30 January, 2011

Shoot Tokyo


New National Theater
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
I always enjoy looking at photos of Japan taken by photographers from other countries, a lot more than the ones by Japanese photographers.

They always give me inspirations, help me find a new and fresh view on what's familiar to me.

This blog, Shoot Tokyo, is one of my favorite photo blogs. Dave is a photographer based in Tokyo. Please take a look!

These photos taken in my ex neighborhood was quite impressive. These images are what I used to see every night. But I didn't even think of taking any photos where I lived.

I am a night person, largely because of my writing work, and I often saw the city late at night or early in the morning when nobody was out on the street.

Tokyo looks so different without people. It's not dead, it's not alive. It's like a scene in another dimension to my eyes.

Thank you, Dave, for sharing great photos!

Ramen-ya in Tokyo

Many of my friends from other countries tell me they like Ramen.

It's a Japanese style Chinese noodle dish.

Japanese people are good at adopting new things from other countries, and develop them in their own style. Ramen is a very good example.

Although it is not purely Japanese, ramen is part of Japanese culture. Ramen shops are everywhere in Japan.

People sometimes wait for a long time outside the shops just for a bowl of noodles...

There is a great Japanese movie called Tampopo.  It's a success story of a ramen shop. If you like ramen, it's well worth watching it.

Oh, by the way... when I lived in Hong Kong, I saw so many ramen shops everywhere. So, they are "Hong Kong style Japanese style Chinese noodle shops."

Probably people in Hong Kong don't know Japanese ramen is originally from China? Or, maybe they don't really mind as long as the food is good!

29 January, 2011

Flowers


Flowers
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
 I was at my friend's apartment.

As I was trying to move one of his antique lamps, I dropped something and broke it.

I knew that it was an Émile Gallélamp, needless to say, it was very precious.

My friend was away for shopping, and I had no idea what to do. I actually went to an antique shop and looked for some lamps by Émile Gallé, but I didn't like the price.

Looking at the broken pieces of glass, I noticed that only the top part of the lamp was broken, but the bottom part was still safe.

While cleaning the floor, I had some inspiration.

"Maybe I can use the bottom part as a flower vase?"

So, I went to a florist in the neighbourhood, and bought a little bouquet. Just my way of saying "I am sorry."

My friend came back home, and he was so pleased to see these pretty flowers on the coffee table. Knowing that he liked the way I arranged the flowers on the table, I explained the whole situation.

He said he didn't mind, the Émile Gallé lamp was from some Eastern European country and was very reasonable when he found it.

Still not sure if he was just trying to make me feel better... but he sure appreciated the flowers and my idea of using the remaining part of the lamp as a flower vase.

Later on, I took some photos of the flowers in the vase... and I just loved the result.

What I dropped on the flower vase was my camera!

Yes, I took this photo with the same camera which broke the lamp.

Now I can say "the camera which gave me a great inspiration and a sense of creation."

A good memory from Christmas.

Japanese Pop Culture


Ukiyoe Exhibition Poster
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
One interesting thing about Japanese people is that they often appreciate things from other countries a lot while they underestimate their own pop culture.

Please look at this poster of Ukiyo-e.

They are going to feature Ukiyoe pieces coming from Boston!

Sadly, many of the most precious Ukiyo-e pieces are actually outside Japan.

When Japanese economy was boosting like crazy, during the economic bubble period, Japan bought a lot of famous European paintings.

But with the same money, Japan could have bought back some of the Japanese treasures.

I have been to Boston and DC, seen how nicely they those Japanese treasures were kept in their museums. I must say I felt happy about that.

Discovery of Ukiyo-e was by French people. Until then, some Japanese people used ukiyo-e prints as wrapping paper when they exported other Japanese products to France. The prints were treated just like old newspaper.

Probably in the old days, ukiyo-e was considered and consumed as part of pop culture, somewhat like manga is now.

But with no doubt, manga and anime are treasures of Japan that people can be proud of.

One more thing they can be proud of is, that people don't laugh at you if you are an adult and reading a manga on the train.

A lot of adults are playing video games on the train, too!

Just one more thing. If you have some Hello Kitty products (whatever), people don't think you are silly!

P.S. Do people laugh at you if you are reading a comic book on the train in your country?

