Category Archives: Japan

My favorite travel destination!

More Sakura from Hikone Castle.

Panoramic sakura grove thumbnail image.

This is another 360 spherical pano I captured on the grounds of Hikone Castle. This was a splendid grove of various types of Sakura trees. The center piece being the Shidare Zakura or “Weeping Cherry”. That was such an awesome place! Not many people ventured to this nook and that made it even nicer. Those that came were awe struck and showed their respect by remaining peaceful. A stark contrast to the mob of bodies that clamored around a tight semi-circle when “Hikoniyan” came out to play… :mrgreen:

Meanwhile, on Little Planet Sakura… ;~)

Little planet projection of sakura landscape.

I’ve noticed this particular stereographic projection method for a while but only recently started to play around with it. The effect is pretty neat! (I gotta admit my inspiration came from far braver and more talented shooters seen on Flickr.) :oops: So far the most interesting “planets” come from compositions with tall vertical objects very near or not too distant from the camera. Realistically, you are only limited by your imagination. There are many options to play around with!

Anyhow, please click on the image above to view a 360 spherical panorama captured on the grounds of Hikone Castle. Lake Biwa is off to the left. But the haze obscured much of the distant vista. As told to us by a very nice elderly couple — and quite apparent by our own eyes — we were super lucky to be visiting at the peak of the Sakura bloom AND have perfect weather (Sakura mankai mieta — kansei deshita)!

Spring 2009: Nagoya, Osaka, et al.

Spring 2009 Japan Gallery Thumbnail.
Whew — another journey, successfully, completed! :) This time we were so lucky, we finally saw areas of full blooming Sakura!!! (Actually, I have been lucky every year — this one was a long time coming though.) We also got to spend some serious quality time with friends and family. Everything we saw, ate, and did was made even more special because Ryan and I were able to initiate a new member into our little travel club. (We are officially a gang now! IE: 3 or more people.) ;)

The cake topper to all of our wonderful experiences was an encyclopedic amount of knowledge. Not only culture and current events but photographic as well. We learned a great deal about our own particular shooting styles AND how to pack / travel accordingly. No amount of reading nor conversation can teach that — you gotta do it. I’m itching to go again, just so we can test that knowledge! (^^)

Again, I carried my laptop with me but made the conscious decision NOT to spend time blogging or editing photos. It was there mainly for data backup and the convenience of email / Skype in my room. Technically, I could have done without it — Ryan and Chad did. (Although they did have their WiFi smart phones instead.) *Sigh*, one more piece of travel gear to optimize for next time.

Anyhow, please click on the image above to view my gallery of selected images from this trip. The edit came out to be 495 images. I definitely could have trimmed more fat but then that would have sacrificed some of the flavor. Forgive my lack of detailed preface — those stories belong to my travel companions and I. They are ours to relish; yours to be curious about. (But ask me if you see me IRL, I am always happy to talk story!) :cool:

A Week in Tokyo: Spring 2008.

Jagabee is me.Well, I am back in Hawaii. (Got back last Tuesday, actually.) I apologize to my readers who were expecting daily updates from Tokyo. The first night, I spent two hours in front of my computer–editing photos, composing content, and FTP’ing everything to my server. After I was through, it occurred to me that I had just spent two hours in front of the computer!!! Sure the blog entry was informative but at what cost? I should have spent those two hours doing more photography. SO, for the rest of my time in Tokyo, I kept that thought in the back of my head. Each time I thought about turning on my laptop and “jacking-in”, I thought twice, “Do I really need to be online now?!”

As a side note to all of you planning on traveling to Tokyo… Believe it or not, FREE WiFi internet access is very hard to come by! Narita Int. Airport charges for easy access. Supposedly you can create a Yahoo! Japan remote account to gain free Yahoo! wifi access but the process is very difficult, even for Japanese users. There are hot spots all over the city but 90% charge you a fee to logon. There are unsecured networks here and there but not on purpose — those are usually people with a wifi home network who do not know better and fail to secure it. You can risk it if you like but I have no idea what the penalties are if you get caught. On the other hand, wired broadband access in hotel rooms is almost a given in all but the cheapest hotels.

