Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan

What a hectic weekend. Saturday morning flight to Haneda airport followed by a drive to Fujikawaguchiko and the rush back the next day to catch the last flight from Haneda. This trip was supposed to take place the week before (31st October) but was delayed because of Typhoon Chaba, which would have caused non stop weekend of rain. And there would be no way Mount Fuji would be visible from the town located 10km away to the north.
If you have followed this site quite a bit, you would have noticed that this is one of my favourite sites to shoot Mount Fuji. I could wake up early in the morning and walk 30 mins to the other side of Kawaguchiko across the bridge and set up my tripod before 6am. And in the last 3 times I have been here, Mount Fuji would always be visible in the morning along with a calm lake to catch some reflection. Kawaguchiko is large enough not to be perfectly calm, and the wind does kick in about 7-7:30am. So get there early. I will not detail too much how to get there, the easiest would be via the Keio Express bus line from Shinjuku just opposite Yodobashi Camera. And as a primer, Fuji 5 Lakes regions composes of… of course, 5 lakes. From the right to the left, there’s Yamakako, which I have never been, and since I have not heard too much about the view there, I have no plans to visit since it is also out of the way. Kawaguchiko is arguably the easiest one to access, as it is just situated by Fujikawaguchiko and the northern shore is littered with attractions like a monkey show and a music box museum. The views here are one of the best accessible without long hikes and a car, and Mount Fuji looks symmetrical from here. The only possible issue is that the town would be visible in your picture of the famous mountain. Only an issue if you’re after the mountain sans civilization. Just next to it would be Saiko, where Mount Fuji is not visible at all, obscured by a close by hill. News has it that Saiko is a good fishing place. Next to it, a little drive a way is Shojiko, which I think rivals Kawaguchiko. Cars could drive to the lake bank facing Mount Fuji, and you could get down to water level. What you would see on the opposite bank on the foot of the mountain is just pure nature. However, Shojiko is not that easy to reach without your own car. The public buses don’t run regularly, so you may have 1 hour there and if you do not get on the returning bus, the wait may be quite long. No buses at night the last time I checked, so night time shooting by bus would be impossible. One could camp by the lake side though. The last one is Motosuko, a relatively large lake, with an elevated vantage point at the far side of the lake. It is even more remote than Shojiko. This is also the view of Mount Fuji that could be found at the back of a 100 yen note.

Lets see what we have here…

DSC6841-2010-11-7-20-37.jpg

Shoji-ko: This is one of the first shot of this Autumn season for me. The EXIF reads 5:30pm and it was already dark. Exposure reads 30 secs at f5.6 on a 28-70mm. It was already dark when I got there, and the long exposure lights up the mountain a bit. I kept the foreground dark to convey the evening mood. You could see car lights on the right at the bottom of the mountain, and some faint lights at what could be the mountain 5th station. AT this time of the year, the snow cap is starting to grow, but obviously it is still early.

DSC6848-2010-11-7-20-37.jpg

Shoji-ko: This is one of my favourite picture of the shoot. Exposure reads 4 minutes 30 seconds and f8. I did another one that was 20mins long but came up to almost a blank shot. I had a ND8 on the lens and I would have to stretched it to 1hour exposure if I was to get something like this. What I wanted to do with this shot was to have a long enough exposure to catch the star trail. You could also faintly notice a line of a passing aircraft. I would have wished to have more time here, I guess I will explore the possibility to camp here the next time. Would have been great to catch an hour long star trail.

DSC6856-2010-11-7-20-37.jpg

Kawaguchiko: This was taken at very close to 6am. Note the vapour on the lake surface. This morning was not what I hoped for, with cloudy skies in the morning. When I got to the lakeside at 5:30am the mountain was covered in clouds, but almost always it clears at close to 6am when the faint trace of sunshine appears. You also notice that Fujikawaguchiko town is quite prominent in the foreground. This is a 4 sec exposure at f8, at about 40mm, and I cropped the top and bottom of the original frame. You also noticed that the view from Kawaguchiko is a little different, with the long gentle sloping sides of the mountain visible from here, while at Shojiko, the slope is quite strong.

DSC6878-2010-11-7-20-37.jpg

Kawaguchiko: Looking at the east at the rising sun. The only good thing about a cloudy day is that the morning red sun glow is quite strong.

