I said in an earlier post I'd tell you about my visit...
Described as one of the world's largest underground discharge channels, 50 metres below ground; the system comprises a tunnel of 6.3km long /10m wide, 5 huge shaft/silos, and a pressure settling water chamber. Plus pumps, aircraft engines (to move the water) and other assorted equipment. The shafts are large enough to accommodate the Statute of Liberty and even the Challenger space shuttle & vary a bit in size, the largest 2 being 71m high & 31.6m wide.
So, the larger Tokyo area is in a large shallow basin and floods fairly frequently. The flood facility (my words the actual title is very long) has a flash control room which monitors the 5 rivers flowing through the area. When the 4 contributing rivers flood, the water is diverted into nearby shafts; and when they reach a prescribed point, the water flows through the tunnel & other shafts finally reaching shaft #1 which is part of the underground settling chamber. This chamber is 177m long, 78m wide & 18m high. It has 59 concrete pillars (7m long, 2m wide, 18m high) which act as baffles and quieten the water, stopping it surging, before its release into the Edogawa river which takes it to Tokyo Bay.
The machine that dug out the shafts and the tunnel is still parked on site and is the same sort of circular excavator used for the Auckland train tunnels and also the UK-France Channel tunnel.
There are 4 differing tours you can take the most strenuous involving climbing shaft 1. Given my previous 3 weeks of long days, I elected to stick with the easy tour of the chamber. Once I got there I wished I had been more adventurous, but I have a vague recollection that photo opportunities may not have been available on the other tours and they did monitor us closely so we couldn't take photos on the 110 steps in and out of the chamber.
It's very well set up for visitors with a gallery, movie theatre, models and photos. The authorities have been very surprised at the level of interest both from foreign & national visitors.
I've been squeezing as much as I can into my last few days in Tokyo. After my disappointment that meticulously planned shoots were falling apart through matters beyond my control, yesterday everything fell into place beautifully. I took 2 trains out north west of the city for 1 shot at blue hour and then back in again for a guided night shoot around Shinjuku & Shibuya, including Kabukicho, Golden Gai & Omoide Yokocho. I was the only client so it was brilliant & I didn't have to pay for a bespoke tour.
Today I made a huge trek out to Saitama. I had wanted to visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Discharge Flood Protection Facility back in 2018, but you need to be able to speak/understand Japanese or have an interpreter with you. That requirement hadn't changed, but I discovered a group of volunteer guides. Actually you cannot really call them volunteer as you do pay them a fee, your & their entry fee, plus their travel expenses. Even so it was worth it. The facility is simply amazing & well worth the hassle of arranging a visit. I'll do a separate post on it later to intrigue ...or bore you.
I had a panic moment this morning as I failed to get off the 2nd train at the correct stop. It was an old local express train and didn't have the route map, station listing & English voice overs that most trains here have. Luckily for me there was a very nice young man who looked it up on his phone & told me I could get off at the next stop & then go back 3 stops (on a non express service) to my station. The worry for me was that my guide was waiting & we had a local bus to catch & a specific tour timetable to adhere to. Fortunately I was able to get back quickly, on time & with no damage was done, except to my stress levels.
After the visit and a 1.40 hour trek back again, I'm now hanging out on the opposite side of the city on the 33rd floor of the new Azabudai Tower... there is a large crowd all waiting to take photos of the view. When its your turn at the front it's bloody hot with people crushing in behind you 2, 3, & 4 deep. I've braved the frenzy twice & had enough now. I did have another shoot planned for tonight but I've run out of energy so I'm going to go back to my hotel and have wine & a soak in the tub.
Coming home tomorrow.
A couple of extra comments about yesterdays topics: fashion here is frequently weird not just sometimes. And women, young & old, NEVER go out with out a full face of make up (unless they are old crones). There is one exception; I have it on good authority that women will often wear a mask to cover up if they cannot be bothered slapping a face on. Ingenious!
