Click the above image to open a set of photos from a recent trip I took to Kyoto
Each culture has their own, and you never really notice the ones from your own culture, as thy are almost always so deeply ingrained that you accept them without question. Earlier this month I had a business trip that took me to San Diego. This was great, as it gave me a break from the worsening weather here in Japan as winter makes its presence known. The real bonus of the trip though was the fact that just that week before my trip, Japan Airlines had started non-stop service from Tokyo to San Diego. And better yet, it was via the new 787 Dreamliner.
I’d never flown this model of aircraft before, so it was a pleasant surprise. I believe that different carriers have a choice on how many seats they want to try to cram into an airplane, and Japan Airlines must be commended on its move to actually give you a bit more room than in the past. Just about every feature of the 777 has been thoughtfully upgraded in the new 787: The personal video screens are larger and sharper, the seats and a bit bigger, the windows are larger and have this cool auto-tint feature, so there is no actual slide-down window screen anymore. The bathrooms seem more spacious, with a better designed door and fixtures.
All of these new upgraded features were nice and made the entire flight more comfortable. But what really rocked my world was the meals being served.
I’m not sure if it was a promotion due to the addition of this new non-stop flight, but the meal on the way to San Diego was Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the meal on the way back to Japan was a Yoshinoya Beef Bowl. (See the pics below for proof!) Most of the pictures I took on this trip were food and drink related, so I will refer you to the photo link above if you need a Japan-Photo fix, as it opens up a gallery of some images I captured while in Kyoto late last month.
But getting back to the superstition part of this update, when I arrived in San Diego, I made a pit stop in the bathroom before heading to Immigration, so I had resigned myself to the fact that I would be at the back of the line and it would take me extra time to pass through. As I entered the immigration area I was confronted with VERY long lines at all of the immigration counters. All but one of them. Number 4 had absolutely NO LINE in front of it. Not a single person. At first I thought it was because line 4 was closed, but then I remembered I had just got off of a flight that was was choke full of Japanese people.
Then it hit me, OF COURSE nobody wanted to take line 4!
You see, the number 4 can be pronounced two ways, either Yon, or Shi. But “Shi” is also the Japanese word for death, and thus thought to bring bad luck. That is why many supermarkets in Japan have no checkout line number 4, and buildings will sometimes not have a 4th floor.
As I walked up to the counter in line 4, and I could tell that the immigration officer was confused why nobody had chosen his line up to that point. So I explained it to him and he had a good laugh about it, commenting that it was just like Americans and their superstitions about the number 13.
So wherever you originate from, be it Japan, America, somewhere in Europe etc, we all have our differences based on the culture we were raised in . But once you peel back the superficiality of it all, we are all pretty much the same too. 😉
KFC at 37,000 feet
I was surprised at the volume of airline traffic zipping up and down the California coast.
Oh how I have missed you old friend
Since when did most every convenience and grocery store in America start stoking loads of great beer?
About a week and a half ago, I was in Kyoto to do some location shooting for Cool Japan. It was a quick one-day trip, so there was not really any time for me to enjoy the sights, but I didn’t let that stop me from trying to capture some light while I was there.
The camera dejure was the Leica M9 with a Hexanon 35mm f2 UC lens. Now that I am shooting with a full frame rangefinder, I am starting to really understand why when people talk about getting by with just one lens the 35mm focal length gets so many votes. It’s a very versatile angle of view, and even with a largish aperture of 2.0, the lens itself remains quite compact.
That’s not to say I would not have taken a 50mm and 28mm with me if I had been there for a couple of days, but after shooting with the 35mm and only the 35mm I can see how it could become my default go-to lens when travelling. Particularly when you factor in the amount of cropping that is possible with the super sharp 18 megapixels that the Leica M9 generates.
It was strange to be in Kyoto for such a short period of time, but I didn’t feel too bad about it since the fall leaf color had just started to give a hint of the explosion of color that is to come in the next couple of weeks.
To catch this veritable riot fo color, I’m planning on spending a good three or four days there at the start of December.
Anyone interested in having a couple of beers with me in Kyoto in early December? Drop me a line and we’ll sort something out.
I apologize to you all for the delay in posting an update that includes some of my more recent Kyoto photos. Right after I returned from Kyoto I had to (got to?) go to Hawaii for a business meeting. While in Hawaii I managed to catch a nasty cold and have been pretty well sapped for energy ever since. I feel like I am starting to get the best of it, but I’m still plagued by a nasty persistent cough which just doesn’t seem to want to end.
But enough about that. Let me now tell you a little bit about Kyoto.
I can’t quite remember how many times I have been to Kyoto so far, and up till this trip I always made sure to hit Kiyomizu Temple, and a few other of the more famous places. And almost every days worth of shooting was always to be capped off by a few hours in Gion shooting Maiko and Geiko.
But on this trip I decided to take it slower.
Maybe I needed a break more than the last times. Work has been quite taxing as of late.
Or maybe I just wanted a different experience. Whatever the reason, I kind of surprised myself by not seeing Kiyomizu Temple, or Kinkakuji at all. What’s even more surprising is that I only went to Gion once, spending only about 90 minutes there.
In addition to changing my normal sightseeing routine, I also seemed to unconsciously change my shooting style as well. After all is said and done, I figure I shot about 60% – 70% less photos that I normally would during a 5 day trip to Kyoto. There was only one day when I had to actually poop in a fresh memory card, with an 8 GB card usually lasting me all day and then some.
This is not to say that I was not enjoying myself. Quite the contrary actually. I had a marvelous time and felt like I truly relaxed and unwound during that week. Much more so in fact that on my previous trips to that part of Japan.
I know some of you were wondering why I decided to drop my original plan to shoot medium format this time. The reason I did it was mainly due to the weight difference between carrying a medium format kit versus an SLR kit. And I definitely made the right decision to go with the lighter of the two.
Since I had ran a half-marathon race on the same day that I left for Kyoto, my legs (right knee mostly) were definitely the worse for wear. During the first two days of my trip I could definitely feel that I was pushing myself a bit too hard so soon after the race. This forced me to take little breaks here and there, and I think that is was these forced pauses that allowed me to down-shift into an overall lower gear and slow down, taking in more of the view with my naked eyes, and less of it through the viewfinder off my camera.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it reminded me not just look at something, but to also to take the time to really “see” it.
Thanks go out to Tregix for remindding to bring it all back to basics.
For those of you that are interested, here is what I ended up taking to Kyoto:
Nikon 35mm f2
Nikon 50mm f1.4
Nikon 85mm f1.4
Voigtlander 58mm f1.4
Voigtlander 40mm f2
Tamron 28-300mm VC
I also ended up buying the following two lenses while I was there since I found great deals on both of them:
Tamron 28-75mm f2.8
Nikon 180mm f2.8