DSC6882-85-2010-11-7-20-37.jpg

Kawaguchiko: With the sun starting to appear in the morning, Mount Fuji starts to glow a little shade of red. This scene only lasts not more than 10 mins. In fact I think it might have been shorter than that. So this is where an ergonomic camera comes in, when you switch from one scene and light type to another. The controls has to be easily found and you do not have the luxury of diving into the menus to change something.

Continue reading “Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan”

Advertisements

Tochigi, Japan: Return to Senjogahara Plateau

Chuzenji-no-taki: Chuzenji waterfall
You could say Tochigi is my playground. I just love the place. Take a long slow train over to Tobu-Nikko station and there are many options. Most tourists would spend the whole day at the temple complex, Toshogu, Rinnoji and of course, snap photos of the stable with 3 monkeys. But the hidden gem of Nikko is the many hiking opportunities like Chuzenji to the northwest and Kirifuri area to the northeast.I’ve been to Senjogahara and Kirifuri before, and the links are embedded in the two names in this sentence.

Senjogahara Plateau

Senjogahara is in the northwest just further up from Chuzenji. Chuzenji is, of course, synonymous with a waterfall, not just a normal waterfall, but one that drops hundreds of meters. The lake that feeds the waterfall, Chuzenji lake, is relatively large, and on a plateau in the highlands. On a summer day, there are anglers spaced evenly along its banks. I don’t have proof, but it does look like you need to have permit to fish there and you are probably assigned slots. They do look spaced out a little too evenly to be random!

Fly Fisherman on Yukawa River

... And more fly fishing...

Continue reading “Tochigi, Japan: Return to Senjogahara Plateau”

Tokyo, Japan: Shirokanedai at Night

f00727image0031
Now, for the last year or so, I have been staying near Meguro JR whenever I visit Tokyo on business. And 2008 this was a little more than a third of the year! To be specific, the area around the hotel is also called Shironakedai (I believe, but it could be also Shirokane) and there is a Tokyo metro with the same name. Over time I have grown to know this area quite well.

f00727image0021

I would say it is an upscale place, since there are all these embassies near by (Gotanda and Ebisu is one JR station away) and most people stay in houses. Sometimes from the JR station, I would take a long walk, around 30 minutes, to the hotel and since this is Tokyo, I sometimes take the small lanes at night just to see what it looked like. Most of the time it is serene, no one on the street, fresh air and there is this look to it that I wanted to capture on film. In the morning, I have found a few route through the hilly pathways and lanes here and this has turned into a routine for me whenever I stay in Tokyo.

Photoshoot Location

The pictures in this series are taken in the area labelled Kamiosaki in the map.

f00727image0035 Continue reading “Tokyo, Japan: Shirokanedai at Night”

Tokyo, Japan: Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Market in the early morning
It’s difficult to be sitting still. I spent most of my year in 2008 travelling, and all of a sudden, it has been Shanghai since the the trip to Tokyo for christmas 2008 till now. And it’s back to my favourite city this part of the world, Tokyo. This trip will be a multi-leg trip, with a weekend in the city before flying off to Taipei. Heard rumours before I came that Tsukiji fish market tuna auction section is now opened to tourists again. I’m sure it was closed because tourists were hindering the auction, but this I must see, being an addict of the red and fatty tuna sashimi.

Its Saturday today, and since the weather forecast is perfect for today only, plan is to visit the fish market first thing in the morning at 5am and once I covered Tsukiji, I plan to catch the first morning train to Nikko, another one of my regular destination.

Dividing up a giant tuna

According to the market’s online site, the visitor area for tuna auction is only opened between 0500 and 0630. The next next problem, other than waking up early enough, is the transportation. The Tokyo metro does not operate until 6am at least, and Tsukiji, being rather far away from Meguro JR, means that the only mode of transportation that can get me from the market that early in the morning is the taxi. Will cost me a little more than 3000 Yen just to do that.

