Sunday, December 22, 2013

Land of the Rising Sun, Japan

Side Note: This blog has surpassed 7 Million page views!

I have just returned from my Japan short visit (for business trip actually), which I managed to squeeze out one and a half day for personal walkabout and shutter therapy. Yeap, you heard that right, I was doing Shutter Therapy on the streets of Japan, a perfect conclusion for my 2013. In case you do not know, this was also my first ever visit to the land of rising sun. 

As usual, bloggers at this time of the year would start to summarize and conclude their major events of the year and perhaps compose a closing blog entry for the year. I decided not to do that this year, after all I can always pause and do a quick reflection, re-capping the happenings in my life from time to time, and that does not necessarily have to be at the end of the year. As an alternative, I decided to make this Japan trip blog coverage as my final blog entry of this year. Therefore, this blog will be extra long, with a lot more photographs than usual (apologies to slow internet users) and I shall also randomly throw in more thoughts and sharing my experience in a more lengthy writing than usual. Considering all that I have gone through this year, with my mum's surgery, change of career path and me joining Olympus Malaysia in an official capacity, I do think that being out of the country for almost a week in Japan was the perfect finale I could have asked for. 

Before flying to Japan, I have consulted a few friends for advice, tips and recommendations on places to visit and shoot, especially for a photography-enthusiast with extra itchy fingers, with extremely limited time. Huey Yoong (click) has been extremely helpful in providing me very useful info, in fact I planned my entire layout for my schedule almost solely based on her detailed, well thought-out recommendation. I have shown the initial plan to my colleagues in Japan and asked for further improvements or tweaks if necessary, but everyone agreed that the plan worked, and was very good already. Also special thanks to a Japanese blog reader Norikazu Maki who emailed me and added a location for my shoot. The following list describes my locations which I have visited, in chronological order:

1) Hachioji
2) Shinjuku
3) Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
3) Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa
4) Akihabara
5) Yebisu Garden Place
6) Shibuya

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko lenses: 9-18mm F4-5.6, 17mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8


Friendly Japanese Folks. Hachioji



Mid Day Activities. Hachioji

The Cold Sun. Hachioji

Rush Hour. Hachioji

Decorated Pavement. Shinjuku


Concrete Jungle. Shinjuku

Rising Up. Shinjuku

Eco-Friendly. Shinjuku

Intense labor. Shinjuku

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building


Here are my random thoughts about Japan which I have collected during my short trip:

1) The whole place is very silent
On the streets, on the train, in the restaurant, everywhere, people are more silent than I expected. Perhaps people are culturally trained to respect each other's privacy and not disrupt with excessive unnecessary humanly made noise. For example in the train, the rule stated that everyone must have their phones turned off or switched to silent mode, and no conversation over the phone was allowed. The result, the whole train ride was as if someone pressed the human "mute" button. I must say coming from a country (Malaysia) where speaking, laughing and even shouting loudly (of joy of course) this new-found silence was indeed something refreshing, and I could get used to. Even on the busy streets during rush hour, in the coffee place, or any other locations, silence is the golden rule that everyone strictly observed. Amazing now everyone can be so quiet. Consequently everywhere I went to in Japan, I felt the sense of calm and peace. 

2) Survival Tip: The Internet
One of the must have item for any traveller to Japan, is Internet Connection. I subscribed to Japan Wireless (3G Modem Rent service) and paid in advance before arriving in Japan, and collected my wireless modem from the hotel. With Internet connection, you have your smartphone which will be your best friend throughout your stay in Japan. I used Google Maps to help me find my way and to translate some very important Japanese words. The Google Maps from extremely helpful, with complete route planning from your current location to the intended location, complete with walking distance calculations, public transport options, train routes, how many stops, and which platform to take the train from. On top of that, the transportation fee is also shown in Google Maps, allowing advanced planning to make sure you have enough cash. I was stunned to find out how expensive train rides are in Japan! It can cost as expensive as RM30 over per ride, and that is only one way. Also, using Google or internet search, I can have access to immediate information on the go, which may be helpful when plans do deviate or something interesting popped up in front of you. 

3) Cold Weather, but Pleasant
When I was in Japan for the almost one week stay, weather was cold, ranging between below zero degrees Celcius at night  to 10 Degrees Celcius during the day time. It felt as if I was in Perth, Australia during winter, but a lot more humid and wetter here. It was raining half of the time I was in Japan, and the rain was no fun at all. Not only was it wet and unpleasant to get around, the sky was white and ugly. I spent more time wiping the lens filter than actually taking any photos in my later location visits. Since i only had very limited time, I had to make do with what I can and still continue walking out and shoot. I managed to find abandoned umbrella by the bridge walkway and used the umbrella, thankfully, because it rained even heavier after that. Knowing that it rained a lot, my photography outcome was also affected!