26 January, 2011

Looking For Amélie


In Montmartre
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
For young Japanese people, Montmartre is the world of Amélie.

On my 5th visit to Paris, thanks to a great help from my good friend, I was able to see some famous sights including this beautiful wind mill in Montmartre!

(Merci beaucoup pour tout! Tu es très gentil!)

I knew that there was a cafe where the movie was filmed. But I didn't go there, because I probably wouldn't meet Amélie.

Another friend of mine told me about typical Japanese visitors to Paris.

They are always walking around in a group. They carry a little guidebook to Paris, and they follow exactly what it tells.

They go to very specific places, order specific dishes, buy specific items suggested in the guidebook.

No wonder I run into very few Japanese visitors in Paris. They act so different from me!

Amélie is a great movie, and is actually one of my favorite movies.

But you can experience a lot more in Paris if you don't expect the world of Amélie.

I wonder what visitors to Japan expect when they visit?  I truly hope they can find more than the world of Hayao Miyazaki.

24 January, 2011

What's Cute?


On The Street in Paris
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
When you are in love, the whole world looks different.

I must be in love with Paris.

Not sure if people in Paris or any other cities think this shot is cute. What do you think?

When I took it, I certainly felt "love" within me.

This is one of my favorite photos from Paris. No matter what other people may think, there is "something real" here.

By the way, there are so many people in Japan who believe everything from France is cute. This tendency is especially strong on women.

I must admit I electronically deleted cigarette buds from this photo! That was my way of showing love. 

22 January, 2011

Real Life


PC and a Ganesha
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
One of the "buzz words" used now in Japan is "ria ju."

It means a person who's real life is fulfilled, compared with those whose virtual life only is fulfilled.

Internet connects people easily, but everything starts after getting connected.

For me, "ria ju" is a normal thing.

I believe people are just going through a major change after Internet came to use. But they will soon realize they real life is more important.

If they can use SNS and other services available on Internet more wisely, it will certainly enrich their real life.

Then, they will stop using the word, "ria ju."

21 January, 2011

Paris Syndrome


Man Passing By
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
There is a medical term, Paris syndrome or le syndrôme de Paris.

Several French people told me about Japanese visitors in Paris who suffer from it. Some of them are actually taken to a hospital.

It is sort of cultural shock. Some Japanese visitors have too many expectations when they first visit Paris, and when they see the realty, they get panicked.

What are they expecting?

A romantic experience they have seen in French movies!

Unfortunately, not all the visitors fall in love with the local people.

5 years ago, when I first visited Paris, I honestly didn't have any expectations. I was on my way back from a business trip to some other place, and I needed to spend several days in Paris.

So, everything was a pleasant surprise to me.

I know that Japan is getting more and more popular, largely due to Japanese pop culture, anime, manga to start with.

I truly hope visitors don't have to suffer from Tokyo Syndrome.

Not everything is cute here, although Japanese people love cute things.

20 January, 2011

Is Tokyo clean?


Shinagawa Station, Tokyo
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
Every time I come back from my trip, I am surprised how clean Japan is.

No trash on the streets, and there are very few trash bins...

It was a mystery for a long time. "What do the people do with their trash when they are outside?"

My French friend gave me a simple answer.

"They keep their trash in their bags or pockets..."

I see... no wonder.

His answer helped me find an answer to another question I had had for a long time.

"Why are Japanese houses so messy?"

The people maybe neat and tidy outside, and they are more relaxed at home. I think they take the trash back home...

I am Japanese, but I don't get invited to my Japanese friends home too often. Because their houses are often messy.

My mother, who passed away 4 years ago, never invited me to her home for many years. The reason was, it was so messy there.

I was never allowed to enter her home for many years until she passed away. After that, my father gave me a clear answer.

"That was because the house was too messy to invite you..."

A lot of visitors tell me that they were so amazed how clean my country is.

But if they have a chance to visit Japanese houses (which doesn't happen so often), they can see another side of Japan!

As for me, I am trying to keep neat and clean outside, and at home!

17 January, 2011

I miss you, Hong Kong 2


Red Chinese Light
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
The only thing I don't like about my iPhone is that the camera is not very good.

But somebody advised me to download a photo app, and I did. Now it works much better!

