It's Throwback Thursday and wandering through some old files on a remote drive I found these images from a trip to Japan in 2005. Like every throwback post, these images bring back an extensive collection of old memories about my most favorite country to travel to over the years.
I made a half dozen trips to Tokyo in the 80's for Polaroid, and there's something hard to explain. The short version is simply, from that very first step off the plane, I always felt like I was finally home. I always wanted to believe that maybe I was a Samurai or at least a Samurai's stable boy in a previous life. LOL After Polaroid the trips to Japan ended and I wasn't back again until 2005 in my WPPI/Rangefinder role.
The trip was sponsored by Asukabook and my good friend Taka; then VP was the host. While it's a Japanese trait to be great hosts, nobody's ever done it like Taka did. This was relationship building at its very best, and even though he's no longer with Asukabook, and I'm no longer with WPPI/Rangefinder the friendship we built is still very much intact. Email and Skype help make the world a smaller place and we've managed to stay in touch.
So, welcome to a mini travel log from eleven years ago. Had I known about Panasonic's LUMIX cameras back then, my images would have been even better, but considering these were captured with a $200 FujiFilm point and shoot, they captured everything I needed for memory-makers. Also, nothing has been retouched - these are right out of the camera.
One of my most favorite things to do on every trip was wander into any local market. I love the presentation quality of fruit - often packaged in a gift box like an expensive bottle of champagne. And, they should be! Those cantaloupes below at 6000 yen come out to just under $60 each at today's exchange rate. Back then they were a bargain at just over $50!
Japan is all about color, especially in the markets. I had a lot of fun setting this little camera into close-up mode. Even clusters of scallions and radishes become interesting.
Sooner or later bar games become universal and Taka took on my challenge one night coaster flipping. Sadly, or not so sadly, it's a lost art, probably replaced by beer pong.
Japan is also about contrast. What struck me was the scale of the high-rise office buildings versus the traditional teahouse on the pond in the image above. Remember, I'm shooting with limited capabilities with an inexpensive point and shoot. Still, it's a classic shot of Tokyo and the relationship between new technology and thousands of years of history.
It was always top shelf in everything Asukabook hosted. The hotel we were at had a small garden courtyard with a short walking trail, waterfalls and ponds loaded with Koi. The path actually led behind the waterfall on the far right allowing you to stand behind the water.
Japan is also about contrasts in perspective. For example, the elevator in the Asukabook home office is the smallest I've ever been in. I was close to feeling like the Hulk. In contrast, Taka and I are dwarfed by the height of this old castle.
I'll wrap up today's post with one last experience, and it's one that most people notice on trips outside the US, but it seems to happen more in Japan. Things often don't translate.
If I had known enough Japanese, I would have asked the guy wearing this t-shirt what Dog's Mania was. It just made no sense, and yet you can decipher he's probably a dog lover, but that's about it. Whatever the artist was trying to say when designing the shirt it just didn't translate.
However, those mistakes in language go both ways. After my first trip to Japan working for Polaroid in the 80's I loved the country so much, I went and took Japanese lessons. On my next trip to Tokyo in what I thought was perfect Japanese, I asked the cab driver to take me to the Hilton Hotel.
Well, he took me to the Tokyo Prince Hotel and I didn't know enough Japanese to explain it wasn't the right one. I let the doorman take my bags, and it took me all the way to the front desk to find somebody who knew enough English to help me get back on track to the right destination.
As Americans we seem to think if we talk louder and slower, we'll be understood. NOT!
That wraps up this Throwback Thursday, but have some fun and follow my lead. Take the time to dig out some images from old trips or vacations and just watch the way the memories fall into place. And, that's the true power of photography and something we so often take for granted.
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.