In two weeks will be my one and a half year anniversary of moving to Japan. I’ve largely stopped counting, but it’s coming to the end of another contract so it made me realise just how long it’s been.
I’ve recently bought a new camera – a development that has taken over a year of complaining, justification, and broken battery hatches. I’d had my old camera for almost seven years so it’s seen me through a lot of memories… multiple holidays, conventions, and four years of university. It also saw me through my first trip to Japan over two years ago, and my first year and a half of being an official resident here.
I decided that, as a send-off to the camera that moved here with me, I’d collect some of my favourite photos that I’ve taken over the last few years.
I took these two photos in Yamate, Yokohama. It was about a month after I’d moved to Japan, and we’d decided to explore the city a bit more. Yamate is the home to a historical district of residences built for foreign dignitaries in the 19th Century, and we went to check out the Home of a Diplomat. It was mid-late afternoon at this point and the sun was relatively low down,. There was a golden glow cast on the buildings of Minato Mirai and I took the first shot with a soft blur of Landmark Tower in the background. Eighteen months on and I still love the tower, so I think I might always.
Next we turned a corner and I could see the silhouette of Fuji and as this was the second time I’d ever seen it, I grabbed my camera instantly. I had to tiptoe and stick my lens through a fence to capture it properly but I think I didn’t do a bad job.
Hokokuji’s garden may be more well known for its bamboo, but I wasn’t about to exclusively take photos of them. I tried to get as many pictures as I could of the rest of it as well. I’m not sure what these plants were but they looked good swaying in the cold air. They stopped moving for a second and I managed to catch a macro shot that was about as clear as I could make it. For more about Hokokuji, click here.
This was another February 2019 picture. It had snowed that morning and I decided to take some photos, and even though most of it had melted, I still managed to get a few before the snow had completely disappeared. I like this one, partly because you can see the water droplets on the grass clearly, but partly because it has Landmark Tower in the distance. The clouds were so low they were obscuring the top floors and I figure that it makes it look more impressive, as you can’t clearly see just how far up it goes.
Back in September I visited Odawara Castle, including the on-site Samurai Museum.
A problem with taking photos in museums is that when you have a small point-and-shoot camera that’s seven years old, the low light settings aren’t too great. Combine that with a prohibition on flash photography and glass cases that would ruin it anyway, I tried a few times to get this picture. I had to angle this so I wouldn’t catch the reflection of the fire exit sign and I had to get up as close as the barrier would allow to capture it properly. I may have cut off the head, but I already had a few photos of the helmets and I like this better because you can see all the little details.
This boy stole my heart the moment I met him. He was certainly more affectionate than the other cats in the cafe, walking over to me and sitting in my lap of his own accord. I hadn’t been around many animals in my childhood, so now I’m an adult and less scared of everything that moves, I’m not entirely sure how to handle them. The fact that he chose me made me think: “You know what? Maybe I’m not so bad at this after all.”
Is it really fair if the location is so beautiful, it doesn’t matter what you do with the camera? I took this photo while visiting a friend in Nagano Prefecture, and she’d recommended here as a good photo spot. And she was definitely right about that.
We were racing back to Suwa from the neighbouring city of Ina, so we only had about five minutes to get the shot but I’m glad I could. For more about my trip to Nagano-ken, click here.
Choosing between all of my sakura photos was not an easy feat, especially after promising myself to only pick two. If I hadn’t, the whole post would probably be full of cherry blossoms. The sakura season is starting again right now and I’m hoping to break in my new camera taking pictures of them this year.
The first picture was taken in the appropriately named Sakuragicho. This is the main area of Minato Mirai, where you have Landmark Tower and Cosmoworld, and you can easily walk across to places like The Red Brick Warehouse and World Porters. I was trying to capture the sakura with the Cosmoworld Ferris wheel (or 観覧車, kanransha) in the background as it’s one of Yokohama’s most famous landmarks. I would be able to see it from two of my schools last year, and this year I can see it on my walk to the train station every morning. It’s turned into a habit to turn my head every time I come across the gap in the buildings. I like that in this picture, it’s just peeking out from behind, but the sakura are still the star of the show.
The second one is a bit more ‘average’. Taken on my way back from the city centre, the location may not be very special to anyone else, but one of my favourite things to do in the warmer weather was walk along Ookagawa. I grew up by a river and I would walk alongside it to get into town, so this is my Japan equivalent. Admittedly I sometimes catch the train back but I try to get some exercise when it isn’t cold. Especially during sakura season, the whole river is lined with blossoming trees and it’s beautiful.
I spent way too long trying to get an artsy photo this time. Every time the focus would be slightly off, or it wasn’t framed the way I wanted it, but I got it eventually.
This was taken at the Kawasaki branch of Round One: where an arcade meets a sports centre. The lower floors have things like pool, darts, and arcade games, but the rooftop has courts for different sports. We did mini-golf, archery, tennis, and also had a go in the baseball batting cages. I’m not gonna lie, I was painfully bad, but I did win mini-golf so I think I can be forgiven for that.
Now for another Kawasaki photo. Before heading to Round One, we’d visited Kawasaki Daishi – the most well-known temple in the city. In fact, there had been adverts for it along my old train line for ages without me realising but as soon as I’d been there, you can be sure I noticed them.
There’s a nice pond on the temple grounds, with a small bridge leading to a golden Buddha statue. I actually have a photo of it as the header image for my ‘Already Visited’ page. While crossing the bridge I saw a crane perched on a nearby rooftop and I took a picture. Thanks to the angle of the light and turning down my exposure, only the silhouette is visible but I like that.