North Tower, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

North Tower, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

North Tower, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Evening Buildings, Shinjuku

Skyscrapers, Shinjuku

An Evening in Shinjuku

Autumn Leaves, Shinjuku

Back Street, Shinjuku

4) Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
For the first timers, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is a must visit. The entrance is free, and you get to go up to the observation deck at 45th floor (two views, but I randomly chose North Tower). The scenery from the 45th floor windows was simply breathtaking. I arrived just in time before sunset. I immediately realized one very big issue: reflection. I did not have the circular polarizing filter with me to cut out reflection and glare, hence reflection (from internal lighting system) was evident in almost all my shots, and it was even more evident as the sky got darker. For the same reason I did not stay till dark, plus I did not carry a tripod with me around. Nonetheless, the visit to the observation deck was one to remember. 

5) Being Selective, and put the camera aside at times. 
It was an urge to just randomly and endlessly click at anything and snap everywhere I see. I decided against that. Instead I made sure I do not take "touristy" shots, or images that are too plain. For many scenes or views being seen for the first time, I recorded them with my own eyes. I took my time to actually enjoy the views and really feasted my eyes without the distraction of calculating F-Stops or making sure the focusing was accurate. I knew when to put the camera away and just enjoy the moment. This was not an easy thing to do considering how little time I actually have. The important thing is to make sure I shoot only the things that I want to shoot. I still come home with massive amount of image files, but at least upon first encounter I have filtered more than 80% of what would have not even be selected to be used on this blog. 

6) Different Approach to Photography than usual
Since I was not familiarized with this new hunting ground, I did not dare to go all out and attack the strangers, fearing what would have happened if I did my usual walk up to stranger and just shoot routine. I was being a lot more discrete and hide myself more than usual. You will see many of the photographs were taken with the strangers not even realizing I was shooting them. Do not get me wrong, I find Japanese people to be extremely friendly and helpful in many times, but it does take a while for me to get comfortable and build up confidence before I can do what I normally do in Malaysian streets. One day is certainly not enough for me to pull that off. Hence, shooting from a distance, and being the "invisible" photographer approach were being deployed to grab most of my shots in this entry. Having smaller camera and smaller lenses do help a lot in this sense. I did however, manage to get a few strangers to pose for me, and do close up portraits, which turned out pretty alright. I really, really wished I had more time to know the streets more, and ultimately shoot and shoot more photographs!

Busy Crossing. Shinjuku

Popular Transport: Bicycle. Shinjuku

Selling Something? Shinjuku

Pedestrian Crossing. Shinjuku

Super Busy Crossing. Shinjuku. 

Happy People. Shinjuku

Meeting Point. Shinjuku

City of Neon Lights. Shinjuku

Beautiful Stranger. Shinjuku


7) Wrong Timing
I visited Akihabara, the Otaku central, famed for local folks dressed up in anime/manga characters aka cosplayers style. It was raining as I was there, thus everyone was covered up in winter jacket and thick overcoats. No luck for me to shoot some dolled up princess or anime characters. That being an important point, Japanese people are known to have more evolved sense of fashion (at least in comparison to Malaysians in general) and shooting them in public (or even observing) would have been an interesting experience. No such luck, as it was cold, pretty much the fashion show I got was winter fashion instead. Perhaps I should plan another trip to Japan, when it was warmer. Nevertheless, Akihabara was not a total loss, as I did step into Japan's largest camera and electrical store chain, the Yodobashi Akiba. I even accidentally found my photographs used as promotional material there (purchased from me of course) and it was quite a flabbergasting experience seeing my own photos there! 

8) Hunting for Used Camera Shops in Akihabara
Checking up on Japan Camera Hunters' website (link here), I was trying to locate two stores, Nisshin and Hikari, but I only successfully found Nisshin. As described in Japan Camera Hunter Hikari was really very well hidden and after a few rounds of finding it I decided to give up. I did see some very great deals for micro 4/3 gear at Nisshin. Too bad my budget was too tight, or else I would be coming home with an extra lens or two! 