I left my family over 10 years ago and moved to Hong Kong as they were abusing me in many ways.

The whole city of Hong Kong was so nice to me, kind enough to give me a place to live, a job, and a working visa, many good friends... everything I needed.

I lived there for about a year working for a hotel.

While I was enjoying my life there, I was looking for real Chinese culture, and was unable to find it.

I don't remember exactly what I was expecting.

After I came back to Tokyo, I found that I was actually "living" in deep Chinese culture.

I now have very good friends who call me "brother" although I have no blood connection with them.

Every time I go back to Hong Kong, they welcome me as part of their family.

One day I want to give back the kindness they gave me in some way...

Thank you, Hong Kong for adopting me.

16 January, 2011

I miss you, Hong Kong


At a restaurant in Hong Kong
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
One of the problems I have in my life is, wherever I go, I meet good people and make friends with them.

If I visit Hong Kong for just a few days, there is never enough time to see them all.

And the ones I didn't get to see during my stay somehow discover that I was actually there, and feel upset that I didn't see them on my visit.

And another problem is that I miss the places I visit so much.

Every time I come back from my trip, I get so confused.

I find myself looking for wan ton noodle shops in Tokyo, and then I realize I am not in Hong Kong any more...

Or, I find myself looking for a French style cafe in town, and unable to find one...

Oh, I sometimes feel surprised in Tokyo that everybody speaks fluent Japanese!

All of these are happy problems.

I consider myself one of the happiest to have freedom to visit many countries, and have many good friends all around the world.

15 January, 2011

Sacred Corner


Sunlight Magic
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
As a writer, I have been telling people that the most sacred place on earth is their own home.

People in Japan are more and more interested in visiting so called "power spots (sacred sights)".

I was so surprised when TV started introducing the well close to where I used to live.

It is in the middle of Tokyo, but the water is so clear, especially great for green tea.

I would go there and bring back some water for tea and cooking occasionally.

This well has become a "power spot" one morning.

Unless I get up at 4 am and wait in the line for many hours, I can't visit the well any more.

Now there are too many people who want instant luck, without giving out.

By the way, what's special can be found anywhere. Even if you don't have time to go outside, you can still find miracles.

Your home is where you can be yourself, where you can rest and get charged up for tomorrow.

It should be considered as a sacred corner which is more precious than any famous spiritual or sacred sights.

14 January, 2011

Cat In Chinatown


Cat In Chinatown
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
If I were a cat, a Chinatown is probably one of the places I would like to live.

A lot of food to eat, a lot of visitors to spoil me, maybe?

Yokohama is just outside Tokyo. It has a nice deep bay, and in some ways it is more international than Tokyo.

One of the attractions is the Chinatown. There are shops, restaurants, Taoist temples, etc. It is a perfect place for visitors when they want a day outside Tokyo.

Just yesterday, for unknown reason, I started missing my old camera. This is one of the very first photos I took with it.

The camera was owned by somebody I used to know. She gave up the camera saying it was more suitable for me, rather than for her.

I didn't know exactly what she meant. But now I know that her intuition was right.

It was such a lovely camera, and it always gave me pleasant surprises. There was something magical about it...

At one point I got a little scared of it. So I also gave it up.

If you are a serious photographer, you probably understand.

If you don't, I would say "good!"

13 January, 2011

My Teddy Bear


My Teddy Bear
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
I like teddy bears, but not all of them.

I like certain kind of teddy bears.

Very hard to explain... Being cute is the default. There is something a lot more.

I like teddy bears that make me a little bit sad, and that remind me of a philosopher.

This is largely because of "Winny The Phoo", a famous children story I read as a child.

I used to take in clients at my home for counseling/healing sessions.  My clients loved this teddy bear. I don't know how many clients wanted to hug this bear... a lot more they hugged me.

People in Japan normally don't hug each other, at all. But I know that they really want to...

Some of them even wanted to take photos of him!

This is one of the very few photos of him I took myself.

12 January, 2011

Blue Mailbox


Blue Mailbox
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
In Japan, mailboxes are red. Usual they don't come in other colours.

So, when I saw this blue mailbox in Lyon, France, it caught my eyes.