This photo was a result of Lunar New Year crowds meeting short legs. My height may be a lot more ‘average’ here than it is in the UK, but that didn’t stop me from having an obstructed view. My friend had already switched places with me so I could see, so I was just happy I could see something. I did manage to get quite a few photos of the performances in Yokohama’s Chinatown, but I think this is my favourite. It feels like being part of the crowd and because of that it’s probably the most realistic.
In February 2018, we had a day trip to the Enoshima area. There were illuminations in the English garden that’s located there and it was the last chance to see them. To get to the Samuel Cocking Garden, you climb up to the top of Enoshima island, a walk that winds up many flights of stairs. We’d calculated that if we arrived at a certain time, we could watch the sunset from the top, before checking out the illuminations. And the plan worked.
Just as we got there, the sun had become a lot lower in the sky. The warm light was cast over everything, the whole Shonan coast filled with orange hues. The reflection of the sun shimmering on the the ocean’s surface caught my eye and a split second later I noticed the purple figure of Fuji-san in the distance. I had to take a photo – it would almost be a crime if I hadn’t.
In the garden is the Enoshima Sea Candle: a tower with an observation deck looking over Kanagawa on one side and the sea on the other. We queued for a while, fully aware of how fast night was approaching. Fortunately, there were still a few moments of sunset once we were allowed in. I like the second photo because it was my last chance to get the shot, and you can just about see the top of Japan’s most famous mountain in the background. The water looks so calm and still, there are the city lights along the coastline and I remember thinking how beautiful everything looked.
I was so glad I could get this photo. There’s sometimes an issue with taking pictures of strangers here, because Japanese people are more private when it comes to their identity. It’s the reason why you can’t turn the shutter sound off on smartphone cameras and sometimes people put stickers over their faces in Instagram posts. This is especially true of children, but this was a moment too cute to not capture. Because of that, I waited until her head was turned so I could keep her anonymous and there wouldn’t be a problem.
I took this at Enoshima, on the way up the hill to the last place I mentioned. There were quite a few things to see on the way and that’s when I came across this girl. She’d wandered up the path to the small shrine and it was just so adorable I knew I needed a photo. Taking the rope in her tiny hand, she rang the bell and I got the shot I wanted.
I like this photo, not because it’s a particularly stunning picture and not because its subject is particularly fancy, but because it is so ordinary. It’s a perfect snapshot of my life in Fukuoka as it represents two things the city is famous for – yatai and Hakata ramen. Yatai are street food stalls where you can buy a hot meal for cheap. Hakata ramen is the regional speciality of noodles, with a tonkotsu broth made of pork bones and topped with slices of meat, kikurage mushrooms, and spring onion. I went to this yatai with a friend from school, which I talked about in this post. It was one of the first moments that I felt that I was ‘living in Japan’ and that’s why this photo is special to me.
I chose this photo because I like the geometric pattern. This was taken at Fukuoka Tower, probably the most famous landmark in the city. I’d been trying to time my visit perfectly so I could watch the sunset, but my time was running out quickly and the only opportunity was during the day. Although… because I went then, the light was good enough to see everything so I clearly made the right decision. Most of the building is glass, including the elevator, so you can gaze over the coastline on your journey to the top.
I took this picture after looking up through the tower from the bottom. As a sci-fi fan, I like how ‘spacey’ it looks and it’s kind of reminiscent of places like Cape Canaveral in Florida (well, that part was at least).
This day was also close to the end of my time in Fukuoka. A month seemed to pass by like nothing so most of my sightseeing was packed into the last week. I visited the Fukuoka Castle Ruins to see a more historical side to the city. There I learned more about how Fukuoka and Hakata used to be two separate places before merging in 1876. Hakata was the bigger of the two population-wise but Fukuoka was more influential, so they both became Fukuoka City.
The castle may not exist in a complete state anymore, but you can wander around where it used to stand. Because it used to be a fortress, it has a good vantage point over the rest of city. Sure, you can pay to go up Fukuoka Tower, but this has to be one of the best free views you can get. The cityscape contrasted with the nature of Maizuru Park looks awesome, only broken up by the lake in Ohori Park next door. Ohori-koen is one of my favourite places in Fukuoka and this way you can see all of it.
Now this photo has been one of my favourites ever since I took it two and a half years ago. In that time it’s been a background for my laptop and my phone, it’s featured on both my old blog and my ‘Already Visited’ page, and my dad had said that it was impressive – a compliment I took to heart.
I may have spent two days in Japan before this, but they were spent settling in and trying not to freak out that I’d traveled across the world to a brand new country on my own. I count this day as my first ‘proper’ day in Japan, when I met the people from my language school to visit the island of Nokonoshima. There’s an Island Park there with beautiful gardens, and seeing as it was October, the cosmos were in bloom.
I go into a bit more detail here, but it was a great day (if not slightly intimidating). I really wanted a good picture of the cosmos but it was a windy day – and difficult to get the macro lens to focus properly – so it was pure chance that resulted in this photo. It may have been chance, but I’m so thankful for that stroke of luck.
I may be firmly in the ‘amateur’ category when it comes to photography but I have fun taking photos and I honestly think they’re one of the best ways to capture memories. Every time I go somewhere new, I take absolutely loads of pictures so it’s nice to find one or two that I really love. I’ve noticed that a lot of my favourites are macro shots of plants so, if my family are reading this… how did you know I like nature?
Which one of these photos is your favourite? Tell me in the comments section!