Posts with photography and entries from Japan.

A little perspective can fool you

Nikon D800, 1/640 f/4.5, ISO 800, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/640 f/4.5, ISO 800, 70mm

Here’s a great photo that always makes me laugh a little every time I see it. The photo was taken at The National Art Centre, Tokyo. It’s an architectural marvel and photographer’s delight to be inside, especially during sunset, like above.

During one of my trips to Japan, I came here with a friend of mine—the one standing in the middle of this photo with a camera up to her face. The great thing about this photo is that because of where I was standing with my camera, the two people who happen to be in the frame look like they are totally different heights. The security guard on the left looks like he is quite a bit taller than my friend in the middle. Now I know my friend isn’t that short!

As it turns out, although the security guard was only a few feet in front of my friend, because I was so low to the ground, this particular angle makes it look almost as if my friend and the guard were standing along the same line—or the same distance away from my camera. This perspective trickery makes the subject standing further away from my camera appear to be much smaller than the subject who is only a few feet closer to the camera.

My camera was sitting right on the hardwood floor here, and I was taking random photos as people passed by. That was a great moment as there were so many different people walking by my camera. I did manage to get many photos here, and I will be sure to do some more show and tells  in the future.

The takeaway here is to remember to play with the perspective of your camera as you can easily fool the audience by making your subject matter appear much smaller or larger than they really are.

Don’t edit all your photos at once!

When you come back from holidays you may be tempted to start editing all of your photos on your computer. While it’s a great way to reflect on your recent adventures, I always take my time in editing photos so I can truly bring out the best parts of each photo.

Nikon D200, 1/10 sec., f/6.3, ISO 200, 22mm

Nikon D200, 1/10 sec., f/6.3, ISO 200, 22mm

I alluded to this in a previous post where I said to “marinate” your images so your feelings don’t play a role in your editing process.

When we are so caught up in the moment, we tend to remember things in a more exaggerated way, letting our minds fantasize more. If you wait a while before editing your photos, however, you will come back to them without any bias as to how you remembered that moment, thereby allowing you to edit them to reflect the true beauty of the moment.

Even holding off for a couple days will make a noticeable difference in how you edit them. Don’t just take my word on this though. Try it out yourself and you’ll see how a small change like this can make a large improvement to your images.

People watching season has begun!

Nikon D800, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 640, 62mm

Nikon D800, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 640, 62mm

For some of us, people watching can be a real treat. Just pick a random location, sit down, and watch what goes on in front of you. If you’re at a relatively active location, you can sit there for hours on end just enjoying the time pass you by.

It’s those lazy Sunday mornings that make you feel like just taking the moment as it comes. The Spring season is good for that, as people start to make their way out of their homes and into public spaces. The sun starts to shine brightly warming the outdoors, and the overall aura of happiness floats about.

When I went to Japan last year, I took a few days off to just walk around and enjoy the moment around me. Taking random snaps along the way, I meant to post a whole series on these snaps at one point on my blog, but that never came to fruition.

This picture was taken at the Tokyo Forum, in the Ginza district. It’s a great place for photographers any time of the day, with its striking architecture, criss cross patterns all around, and muted colour palette. If you come here to take pictures, you won’t be alone.

As the Spring season unfolds here in Toronto, I look forward to more outdoor adventures to come!

I’m home… again!

After a long 11 hours sitting in a plane, I’m finally back home. I still can’t believe that these past few weeks I was in Japan and now I’m back in Canada. Time flies by quickly. I’m not used to typing on an North American keyboard so typing this takes a little longer than usual. I write this as my little Goya magnet doll is facing me with her big smile and pink cheeks. I bought her while I was in Ishigaki island where the choice food there are goyas, or bitter melons.

At the airport I spent the last of my Japanese yen coins on a delicious creme mitsumame with shiratame and anmitsu. Mmm… I hadn’t had one of those with everything in it during my entire trip and it was a wicked way to end the trip!

The plane ride was nothing out of the ordinary. Since the plane wasn’t completely full, I had two seats to myself for the entire ride. The middle three seats were completely empty as well so some lucky girl took it and took advantage of it by laying down and sleeping on them. The movies were dumb: Without a Paddle and The Odd Couple. The only thing I really enjoyed was Meghan’s travels in Beijin in an episode of the Pilot Guides.