Like previous trips to Japan, this one was great! I got to re-visit many cool places, hang out with old & new friends, AND the bonus — this time — it was all done on business! One of the coolest things I did on this trip was assist Fred Lewis (of KTM Japan) on an automobile photo shoot at the Mitsubishi Studio & Warehouse near Yokohama. I mean that was THE PLACE! That is where they shoot their ads for Japan, Asia, the World even! It was an awesome and humbling experience. We got to see some trick cars and an even cooler automobile studio set! You wanna talk about lighting control??? THEY had some serious light!

Due to copyright and secrecy pacts (not to mention the contract on my soul) I cannot post any photos here. Once Fred gets the “OK” he’ll send me some stuff for personal use but I still will not be able to make those public on this blog–sorry folks! I’ll keep some in my “wallet” though, so next time I see you, ask me about it. ;-)

However, I do have a bunch of shots from Tokyo proper that I can share with y’all. A Week in Tokyo, Photo Gallery. Enjoy the photos and as always message or email me with questions or comments, Aloha!

Tokyo 2008: Day 1.

I arrived safely in Tokyo yesterday. We landed at NRT shortly after 2 pm (JST). The eight hour flight was not terribly uncomfortable but I was eager to get off once we landed. I was surrounded by three babies and a pair of young boys — thank goodness for ipods and in-flight entertainment! Although, in typical polite Japanese fashion, even when they were “acting up” it was not that bad.

Moving through immigration was not the nightmare i expected. I was in line for, maybe, 10 minutes (way better than the rumored 45 to 60 minutes.) Customs was also a breeze. Total time from exiting the plane to passing through customs (with my luggage in hand) was about 30 minutes. The walk from the plane to the immigration line took 15 minutes. It was a pleasantly efficient process.

I decided to rent a cellphone this time. The process was made incredibly easy by Expedia.com (hand over expedia travel voucher, “sign here”, receive a cellphone.) It is not much harder if you walked up to the counter with no reservations BUT phone availability would be a concern.

I rode a limousine bus to the Park Hotel Tokyo (i usually do). It costs a little more and takes longer than the train but there are no transfers and luggage is handled by the staff. Plus the bus drops you off right in front of your hotel. You can call me lazy but I think that is 3,000 yen well spent. ;-) The traffic was bad yesterday (rush hour?) so the ride from NRT to Shimbashi took an hour and 45 minutes. I believe it is 90 minutes on a good day. It was about 5:30 pm when I got to the hotel (I wish we could still fly into Haneda!)

Side note: There was an accidental death on the Yamanote-sen (suicide?) which shut it down for 20 minutes yesterday afternoon! It is hard to imagine the busiest train line in Tokyo being shut down for 20 minutes. Apparently someone threw themselves onto the tracks — what a grizzly scene that must have been! According to Danny Choo, it is some thing that happens with some regular frequency! (Work related stress???)

The weather took a down turn with impeccable timing. I was checking the weather for two weeks prior to my arrival in Tokyo and it was all good — cloudy but warming and NO RAIN. Yesterday, it started to rain! It is still raining as I type this (looking out my window.) *Kuso!* I don’t like it but it is not going to stop me from going out.

Last night I took a short walk to Ginza. Chuo Dori is five minutes from my hotel. Lots of designer labels there. I went a few blocks and found the Nikon Plaza which was closed but had a really nice LED light up, all night. I eventually made my way to Suzuran Dori and walked a few blocks before heading back to the Chuo Dori entrance and went into Duffy’s Irish Pub. Of course i got a pint of Guinness and I ate fish and chips. The Guinness was good but we can get it the same in Hawaii. The fish and chips were also good but I think the fish and chips at Murphy’s (in Hawaii) is better. The really nice thing about Duffy’s was the atmosphere. The decor was cool. There were Guinness barrels all over and it just felt like “a pub”. It was a pretty happening place too, it was full when I went in and getting fuller as I left at 10 pm. Ginza and Shimbashi must be the place for pubs, I saw three on my short walk.

