Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Japan 2010 - People

Japan is about its people as much as it is about its sights, sounds and food. I am quite clumsy when it comes to taking portraits and am clearly in need of more practice. Food can be manipulated to look photogenic, but you can't do the same for people. It takes skill (and often times, speed) to capture the essence of the subject. Also, I was a bit shy photographing random strangers, as much as I wanted to. ;) Well, for what they are worth, here is Japan and her people, through my lens.

Whether in Kyoto or Tokyo, there were people people people everywhere. This was on a Monday afternoon, non-peak hour.

The flamboyance that is Harajuku! I Harajuku so much I went back twice. :) This is where you will see kimonos and cosplay co-exist. Yes, you can dress as a cartoon character and no one bats an eyelid.

Bleak, wet, windy and very cold. The weather was inclement and Disney Sea was certainly not the Happiest Place on Earth. Rain and theme parks just don't go together. I'd say it was the worst day of our time in Japan. Still, I'm grateful to these exuberant drumming chefs, for bringing some cheer on a gloomy day.

The ever elegant women of Tokyo. Groomed, coiffed, always well put together. The men were no different. Suited up or in casual togs, they all sported perfect hair, with wispy edges and movement. I salute the beautiful, fashionable people of Tokyo for being magazine-worthy and making it look effortless. Think about it ... it's easy when you have a team of stylists working on you, but to look runway-ready on your own effort, that's really something.

A homeless man makes do with cardboard and garbage wrap for warmth. :( He was not there when we walked past earlier in the evening, and the next morning, he was gone. Yes, there are cracks beneath the beautiful face of Japan. It was an eye-opener for my daughter and a sombre end to our night out. :(

At every convenience store, there would be men like these, all engrossed in their, er, reading? Ahem.

In Kyoto, on a crowded bus. It seemed everyone descended upon this ancient city during that special Autumn week. We were there on a Sunday, the last day of the week-long "Open Days" at the Imperial Palace. I am guessing it was perhaps the best time to view the foliage? Whatever the case, I shall not complain. Crowds are awful, but they are to be expected whenever you travel during a peak. Sure, I could come back in winter and brave a smaller crowd, but what will I see? Naked trees and a sun which sets at three.

In Kyoto, walking up the narrow road, uphill to Kiyomizu-dera. Some chose a more comfortable journey up ...

The rest of us just trudged on.

At Kiyomizu-dera. I jostled with the crowd as we made our way through the temple gates. Quite like magic, a vision appeared before me - a geisha! Instantly, everyone started going into a camera frenzy, not unlike the paparrazzi. Click, click, click .. oohs ... aahs ... looks of admiration. The geisha kept her head bowed, eyes low - mildly embarrassed by the commotion she was causing - and gracefully inched her way out.

Her fellow geisha, on the other hand, was happy to pose for the crowd. I was beside myself. I wanted to stretch my arms heavenward and yell "YATTA!", a la Hiro Nakamura. I so badly wanted to see a geisha, but knew in my heart the chances were close to impossible (we already decided we were not going to Gion due to time constraints). So what were the chances of running into one? Yet here I was ... staring at not one, but two geishas ... posing for me, right in front of the magnificent Kiyomizu-dera, looking resplendent in their traditional finery. It more than made up for that dreadful train and bus ride to Kyoto. YATTA!

Inside the shrine, we saw these two pretty little girls in their lovely kimono, with gorgeous hair to boot. Oh, they caused a commotion too!

Nanba (難波) - eclectic, fun, vibrant! I'm coming back here as soon as I erm, find the moolah. There were buskers dotting the streets but this one stole the show. He was playing "Lambada" and had the crowd tapping their feet to the Latin beat. Awesome!

I personally like this photo very much because it sums up the reason why holidays are special. It's the luxury of time. We can stand outside the senseless rush and watch the world go by. :)

Related post:
Japan 2010 - Autumn Foliage


  1. so envious, i want to go to japan!!!
    This is totally random but somehow relevent to the homeless man. Apparently there have been many occasions where people (possibly homeless) have died on the streets and they have been left there for weeks / months before anyone has noticed or done anything. Seems rather unhuman for such a civilised society, everyone seems to just mind their own business.

  2. What fantastic photos! I am in awe, and what a great opportunity you had. It is so interesting to see what others view on their trips, I love it! How exciting you were able to see and photograph the geisha girls! Thank you for sharing the photos with us!

  3. missing japan for sure. great capture of the different aspects of japan.

  4. lovely photographs! i hope to visit Japan one day too :D btw i love the rickshaw photo :)

  5. Love the photos. What a great glimpse of your trip! :)

  6. My son and his wife just returned from Japan. She was there for a month, he only got to spend a week. He lived there for 7 years. They got to go to a wedding and to eat all the good sushi they wanted and to shop.
    So it was a very successful trip :)
    I would love to go to Japan.

  7. PS- your photos are excellent !!

  8. Ur trip is free and easy? Tokyo is hip, Kyoto is ancient and expensive, Disney is cool. I love Japan too.

    ^ ^

  9. Unfortunately the two maiko (apprentice geisha) you've caught are imposters...maiko do not wear wigs. :)

  10. so pretty and interesting!! feel like I'm there liao ☺


    And now for the food? :D

  12. All beautiful pics Ju...really lovely. Magazine quality! You are so talented!

  13. nice photos!

    I love people shots :D they really capture the essence of any place.

  14. Hey everybody! Thanks from dropping by & leaving a comment. :)

    Tsukimi Warwillow: Geisha, Maiko, wigs, real hair ... they are all lost on me! LOL. I saw the vision I wanted to see. ;)

  15. so gorgeous!!! lucky u! got a picture of geisha... i went to kyoto in july and i only saw one! and she walked by so quickly and silently, i couldnt get a shot :(

  16. BEAUTIFUL pictures Ju. I love the one of the woman's reflection in the train window. And you've got me all excited for my trip to 日本! Coming very very very soon.... ;-)

  17. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos and experience. Including the homeless man. It's important to remember that people are struggling everywhere, especially these days.

  18. What an absolutely gorgeous post... it touched my heart!

  19. Lovely!! I really want to go to Japan again.. :)

  20. amazing. Just amazing. Japan is a very special place. Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos

  21. Your photos are outstanding! The Geishas in particular to me and the little girls..
    In Rome..I saw homeless beggar women and was saddened too w/ all the wealth around:(

    In fact yesterday we made our journey back back car from a long trip..and at a busy intersection..on a highway..I was someone sitting down..looking like a hitchhiker..I grabbed my glasses as we passed ..it was a woman..maybe 40 tops.. W/ a sign..homeless and abandoned.. ..oh..I couldn't read the rest..we were well on the highway..
    I have not taken her image from my mind.

    Images that mark.

    And teach.

    Thanks so much for taking us along..Wonderful wonderful shots..I agree a theme park in the rain:(

  22. Beautiful photos. I would love to go to Japan some day ... it's so far and so expensive from where I am. Hmm, should maybe start saving now. Well, it's nice to have your photo journals to look through and be able to live vicariously.

  23. Beautiful pictures ju! did u wear kimono too? heee