9) Sun Position, Early Sunset
During this time of the year, I observed that the sun was almost always shining from a side angle, and never went all the way on top of the head. Perhaps Japan was located at the northern part of the globe, and the sun would not shine down from the top directly (as it does during noon at Tropical countries like Malaysia). This in interesting to me because I always avoid shooting during noon in Malaysia due to the harsh, unflattering look the light from top creates. Considering light is always shining from the side at this time of the year in Japan, one can shoot even during noon! How I wish that is also applicable in Malaysia. Another point to note is the very early sunset at 430pm, meaning much longer night life for Japan. Indeed, roaming around the streets of Shinjuku and Shibuya, the Japan at night is wild and alive. The streets were brightly lit, overly done so by the overcrowded neon lights all fighting to outshine each other. People came from everywhere and all directions, and crossing the roads may be a more hectic experience for an average Malaysian like myself. That being said, I do treasure the fact that there were so many places to go to at night, and shops and commercial places were open till late.  

Leaf-less. Mt Takao

Lonely One. Mt Takao

Generous Donors. Mt Takao

Tied Coins. Mt Takao

Temple and Shrines. Mt Takao

Christmas Mood. Yebisu Garden Place

Rainy Christmas. Yebisu Garden Place

Christmas Lights. Yebisu Garden Place

Stranger in Ebisu. Yebisu Garden Place

10) I experience snow for the first time in my life!
Weather forecast did mention about the high possibility of snow, and as we climbed the Mount Takao, suddenly I felt the change from light rain to something that fell a lot slower than rain drops. They were solid and it was actually snow! My colleagues pointed out to me that it could have been sleet instead of snow, something in between snow and rain and can be rather unpleasant. I am not sure about the unpleasant part, but I still think it was pretty cool and seeing something like this for the first time just made my day. I tried shooting the snow in still images but they all turned out rather ugly. Instead, I decided to just capture a short video clip (click) as an evidence that there was indeed snow (or something close to snow, since this was the closest a Malaysian boy could ever come to). The snow did get heavier and heavier and at one point it covered my winter jacket and even my camera bag, which require constant shaking off. It started to get annoying as the snow/sleet/whatever started to stick in front of the lens filter. 

11) Christmas in Japan
Due to the cold weather, and the existence of snow, Japan is a lot closer to Christmas experience than Malaysia ever was. A very kind blog reader,  Norikazu Maki recommended me to visit Yebisu Garden Place, which turned out to be a worthwhile deviation from my original route, and I did not have to spend too much time there since it was a passing by location. The garden was lighted up with Christmas themed decorations, and was very beautiful. This place is not large, but the lights were so carefully arranged and it looked breathtaking, definitely infinitely better than what that money wasting I-City in Selangor looked like. Seriously that I-City place looked uglier the more I see it. 


Grand Entrance. Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

Keeping Warm. Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

Burning Incense. Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

Heat. Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

Dragon Blessed. Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

Souvenirs. Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

What Is Your Number? Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa


Were they Hand-made? Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

Japanese Art. Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

Temple Interiors. Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

Devotion. Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

Stall Operators. Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

Rainy Temple Days. Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

The Professional Photographer. Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

On the whole, I think this will be a trip I will always remember. I think I am in love with Japan. The place is so breathtaking and I have not even explored the more exotic places outside the city, and certainly I heard the parks and gardens were very beautiful as well. I do not mind even just to spend a whole day in the city just roaming around aimlessly and shooting the street scenes, and attacking random beautiful strangers. People in Japan were warm and very friendly. Language might be an issue but out of so many people around chances are you might find a few who speak fluent English if you look hard enough. 

My only wish was that my stay was longer, and I had more time to myself, and spending most of those time just to shoot and shoot. That would be a dream come true. I have always heard how beautiful Japan is, and have seen many photographs my friends have shown, but seeing it with my own eyes I have a new sense of appreciation for Japanese culture and art. Those of us from other countries know Japan from their sub-cultures such as manga/anime, food, festival celebrations (think Bon-Odori), and at some degree movie and music, so there really was not surprises since we were basically exposed to the basic culture and tradition. I guess I must be speaking too soon, as what I have just experienced was only the tip of the iceberg. I look forward to see more and definitely, shoot more in the future. 

Anime Central. Akihabara

Portrait of a Japanese. Akihabara

Yodobashi Akiba. Akihabara

Rainy Streets in Akihabara

Speed Limit. Akibahara
  
backalley. Akihabara


Wet and Cheers. Akihabara

Neon Lights in Day. Akihabara

Warm Lights. Akihabara

Gigantic Ramen. Akihabara

Connecting Tunnels. Ebisu. 