The food could have been better but they gave us a choice of Japanese style or American style. I chose Japanese style and got some fish and rice which I suppose was ok for airplane food. around 11:30pm Japanese time, they gave out a midnight snack; we had a choice between an onigir or a cup noodle. I chose the latter one and was somewhat impressed by the contents of it. It was packed full with these little meatballs and shrimps and other yummy items. It’s been a while since I had one of those.

Although the plane landed around 3:30pm in Toronto, I didn’t actually get out of the airport until about 6pm. Customs gave me no problems. The customs guy asked me if Gran Turismo 4 was out in Japan yet. Not knowing the answer, I said no, not yet. Conveyor belt number 6 was what held us back for so long. After a few luggages came spitting out of the belt, no more luggages were to be found for probably a good 45 minutes to an hour. An announcement came out and said that our luggages will now be coming out of belt number 5 since there was a jam in belt number 6 and they couldn’t fix it. After everyone moved over to belt number 5 and a few luggages came out of there – including mine – another announcement came on and said, belt number 6 is now fixed and that our luggages will now be coming out of there! So at one point our luggages were coming out of both belts with people scattering about looking for their bags.

After getting out of that area, I looked for a taxi. It was then that I heard my name being called and looked around. It was Nori, a friend of mine from Waterloo – and also the son of a friend of my mother. It turns out he was on the exact same flight out of Tokyo and we never knew it. I saw him at the conveyor belt but I wasn’t entirely sure if it was actually him so I didn’t approach him. Besides, what would be the chances of me knowing someone on a flight from Tokyo to Toronto leaving at 17:15 on Wednesday Jan. 19? Pretty slim if you ask me.

It was white all over town as I watched and thought how spacious this country really is. I came home to an empty house and unpacked my stuff. I went over to install new ones Loblaws and sent in my 11 rolls of film to get developed. I will get them back on Sunday. While I know all 11 rolls will fit on one CD they were dumb and said that they have to put it on two CDs since they would lose money if they put more than 10 rolls on one CD. Dumb, dumb, dumb. After all the business I give them too. I suppose that’s what you get for going to a big company instead of a small family owned place that knows you by your name.

I was hungry so I went to Subway and got a 12 inch turkey and ham sub. It’s 2 min. past midnight now and I’m still hungry. I think my stomache grew while I was in Japan. Must have been all that curry and ramen I’ve been eating.

Anyway, I’m tired so I will try and catch up on all my mails and other duties in the next couple of days. Have a good night everyone!

Can I visit any more museums?

Tuesday January 18 12:45am
As if the ramen and curry museums weren’t enough, I went to Namco’s NamjaTown in Ikebukuro (just under the Sunshine City building) today to complete my round of “museum” type theme restaurants. Backtracking a bit, I had a late start today as I think I am getting pretty tired these days. My chronic headaches aren’t doing me any good either. I met up with Carol again today and while she consistently nudged me to go to a karoake place, I didn’t succumb t them. Maybe on a day with a clearer head I would have crumbled and gone down.

Being able to freely talk about anything while enjoying someone’s company is always nice. I pretty much spent the day chatting about pretty much anything. First with Carol – whom I am greatful for for all the things she has done for me, including preparing a nice going away present! – and next with Naomi, whom was nice enough to take me around places after work.

It’s funny how both people told me that everytime they see me, we end up eating lots. Seeing what I’ve been doing these past few days it sure seems that way. But the food here is so great, and eating good food really makes me happy so why not?

NamjaTown was yet again similar to a food “museum” as the Japanese like to call these things. One section is devotged strictly to gyoza (chinese dumplings). Another section of the building is dedicated to desserts including roll cakes and shu-creams. They had different restuarants specializing in different things like curry, in addition to having games and haunted houses and other amusement park type things. After looking through the different sections carefully, Naomi and I opted for the curry restaurant as a first course. After spending some time there discussing the various differences in Japanese and Canadian customs and whatnot, we made our way to the gyoza section where I had gyoza with cheese and tomato sauce. A little different spin to the typical gyozas made it taste a little like a ravioli. Naomi’s was also very interesting as she ordered a half fried and boiled gyoza that came with an endless amount of fried and crispy skin.