Goodness despite weeks of meticulous planning, I'm having a run of bad luck with my Tokyo shoots:
Yesterday: Tokyo skyline with the Tower from Rappongi - cancelled because of an exhibition in the observation space And a rooftop shoot - cancelled - rooftop closed because of rain.
This morning the amazing architecture site that took a huge effort to locate, and arrange a guide, cancelled because the building managers do not allow photographers' access any longer. I had trekked out to Kanagawa: 2 trains, plus walking, over an hour each way. Pity the guide did not check that out.
A major faux pas. I was deeply disappointed. This is what I should have been shooting this morning...
It's raining today, first rain I've seen here, so there are 15 million & 1 umbrellas out there. But as in everything, the Japanese have it sorted. Firstly, the most common umbrella is see through, essential for negotiating crowded pavements/sidewalks. Secondly, every larger establishment; malls, departments stores, high end shops all have an umbrella stand at the front door containing perfectly shaped plastic bags to put your wet umbrella into & huge rubbish bins for when you come out. Extremely wasteful of course, plastic is not yet the arch enemy it is at home.
I trekked my way to Rappongi yesterday evening to shoot that iconic view of Tokyo city with the Tower all lit up. Unfortunately there was an exhibition on and people were prevented from getting to the windows to photograph. In broken 'Engrish' I was asked if I still wanted a ticket... ah, no thanks.
So I changed my plans on the hoof and went to the National Art Centre instead. I don't know what it is about Tokyo but I get lost several times a day. Me & active Google maps do not play nice together. And its not like using a map in English, if the map has some English names, when you zoom in it all changes to Japanese characters. Today I've realised that I'm better off memorizing the map before I leave and I find I get where I want to with much less stress.
I also had a close call yesterday. I've been told before that the Japanese are very honest; you can leave your bag on a chair or table to reserve it and no one will touch it (other tourists are not so honourable of course). Pulling my phone out of my pocket I dislodged & dropped my pasmo card (like a snapper card) which are used to travel by train & in convenience stores. They are not personalised or locked and mine had $40+ loaded onto it. I realised about 10 minutes later and was beside myself. I tore back to where I had been and sure enough it was lying on the pavement undisturbed. Fortunately it was in a quiet side street, I could not believe my luck.
Women in Tokyo are impeccably dressed. Sometimes the style is weird but its always impeccable, sharp & fashionable. I feel like a country bumpkin, screaming tourist. It cannot be helped, on a photo jaunt there is absolutely no room for nice shoes or smart clothes.
Another quirk of life here is that people sleep on trains. Sometimes its just closing of eyes and resting but at other times it's full on snoozing. No one laughs, comments or thinks it at all unusual.
I forget we are in the northern hemisphere. In Hokkaido sun set was at 4.15pm and the light levels were dropping by 3.30. In Tokyo sunset is just before 5pm. It's now 2.15pm and I need to get ready to go out again.
I apologise, posting while on the bus yesterday had its difficulties so that post has now been checked and amended where necessary.
I know some people want to see the photography side of things and others want to know what life is like travelling here. I try to satisfy both.
Yesterday after we left Saroma Lake we had time for 1 photo stop. That was at Cape Notoro & wouldn’t you know it the wind had got up and it was driving stinging snow right into our faces. Who needs dermabrasion? Just go out in driving snow & you get it for free!
We scurried about and shot the lighthouse and the sea stack & bluff. Also the car park had blowing snow that looked really cool with a slow shutter.
The flight was uneventful flight except that the plane was so hot I fell asleep. As I am a bad sleeper & a bad traveller (as in sick) you'll understand how momentous that was. I was also charged Y2500 (roughly NZD28) for over weight bags. I was a bit ticked off coz I was under the impression (obviously mistakenly) that you could have 2 bags at 20kg each. Nope 2 or 3 bags but the max was 20kg. I had put my big heavy coat (2kg) in my bag which tipped me over. I knew my bags were about 21.5 on the way out. Lessons for travellers.
Also check out the photo below of a poster in the airport - creepy!
I was obviously a bit spoiled at my earlier Tokyo hotel - this place is in Ginza and is TINY. The bed is a double, hard against the wall, and the space between the bed and the desk/sink is a smidgeon over 1 metre wide. No room to swing a cat.