Taxi definitely goes fast at this time in the morning, like all taxis in big cities when there are no traffic, I suppose. At 5 am I reached the market. The taxi dropped me at a location I’m not familiar with. There were a bunch of American tourists (not difficult to tell) but it looks quite obvious that no one knew where the auction really is. I know the general market where anyone can buy seafood, and on my Nokia E71’s GoogleMaps I was able to get a rough idea where I am. So I move on, and the market is already buzzing with people selling their stuff, My Leica M6 with Fuji Pro400 comes out and I take a few shots here and there, making use of the nice depth of field on the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH. At the same time, I followed a bunch of Japanese traders that look as thought they were going to buy giant tunas, but they started going to the first floor. Thinking that the auction area is up stairs (I know, didn’t make sense too, as they will have to haul the large tuna up the stairs!) I followed them and we came to a long alleyway on the second floor. After a minute or so, I decided it would be better to backtrack as I will not find it here.

A dealer at work in the general section of the market

Continue reading “Tokyo, Japan: Tsukiji Fish Market”

Mount Fuji and Western Honshu, Japan (Part 3)

Sunset over Syojiko in Matsue
26 December 2009 (Matsue, Tottori): It is not fun to wake up to the sound of rain outside. This happened today, so I decided to sleep in. For japanese breakfast, Yoshitaka-san I just realised is their name, made grilled Kare fish and rice. A little bottle of yakult yogurt tops it all off.

Took a kilometre walk to Matsue-jo castle this morning, passing by the lake for another crack at shooting the little island by the art museum. Again it started to rain little hailstones. On the way across the main bridge, the hail storm intensified and mixed with a little snow. Once that quickly cleared, the sun was out in full force.

Matsue-jo Outer wall & moat

Matsue-jo is on top of a hill. It is just after a large hospital, and you know you are there when you see a hill and a moat going around the area. The entrance of the castle is on top of the hill, accessible by going up a few flight of stairs. A cub baseball team was training on the grounds the morning I was there. Made to run up the staircase.

Matsue-jo

Matsue-jo requires an entrance fee to get in, and if you are a foreigner, it is 280Y and half the original price local pay. It must be a limited time promotion. There is nothin special about the garden although it is a nice little stroll and has nice views being perched on top of a hill. To enter the castle it is necessary to remove shoes and there are ample lockers with locks to store them too bad they are not made for shoes sized 11 or more. I had to get creative to fit my shoes into the locker. There are about 5-6 storeys in this castle and the interior has a rustic feel to it. It is quite clear they did replace some wood here but generally the original interior stayed intact. The most interesting part for me is how they take a bunch of wooden pillars and staples them together with a giant piece of steel brace to form a larger pillar. The wood is darkish in colour and on the outside the mortar is all bright white, which kills the exposure on my camera, you have pure white and black wood, so impossible to get details in both. Back to the interior, on the first floor is the storage area and this is where they store the original building materials when they are renovated, and also a really deep well to get water in times of a siege. Second floor is a museum with a nice collection of samurai costumes and hats. The other floors are empty which explains why I lost count of the floors after the third.

Continue reading “Mount Fuji and Western Honshu, Japan (Part 3)”

Mount Fuji and Western Honshu, Japan (Part 2)

23 Dec 2008 (Tokyo, Hiroshima): Long shinkansen ride today. First a Hikari train from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka and then the next train on the same platform to Hiroshima, arriving just shy of noon. 4 hours in all to travel almost to the southern tip of Honshu. Grabbed a bag of sandwiches and bottled tea at Tokyo station 10 minutes before the departure, and true to Japanese rail’s obsession with timeliness, we left at 7:03am. Only complaint I had during the trip was that the heating in the train was set to a balmy 27C at least, making it sweaty in a jacket. Kind of betraying the fact that it is below 10C outside. The only thing it is conducive to is the type of short naps that gives you splitting headache when you wake up.
Shinkansen! It is always exciting to be taking the bullet train, no matter how many times you have been on it.

JR Hiroshima Station

Arrived on time in Hiroshima and right away I booked the train for tomorrow to Matsue. I let their super computer system choose the best path but will leave after lunch. Should make it to Matsue before sunset.

Time then to get on the JR line to Miyajima-guchi station to look for my hostel for the night. Will drop my things there before going roaming streets of Hiroshima till night time. Miyajima is an island that is quite popular, possibly just because of a floating Torii gate. Since the moon will be up during the morning tomorrow, I have decided the plan would be Hiroshima today, and if I get high tide tomorrow morning, I can catch the first ferry across to Miyajima to shoot the gate in the morning.