I somehow believed all the mailboxes should be red. When I am in Tokyo looking for a mailbox, my eyes are looking for something red.

I am curious to know if French people are surprised to see red mailboxes in Tokyo?

By the way, I saw this blue mailbox at a museum. So, I am not sure if it is still used, or it is displayed as part of their collection.

P.S. I know that UK has red mailboxes. One thing Japan and UK have in common.

11 January, 2011

Looking for something pretty


Pepper mills
Originally uploaded by yujiblog
This is a photo I took a while ago for some work project.

My editor told me to take photos at home.

I really had no idea what to do. I found nothing at home that was pretty enough to show people.

After struggling for half an hour, I found a tree dancing inside these pepper mills. And it turned out to be one of the photos I really like.

I guess I was looking for something pretty only in the world outside. It was the moment I discovered something "inside."

09 January, 2011

Creation





 


I


was at my friend's apartment.

As I was trying to move one of his antique lamps, I dropped something and broke it.

I knew that it was an Émile Gallélamp, needless to say, it was very precious.

My friend was away for shopping, and I had no idea what to do. I actually went to an antique shop and looked for some lamps by Émile Gallé, but I didn't like the price.

Looking at the broken pieces of glass, I noticed that only the top part of the lamp was broken, but the bottom part was still safe.

While cleaning the floor, I had some inspiration.

"Maybe I can use the bottom part as a flower vase?"

So, I went to a florist in the neighbourhood, and bought a little bouquet. Just my way of saying "I am sorry."

My friend came back home, and he was so pleased to see these pretty flowers on the coffee table. Knowing that he liked the way I arranged the flowers on the table, I explained the whole situation.

He said he didn't mind, the Émile Gallé lamp was from some Eastern European country and was very reasonable when he found it.

Still not sure if he was just trying to make me feel better... but he sure appreciated the flowers and my idea of using the remaining part of the lamp as a flower vase.

Later on, I took some photos of the flowers in the vase... and I just loved the result.

What I dropped on the flower vase was my camera!

Yes, I took this photo with the same camera which broke the lamp.

Now I can say "the camera which gave me a great inspiration and a sense of creation."

A good memory from Christmas.

(Dear readers, I did something stupid, and this page looks a bit funny. I will have to do something to fix it soon! Yuji) 



 I

06 January, 2011

If I owned Tokyo

If I owned Tokyo, the first thing I would do is get rid of all these electric cables.

Kawagoe, the city I was born, looks nice partly because the old part of the city doesn't have electric cables now.

This is one of my favorite buildings in Tokyo, a German style fire station.

Really too bad that I don't own Tokyo.

I know that if I take time, I can electronicaly delete the cables from the photo, but I don't own time either.

It's easier and faster to upload this photo as it is, and show the world what Tokyo looks like as it is.

So, the first thing I would work on is the cables.

Then, the second thing would be the uniforms of firemen and policemen.

Japan has many famous and talented fashion designers.

It is almost like a mystery that they don't design nice uniforms for the local firemen and policemen.
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04 January, 2011

Signs

If you visit Tokyo, you will see so many English signs everywhere. Most of them don't make any sense.

People in Japan often use English words just because they are pretty to look at, and they don't understand what they mean.

They don't use English words on T shirts, gift wrapping paper, and food products as communication tools. So, it is a new way of using words.

You can find lots of interesting examples if you search for "funny Japanese English"

Now, it's about this photo... I took it in Paris.

When I first saw this red thing, I thought it was a Doner Kebab shop.

Now I know what it is, and this red thing is a little less interesting (but I still find it very pretty).

Some of the things are most interesting when you don't know what they are.

So, I am not going to tell you what it is.
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02 January, 2011

Happy New Year!

People in Japan say "Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu" to each other on the new year's day.

Almost impossible to translate into English, but I would say "Congratulations for the renewal."

Why do they say "congratulations" to you?

Because you are alive.

What is the renewal?

You are renewed together with the new year.

People who have lost their loved ones in the past year don't celebrate the new year, so there is no celebration to them.

If you can celebrate the new year, it means you were able to get renewed together with all your family members.

That is why it's time to celebrate.

What's to celebrate is your own life and the life of your loved ones.

If you are reading this blog, you must be alive! Congratulations! Happy New Year!!!
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