After the gyoza came the dessert, where I had a matcha roll cake and Naomi went for a shu-cream pastry that was been a number 1 selling item for that vendor for the past 5 months. Both of them were really good. Definetely one of the better shu-creams I have had before: the custard inside is not too sweet, yet is still firm and creamy, and the outside was crispy and done to perfection wth a slight hint of nut. The roll was moist yet not too soggy, had a perfect blend of red beans inside, and had a wonderful matcha aftertaste to it that made you going back for more. I can only imagine what the chocolate roll cake would have tasted like. It was sold out by the time we got to it so sadly I couldn’t taste it.

All-in-all I had another great day. It’s pretty sad to think that this was the last time I will see both Carol and Naomi for a while. As with anything, all good things must come to an end I suppose. I must figure out a way to be able to extend the good things and diminish the not-so-good things.

I haven’t done so yet but I will finally phone Air Canada tomorrow morning to book my flight back to Toronto. I knew this day had to come sometime but I didn’t want it to come so soon. I could probably stay here for a lot longer but doing so would only make me lazier and I would simply be procrastinating the inevitable.

I’ll leave it at this for now. Have a goodnight everyone.

Ramen and Curry Museums

Sunday January 17 1:35am
I went to Yokohama today with Carol, where we spent the day at the Ramen Museum and the Curry Museum. While they have little to do with the history and facts about the actual food (although the Ramen museum did have a section dedicated to the history of ramen), these places are there to showcase some of the different types of ramen and curry. Each museum is packed with different vendors, each with their own lineups of at least 30 minutes when I went.

We tested two ramen places. While the first place had the better cha-siu (pork), the second place had a better soup base and noodles. The ramen korokke (potatoe dumpling) which is made from fried ramen noodles was a very interesting treat as well. The inside of the “museum” is decked out in old Japanese style fashion with alleyways made to look like how they were in the olden days. They even had a store selling Japanese candy that were popular way back in the days.

We walked off the ramen by taking a stroll at the harbourfront area. I realized how slow I had become in that hedgehog pounding game. We strolled around the mall there that seems to house American brands and came across this place that was giving away free plants and flowers. I’ve never seen any place give away so many flowers.

The curry museum was less busy than the ramen one so we were able to walk and choose which ones we wanted leisurely. Our first choice was the indian curry dish that was more like a curry biryani. It was actually pretty good. Second tasting was fried curry, which was also very good. Our last tasting was some sort of omelette green curry type. That wasn’t as tasty as the other two in my opinion. Nonetheless it was a full day of eating some of my favourite Japanese foods.

It was just a shame that it was raining for most of the day. It made it much colder than it should have been. Here’s hoping for better weather tomorrow.

Who wants melon soda? I do! I do!

Saturday January 15 11:52pm
Going back to last night… I went to Roppongi Hills with Carol and saw Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film “Howl’s Moving Castle” which I liked a lot. It was typical of Miyazaki’s films complete with soundtrack from Joe —, a cute creature that touches everyone’s hearts, and a sweet love story behind it all. After the movie we both had a pretty bad headache. I’m not sure why I got mine but it started the day before. We stopped over at Afternoon Tea where we grabbed a cup of tea (with those funny looking tea warmers). We had a nice conversation in Japanese as we tried our best to get our headaches out of our heads.

In the evening I met up with Naomi, Candy, Stuart, his cousin, and Min-chi. We all went to the 32nd floor of the Shibuya Crossings building to La Rochelle. Dinner was expensive. It was good, but I can’t say that it was spectacularly good. My total came to be 10350 yen and that was one of the cheaper dinners! I would say the dinner was good because of the company. It’s nice to go out with a group of people to a fancy restaurant once in a while. Mr. Sakai was not there at the time, which was kind of expected. I also learned that Iron Chef Chen Kenichi’s restaurant was not far away from La Rochelle as well. Maybe next time I will go there!

I came home pretty late last night and woke up at 6am this morning. I stayed in bed until about 6:25am at which time I woke up and got ready to go to Tsujiki, the famous fish market here in Tokyo. I met up with Naomi and Candy at 8:30am at the fish market where we walked in the huge warehouse that houses all the fish you can ever want or see in one place. Little trolley cars buzzing left, right, and center, slippery floors, and people running amok with fish in their hands, it was quite the sight.

