park (where the infamous deer roam), Kofukuji Temple, Todaiji Temple, and other major places. The lanterns are mainly small plastic tubes with candles in them, of which there’s about 20,000 set up (Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips). There are also bamboo art-work frames set up, and only on the final night was Todaiji and Kasugataisha Shrine open with their own lanterns, too. See the official map for more info. Also, it seems the event runs annually from 5th to 14th August, but double check the official website before committing to the trip.
If you plan to visit for the festival, you’d need at least a couple of nights, as there is no way you can see it all and at a comfortable pace. When I went, it was 37°C, one of the highest temperatures recorded for not just the 2013 summer, but for that area on record. Spend the morning seeing the sights, the afternoon avoiding the heat and recuperating in air conditioning, and the evening enjoying the night time stroll, with several tens of thousands of people spread out through the town. And, don’t forget to take your camera…
It’s impossible to make a list of only five things, when it should be 500 or more! But here is the quint-essentials for any first-time traveller to Japan. So, here they are, in no particular order.
Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion), Kyoto.
1. Where easy to slip-on & off shoes
It sounds so stupidly simple, but especially if you’re touring in Kyoto you’ll be slipping your shoes on and off ten times before lunch, and ten times again before dinner. All the temples, shrines, original castles, people’s own homes, restaurants, everywhere you’ll be airing your feet. If you have foot odour problems, then you really, really should pay BodyShop a visit.
2. Prepaid phones and SIM cards
This was the hardest to research section. Most countries make it easy to get a mobile phone, and also make it easy to get a prepaid SIM card. In Japan, that is totally not the case. Despite the very low street crime, Japan does have the worlds largest three criminal gangs (the largest numbering over 30,000). So, they have very, very tight restrictions on who they give mobile phones out to. Because Japanese companies and government work on protectionist principles, the local mobile phone market has for a long time locked out foreign competitors, and one mechanism was by using a different radio-frequency and system to work. So, your mobile phone probably won’t work here. It is possible that today’s smart phones, like the Android, iPhones, and tablets may work; expect the worst, but hope for the best.
It seems, that bmobile.ne.jp may be able to help you. You can purchase a SIM card for your smartphone or tablet and use that for upto 1Gb or 14days, and it’s extendable. You order online, and organise for it to be available at an airport post office. See their website for details: http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/english/index.html
Other options? Well, easy to understand websites in English are a rarity. Coupled with lazy companies whose “English” website contains only links to the Japanese-language-only services, make them useless to international travellers (eg: AU).
3. When in Rome stuff / Don’t look like a total tourist
This one is about having a bit of decorum, Japanese people are best described as calm, quiet, unassuming, people. It is annoying when people are distracting, loud, and boisterous. Perhaps I’ve lived here for too long. Just watch what people do, how they behave, and go with it. Also good advice when eating unfamiliar food, too.
Generally, it’s a good idea to take few clothes with you when you travel, and buy clothes that are local and in season. Some blogs and “travel experts” claim that they never take check in luggage, but carry all the essentials in carry-on bags, as luggage gets lost at the rate of two passengers per plane (luggage stats, avoiding lost luggage). I still check in luggage, have never flown a dodgy airline, and have never lost luggage (touch wood). Also, your winter trousers might be equivalent to our autumn wear, leaving you freezing, or your summer trousers may leave you melting here. In other countries, looking like a local makes you less of a target. In Japan? Well, the advantage is that when you need help, people are more likely to not just help, but go that extra mile for you. Loud print shirts with “Zombie Apocalypse” written in bold print with fake blood stains might make getting service and help a little more difficult. Looks count for a lot here. Pack plain shirts, jeans, nothing niche, and cover those tattoos (tattoos banned for Osakan public servants). Recommended clothing stores? Uniqlo is new, now quite popular, decent, in season, and cheap. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniqlo
4. You’ve gotta be seated to eat by 11.30am or forget it
Especially if you’re travelling in Kyoto, all the restaurants are getting pretty full at 12pm. I find that I really, really need to eat well, and eat relaxed when I’m doing a lot of walking. So, I want to sit, relax, have space for my bag, and be able to leave my bag at the table, while I go to the restaurant toilet. So, as a general rule of thumb be looking for potential places to eat when you arrive in an area, then do sight seeing, and just after 11am, start looking for a good place to eat. Otherwise, you might find yourself eating at the not-so good places (which will still be decent, but not special), or standing and waiting until 1.30 or so.