I've noticed that in our last 3 hotels there has been a move away from providing toothbrushes, coffee/tea etc in the rooms. Instead there is a central 'amenities' station usually near the lift or at reception and you take what you need.
This bathroom is also strange. There is no sink, that is out in the main room, it has a small, deep (sitting) bath but the shower is not over the bath. It's a stand-alone; the whole room is the shower cubicle, with a separate tap arrangement and the water runs directly into the floor. The clue of course, was the separate tap plus the little stool, which is what you find in onsens where you shower sitting down. The toilet is in a separate room and has one of those ingenious door arrangements that is a double; it closes off either the toilet or it can swing and close off the bedroom.
Breakfast was a very interesting experience. This is a very busy hotel lots of Chinese or Korean tourists + the odd westerner. The restaurant is also tiny and you have to roughly book what time you are going in to help minimise the congestion. You are given a map of where things are and you have to move in the correct direction. Yup... Japan and rules; like hand in glove!
I'm off to have a wander round the shops now.
Sorry for the lack of post last night. It was our last night on tour so some celebrations were required. There are one or two woeful faces on the bus this morning. Usually I'd give it a nudge but I wasn't well yesterday and had taken some very strong Japanese painkillers. So that meant only a wee taste of sake for me.
We are on our way to the airport now, it's an approx 2 hour flight to Tokyo. The pocket wifi system here has been brilliant, I have a wee battery run gadget that sits in my bag and allows me wifi in the move. It saves changing sim cards and also works for the laptop.
There has been noticeably less snow here last our previous places but it did snow last night and there was a pile on the inside of my windowsill. Yes, I do sleep with the window open even when its -8 or so. The Japanese hotels are very very hot. The only one of us happy to sleep in 23-25 degree temps is Thena from Malaysia. Maybe I should be acclimatizing given the heat you are experiencing back home.
Something I have never experienced before is that this hotel has a full length mirror actually IN the shower cubicle. Seriously weird. When I mentioned it over dinner last night one of the guys said he boogies away in the shower until its mists over. Hmm I did not want that picture in my head!
These images are from the day before yesterday. I shot only a couple of pictures yesterday.
Although, wandering around yet another boatyard, I came across a Stellar's Sea Eagle sitting on a lamp post. I shot a lot of those the last time I was in Hokkaido. They are seriously endangered so it was quite a surprise to see him just sitting there. I took his portrait but I've been having problems with my big lens from the day we landed in Hokkaido. It won't auto focus any more & manually focusing on a flying bird is simply impossible, so he is just sitting there on his lamp post. As I didn't do any editing last night that'll have to wait for another day. Gotta go
It was a balmy -1 this morning, no wind, very light intermittent snow. To be able to stand outside for long periods of time without a hat and hood, and only 1 pair of gloves is pretty epic.
We were hoping for a hoar frost but no that didn't happen. I didn't dare tell the guys that I'm a hoar frost jinx... 7 winter visits to Central Otago and I'm yet to experience a proper hoar frost.
We spent a pleasant morning shooting along the roadside in a pretty valley. We always see things on the main roads but you are not allowed to stop photograph on the highways (seriously... as in fines and vehicle confiscation).
We stopped in a town called Mombetsu, to take a group photo beside the giant 12 metre crab claw. No, I have no idea why this was necessary. No crab on the lunch menu unfortunately.
The other day I was persuaded to try something unusual; Mozuku is a type of seaweed much loved here. Its dark green, is chock full of things good for you but... it resembles... is... slimy, algae. It was kind of a challenge really and I did it. Surprisingly it tasted nice, but I couldn't eat anymore though as I couldn't get past the texture.
We have arrived at our last destination; Saroma Lake. Not seen anything of the lake as yet. Sun sets before 4.30pm and it's full dark before 5pm. Only tomorrow and half of Saturday to go and I'll be on my tod again in Tokyo. I'll miss the guys and Yukiko our interpreter/assistant/wonder woman.
