Dancing in the streets at the 33rd Asakusa Samba Festival in Tokyo. 22 teams including local Japanese and Brazilians bring Samba to the roads around Asakusa Shrine. The event is watched by around 500,000 spectators so the streets do get a little crowded. Some participants went with the iconic sparkly Carnival outfits, while others wore costumes more representative of their region in Japan. This is why you have dancing okonomiyaki. Overall, a fun event, very different from the traditional religious festivals that I usually cover. Maybe I should start checking out the prices of flights to Rio.
Fuji Television Studios Building, Odaiba, Tokyo designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. Photographed using the Pentax 645Z with 25mm and 90mm lenses, with polarizer.
There’s an 18-meter Gundam statue in front of DiverCity Tokyo Plaza, Odaiba, Tokyo. I know nothing about Gundam, so I shall turn to Wikipedia. The Gundam Series (ガンダムシリーズ ) is a metaseries of space opera anime created by Sunrise studios that features giant robots (or “mecha”) called “Mobile Suits” (MS); usually the protagonist’s MS will carry the name “Gundam.” Sounds a bit like the giant robot suits in the very mediocre Pacific Rim movie. The statue was pretty impressive, and worth checking out if you’re visiting Odaiba.
At 6PM I left the 5th Station and started the climb up Fuji. There were many other hikers on the trail, including several larger groups with a leader at the front and an assistant at the rear. Following the trail is very easy. It’s well signposted and there are plenty of people around. By 7PM it was dark, but I’d brought with me a great new LED Lenser headlamp and a spare flashlight. I’d also brought my full size tripod, the 645Z, and three lenses so my pack was a little on the heavy side. Hauling all my camera gear up the mountain did mean that I could get some interesting light painting shots on the climb. The sign above was lit with the flashlight, while the background had a 30 second exposure. The following shot was a three minute exposure as a group of hikers wound up the trail past me. The leader and assistant had the red LED stick and the green LED globe. The other hikers between them were using white LED headlamps. At 12.30 …
There are several ways to climb Mt. Fuji. I’ll describe what I believe is perhaps the best and easiest option. During the July / August climbing season, you can get a bus from outside Shinjuku train station all the way to the 5th station on Fuji. Book tickets at the office which is next to Yodobashi Camera. You catch the bus from the “extraordinary bus stop” just a few meters away. A one way ticket is 2700 yen and it takes about 2 hours 30 minutes from Shinjuku to Fuji. The 5th Station on Fuji is already up in the clouds at 2304 meters. I arrived just after 5pm so that I could take photographs in the late afternoon light, but many night climbers will opt for a bus that gets in at 18.55, or on weekends 20.15 or even 21.55. Many hikers will buy a walking stick that that can be branded at the various huts on the way up. I was already carrying enough gear, so I didn’t bother. Hiking boots are advisable for the …
After getting a few portraits and some general overview shots, I started looking for other angles. At one junction, where the mikoshi make a 90 degree turn, I noticed there was an elderly man watching the proceedings from the upstairs window of his home. I waved at him, pointed to my camera, and a few minutes later I was also watching the festival from the upstairs window. It turns out Kawauchi-san has lived in the same place since he was a kid. He watches the parade every year, and was quite happy to have some company for a little while. It was great to be able to look down on proceedings. I was able to capture a good selection of images I wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise. I even had enough time to shoot some video. A huge thank you to Kawauchi-san for happily letting a stranger into his home, and even giving the stranger a bottle of cold tea on a hot day in August.
On Sunday 17th, Fukagawa Hachiman Festival reached its peak. Festivities began with blessings from the Shinto priest outside the shrine. Dozens of mikoshi were carried through the streets, the participants getting soaked by far more bystanders with buckets of water. As with yesterday, it was great to know that the Pentax 645Z and lenses are properly weather sealed. The camera was splashed several times, but there were no issues. However, there were some professional water soakers that I needed to stay clear of. Numerous member of the Tokyo fire departments were there to drench the groups with water. There’s weather sealing, and there’s being hit by a firehose sealing. I wasn’t going to test the latter. My goal therefore was to try and get in close to the groups without getting soaked, or crushed underfoot by a team of mikoshi carriers. And a bit of video
While in Tokyo, I’d stopped by the Kobe Kanagawa Eye Clinic in Shinjuku for my 6-month eye check after Lasik. First, I did a standard eye test. I could read the bottom line with my right eye, the second to bottom line with my left eye, and the bottom line clearly with both eyes open. My eyes were then checked by the doctor, and I was given the all clear. Awesome. I can go back to the clinic if I ever have any concerns, but that was the final regularly scheduled check-up. To learn more about my experience with Lasik just click on the Lasik in Japan tab above.
Fukagawa Festival a.k.a. The Water Throwing Festival held at Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine, Tokyo. Participants throw buckets of water at mikoshi (portable shirines) as they are carried through streets in one of the great Shinto festivals of Tokyo. Not everyone chooses buckets of water, there were plenty of kids with their super soakers happy to join in the fun. These are shots from the Saturday, the day before the main festival. Going a day early allowed me to get a feel for the festival, work out the angles, and prepare myself for the following day.
A couple of my shots taken with the new Pentax K3 camera will be on display in an exhibit at the Ricoh Imaging Square in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The event takes place from March 26th to April 7th 2014, so if you’re in the area drop in and check out the photographs. If you’d like to see some images from previous exhibitions click on the Exhibitions tab above.