Umbrella Wars. Shibuya

Elevated Pedestrian Crossing. Shibuya

Human Traffic Congestion. Shibuya

Transparent Umbrellas. Shibuya

Bright Streets. Shibuya

A Walk in the Rain. Shibuya

Food in Japan is incredible! You know I have always complained how Japanese food in Malaysia sucks (generally) because they were never prepared by real Japanese cook, but lousily done by locals or worse, some unqualified foreign workers who knows nothing about Japanese food or culture. Yet the price for Japanese food in Malaysia is not cheap. Now I have first hand tasting at Japan, I must say I really love their food there. 

Ramen was everywhere! Soba and Udon were also popular and I love all of them. There were quite a few variations (but ultimately most food were served with either rice, udon, soba or ramen) and then there were restaurant food with more fancy selections. Unfortunately I do not read Japanese, so all I did was simply looking at photographs in menu, went to the vending machine, let the machine eat my money and selected the food that I solely decided based on the menu photo. Then the ticket was made by the machine and I handed the ticket over to the eatery staff. 5-10 minutes later, food was served. A lot of guessing game here but hey, every meal has turned out great and I thoroughly enjoyed all Japanese food I have come across. 

Sushi was cheap after hours! Ming Thein was right, he told me that sushi would have huge price slash during the evening (after 9pm) and I bought some for myself for supper. Even the supermarket packed sushi in Japan tasted way better than most sushis made in restaurants in Malaysia. 














My 2013 has been a roller coaster ride. I think I have gone through some drastic changes this year, and been through more than I have had in the past many years. Nonetheless, I am still here alive and kicking, and many of that, I must thank you beautiful readers for being here for me (especially during my difficult times, my mum's surgery) and I will not be here without your help, support and encouraging words all this while. 

I believe I am at the point of life where change is the only constant, and I will do my best to adapt and move on. Everything turned out great so far. 

I will be home in Kuching to celebrate Christmas with beloved mum. Hence, I will not have time to shoot and update this blog until the new year. 

Wishing all of you beautiful people Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year 2014! 


104 comments :

  1. WOW!
    That is all I can say....
    and another one...
    YOU lucky guy..

    I have stayed in japan almost 1 year but never got the chance to take pictures .. (that time I only have a 2.1mp camera...

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hey Robert,
      Thanks for the kind words! You should make a return to japan just to shoot with your E-M1!

      Delete
  2. awesome pic from japan, enjoyed

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    1. Hey Mr Lonely,
      Thanks! Glad you did.

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  3. Awesome pictures! I've been to Japan numerous times but the pics I came home with aren't 1/10 as great as yours. BTW Robin, out of curiosity, which lens(es) did you use for the shots with the heavy bokeh? Was it the 17mm and the 45mm? Thanks!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Herman. t was mostly the 45mm F1.8. amazing lens. If only I brought along the 75mm f1.8, the depth of field would have been shallower!

      Delete
  4. Wow Robin, what a great post! You have such a great eye for the interesting things that most of us would probably walk past. I really love the colours and vibrance of your shots here. I have only had my E-M1 for a week and am slowly coming to grips with it. I have been seriously considering getting the 17/1.8 and 45/1.8 to enable me to do more low light work. These shots of yours are not helping the GAS! :-)

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    1. Thanks for the kind comments Unknown. Those two lenses, 17mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8 are must have lenses!

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  5. Hi Robin, I found your blog because I'm planning to buy Panasonic 20mm/1.7 for my E-PL1. I love street photography but as a woman I don't wont to carry very heavy camera equipments with me so most of my blog pictures have been taken by a mobile phone.

    It was funny to read about your first snow experiences because I live in Finland. :D I like your pictures and writing style a lot, so I think I will continue reading your blog. Merry Xmas!

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    1. Hey Epis,
      I want to visit Finland one day! Yes, snow was quite an experience!

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    2. Robins writing style is unique... very honest.. as if coming from an older brother..
      On my computer I ran text to speech , the text to speech is in british accent...
      So oh my it is quite an experience.. it is addictive... Inspiring...

      :)

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    3. Oh that is interesting, let me try that!

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  6. Thank you for sharing this experience with us. Makes me want the E-M1 and to travel to Japan all the more.

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    1. Hey Nolan, my pleasure to share. You should get an E-M1, and you should travel to Japan!

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  7. Wow! "Umbrella wars" left me speechless! Thank you for sharing the magic!