5. Vending machines are everywhere
It’s true. They are everywhere. You don’t need to bring Thermoses, sippers, or Starbucks travel cups. At ¥150 (£1, €1.20, USD$1.50, AUD$1.50) for the most expensive drinks, it makes life really convenient. Drinks with red price tags in winter are heated, and blue tags means chilled. Also, Seven Elevens, Family Marts, Circle K’s, and so many other convenience store companies are everywhere, that if in a pinch, you can get one of those awful bento box lunches (loaded with preservatives) to fill your tummy for a few hours. Little known fact, there are more temples and shrines in Japan, than convenience stores. When you look around, you wouldn’t know it.
Firstly, I have to admit it’s been years since I’ve used guide books, but still I doubt they suggest any of these below. You also need to remember that guide books cater to people’s expectations, so of course all guide books dedicate precious pages to things like Tokyo Tower, the Imperial Palace, Hiroshima memorials, how to get to those places, where to eat, places to stay, how much it costs, best time of year to go, who the bus drivers are, and etcetera. Consequently, you don’t get the bits of information that can make your trip special. When you go back to the office people will ask “Did you go to the [insert stereotype location]?”, but with this brief guide you can say, “I also discovered a really cool place that you can…”
So, below is a list of five things that guide books don’t say about Japan, and are things that can make you the envy of your friends and make you seem like a seasoned explorer.
A Japanese couple at Shirakawa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
1. Japan is an experience, not a postcard
If you want to photograph the Eiffel Tower, you can go to the miniature versions in Seoul or Las Vegas, and job done. If you want a picture of the Sydney Opera House, buy a post card, so you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars going to those places. That is to say, ‘experience’ and ‘visit’ are to different things. So, how can you ‘experience’ Japan? Here is a list of simple things you must put on a to-do list:
Stay in a capsule hotel (but spend most of your stays in a regular ‘business hotel’)
Spend a night or two in a temple in Kyoto
Don’t just have Asahi Super Dry, also try Kirin and Yebisu (Yebisu’s my favourite Japanese beer)
Eat in the franchise eateries like Yoshinoya or Coco at least once. These cater for the lunchtime office worker crowd, and allows you to get something akin to the office-worker experience that you hear about. Or get a lunch box (bento) from a convenience store
Take your traveling companion to a love hotel for an hour or two
Take any inner city train (Tokyo, Nagoya, or Osaka) at about 7.50am on any weekday, and at about 10.30pm on any Friday evening.
Take a Japanese friend or two, or be taken out to an izakaya (Japanese pub-restaurant)
Attend a festival or major religious event (there are lots of these in every month somewhere in Japan).
Travel only by and everywhere by train.
Get geeky (it’s ok, your friends aren’t looking). Indulge your inner geek at tech places like Akihabara, Tokyo; browse the amazingly large book stores; guys can visit a maids’ cafe in Akihabara, Tokyo, or Osu Kanon, Nagoya.
Get a haircut. The whole approach and execution of a haircut is a very different experience than in an anglophone country. In the anglophone countries electric shavers are overly used and can leave you with a lot of prickly hair sticking to you all day, but not a real Japanese cut.
Try the rice. In most Asian countries, including Japan, a different type of rice is used, it’s known as ‘sticky rice’. It clumps together much more easily than rice grown in Canada, the US or Australia, making chopstick use much easier. Sticky rice is perhaps a little sweeter than long grain or brown rice, and Koreans believe they have the best rice in the world (and so do the Japanese, and the…)
Watch Sumo on TV once or twice (in English) before seeing it for real in Tokyo (mid Jan), Osaka (mid March), Tokyo (mid May), Nagoya (mid Jul), Tokyo (mid Sept), Fukuoka (mid Nov). Seeing sumo on TV allows you to learn a little about the tournament, the order of appearance, who to look out for, and how they do the bouts.