After looking at the warehouse area we walked through the aisles where the restaurants and small shops lined the streets. Rather than going for sushi we opted to go for unagi since I had yet to eat any good unagi (bbq eel) during my stay here. My unagi donburi was nice and soft, but the tare (sauce) could have been a little sweeter for my liking. Nonetheless it was better than any of the frozen unagi you get in Toronto.

After walking some more we decided to go to the restaurant supply district, which is an area close Asakusa (the exact name escapes me) that has stores lined up selling everything and anything that you’ll ever need if you decide to open your own store. From restaurant uniforms to menubooks to stools to paper to wrapping stickers to neon signs to menu-writing signs to instant ramen soup mix and last but not least, to plastic sample foods, this district had it all. While Naomi left for her Japanese Caligraphy lessons halfway through, Candy and I stepped in and out of stores looking at all the things that we could never afford. I think the most interesting store had to have been the plastic food samples. They had everything from plastic sushi to ramen to curry to drinks like draft beer, ice coffee, and my all-time favourite, melon soda.

The stores were so colourful it was hard to resist coming out of the store empty-handed. While these plastic food samples are known to be fairly expensive, they are very tempting to buy just for the fun of it. The more expensive the food sample, the more realistic they are. As weird as this may sound, you can tell which food looks more real than the other. The ones that look more fake are generally the cheaper ones. I opted for a 2900 yen glass of melon soda, complete with ice cubes and bubbles throughout. It will sit proudly on top of my desk in my room as I stare at the bright, artificially coloured green drink everyday wishing for that pure, 100% artificial taste of Japanese melon soda. This drink brings back good memories of me while in Japan during my childhood years so it was hard for me to get anything else. As much as I like ramen and curry rice, a glass of melon soda instantly brings me back to those good old days. A cream soda, which is a melon soda with a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be nice too, however one of those would have set me back 3600 yen, and that was without the ice cubes!

In any case, I was happy with my purchase, and went back to Shinjuku where Candy and I browsed about Yodobashi Camera and Bic Camera before heading home. Although it rained all day long today, I walked quite a bit outside. I kept telling myself walking out in the cold should freeze my headache out of my head. It eventually did go away with the help of my dad’s prescription migraine medication.

Tomorrow’s plan is to go to Yokohama, however I shall take it slow as I am considerably tired now. It’s been a long day. Goodnight.

Good eats.

Friday Jan. 14 10:00am
Today’s a late start. It’s nice to be able to be so “nonburi”. Yesterday my brother and I went to Akihabara just to see the changes to the place since the last time we went there. It’s at least 10 years ago that I last visited there. Just like most places I’ve been to already, the place didn’t seem all that big and bright and bustling like I remembered it. I guess things do look a lot different when you’re younger. Akihabara was actually quite a disappointment as it wasn’t as exciting a place as I had once thought it was. Some of the stores are now owned by Chinese people who cater to the international market. The place now seems more like a tourist attraction than a place where the Japanese go to buy their electronic goods. You’re supposed to bargain when you buy things there too, which I was never good at. I’m happy at buying stuff at Bic Camera.

After a quick test run of the newly released Play Station Portable unit, we left Akihabara in search of a Mos Burger – Japanese fine burger and coffee – so it says. After looking all around Shinjuku station from the east, west, and south exits we finally found it. I got my mos cheeseburger combo with fries and onion rings along with my melon soda. The burger wasn’t anything to rave about but I did leave the place with a nice, rubber Mos Burger coaster that I asked if I could take home since I was here on holidays.

At night we met up with Naomi whom was kind enough to cope with our indecisiveness. We started off at a yakitori place, which was followed by an okonomiyaki place (with my second melon soda of the day!), then a Japanese desserts place in Shiodome Tower. I enjoyed it very much so as I’m sure my brother did too. Thanks Naomi!

Today’s plan takes me to Roppongi Hills where I will see Hayao Miyazaki’s latest masterpiece: Howl’s Moving Castle. Then at night I will have dinner at La Rochelle, which so happens to be the restaurant of the famous Iron Chef French, Sakai Hiroyuki. Here’s hoping that he personally cooks for us!