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  8. So far, this is the BEST entry I think.. Welcome back..! And congratulation for that 7 million views
    Merry Christmas and a very blessed New Year mate

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    1. Hey Capin! Thanks for the kind words. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too!

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  9. Jellllyyy Japan so beautiful :D

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    1. jackie! Plan a trip there, it is so totally worth it.

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    2. very very engrossing blog entry ...images ..write-up and all.. ! The colors in the images are real 'eye candy'...:)

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    3. Thanks for the kind words! The place itself is very vibrant and live, the images represented what were already there!

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  10. SO SO gorgeous! I can't wait till I head to Japan one day. And they have so many transparent umbrellas! And i love that shot with so many umbrellas but one guy looked surprised. :0

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    1. Yah soooo many transparent umbrellas!

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  11. Nice!... great pics... any going into Olympus' promo materials?

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    1. Hey Tom, nah, just a induction thingy and official matters, but was awesome trip!

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  12. Thanks for keeping me inspired :D have a great Christmas celebration and year end count down!! Love some of the photo as well :p

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    1. Thanks TianChad, lets inspire each other! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too!

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  13. Great post Robin, I think this is one of your best by far :) my fave are Leaf-less. Mt Takao; Lonely One. Mt Takao; Generous Donors. Mt Takao; Heat. Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa; Umbrella Wars. Shibuya; Rising Up. Shinjuku; North Tower, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
    Merry Christmas and a very happy, prosperous New Year for you.

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    1. Thanks Edwin, those are my favourites too! Merry Christmas and Happy new year to you too!

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  14. Just want to add My Favorite is the
    Leaf less Mt Takao
    Rising Up
    Autumn Leaves
    Busy Crossing
    Super Busy Crossing
    Lone Leaf

    and most of all the KATSUDON!..
    Ok I am on my way to sushi sanmai..

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    1. Thanks for pointing out! Loving those shots too.

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  15. Merry Xmas Robin. Have a save trip home and a Great Year ahead! - nafim :)

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    1. Thanks nafim! happy New Year to you too.

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  16. Great shots, Robin! I especially like the low shot of the man waiting to cross Shinjuku. When we were in Tokyo we stayed in Asakusa, it was really interesting, and we were super jet-lagged, so we were out and about at 5 a.m.... very quiet. Shinjuku wasn't as busy as we expected, maybe we hit it at the wrong time. Anyway, glad you enjoyed yourself, I can see how Tokyo must have been quite an experience for you, it's about as different from KL as a major city can be. I like both, but personally I found Tokyo a little sterile and "cold" (we were there in August, it was literally the hottest place we've ever been). My wife and I both agreed that it was actually our least favorite city in Japan (not as bad as it sounds, since Japan is pretty awesome). I was still new to street photography then, so my confidence was pretty low, and I think I missed a lot of great shots. If you ever get the chance to go back, and have a choice, try to go to Kyoto, I think you would really like it too. It's friendlier, more approachable, and more photogenic than Tokyo (geisha!). And snow! We saw our first snow in two years on the Annapurna trek in Nepal last month... can't say I missed it much.

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    1. Hey Tony,
      Thanks so much for the kind words. the low angle shot was a split second reaction shot, just immediately after I snapped the image the man moved forward!
      I think you were right about the city being cold, but then again I was there during the coldest weather so everyone was not really feeling very pleasant walking around in such wet and cold weather. But I do find the people generally kind and very helpful.
      Thanks for the suggestion on Kyoto. Will keep that in mind and surely I will find a chance to visit!

      Delete
  17. I am crying now, reminded how far from home I am, reminded how long ago I last visited.

    Thanks for taking the time to write the names correctly!

    Even though Shinjuku was not home, I spent a great deal of time there my last visit. I even visited my friends' school there. The whole area was very lively and inexpensive--for Japan. My first time in Shinjiku station, I remember smelling the aroma of a mass eatery serving curry rice. For ¥300, you could get all the curry rice you could eat. That was before the new Tokyo Metro Building, and not much later that day, we were on the 53rd floor of a building near that government building's future location.

    It always surprises me how boisterous non-Japanese are, especially people from Mainland China. Your observation about the train is an indication of preserving privacy--there is so little when strangers are pressed against you at rush hour. Years ago, over the ear headphones were banned because the noise was intolerable, so ear buds had to be used.

    I'm glad you had the chance to visit and I hope it was as productive as it was enjoyable.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I am glad you liked the photos and how they reminded you of home!

      I sure hope I did not make any mistakes in the city names.