Continue reading “Mount Fuji and Western Honshu, Japan (Part 2)”

Mount Fuji and Western Honshu, Japan (Part 1)

Mount Fuji from Kawaguchiko
Somehow the end of the year season is now becoming a global holiday. In places where Christmas is not normally celebrated, you have lighting and large trees, especially in areas of commercial interests and where shoppers like to feel like they have an excuse to shop more than they usually do. I don’t celebrate Christmas other than accepting gifts. Somehow I don’t think I will get anything from anyone this year. Self-pity aside, one thing I do during the end of the year season, is NOT be in my country of residence, always preferring to be out travelling during this holiday. Last year it was the toture up Huashan in Xian province, China. And this year in 2008, thanks to free ticket courtesy of the airmiles I have collected on Cathay Pacific, this year the destination is Japan.

With the Japan Rail Pass, trains are now affordable, especially when the trip involves long distance train rides on the excellent Japanese bullet trains and jumping from train to train everyday. Anyone who has been to Japan knows that travel by rail, for any kind of long distance travel there can get quite expensive. The Japan Rail Pass brings flat rate rail fares for multiples of 7 days up to 21 days. For long distances like Tokyo-Hiroshima, a Rail Pass for a week cost less than a return ticket for the same destination. For my case, a return ticket to Hiroshima from Tokyo Station is roughly 18,000Y one way reserved seat while a Rail Pass is 28,000Y for 7 days. Only difference is that with the Rail Pass you cannot use the Nozomi express trains. But not a big issue. So I proceeded to purchase the pass in Shanghai, and generally any of the Japanese airlines like ANA or JAL will sell them. You buy a document the size of an airline ticket way back when they still use paper tickets, and exchange it for the Rail Pass when you arrive in Tokyo. As far as I know, it is not possible to buy the thing when you arrive in Japan. So plan ahead.

Continue reading “Mount Fuji and Western Honshu, Japan (Part 1)”

What to do on a Sunday in Tokyo…

After a lot of weekends in Tokyo, its difficult to know where else to visit. Until I stumbled upon this Tokyo tourism webpage with a list of recommended walks around Tokyo. Going through the whole list, I went for the “Discover old Edo (Half Day) [Monzen-Nakacho]” route. This involves taking the Toei line all from Yoyogi JR all the way to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa station.
Kiyosumi Garden

A short walk away is the Kiyosumi Garden, which cost 150Y to enter, which is not too bad considering the gardens are quite well maintained, and the lake there filled with turtles and the largest Kois I have ever seen, some of them size of a full sized cat. This would make a nice place to do some landscape photography with tripods. The rest of the route is a nice walk, but nothing special.

Continue reading “What to do on a Sunday in Tokyo…”

Travels: Senjogahara Plateau: Tochigi Prefecture, Japan

Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, 50mm f4.5 W, Fuji RXP, on the Senjogahara Plains


It is an early start. I’m here on the second weekend and I think I should be going back to complete Nikko, but to another direction, and another attraction… hiking in the highland marshes. This will be an ideal location to do some landscaping pictures. Of course it would be good if I was there when the sun is coming up, but no car and the first bus is later than that anyway, so got to file up the thoughts first.

Tobu-Nikko standard train (Ricoh GR Digital)

I’m not too sure there are metros running at this time of the morning, it’s 5am and I’m taking the Tokyo taxi instead, zipping past quiet streets, trying not to look at the ridiculously fast counter on the dashboard that shows the eventual 4000Yen price to get from Shinagawa to Asakusa by taxi. That’s almost the price of the all-in-one ticket to Nikko including the train fare! I’m on my way to Tobu-Asakusa Station to catch the first semi fast train to Nikko. Semi fast because the real first train stops everywhere and would take longer time to get to the destination so this is the second train it seems. Semi-fast too because if you double your fare you take the glamourously faster super-express-whatever trains that shave 20 mins off a 2hr 30mins journey. Not enough for me. I’ll stick to the cheap one.

Leica M3, 50mm f2 Summicron, Kodak 160NC, Early Morning Tokyo


Continue reading “Travels: Senjogahara Plateau: Tochigi Prefecture, Japan”