Tonight's onsen was spectacular; the inside was fairly typical but the outside was a landscaped masterpiece of gigantic rocks, trees & covered in snow. The pool of water itself was fashoned like a rock pool & had a winding wading path through the water leading you through the rocks to seats built out of natural rock. Quite beautiful.
Umm just in case you wondered; NO you cannot take photos in an onsen. For one thing there are naked bodies swanning about and for another the quantity of steam would completely destroy the camera.
Gotta go get some sleep.
We finally managed to exit Wakkanai this morning. It wasn't snowing to start with but visibility was poor with wind blown snow drift. It didn't take long to start snowing heavily again & several times I wondered if we'd get through to Ohmu. We moved between beautiful valleys with heavily laden trees that looked like it was my ideal of a northern hemisphere Christmas and less interesting areas where you had to follow the posts to see the road. In one place the conditions were so dodgy the marker poles had flashing lights on them. It's very disconcerting for people who are not used to driving in heavy snow but the locals (like everywhere) are used to it and drive too fast. Yesterday the temperature was -6 with wind chill of -21, today is -8 / -18 (less wind). We stopped at the northernmost tip of Japan just out of Wakkanai and unlike yesterday, we could actually see it.
We are now in a lovely Scandinavian themed hotel, on a bluff over looking the sea on the opposite side of the peninsula. looking to the east. I have been doing it hard over the past 3 days without an onsen and was delighted to find this hotel's is the most lovely I have come across in a large hotel. The decor is black stone with flecks, like marble. It has 3 indoor pools ranging from 40 to 42 degrees. I must be acclimatized now as I found the 40 & 41 degree pools too cool. The food here is also really lovely, a nice blend of Japanese and Western. The local scallops here are the best I have ever tasted, sweet & juicy and just fabulous whether raw or cooked.
I don't have much to report today. It was a long drive with only a couple of stops.
Today started off fine. We packed up & shipped out, stopping at a couple of boatyards for a quick shoot. The sky was cloudy, snowing lightly but not threatening. Within 5 minutes of of me getting to the furthest point away from the bus maybe 300 metres, the weather turned in the blink of an eye. It started to get gnarly and then went gale force spectacularly quickly. I had walked in a rough rectangle & rather than trek 3 sides to return I went forward to the road to take the shortest distance back to the bus. I didn't want to be on the roadside but it was the quickest way back & whichever way I went meant face first into the gale. I literally staggered along unable to see for the driving snow, one arm out touching the snow bank to my left and my other holding my hood down and trying to shield my face from stinging snow, keeping the dark ice patches on the road, to my right. The advantage of a bright red coat was that Atushi, our bus driver, saw me 5 metres out and came to help. I was worried that if a car loomed out of the snow & suddenly saw me they might brake & go into a skid. It was scary & disorientating. The others said they tried to follow their tracks back but they filled in so quickly. The camera was fine, I slung it across my back & it was protected. I can see how easy it is for people to be lost in a snow or sandstorm and die.
We drove on a for a bit and stopped for a loo break at the northernmost tip of Japan (that we couldn't see). Martin decided it was too dangerous and we returned to the hotel at a very slow 15 kph. Roads to the south & north west of us are closed so it was definitely the right choice.
It'll be interesting to see what happens tomorrow!
Pretty much everyone has one of 'those' days while travelling. Today was mine. I was shattered from the minute I woke up and it didn't really start to improve until I had eaten a hot meal at lunchtime.
We went back to the boat graveyard this morning. It started off sunny, with little wind and 1 hour later it was driving snow with a howling wind. I didn’t actually feel cold out there shooting, it's after 5 minutes or so in the bus that my core temperature starts dropping and I get very cold & struggle to warm up again.
In the afternoon we shot the fish drying racks that Michael Kenna made famous. I saw the racks on the way out and wasn't inspired. That, doesn't mean there weren't any photos, it just means I couldn't see them and that was all about how I was feeling.
