Trees Surround

Ahh it’s finally spring! And for just a short couple weeks in Japan, spring means cherry blossoms. Beautiful cherry blossoms!
cherry blossoms in tokyoHere visitors to Kitanomaru Park (北の丸公園) in Tokyo walk under cherry blossoms in bloom. The park is within the grounds of the old Edo Castle which no longer stands.

party in the park

Will and Andrew partake in an ancient Japanese tradition: drinking under cherry blossoms. There’s a bit of a cherry tree down on the left there, so it counts. But within and around the park there were dozens of cherry trees. Quite beautiful.

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The Water Temple

Hidden under an unassuming soccer field outside of Tokyo lies a massive column-filled chamber like something out of a video game or an action movie. And indeed, this cavern has been used as a fantastic setting for super hero movies, but its purpose is very practical: flood prevention.

water temple

A cameraman for Fuji TV waits between shots while filming a TV show in the huge cave which lies near the end of an extensive anti-flooding system. The system diverts water from swollen rivers into a 6.3 kilometer-long tunnel. The tunnel ends in this cavern where potentially-surging water pressure can be controlled before it is pumped out into another river that can handle the water. Each of the pillars is 18 meters high and weighs 500 tons.

water temple japan 2

The remains of dried dirt cracks near stairs leading down into a 72 meter-deep shaft that is used to contain excess water before it flows into the cavern. When the system is not in use, and the water is drained, the area is open to tourists.

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New York Beneath the Clouds

Apropos of nothing, here’s a picture I took in Central Park when I visited New York last August.

Central Park

And that concludes this week’s edition of “Pictures I Forgot to Post.”

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Motorcycles and Formula One race cars fill the display floors of the Honda museum in Motegi, Tochigi, Japan.

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Elements of Hakone

Steam surrounds a worker in Hakone, Japan, as he prepares to extract 黒玉子, or black eggs, from the sulfurous water of a mountain hot spring. The eggs boiled in the water take on a black color from the sulfur. According to legend, eating one of these eggs adds five years to your life.

Steam rises from a hot spring on a mountain in Hakone. The high sulphur content of the area gives the landscape an dark orange tint. The picture was taken from a cable car suspended above the mountain.


Artist Motoi Yamamoto’s “Forest of Beyond” installation is seen from above in the Hakone Open-Air Museum. The artist spread individual lines of salt on the ground to create the room-sized exhibit.

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Speed of Light – Video

The ceiling sounds like the sky threatening to rain as trains thunder by on tracks overhead. Ticket gates in the distance whine with the constant “beep-beep” of passengers entering and exiting with electronic cards. Eyes look to the ground, look at cell phones, or look for a quicker path through the crowds. People here in the center of the station either run or walk. Few stand still. This is Shinjuku Station in central Tokyo. It is the busiest train station in not only Japan, but in the world. More than 3 million people travel through the station everyday, rushing to transfer to trains, buses, jobs, stores, and homes.

But all this commuting may have its downsides. A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Economics suggests that longer commuting time translates to a decrease in happiness, and in a recent survey, Japanese reported having among the longest commuting times in the world. Squeezing into packed trains for long rides may actually be squeezing the fun out of life.

Here the video and still images of commuters in Shinjuku Station are squeezed and stretched as well. Commuters passed by blank panels of lights in the station that are usually used to display advertising. Using a long shutter speed, the camera captured a distorted picture of the travelers as they rushed around at what seems like the speed of light.

Some of these photos were published on the Sankei Shimbun website. And you can check out the Japanese translation of the story after the jump.
Continue reading

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A man walks through torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan. The gates lead up a mountain toward various shrine buildings. Many of the thousands of torii gates are donated by companies and individuals.

This is sort of the standard picture people take of Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. But there you go. It’s a pretty thing.

A big rock and a smaller rock and lots of very tiny rocks. This is a zen garden. The garden at Ryōan-ji is actually pretty large, and there are 15 of these main rocks surrounded by moss. The rocks are cleverly arranged so that you can only see 14 of them at any time. When you achieve enlightenment, you can see the 15th rock. So I’m just going to assume birds are enlightened.

Osaka Castle looms over the moat surrounding it in the middle of Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city. The original castle, destroyed a number of times since first being built in the late 1500′s, played an important role in unifying Japan in the 1600′s. Today the reproduction of the castle features a modern museum in the interior. There’s nothing really historic inside unless they had elevators in the 1600′s. It’s actually kind of depressing.


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Where do some of the best yo-yoers go to practice? Apparently they go to a park just outside of Tokyo. I spent a few hours photographing three young yo-yo experts while they practiced the art of the yo-yo.

Former world yo-yo champion Takumi Nagase practices in a park in Kawaguchi using two yo-yos, his specialty.

Nagase, who won the world yo-yo championship in 1999, is also an accomplished skateboarder.

Tsubasa Onishi, who won the world yo-yo championship in 2010, practices with two yo-yos.

Onishi is famous for tricks in which his yo-yo is not connected to his string, letting the yo-yo sail through the air attached to nothing. However, he still uses a string to toss and catch the yo-yo.

Nagase and Onishi are practicing ahead of a local competition organized by Kota Watanabe, center.

Nagase shows off the simple inside of his yo-yo. The yo-yoers take care of their tools, oiling them and using different types of string for different situations. Additionally, different styles of yo-yos are used for different types of tricks.

Onishi surprises Nagase when he flings a yo-yo close to Nagase’s face as he rests on his skateboard.

Nagase, Onishi and Watanabe relax with skateboards and yo-yos while background music plays from an iPod.

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Tokyo Eyes

I’m working on a project for a Japanese newspaper right now. There isn’t much more detail to the assignment than that. They want to me shoot something. The photo directors I talked to said they liked the angles at which I shoot subjects eyes. So I’m thinking about that a lot at the moment. Here are some things I’ve been working on for the project.

violinI think this is an example of the “eye photos” that the directors liked. Here Ayako Okunuki waits between songs while playing violin with the band Pamfu in a studio in Shibuya, Tokyo.

bandJames Francis, top left, and Andy MacKenzie, right, play along with Ayako’s violin in Pamfu. Full disclosure: I play harmonica with them. The harmonica is probably in the hand during this shot.

jugglingA juggler who calls himself タクゾー (Takuzō) practices with juggling pins in Kawaguchi City, near Tokyo.

gyozaA worker at 原宿餃子楼 (Harajuku Gyōza Rou) takes an order for gyōza, a Chinese-style dumpling, in Tokyo’s Harajuku district.

standing barNick Erickson, bottom left, enjoys the atmosphere of a small standing bar with a crowd of people in Shibuya, Tokyo.

barA man who gave his name as りゅう (Ryū) sits listlessly in a bar in Shibuya around 1:00 in the morning while hardcore music plays in the background.

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Everything is Art (Even Fish)

The intersection of art and fish is currently on exhibit at the Art Aquarium in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district. Full of exotic-looking fish and even more exotic looking aquariums, this aquatic gallery is a good place to take a date or buy an overpriced cocktail.

A pair of goldfish swim in a tank lit with colored lights.

A trio of fish tanks comprise the aptly named Zen Aquarium.

Sena watches a goldfish swim in one of the many small tanks that lined a long hall in the venue.

After leaving the long hallway of small fish tanks, visitors turn the corner and are greeted by a series of giant tanks, colorful lights, and a DJ.

Some of the fish were absolutely shocked at the price of a beer. Shocked!

Another room featured goldfish dancing in lace-lined containers. All these fish make me want to go eat some sushi. Sushi is art, too, right?

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