Wise Man of Fuji

A Japanese proverb states, “He who climbs Mount Fuji once is a wise man, he who climbs it twice is a fool.” I now rest comfortably in the sweet spot of that proverb. I’ve done just enough climbing to be wise, but not enough to be a fool. Success!

Mt FujiA cloud forms at the summit of Mount Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan. At it’s peak, the mountain reaches a height of 3,776 meters. That’s 12,389 feet for anyone who likes unit conversion.

Climbers ascend FujiRetaining walls protect against erosion on the mountain caused by the mass number of annual climbers. Hundreds of thousands of people climb Fuji each year.

Climbing Fuji

A group of colorful climbers takes a lunch break near the summit.

Climber rests on FujiA climber surveys the cloudy view from near the top of Mount Fuji.

Placing coins in a toriiA woman places a coin in a torii gate just before reaching the peak of the mountain.

Walking into the fog

Emily Powell works her way through a cloud while descending Mount Fuji.

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Pairs, disordered

Having grown up in the middle of a continent, I’m not very accustomed to boats. So the party I went to on a ship the other day was especially fun for me. Below are two pairs of pictures from that night, though the pairs are not next to each other.
Girl in YukataA woman wearing traditional Japanese yukata enjoys the atmosphere of the boat cruise on the Tokyo Bay. People were encouraged to wear traditional dress on the two-hour cruise. I wore a t-shirt and shorts.

Toyko Tower from the BayThe Tokyo Tower sticks out amongst the buildings of Tokyo’s skyline.

Emily running to izakaya Emily rushes off into the night while searching for a bar after the cruise.

Tokyo Bay Airplane
An airplane takes off from Haneda Airport in Tokyo Bay. Our boat got so close to the airport at one point that passing planes seemed to just miss the tops of our heads.

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Sky Tree

The massive Sky Tree rises over everything in Tokyo’s Sumida ward. Actually, it rises over most things. At 634.0 metres (2,080 ft), the Sky Tree is the world’s tallest tower and the second tallest structure in the world behind Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

Tokyo Sky TreeA Tōbu Isesaki Line train passes in front of the tower. Though the Sky Tree has reached its final height, it won’t be fully completed until at least the end of 2011. When finished, the tower will be used for digital television broadcasting, but will also feature an observation deck and restaurant.


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Marvelous Mangosteen

I love trying fruits that I’ve barely even heard of before. My newest fruit is the purple mangosteen, a tropical fruit that can only be grown in consistently warm climates. Because of the climate required, mangosteens are rarely seen in North America. My mangosteen was grown in Thailand. 

I found this curious fruit in my local supermarket and immediately put it in my cart without thinking too much about what it was. It was just so goofy looking. I had to have it. Plus it only cost ¥95 or so, about a dollar. Worst case scenario, it turns into a good story like that stinky durian I ate. Never again.

Let’s look inside. When you slice open the thick, deep purple skin of the mangosteen, you reveal the creamy white edible center. The pieces inside are about the size of small orange or clementine slices.

It’s a pretty fruit, but it tastes wonderful, too. The slices of mangosteen flesh are slightly fibrous, but very pleasant and easy to chew. It has a mildly sweet flavor and just a hint of acid that isn’t at all overwhelming. Delicious. In an exotic fruit competition, the mangosteen blows the durian out of the water. Plus it has a cooler name. Say it out loud with me. “Mangosteen!”
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Footprint of a Castle

A man inspects the remaining stone base of a castle that once stood in what is now the Imperial Gardens in Tokyo. The castle was completed in 1638, but burned down only 19 years later. This stone base is all that remains.

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Imperial Gardens

I visited the Imperial Gardens in central Tokyo on a rainy day last week.

Despite the rain, people enjoyed the blooming flowers in the gardens.

This building is a teahouse that can be used for traditional Japanese tea ceremonies.
A couple works to untangle a necklace in the gardens.
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Cherry Blossoms on Film

Cherry blossoms in Japan are as beautiful as they are fleeting. The flowers bloom in the spring for only a few short weeks before wind and rain steal them from the branches. It’s common for Japanese to celebrate the season with 花見(hanami, or flower-viewing parties). In light of the recent earthquake and tsunami, this year’s parties were subdued. But the ephemeral beauty of the blossoms seems appropriate during this time of mourning and reflection in Japan. Indifferent to humanity’s wishes, nature carries on. 
Enough of that. Here are some pictures.