The storm started late this afternoon. I was expecting a storm by NZ standards but this is different. Yes it's very windy, but it doesn't seem like a proper storm. No rain for one thing, and I think the snow makes it quiet. Tonight's snowfall will determine whether we are stuck in this hotel for another night or not. Apparently it can snow so heavily the snow ploughs cannot keep up and the roads are closed. A two metre overnight snowfall is not uncommon here.
So, we shall see what the morning brings. I could certainly slum it another night here it's very luxurious... the food is stunning, but I'm seriously missing the onsen.
Trekking through deep snow is physically hard. Even if I follow behind the guys, they take much bigger steps than I do, they are heavier so the footprint hole is deeper, the ground underneath is always uneven and I often lose my balance, it's a soft landing though. I am talking a minimum of knee deep anywhere unploughed. And if you are on a ploughed area there is usually thick ice underneath and you can take a fall in a blink. Sod's law though - even the cold and the physical exertion doesn't keep up with the food intake!
I'm off to pack now in case we do get out.
Today we drove to Wakkanai (Wack-an-i) the northern most town in Japan. Despite waking to still, sunny weather after the mayhem of yesterday, the forecast is for a storm so we had to get a move on to be sure to reach Wakkanai before it hit. We were warned we could be stuck indoors if it cut up really rough. This region is known for vicious winds and much of the highway north has wind baffles between it and the sea.
Anyway, the weather was beautiful to start with and we stopped at a breakwater/sea wall type arrangement that resembled large golf balls. We had to trek our way through deep snow from the road down to the sea wall. Martin put up a drone and from the air the golf ball resemblance was quite clear. I found them quite difficult to shoot, but there were plenty of abstracts to be had. We couldn't spend much time there though & we headed towards some extremely black sky. Another relatively quick stop was at a boat graveyard. Old fishing boats have been pulled out of the water and left to disintegrate, now covered with snow.
Once we reached the hotel I was very surprised at how western it is. Opulent, with large chandeliers, it's a popular wedding venue. It's also nice to have a good sized coffee mug instead of small 'Chinese' cups without handles & a decent sized bathroom. Dinner was a sophisticated 5 course fusion of eastern & western cuisine. No chopsticks in sight, we had the full silver cutlery thing going on, and the food was stunning. Our rooms do not have any yukuta or slippers either.
We wandered around another working boatyard until sunset, not that the sun made much of an appearance. While the storm doesn't seem to have hit yet, the weather for that last shoot was horrendous. A repeat of yesterday, with horizontal driving snow and very very cold. Even with a pair of finger-less neoprene (arthritis) gloves plus another two pairs of gloves on top, my fingers were sore with the cold. Cold pain is weird, it's not an ache but a very sharp stabbing pain.
I was told today is that most rural Japanese people do not have any heating in their homes. They rug up and tough it out. To say I was shocked is an under statement given the amount of snow here. I also heard several accounts of how tough life is for low income people in this country. The government provides little in the way of welfare and Martin, who has become a Japanese national, and has lived here for 20 odd years now, says they can still be a very cruel people. I'm paraphrasing Martin here; there is so much bowing and scraping to higher ups that people tend to lash out at anyone below them in status. Kiwis are friendly & polite and I get a lot of attention because I say please and thank you to those offering service, from a bus driver, convenience store cashier or hotel employee. The idea of common courtesy to anyone, regardless of status seems an unknown concept here.
One of the streets we passed at the edge of town was completely and utterly clear of snow. It was a hill and the road is heated, usually through thermal energy, to avoid accidents. It was bizarre to see clear asphalt, something we've not seen since we arrived in Hokkaido. The roads on this island are cleared of snowdrifts but the surface is still several feet thick of packed snow. And if the snow is blown off, it's ice under that. Carparks are the worst, totally lethal.
Okay I've done enough rambling, time to go.
Ok today we earned our "stoic photogs in the face of seriously manky weather" badges. Or "lunatics' badges" depending on your point of view. We were stood on the coast (photos 3 & 4) in a howling wind, horizontal snow & hail, 1 degree temp, with a wind chill of -11, either knee deep in snow or on a jetty being sprayed with freezing sea water, trying to capture the perfect wave... as you do.
