Posts Tagged ‘osaka’
Yummmmmm. The dessert above is a mango sorbet, which was a perfect finish to the Sushi and Shabu Shabu dinner we had with friends at a restaurant in the Gion area of Kyoto, Japan. I never saw the bill for this meal, or any meal for that matter during our stay with our hosts. My friends never let me pay for anything when I was with them! If they ever visited me in the States, you can bet I’d return the favor. I can’t remember ever being treated so nicely by anyone…
You know what one of my favorite things about Japan is? Don’t laugh! The vending machines:
There are literally thousands upon thousands of vending machines like this one sprawled out all over Japan. You can’t hide from them! I even saw them standing alone, often on unpaved roads, in the more remote areas I stayed at, outside of any major city. When I first arrived in Japan on vacation this year, I didn’t pay much attention to them. I quickly discovered, however, that the machines serve up cans of cold AND hot drinks. Yeah!
It was an unusually cold spring in Japan during our visit, and so nearly every time I’d walk by these vending machines, I’d reach down in my pocket for my 120 yen and grab me a hot little can of coffee. My Japanese friends found this to be pretty amusing, and every time they’d see a machine, they’d say “Hey Jonathan, time for coffee!”
Of course, all this coffee drinking meant more trips to the restroom. No problem! Seems like the restrooms in Japan are as easy to find as these vending machines. They’re everywhere! Very convenient.
What really amazed me though, were the lack of public garbage cans. We have them all over the place in San Francisco, and they apparently don’t help much because there’s a ton of litter on the streets here (and in most US cities for that matter). When I was in Tokyo, however, every time I’d buy something and eat/drink it on the go, I’d have so much trouble finding a place to throw the trash away, and would usually end up carrying whatever it was with me until I got back to my hotel room. You’d think that the lack of public garbage cans would mean lots of trash on the street right? Wrong. At least in the places I visited, I saw little to no litter, especially compared to what I see on the streets where I live.
Kinda random, but I spotted the image above in my archives and wanted to post it. I love Japanese sports cars! This one was parked outside my friend’s house in Osaka. Honda sells a similar car in the US, but with a different front end design that, in my opinion, is not nearly as cool as this one. Do you see any trash in the gutter to the right? Me neither!
Yesterday I received a meticulously wrapped package from Japan in the mail: a pair of photo books that I purchased from Akane Ono, a very talented photographer I know through Flickr. Akane is primarily a chemical (film) shooter, which in itself impresses me a lot because I haven’t touched film in more than a decade and I think I’d be afraid to try it again! The kind of look that can achieved with film, however, can have a very organic and grainy feel that is often very difficult if not impossible to replicate digitally. She seems to do an immense amount of travel, as her photo books present images from places like Bangkok, Osaka, Tunisia, Taipei, Cebu, Hong Kong, and Santorini, to name a few. Yet her style is very cohesive, and she has a very distinct and focused point of view as a photographer. Why?
Because, as she describes in her Neco Tabi #1 photo book, despite the beautiful surroundings and interesting, new people she encounters in her travels, she finds herself drawn to the local cats that roam the streets of the beautiful destinations she finds herself in. The resulting photography is a wonderful collection of beautiful images of fascinating environments that just happen to have cats in them!
As I flip through the pages of Neco Tabi #1 and #2 (both for sale on Akane’s Website), it amazes me that the street scenes and landscapes she captures would be very pretty even if they didn’t feature little feline critters, and so it boggles me how she is able to create these fantastic compositions AND make sure there are also cats in each shot. That’s what I call artistic vision. I often hear that it’s a great creative exercise to give yourself photographic assignments that focus on something specific, as it can enhance your creativity. It seems that because of her specific dedication to meeting new feline friends in different parts of the world, Akane has simply developed a natural ability to interact with and photograph these creatures in a very creative and sort of photo-journalistic way.
I can’t get within 15 feet of a cat in the city without it scurrying away. How she manages to get so close to these animals without them bolting off, and snap photos of these creatures with what seems like their full cooperation…another mystery. But my favorite thing about the Neco Tabi series is that I really do feel like I’m getting a taste of what it’s like in all of these other countries, and I’m doing it from a cat’s eye view!
I think my favorite photo among all the others in both books would have to be a shot of a brightly lit, old and weathered alley in Tunis. Taken from a low angle, you see a small, wheeled cart and a cardboard box sitting on top of a battered brick floor. Right in the middle of the alley sits a small white cat with a blank look on its face, staring right at the camera. Cute! But as you let your eyes move from the white cat and over to the right of the frame, you see a very old and worn door open, with rubble on the ground at its opening. Also staring straight at the camera, you then see another tiny cat, so very small and well camouflaged among the rubble. I could have sworn that first cat was the only one in the photo when I first looked at it, but somehow the composition naturally leads your eye to the second, well concealed one. So brilliant!
I won’t show you the photo, because you really should buy her books and see it for yourself!
The bicycle is used extensively in Japan. These shots were taken in various neighborhoods throughout Osaka. 日本には自転車がたくさんありますね！
Just another memory from my first trip to Japan. One of the fondest memories I have was one brisk sunny morning in the small town of Kumatori in Osaka (about 1.5 hours from downtown Osaka by train). I woke up at about 6am, which baffled my hosts (I was envious about how late their day started!). My wife and cousin were fast asleep. The day before started with about 5 hours of combined train rides to get to a friends house, followed by a relaxing Onsen (mineral bath), and a dinner in which we stuffed ourselves silly with Sushi, so it was understandable that they’d still be knocked out early in the morning.
For some weird reason though, I was up. My host (and friend) got up about half an hour later, and after some breakfast, he said
“Hey, you wanna go for a bike ride?”
As I stepped outside the sun was rising, casting its golden light across the immaculately clean streets of Kumatori. I found the bike pictured above waiting for me. I gotta say, a leisurely ride through the neighborhood, which included a beautiful park, was an awesome experience. The details, the people, the architecture, the smells and sounds, and the feel of the breeze…all of these are unique to riding through town instead of being walled off in a car or by the hull of a bullet train, and gave me a truly rewarding perspective that I’ll never forget.
From my archives, a couple photos that sparked memories of riding the rail system in Japan. I live in a city where you’re not sure if your bus will come at all let alone be on time. Japan Rail trains run with ridiculous reliability and timeliness. If the train is supposed to get there at a certain time, it’ll get there AT THAT TIME. Missed a couple trains during my trip this year thinking that perhaps they’d be late!
I also love how snacks/drinks are so accessible in the station. The photo to the left was taken at a train station in Tokyo. A green tea flavored kit kat or hot can of coffee is always near =)
We had a lot of fun riding the Shinkansen (bullet trains) at blazing speeds between Osaka and Tokyo while we were there. These things have dedicated tracks that don’t cross other roads or railways, so they’re free to rip through the country side at high speed, getting us from Tokyo to Osaka in a little over 2 hours.
Both times we rode the Shinkansen, I ate on the train. They have little stores at the station where you can pick up various snacks and even bento! They also have someone wheel a cart through the train every so often with snacks, sandwiches, and drinks. I was particularly impressed by the coffee surprisingly enough. I mean coffee on a train couldn’t be any good right? The coffee I had on the plane tasted like dirty water after all. But this coffee was good, and sure beat the 300 Yen (over $3.00 US) I spent on the smallest cup of Starbucks brew in Tokyo (yes, SMALLER than a tall, which is about $1.40 US where I live). In all, I was so impressed by the public transit system in Japan, and I look forward to spending lots of time on these trains when I return next spring!