      Shinjuku is a very nice place, was my favourite of all I have visited. You were right, the food there is actually not too expensive, but I sure would be very interested to try that ¥300 curry rice!

      It is interesting to note the silence that everyone observed. I don't think you can find similar practise anywhere else in the world. Malaysia is just the total opposite!

      The trip has been a great and fruitful one. Cannot wait for another trip to Japan!

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    2. You did just fine with the names. I did not remember the name of the temple, so it's good that you took some photos. I wish I could find my negatives to scan...and repair.

      Shinjuku has a lot of students, having the second largest university in the country, and it has all the tall buildings, which seem too tall for the earthquake zone. I think that the curry rice place has gone up in price quite a lot, but it was about 2 times the price of the ride on the Odakyu train, so it's probably still inexpensive. If you haven't tried Japanese curry, you should just buy an instant, foil package of SB Curry or House Vermont Curry with vegetables. I'm betting KL has them.

      When I was reading your blog entry about the silence on the train, I remembered a Singaporean friend complaining about the Chinese on the bus in Singapore being so loud! Even when I go to the Japanese mall and they're having special events, the people calling you to buy food are just loud enough. :-D

      Delete
  18. lucky you can see Mt Fuji from the Tokyo Metro Gov building... coz not all the time u can see it from Tokyo. :)

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    1. hey Cliff,
      I realized that on the subsequent days when it was raining heavily!

      Delete
  19. Very beautiful photos. Japan is one place that you will not mind to visit again and again. So clean, so awesome; so safe and so easy to go from place to place. Merry Xmas.

    SiewKS

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, SiewKS. I will surely return to Japan!

      Delete
  20. Have to say that 'Umbrella Wars' is my favourite shot. I love the expression on the man's face! I lived in Japan for two years as a student - one in Hiroshima and the other in Gunma. The experience certainly changed my life. Though I wouldn't choose to live there a lifetime, it will always remain close to my heart. Cheers! Heather

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    1. Hey Heather,
      Thanks for sharing! I think student days in uni will always have a special place in my heart too. You were so lucky to have Japan during your student days!

      Delete
  21. Put me down as a vote for umbrella wars as well. That is one great shot. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - I should be in KL Feb 10 onwards for a couple of weeks :)

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    1. Looking forward to seeing you again Ananda!

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  22. Hi Robin,
    i follow your shutter therapy, for about 2 years or so. To me, this was by far the best. Was it because Japan, the E-M1 or the weather?
    Best wishes from germany, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
    Frank D

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Frank. I think it is the combination of all three!
      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too!

      Delete
  23. Hey Robin,

    In my opinion, these photos (except for the ones in the Hindi Cave Temple) are without doubt your best work to date! Yodobashi is camera heaven, yes? If I could afford it I would live in Japan - my favorite place on Earth - thanks for taking me back once again...

    David in Seattle

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    1. Hey David,
      Thanks for the kind words! Indeed Yodobashi was a camera heaven, spent quite a deal of time there.

      Delete
  24. I'm surprised to know you managed to get time to go to Mt. Takao!
    Hikari Camera in Akihabara has been closed in May this year.
    and, yes, Japan resides in rather higher latitude, the sun never rise higher (but much higher than Europe.) and goes down earlier than tropic countries in most part of Japan.
    South-most of Japan that is an island still is north than Taiwan.

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    1. Hey Zetton,
      It was quite a short trip and we did not make it all the way. Was snowing and the view from the mount was all blurry!

      Delete
  25. Fantastic captures, Robin! :)

    I love Japan, and am planning to go on my second trip there some time in May next year :D I've only gone to Osaka last time, so this time I'll be visiting Tokyo as well as Osaka, so thanks for the tip on Tokyo Metropolitan Building! Will definitely make a pitstop there for a great view. I'm so jealous of your photography skills, but it's great looking at Japan through another person's lens.

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    1. Hey Nadirah,
      Thanks for the kind words but I knew I could do better if I had more time!
      A tip about the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, find out the local sunset time there, and be there about an hour (or half an hour, depending on how much time you need) before sunset. That is a good time to shoot the golden hour. Plus, it depends on luck, not all the time you get clear view like I did, and I was fortunate.
      Also, the view was through window glass and there were problems with reflection! If you have a circular polarizer it might help.

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  26. Welcome back, Robin.
    Superb images as usual and I love your panning images. Thank you for bringing us along your walk in the street and seeing the beautiful sunset from high tower above. Your cold sun and your rain shots immerse us in your images. You tickle my heart to visit Japan. Actually my wife always talk about a Japan trip. Maybe we will visit Japan one day.
    As the Christmas Holiday is coming, we wish you and your family, "Merry Christmas, dear brother." Send our regards and our hugs to your beloved mum.
    Thank you.
    John Ragai & Agnes Ngieng.

