Category Archives: Japan

Walking around Lake Towada

The other day I mentioned that my hike along the Oirase River to Lake Towada was longer than expected, well here’s the full story. The walk to Lake Towada was around 20km which was what I expected, the only problem was that I was actually staying on the OTHER side of it, some 12km away! Haha I really need to plan these things better! This was quite deflating at the time, it was already late and there wasn’t exactly any taxis around.

As grueling as this ‘bonus’ section was, it was quite beautiful and gave me the chance to take some more photos. I arrived at my hotel around 7.45pm to find that dinner was over and all restaurants in the area were already closed, wow didn’t see that one coming! I devoured my final Choco-Pie and went to bed hungry, so very very hungry.

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Also posted in Akita, Aomori Tagged , , , |

The Choshi Ootaki Waterfall

My favourite sight along the Oirase River was the Choshi Ootaki Waterfall, real postcard material this one! I wanted smooth flowing water so closed the aperture to f/20 which increased the exposure length to four seconds, long enough to create that effect without overexposing the rest of the photo.

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Also posted in Akita, Aomori Tagged , |

Following the Oirase River

The main reason I came north to the Tohuku region of Japan was for the festivals but after a little research I realized there were some amazing natural sights up here too! I only had a few days up my sleeve so in the end I decided on following the Oirase River to Lake Towada on the border of Akita and Aomori, I love hiking so this sounded right up my alley!

It was a longer walk than I expected (more on that later) but it was absolutely beautiful! I love the solitude of long walks like this and it was a refreshing contrast to the crowded festivals from earlier in the week. I’d go on forever describing it but that’s what the photos are for! 🙂

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Also posted in Akita, Aomori Tagged , |

The Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori City

On to Aomori City and the legendary Nebuta Matsuri! The floats used in this parade are really impressive and must take forever to make, I can’t even imagine how much effort they put into them! Groups of people push these giant floats through the streets, running right up to the crowds, spinning round and pulling off a few tricks along the way. I really enjoyed this festival, the floats were amazing and everyone was having a blast. There was a fireworks display on the final night but I must have overdosed on festivals at this point as I left half way through.

Another thing I should mention about these festivals is that accommodation books out well in advance. If you want to stay in Akita City or Aomori City then you need to get in early, I didn’t and ended up having to stay in neighbouring cities. It wasn’t a big deal in the end but being closer to the action would have been nice. On the brightside you’re pretty much guaranteed to have some hilarious ‘I have absolutely no idea what’s going on’ moments in small Japanese towns and that’s always fun.

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Also posted in Aomori Tagged |

The Kanto Matsuri in Akita City

I headed north for a few festivals in the Tohoku region of Japan and my first stop was Akita for the Kanto Matsuri. The highlight of this festival are the performers who balance long bamboo poles on their HEAD with lanterns attached to the other end. Trust me, it’s quite a sight! The way they balance those lantern poles is incredible and it’s great to see so many kids involved too, everyone was giving it a go!

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Also posted in Akita Tagged |

Tambara Lavender Park

I love a good road trip so was excited to head north with some friends for the day. We stopped at a number of cool places but our main destination was the Tambara Lavender Park in Gunma. We were a little late to arrive but ended up having plenty of time to explore the area. The Japanese sure don’t hold back when it comes to a place like this and I love them for it! It’s actually a ski slope in the winter so you can conveniently use the chairlifts. Such a fun day, thanks for driving Noriko! 🙂

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Also posted in Gunma Tagged |

Lake Senba Fireworks with Friends

I love coming back to Mito! I lived here for two years and have a lot of great memories from that time. Early August is festival season in these parts so I made the short train ride from Tokyo (about an hour and a half) and let the good times roll! The fireworks at Lake Senba are always a highlight so some friends and I went down there to enjoy the show. We came across the perfect photo opportunity soon after arrival but there was no time to really think about settings so I’m glad I managed to get them standing still with a nice display of fireworks in the background….and how good do they look!! 🙂

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Exploring the Tokyo International Forum

I don’t know much about architecture but I do know that the Tokyo International Forum in Chiyoda is totes awesome! Haha that’s right even a layman like me can enjoy the awesomeness, especially with a camera! You could probably spend hours here going from floor to floor finding interesting compositions, it’s free to look around too so what are you waiting for!

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Tokyo Bay at Night from Odaiba

I spent the evening in Odaiba, taking photos while walking along the waterfront. It’s nice out here and there are lots of opportunities for photography (including giant robots). You can see the Rainbow Bridge in the background of this photo as well as some light trails from boats moving across the bay. This was a 20 second exposure which explains the light trails and cloud movement. I also used my 14mm wide angle lens to fit in as much Tokyo Bay magic as possible! 🙂

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Gundam in Odaiba

I’m not a big anime/manga guy but I do give it a chance every now and then. I typically find the stories a bit cheesy but occasionally I come across something like Akira, Ghost in the Shell or more recently Attack on Titan and my mind is blown! I’ve never spent any time on the Gundam series but it’s got giant robots which is a good start!