Despite the rain I had the D3 out (which performed flawlessly, as usual.) I will try to keep daily updates coming with photo galleries but time here is precious so please forgive me if I do not. Mahalo for reading!

QTVR: Mount Misen, Miyajima.

My post today is very out of order — no, it is not “broken”. Simply out of sequence. I have been working on a more detailed “retrospective diary” of my last trip to Japan. (Oddly enough, on the heels of my Spring 2008 trip to Tokyo, next week! I really gotta work on my timing… (^^;) ) Today I happened upon a “test” panorama that I did while we were in Hiroshima. It grabbed my interest and I detoured from the travel log to re-create a finalized QuickTime Virtual Reality for you all to view.

Basic instructions on viewing: “click and drag” to pan and tilt, “Shift” to zoom in, and “Ctrl” to zoom out.





That was our view from the top of Mount Misen on Miyajima just off the coast of Hiroshima. The sun is setting so you can get a basic idea of which direction is West (therefore: North, South, & East also.) This is a full 360 degree (horizontal) view with +90 degrees up and -65 degrees down. I thought about climbing to the top of the biggest boulder to shoot the pano but then I would lose the view of the actual rock formation. (Actually, I was just too chicken to do it. ;-) )

Ryan and I started our Miyajima venture after lunch. We really cut it close to make it up to the top of Mt. Misen. But our timing was perfect for an incredible sunset — scenic — payoff! There were two other visitors on the mountain (four of us total) at that late hour. All of us were only half way down when the “last call” — for the gondola ropeway ride back to Miyajima proper — sounded! One of the girls, who was heading up to the peak when we were heading down, came sprinting past us just as the “last call” message ended.

*STOMP STOMP STOMP VVVOOOSH!!!* “Ko -nich -wa … “, was all I heard when I saw the flash of long blonde hair, corduroy, and the soles of her Nike’s. She was booking it! At that moment, I felt my age. I thought about how, not too long ago, that was me and my friends going up and down Diamond Head Crater. All I could utter in response was, “I gotta start exercising!” It didn’t matter anyway, she was long gone by the time I realized what happened.

Funny thing though, because it was just the four of us left, the workers held one car for all of us. It was one of those “neat” things that happen when you travel. There we were, the four of us … Ryan and I: the two Hawaii boys (who look Japanese but speak perfect English). One Asian woman, who looked Japanese but only god knows for sure (she never spoke). And then there was the “Blonde Sprinter”, who looked like she could have come from “anywhere USA” but sounded like she was from Australia or South Africa. It was obvious that all of us were out of breath (for various reasons). So rather than try to labor between panting and conversation, we all just sat there and appreciated the ride down. It was quite zen: the cool mountain air, dim light of dusk, sounds of birds coming home to roost, quiet *hum* of the gondola, and the four of us breathing.

Sure, it might have been nice to strike up a conversation and learn the facts about each person — but why spoil a good thing? Just so we can open our mouths and spout useless small talk? I think not.

Autum 2007: Southern & Central Japan.

Click to view my images--WEE!!! I finally went through all of my vacation images and pulled about 400 (or so) for y’all to view. All of the images should be in chronological order. Throughout January I will be cherry picking notable experiences and writing about them in detail.

For now please take a look at the images I have selected (I did not edit much out). All images were captured with Nikon digital SLR cameras and Nikkor ‘glass’. Sharp eyed photo-philes should be able to pick out my D3 images (hint: color saturation).

Please click on my drawing @ left to open a link to the new image gallery. As always comments and constructive criticism are very welcome. Happy Holidays to you all and I’ll ‘see’ you next year! :-D