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    1. Hey John!
      Thanks for the kind words! The panning shots were not easy especially on busy streets like Japan.
      I am sure you will love Japan! It is such a beautiful country and I am sure you will enjoy shooting there.
      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to Both you and Agnes!

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  28. A fine and varied portfolio! Did you use more than one camera body in order to have two focal lengths ready at hand?

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    1. Hey diforbes,
      Thanks for the kind words. Nope, I used one body but changed lenses from time to time.

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  29. Fantastic set you have of Japan. really minds me of how sterile Japan is. The last time I went to Tokyo was 1999. And how different it is now.
    You should make a trip to Kyoto someday. :)

    Have a blessed Christmas and Happy New Year. What a year it has been for you. :)

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    1. Hey Calex!
      Thanks for the kind words! I am sure it is very different now in Japan. Thanks for the suggestion, Kyoto sounds like a great place to visit!
      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too!

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  30. Brilliant pictures, Robin! The "umbrella wars" is a stunner, and several of the cityscapes were lovely as well. The food shots, as always, make me hungry and remember my visits to Japan too. A wonderful country indeed - you should see all seasons as well. Try "sherataki" noodles next time, with fish, especially if you love seafood. Made from almost 100% fiber, when prepared carefully (they are packed in salted water and need to be rinsed properly first) makes for a very tasty and healthy dish, and very low in carbs to boot.

    Have a wonderful, merry Christmas, and a healthy and successful 2014 for you and your loved ones!

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    1. Hey Andre! Thanks, and I am glad to hear from you. I shall take note of the sherataki noodles next time! Merry Christmas and happy New year to you too!

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  31. Very very very inspiring and beautiful pictures from the author, Robin!
    Hi from Indonesia :)
    I'm just wondering on what you think of the Olympus lens, 12-40 f2.8.. Would that be a perfect lens for travelling?

    Thanks

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    1. Hey Adrian, thanks for the kind words. I have blogged about the 12-40mm briefly here: http://robinwong.blogspot.com/2013/11/almost-olympus-mzuiko-12-40mm-f28-pro.html

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  32. Great work Robin!
    I find the images out of modern Asian cities so interesting. It is strictly a cultural thing. I find the juxtaposition between the familiar modern and the local culture so interesting. Rural shots of Japan, Vietnam or Malaysia are all “exotic”. Very nice, but hard to find a anchor point. I think there has to be something that ties you into the shot for street photography. I was wondering if it worked the other way. Or has western look and feel so permeated everything thing else that it is not exotic to non-western eyes?

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    1. Thanks for the kind words DonLon. I guess what is not avaiable at your place will look enticing to you. Similarly, when I am out of my country. EVERYTHING starts to look interesting!

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  33. Great pics

    Robin you manage to capture beauty wherever you go.

    Best wishes for this Holiday season and a prosperous New Year!

    Don from America, a loyal Olympus fan since I got my OM-3 in the eighties.

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    1. Hey Don,
      Thanks! I see beauty everywhere I go! The photos do not do them justice.

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  34. Thank You for this and many other interesting posts and your thoughts. Place where people are silent and respect each other's privacy as you wrote, there I want to go was my first thought. Then I thought what about privacy and street shooting. I kept on reading and got an answer.

    What You say at item 5 is important point. You may have thousands of images but have seen nothing.

    About Your many good images Umbrella Wars and Rising Up were my favourites.

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    1. Hey tapio,
      Thanks for agreeing and yes sometimes we are too engrossed seeing through the viewfinder that we forgot to live the moment!

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  35. Hi Robin,

    Great photos as always!
    Your blog has brought me back to Olympus cameras. Thanks a lot.

    A Merry Christmas and a Happy Hew Year .
    May the new year bring you and your family health and joyfulness.

    Cheers from Germany

    Thomas

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    1. Hi thomas,
      Thanks for the compliments. Glad to know you have returned to Olympus!
      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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  37. Geweldig mooie foto's Robin bedankt u bent een groot fotograaf
    Ik ben ook de trotse bezitter van de OM-1
    Ik wens u ook hele fijne Kerstdagen en een gezond 2014
    Groeten uit Holland
    Janny

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    1. Ermm... Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too?