As for this guy, I came across him at Odaiba in Tokyo. It’s pretty awesome, whether you’re a fan of this kind of thing or not!

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Also posted in Tokyo Tagged , |

On the Yamanote Line

I’m on the Yamanote Line which can mean only one thing, I’m back in Tokyo! I’m not sure anything makes me feel quite so natsukashii about my years living in Japan as these trains. It’s amazing to think how much time you spend on them when you’re over here, the key is to always have a good book or game with you in order to fill in the time! As a last resort you can always enjoy the typically hilarious ads on the walls, they’re so wonderfully Japanese!

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Also posted in Tokyo Tagged |

Endless Skyscrapers in Osaka

Osaka is such a great city for night photography! There are lots of futuristic buildings and interesting cityscapes to enjoy, especially from above. This shot of skyscrapers surging into the night sky was from the Umeda Sky Building, which has some great 360 degree views, plus they allow tripods! The exposure was five seconds long and there’s no way I could hold the camera steady for that long without a tripod, I can’t even hold it steady for one second!

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The Crystal Tower in Osaka Business Park

I went for a casual stroll around the Osaka Business Park one evening and came to the conclusion that they’ve made very liberal use of the word ‘park’. Sure there are some trees sprinkled about but it feels very much like your typical business district, maybe it makes workers feel better about going to work, knowing they work in a ‘park’. Just an observation anyway, I did find some cool stuff down there, including the monolithic Crystal Tower. I would normally flip the camera to get the whole building in shot but I really like the imposing look it had in landscape.

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Also posted in Osaka Tagged , |

A Storm of Colour over Osaka

When I book hotels in cities these days I try to remember to ask for a high room with a nice view, hotels can be great for epic cityscapes! It doesn’t always work out but sometimes they really make an effort, especially if you’re polite about it. They helped me out when I stayed at the Hotel Monterey Grasmere in Osaka and I got some great views of the city. The sky was amazing that evening so I was twice as thankful for having the sweet view!

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Also posted in Osaka Tagged , , |

Tenjin Matsuri Fireworks in Osaka

I was excited for the Tenjin Matsuri fireworks display in Osaka and it definitely delivered! The only problem was deciding where to watch, you must have to get there super early to lock in a good viewing spot. I didn’t really know where the fireworks would specifically go off along the river so I kept walking until I found a bridge that would at least give me a nice reflection on the water.

We were crammed in like sardines on that bridge but I slowly snaked my way to the front as people came and went, you’ve really got to be right there at the front if you want a decent view. I ended up taking hundreds of photos at all kinds of different settings, there’s not much time to review things as you go so I tend to take a whole bunch at different exposure lengths in such a situation and hope that a few of them turn out ok. I went with this one in the end and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, it makes me laugh looking at the photo when I know how crazy it was directly behind me at the time, I wish I’d turned around and taken a photo of that epic scene too!

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Also posted in Osaka Tagged , , |

A Lake in the Hills above Kobe

I like getting some perspective when I arrive in a new city so I walked up into the hills above Kobe soon after arriving in an effort to do so. There’s a whole bunch of walking tracks up there and they’re pretty good too. Some lead to lookouts, others to waterfalls, while this one took me to a mysterious lake that looked gorgeous in the early evening.

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Also posted in Kobe Tagged |

A Fish out of Water in Kobe

I bet a lot of people visit Kyoto and Osaka without realizing how close Kobe is. You can get there in as little as 30 minutes from those two cities so why not check it out, it’s definitely worth a day or two if you’ve got the time. I stumbled upon this randomly awesome fish sculpture while I was walking around the port area and it made my day, it’s probably the best fish sculpture I’ve ever seen. There was also a group of kids doing BMX tricks nearby, Kobe baby!

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In Search of a Kyoto Sunset

In search of a nice  sunset in Kyoto I found a trail that took me high above the tree line with a great view of the setting sun. It peeked out from under the clouds right at the last moment and made all the effort of getting up there worthwhile. The only problem was getting back down, the forest trail was pretty dark and even led me through a spooky cemetery at one point!

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Fushimi Inari Shrine

Wow, I can’t believe how awesome this place is! It’s my third visit to Kyoto and somehow the first time I’ve made it to the famous Shinto shrine, Fushimi Inari. Inari is the Shinto god of rice, and yeah, he’s kind of a big deal. There are some wonderful buildings at the base of the mountain and behind them you’ll find a series of paths leading up Mt Inari through spectacular tunnels of torii gates. There’s literally thousands of these gates and they’re amazing! There was something interesting hidden around every corner and I could have spent days exploring all the little side paths. Highly recommended if you like a bit of hiking and exploration with your shrines!

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Exploring the Bamboo Groves of Arashiyama, Kyoto

I love walking through the bamboo forests in Arashiyama, Kyoto, they’re so moody and mysterious! It’s a playground for photographers and if you come early in the morning you pretty much get the whole place to yourself (it can be a little busy in the middle of the day). As you might imagine I went a little crazy here, walking back and forth along the path trying to decide which spot I liked best. In the end I couldn’t really decide but the area below is definitely one of my favourites.

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