Picnics under cherry blossoms are popular in areas like Yoyogi Park in Tokyo. I visited the park with some friends to see the flowers. At the park I shot 12 pictures on a film TRL camera I bought recently.

I liked the discipline of shooting on medium format film. With my digital camera, I have thousands of potential pictures every time I shoot. With this film camera, I only had 12 clicks of the shutter.

I honestly have no idea what’s going on here.

If anyone is curious, I got the 120 (medium format) film developed, then I taped the negatives to a light in my room, shot them with my digital camera, inverted the negatives digitally, and color corrected them. I like a good challenge. 
By now most of the cherry blossoms around Tokyo are gone. They were beautiful while they lasted. 
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Chiang Mai

Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai offered a more relaxed atmosphere than Bangkok, but it was still lively and full of attractions. 

Though much smaller than Bangkok, the streets of Chiang Mai were still full of cars, tuk-tuks, and tons of motorbikes speeding through other traffic.

People offer incense at Wat Phra Singh, a temple within the oldest part of Chiang Mai. The original city center was contained by walls and a moat that remain to this day.

Joe Ryan walks through Wat Phan Tao, another temple within the city walls of Chiang Mai.

I took a cooking class at a farm on the outskirts of Chang Mai. Here our instructor watches a student use a mortar and pestle to grind garlic, beans and chilies to use in a papaya salad.

An Indian elephant native to Northern Thailand stares at me at an elephant camp in Chiang Mai. I got to feed the elephant bananas and sugar cane.

A driver leads his elephant into water to let the animal have a drink. If it’s not clear, I’m riding on the back of the elephant. It was pretty great. Also I call the guy a driver because he used to drive tuk-tuks. I guess driving an elephant is an improvement.

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Exploring Bangkok

I explored the Thai capital of Bangkok for much of my ten-day trip. Here are some selected photos.

A monk walks along a pathway in the Wat Arun temple in Bangkok.

Matt Cartas writes a message on a roof tile at Wat Pho, a temple in Bangkok. Visitors could donate money to help refurbish the roof of a major building in the temple complex. Those who donated could write a note on the back of a tile.

A series of towers, or prang, dot a courtyard at Wat Pho. The temple complex also contains more than 1,000 statues and images of Buddha.

A monk reads a book in the courtyard of Wat Pho.

A girl investigates fruit in the Taling Chan floating market in Bangkok. Vendors ride boats filled with fresh food, and shoppers can buy the wares from a dock. I bought some delicious pork that was cooked on a boat.

A tourist and a beer promotor stage a fake boxing match on Khaosan Road in Bangkok. Khaosan Road is a tourist area filled with massage shops, restaurants, hostels, street vendors and fun. Yes, it’s very, very touristy. Oh well.

Another beer promotor on Khaosan Road wears some rather provocative boots while plugging her wares.

The bustle of Khaosan Road at night as seen from the balcony of a bar. Every good bar seemed to have an equally good cover band that played Western music from the 90s. The authentic Thai experience it was not.

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Temple of the Dawn

In the wake of the nuclear disaster in Japan, I decided to leave the country for a time so I could feel a bit safer and evaluate the situation. Over the course of about 24 hours, I decided to leave, booked a ticket and was on a plane to Bangkok, Thailand. 
Bangkok has many beautiful sites, and some of the most amazing temples I’ve ever seen. One is the Temple of the Dawn, or Wat Arun.

A group of tourists lounges in front of the central tower of the Temple of the Dawn. The tower, started in 1809, is covered in sea shells and porcelain.

Josh Buck climbs the side of the main tower to reach a pair of terraces near the top. The tallest point on the tower is about 250 feet tall.

From the top terrace you can see another tower in the temple as well as the Chao Phraya River that runs through Bangkok.

Matt Cartas carefully descends the steep stairs that lead down from the top terrace. It was a little frightening, but as long as you didn’t look down, it wasn’t too bad.

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