Nagoya Castle in Autumn.
2. Visit small castles & temples.
The smaller and more remote castles and temples are so much better than the inner city ones. The war has decimated the original castles and most of the major temples and shrines in the major cities. So, for instance, whilst Nagoya castle looks like an image fit for a postcard, it’s made of concrete and has an elevator. The smaller Inuyama Castle is hundreds of years old, still made of timber, there are English-speaking volunteer guides to tell you about the local history and significant battles that changed the future of Japan. Inuyama Castle isn’t too difficult to find, and so totally a story you can brag about when you return home. One more thing about Inuyama Castle, because it is a genuine period castle, no footwear can be worn inside. You’ll be given slippers to wear, and a bag to carry your shoes in.
Sutra books, prayer beads, sashes, and bell infront of the statue of Buddha inside the Jokoji Temple of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Japanese Buddhism.
3. Unexpected things
I’ve tried to compile a comprehensive list that most Westerners (North Americans and Europeans) would find handy.
Wear shoes that are quick and easy to slip on and off. Many temples, shrines, and pub-restaurants require you to take your shoes off to enter.
The ingredients used in food is different to what you’re used to. So even if you go to a ‘Western’ restaurant, expect the food to cater for local tastes. One example I can think of is thinking a white ball was potato salad, but it was actually egg salad. Potatoes are very rare here. The most extreme example comes from South Korea. During my first visit there in 10 years, I forgot that anything red is hot and spicy, including spaghetti bolognese.
People are polite and they do their jobs. A cleaner actually does cleaning, and they take pride in it (Japan is pretty much graffiti-free, and people don’t want to graffiti anything). Sales staff, hotel staff, train waiters, station staff, everyone works hard and tries to help you as much as it is in their capacity; a very different experience to what you might get in Italy.
Most banks in the city centre can do international currency exchange. However, I’d still organise money at the airport on arrival.
Paying a tip can imply that the service wasn’t that good, and the staff should use this extra money to improve something.
Americans love guns, Britons love tea, Australians love beer, and the Japanese all (without exception) have a serious fetish for food. You’ll find good quality restaurants almost everywhere; but especially look for the nighttime restaurant districts.
A group of patrons leaving a restaurant in Kyoto and waving down taxis.
4. The best places / events are not always the most famous.
You and all your friends probably know about Tokyo Tower and the memorials in Hiroshima, but there are much better and more interesting places than these. My list of the ten best attractions are summarised:
1. Kinkakuji pavilion (or Golden Pavilion), Kyoto, any time of year (picture shown below).
5. A cultural event. most places, particular times of year. One example is the World Cosplay Summit, Osu Kanon & Sakae Nagoya, first weekend of August.
6. Cormorant fishing, Kyoto and Inuyama, May to October. Cormorant (or ‘ukai’) fishing uses these birds to dive for fish. These birds have a string tied around their necks so they can’t swallow fish, but can catch them, and then spit them out for the fisherman.
7. Try sushi in a little old looking Ma & Pa restaurant in an out-of-the-way place, or upscale looking place in the most central parts of Nagoya, or Osaka. But best to avoid any place from Tokyo to the north, as there may be radiation concerns. Also avoid any road-side sushi franchise restaurants; some of these can be simply cheap and not that special. In fact, any restaurant that has a line of about 10 people is apparently worth going to. Get there at about 11.30am (or earlier).
8. Fashion shopping; Shinjuku in Tokyo, Sakae in Nagoya, Namba in Osaka; from about 10am to about 8pm (weekdays) and closing later on Saturday evenings.
Young women out shopping on a Saturday evening.
5. How long to spend in Japan
A few days isn’t enough. A week isn’t enough. Don’t believe that month is enough either. Staying at least for a full calendar year, and attending every festival you can find, meeting local and expat friends and going places makes the stay much more meaningful. The Japanese work like clockwork; there are so many wonderful annual events to see and do. While you are here, you really, really need to keep active in your hobbies, or start new ones. You can learn pottery, calligraphy, a martial arts (not just the standards like karate, judo, and others), cooking, flower arrangement (ikebana), and lots more.