I ended up lowering the tripod and kneeing as the wind was making the tripod shake.
I got pretty wet & extremely cold so while the rest of the crew went back to the Tori gate for sunset (yeah right - check out those clouds), I went back to the hotel and climbed into an onsen at a stonking 41 degrees. Bliss!
I seem to have an (unhealthy?) obsession with Japanese toilets... today's made me laugh out loud. So I walk into the restroom... I open the cubicle door and I kid you not... the loo seat lifts and a light comes on IN the loo! If we go back there tomorrow I'm going to video it coz I bet no one believes me - seriously bizarre & hilarious at the same time.
I discovered a truly beautiful, smooth sake last night, so smooth you wouldn't even know it was alcoholic - but a red is calling, so I'm off to get on the outside of a cheeky little Chilean cab sav.
I forgot to mention that as I was leaving the dining room last evening I saw a red fox running along outside the window. That is the second time we have seen one but not been in a position to photograph it.
We usually stop at a 7 Eleven or some other convenience store every day to either buy water, snacks or use the rest rooms. Today it was more of a food market type store and Martin directed us to a type of bakery counter to buy something unpronounceable-able. It was kind of a fluffy American pancake/hot cake type texture filled with either chocolate, custard or bean paste. About the size of a hash brown... and sooo good. Later on when I asked if anyone could remember the name the response I got was "fluffy little pillows of deliciousness"... yep that said it all!
I had to laugh; at a rest room stop I was following along behind the guys, like ducks in a row in a world of my own without thinking and stopped just in time... I was on the threshold of the men's room.
And speaking of toilets... sometimes you just have to wonder... Japan's hi tech toilets are legendary & it's lovely to have a warm seat especially if you are cold... but then you have to wash your hands in ice cold water & the air dryer is also freezing cold.
What kind of twisted mentality pairs a heated loo seat with a frigid air dryer?
Mata ne (see you later)
ps. I was shooting through the windows as we drove to give you a sense of Hokkaido.
Be careful what you wish for ... we wanted more snow but not + wind. Very trying conditions today.
Mid morning we drove up Mt Asahi. Martin had permission for us to walk up the side of the ski field. That was a bit tough in itself although we didn't go too far. Naturally there were rules about safety and not getting in the skiers/boarders way. It's a picturesque mountain & would be brilliant to ski there, not busy by NZ standards, fluffy powder probably at least 5 metres deep, And cheap; about $70/day adult price. It was very cold though, -17 up there, snowing & with a wind blowing. Very difficult conditions to make meaningful photos and we couldn't wander at will. We had the skier hazard on one side and if we stepped off piste we'd disappear under metres of powder. Well I would anyway. It was also hard to gain any separation between the subject and background and difficult to focus with snow swirling between us and the trees we wanted to shoot. I really only managed 2 worthwhile photos.
Still, the drive up the mountain was stunning. Snow covered trees, thick snow on the road. No chains required, everyone here is used to driving in snow and vehicles have snow tyres. It's a lovely big wide road not narrow winding jobs like we have in NZ. The road was not wide enough to park a large bus on though so we couldn't stop except at one plowed layby. We got out but the trees weren't up to much at that particular spot, typical! We have 1 guy from Malaysia with us who has never seen snow before so I did a snow angel to show him. And took a shot while I was lying there - the spots are unavoidable snow flakes on the lens & I don't have time to edit.
There is always funny things happen to make you laugh along the way:
We were lined up on the side of the road cameras pointing in various directions, as you do, when this man arrived (with his cellphone) and started shooting in the same direction. He then stopped by Geoff, who was next to me, & said "I Korea", virtually pushed Geoff out the way and looked at his image on the back of the camera. After my next shot I could feel him breathing in my ear wanting to look at mine, I refused and just said "I New Zealand". He just beamed at us, waved his cellphone shot around as though proving he had much better photos and buggered off.