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    2. She says: Wonderful pictures, Robin, thanks - you are a great photographer. I am also the proud owner of a OM-1. Wishing you merry Christmas and a healthy 2014. Greetings from Holland (the Netherlands), Janny.

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  38. Geweldig mooie foto's Robin bedankt u bent een groot fotograaf
    Ik ben ook de trotse bezitter van de OM-1
    Ik wens u ook hele fijne Kerstdagen en een gezond 2014
    Groeten uit Holland
    Janny

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  39. Great pictures Robin. Thank you
    When you will test the new Oly Stylus 1? I'm really very nosey. Mary Christmas for all.

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    1. Hey Xysiu,
      Thanks for the kind words. As soon as I find time I will do that!

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  41. Wonderful pictures, as always, Robin.

    Hope your Christmas was very merry, and wishing you a very Happy New Year!

    It's because of you and your blog that I just ordered an EM-1 from Amazon, will be delivered tomorrow. I'm sure it won't be long before I also have the new 12-40mm, so Olympus is making lots of money from people reading your blog and buying Olympus gear. You definitely should get a raise in salary!

    Best wishes for 2014,
    Steve

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    1. I hope someone up there sees this.
      Merry Christmas and Happy New year to you too seadrive!

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    2. BTW Robin, I would love to support you by buying my equipment from B&H, but I live in New York, which means B&H has to charge me sales tax (8.625%). I don't mind spending an extra $8.63 on $100 worth of paper, but an extra $120 on $1399 for the EM-1 is just too much.

      You should sign up for an associates account on Amazon, so we have another option for supporting you and your wonderful blog!

      Regards,
      Steve

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    3. That's a great idea of Seadrive, Robin, that Amazon associates account. In fact next year (2014) I'll be buying some M4/3 camera gear, including a number of Oly primes. I'll buy it through either B&H or Amazon, but I would love to buy it in such a way that it would support you!

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  43. Lots of photos! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Robin!

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    1. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too Eugene!

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  44. Amazing, Mr Wong makes Japan look amazing, but at the same time, like a place with real people living in it. Robin Wong puts so much humanity in Japan with his pictures. It is thanks to this blog that I went with Olympus MFT. I just got the 17MM F1.8. But I also want a 45MM so bad because of Mr Wong's pictures. Thank you Mr Wong, please keep on blogging.

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    1. Thank you Mr Williams! Those two lenses are great and you should get them!

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  45. Amazing photos Robin. Love reading your blog as well.
    Will be heading back to KL and then Taiwan in April with my new E-M1...no thanks to your blog! just kidding! :-)
    First time Olympus user and very happy with it so far.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Patrick. And glad that you are using the E-M1! You coming to KL?

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    2. Yes, I will be going back to KL in April.

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    3. Do look me up again. email me and lets go for shutter therapy!

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    4. Thanks for the invite Robin. I will get in touch with you closer to date. :-)

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  46. Hi Robin, Thanks for sharing! I really love your work and one of the reason I jump into the Olympus bandwagon (E-m5)! Please keep em coming as you are truly an inspiration. I live in Winnipeg and for the past four weeks of terrible weather -20 to -30C your pictures are so welcomed and soothing my photography itch. Just two questions if you don't mind, raw shots right? When you are doing your landscape shots, do you stay away from smaller apertures f11 up to avoid diffraction? Your pictures again are just amazing and full of warmth and very natural! Thanks again!

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  47. Awesome photos! I really like the play with lights and reflections on wet floor and the christmas lights... so nice textures and highlights. :)
    Thanks!

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  48. hi robin... i am thinking seriously the m5 replacement...

    just wondering, how far did u stand from those strangers/walk-bys for those shallow dof shot... given my exp with 45/1.8 it is not easy to obtain such a shallow dof with normal shooting distance, in particular when shooting strangers..

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  49. Your photos are so amazing! I dream that one day I will be able to take shots like you:) I am an amateur but I hope I will improve soon. I created a blog today to post some go the pictures I took:) There are only a few of then now online but I will post more the next days:)

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  50. This is my blog: http://picture-that-perfect-memories.blogspot.ro check it out if you want.

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  51. Dear Robin:
    Very fun-to-read post and great pictures, as always!

    You write: "I want to visit Finland one day! Yes, snow was quite an experience!"

    As someone, who was born and raised in Siberia, I'd like to invite you to visit Siberia some day - you'll have no shortage of snow!!! ;-) Lake Baikal is an incredibly scenic area - you'll have great "shutter therapy" there!

    Cheers, mate!
    Alex

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