This morning we were in a 7 Eleven to buy water, snacks etc. The other Geoff (a big bluff Devonshire bloke) picked up what he thought were tissues. Turns out he was buying sanitary napkins to blow his nose on - we are not letting him forget that.
We are very spoiled, there is 9 of us in total and we have a 125 seater bus to spread ourselves around in.
We move up the coast tomorrow to a fishing port called Haboro.
I'm off for my onsen now - it's extra hot tonight apparently.
This morning we shot this beautiful waterfall behind the hotel before breakfast, and before the tourists arrived. To be honest it was magical, still, quiet & utterly beautiful. We will go back again tomorrow - it's always good to have another go once you've viewed the days efforts, so you can improve, try different angles etc.
The rest of the day was a rinse and repeat from the day before as we were hoping for big fat snowflakes against a particular group of trees. It snowed on us but it wasn't heavy enough.
Just down the road from where we were shooting is a gallery and garden that attracts HUGE numbers of tourists. The trees in the garden are stunning with huge clumps of snow in them but they are no good for art photographs; too cluttered, messy and absolutely heaving with people. The last 4 photos are from that garden to give you an idea - it's very pretty.
Please remember (Brent... this is aimed at you :-) these are unedited jpegs straight from the camera.
For non photographers viewing this; the difference in colours is the camera picking up different meter readings from the different compositions.
My alarm went off at 4.15 this morning. I'm over these extremely early starts.
And I did the unthinkable… because we were going to be shooting without going to the hotel first, my camera pack had to be ready to go. Unfortunately I completely forgot about airport regulations and had included a leather-man type tool (which also has a pocket knife) to tighten
the tripod spikes if needed. Of course the x-ray machine picked it up… Air NZ would have just thrown it out, but the ANA staff were much more accommodating. They offered me a small box to put it in, I was issued with a luggage label for it and the box was checked in as its own little piece of luggage. Amazing.
On arrival at Asahikawa it was snowing lightly & we spent the rest of the day shooting in a mix of snow & sunshine, the temperature a mild -5.The trees here look amazing, like someone has decorated them with cotton wool balls. The snow just sits there - no wind to make it fall off. It’s a snowy wonderland.
I'm off to enjoy my first mineral onsen as soon as I've finished this.
I did nothing much today. I'm trying to repair my body as much a possible before the onslaught of a photo tour which starts with a fast 5am breakfast tomorrow.
So I've had an easy day, repacked and moved to the Haneda Airport Hotel in preparation for meeting the rest of the tour. I couldn't face towing a 23kg bag 600m to the station while carrying a 10kg camera pack & laptop bag with a shonky back. I need to be in better shape for tomorrow so I splurged on a taxi to the airport. We fly to Hokkaido first thing and hit the ground running. 'Wear your cold weather gear' was the instruction, there won't even be a bag drop at the hotel... straight into it.
Eeeek what have I done?
Space is at a premium in Tokyo. Hotels are very expensive and while the public areas are luxurious, that all vanishes when you get to the room levels. I thought my room for the last 2 days was big coz I could lie on the floor and had 1 metre width between bed & furniture in which to do stretches. This airport hotel room is bigger in terms of stretch space on the floor but the bed is smaller & the bathroom much smaller. It has a bath but my feet touch the end when I'm sitting upright in it. That is more like the hotels we stayed in in 2018.
The smallest bathroom I ever experienced was in a traditional Ryokan in Shibu Onsen (where we went to see the snow moneys). The floor space between the toilet & the wall was only large enough to house a pair of bathroom slippers - no way could you get your knees in there.
Oh that's another rule: bathroom slippers are used only in the bathroom. House slippers are worn everywhere else but only indoors. There is a notice in my room which commands that you do not wear slippers or nightclothes outside your room unless it's an emergency. Another little factoid for you - hotels here usually provide you with pyjamas too. But it's one size fits all.
I've included some photos to give you a bit of an idea of Tokyo. Will do more when I come back from Hokkaido.
I had realised I would need a lazy start today and that is exactly what I had... to start with anyway.
My plan for the day was to go out around 2pm, visit the BIC camera store to stock up on camera batteries, (they deplete very very quickly in cold temperatures). BIC was heaving with people and even more chaotic than I remembered... oh it's Saturday duuh! This is a mega-store by Kiwi standards at least 6 floors above ground and 2 below. Took me ages to find the camera section - but eventually with purchases found, the lovely cashier (who spoke impeccable English) gave me tax discounts so my very expensive camera batteries which cost $198 (at the absolute cheapest in NZ) were only NZD121 each. Score!!! I needed to catch 3 separate trains (on 3 separate lines) to get to from the hotel to Odaiba beach. Step 1 good, I even recognised several places from visiting in 2018; step 2 part 1; good, part 2...NIGHTMARE I got lost ...again. Finally sorted my self out, stressed and sweaty (unseasonably warm in Tokyo today). Why is getting lost 100x worse when you are on your own? Step 3; perfect went as planned. I had a lovely few hours exercising my shutter finger and enjoying the blue hour (post sunset) sitting by the sea looking out at the Tokyo skyline ...along with hundreds of others.
And so eventually I returned - got lost in the same general area as earlier. I cannot work out why. Google maps is all very well and looks foolproof until... you are brain tired, live view is compromised at night, all the street names are in an incomprehensible language and what looks like 'go east' on the map seems not to be so. Maybe it's me!
Finally I reached the right place, right train and got back to the hotel. I was going to deviate on the way home to shoot the Tokyo Tower but I was knackered and my back is not coping at all well. So I went back to lie on the floor for 30 min & collect a wide angle lens that I didn't want to carry earlier. I was debating whether to go out again but I manned up and did. No more trains tonight or I probably would have just gone to bed. Dinner was a sandwich on the hoof (totally frowned up on in Japanese society but it was dark and I was walking so all was good).
I was really glad I made the effort, it was a lovely still, clear night & I finally got back to the hotel at 10.30pm just about ready to crawl in on my hands and knees - that good bath was employed again with extremely hot water. I can't wait to get into the onsens in Hokkaido. Every country in the world should have onsens imho.
I'm not moaning, I'm relating what is happening - you should be reading these posts in a wry humorous tone, travelling, like aging is both funny and taxing.
Please note these images are jpegs straight out of the camera with only cropping & a name added, I will not have time for editing until I get home.
The joy of travelling again... actually I'd forgotten that the first bit is horrible.
The stress of packing can only be eclipsed by the stress of packing for a photo trip.
Trips to cold climates obviously require loads more warm & heavy clothes. But for a photographer that means taking only 1 smart/casual thing to wear because you need to add into your checked luggage: a tripod, insulated snow boots, rain/snow protection for both camera pack and cameras, crampons (for snow/ice), an assortment of hats gloves socks (I have 2 hats & 3 pairs of gloves), warm ski pants, long johns & a heavy warm/waterproof jacket. And in addition all the non sensitive/electronic photography gear, that can withstand the loving attention your bag gets from airport baggage handlers, needs to be relocated to your checked in bag - reducing space even further.
Oh yes, and if you are female then add in all the other stuff you need to survive, shampoo, moisturizer, mascara etc etc.
So then it's a 3am alarm call because Air NZ changed the Wellington/Auckland flight to 6am & check in closed at 5am for bags checked direct through to Narita.
And after that, travelling is all about hurry up & wait. Hurry up & queue.
Wait, why am I doing this again?
Note to self: just remember how good it felt to be at the bottom of the world during Covid.
Ok, 34.5 journey hours (with no sleep) & I'm here and safely ensconced in my first hotel room. Which I have to say given the space constrictions in Tokyo is pretty reasonable. I even have a bath - yes it's short, but then so am I.
I have to fess up that despite my meticulous planning I did get lost on the way to the hotel, it didn't help that I was so tired, but I made it.
This is the only pic I have taken so far. The gradation of colour through the atmosphere was quite cool. I'm taking it easy this morning as I have a full on late afternoon into night shoot planned.
Mataashita - pronounced maa taa ash ta. (see you tomorrow).