The morning after we returned from Sendai we left Tokyo again, this time for Kyoto. We managed to got up early enough to be on our way to Shinjuku and Tokyo Station at 8 a.m. We’d already developed a routine for the mornings, which made getting on the way faster. This time we bought the Shinkansen tickets from Shinjuku on our way to Tokyo, so all we had to do at Tokyo station was to find the right platform. Our train left at 10:30 we started our journey to Kyoto. The train was quite crowded, but we managed to find seats and less that three hours later we were standing at Kyoto station, wondering where we would spend the night.
After an unsuccessful attempt to get a woman in the tourism info to help us and calling a few hostels with no success we found our way to the service desk of the International Tourism Center of Japan (it used to be located in the ninth floor of the station, but has since been closed). A helpful woman working there organized us fairly cheap hotel rooms for the three nights we were planning. The only catch was that we had to switch to another hotel after the first night. Still, it was better than staying outside, especially since it was the typhoon season and it had rained like crazy the entire day.
We stayed the first night in a hotel called Alpha Kyoto on Sanjo Dôri. I was thinking of writing a short review of it, but found out some time ago that it has been shut down, so I guess there’s no point. It was a fairly nice place and we actually ended up staying there twice. Although we had thought that it would better not to reserve hotels in advance because we had a lot of people to meet in Japan and needed to keep our schedule flexible, at hindsight it was a stupid thing to do and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who wants to enjoy their holiday. The only positive thing was that the weather was so bad that we wouldn’t probably have done much sightseeing on the first day anyway.
Anyway, here’s a few photos from our room. The opening image of this post is a view from the room across Aneyakoji dôri.
You can see the hotel on Google Street View below (the building with 7 Eleven):
We’re already well into 2015 and I’m ashamed to notice that I’ve let this blog and my other social media endeavors wither as I’ve become busy with all kinds of work and photography-related things. That is about to change, however. As an unofficial new year’s resolution I’ve decided to post more images this year and also resuscitate my Tumblr and Facebook accounts.
I’ve had big plans for this website and my photography for a long time, but never really got around to implementing any of them. So this might as well be the year to do that. As a first thing, I’ve added links to the sidebar to my images that are available for licensing on Getty Images and Alamy.
If you’re on Instagram, you can go to my account to see some travel photos that don’t end up in this blog. That’s also the place where I’m currently the most active and where I post new photos first, so if you want to see what I’m up to, follow me there. Even you don’t have an Instagram account, you can go to the Instagram page on this website to see the latest images.
The photo above is from the shinkansen (bullet train) platform at Tokyo station. I took this a few years ago when I was traveling around Japan. We were heading to Kyoto but had to wait for the staff to clean the train before we were allowed to board the train.
After resting for a while, we decided to hit the town. We had planned to find a restaurant that serves a local specialty, cow tongue, but decided that cows need their tongues more than we do. Instead, we walked around in department stores, of which there are plenty around the train station, bought a sushi set, some rice balls, beer and a couple of cans of chuuhai from a convenience store. The good thing about being in a foreign culture is that you don’t have to go after the weirdest thing to be surprised – if you’re in Japan for the first time, you can find plenty of interesting things to taste in a convenience store. We then found a small park near the East exit of the train station and had dinner there while watching people walk by. We didn’t spend too much time downtown, but we took a short walk around the city and took some photos before heading back to the hostel.
On our way back to the hostel we stopped at another convenience store and got some late night snacks and a few drinks. Back at the hostel we had a quick shower and assembled to one of our rooms to check the photos from the day and to plan the next day. Even though the hostel was generally nice, there’s one more thing worth mentioning about Japanese hostels: the walls are often paper-thin. That particular night there was a group of three guys staying in the hostel and one of them was snoring really loudly. It’s not extraordinary that you can hear sounds from the neighboring rooms, but this guy was a couple of rooms away from us. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for his two friends.
For those of you who are interested in numbers, we traveled about 450 kilometers on our first day on the road (or tracks). I’ll try to keep track of the distances and the cost of tickets for those who want to know how far you have to go with the Japan Rail Pass until it pays itself back.
Here’s a short video of the first day. Sorry for the terrible image quality, the video wasn’t shot with a state-of-the-art equipment. The song is by a Japanese band called STAn.
I’m still working on bringing my old travel blog over to the new site, but I’ve also been working on some old images. This one was taken in Sendai and I intended to process it as a “realistic” travel image until I realized that there was a person in this image. I can’t believe that it took me four years to notice that little detail, but that changed the way I saw this image entirely and I decided took make it dark and moody. Once I’d decided to ditch realism, I went ahead and removed a utility pole that I didn’t like and applied split toning to give the image the look that I wanted.
I also decided to give the site yet another facelift. It wasn’t too long ago that I changed the theme and restructured the site, but I found that the theme I was using didn’t met neither my needs nor my expectations. It was a pain to update and customize so when I had a chance to try the current theme from Graph Paper Press, I didn’t think twice about switching it. I really like the new simple look, and thanks to the responsive design, now the site looks great even on mobile devices! And there’s more! I’ve also added a new page that displays my latest Instagram images – you can access it from the left sidebar menu. Hope you like the changes.
I know I promised to upload travel photos, but I stumbled upon this image from the flight from Helsinki to Paris and wanted to upload it first. I didn’t actually get to see Paris, but we had a short layover at Charles de Gaulle airport when we visited Japan in 2009. I was going to delete this image first because I had much better images of clouds with more texture and a few where the landscape was visible, but then realized that it kind of resembles Hiroshi Sugimoto’s seascapes and that I could actually take this image into that direction.
I didn’t do much processing on this image, as it was quite abstract as it was, but I did emphasize the original mood by removing Clarity in Lightroom and increasing the exposure in the center of the image to soften the horizon line.
If there’s anything to be learned from this, it’s that it might be a good idea to let your images sit for a while instead of rushing to upload them to the Internet as soon as you get home. It’s also a good idea to wait until deleting images that at first seem like failures. After a while, when you’ve got over the initial excitement or disappointment you feel towards your images, you’ll be able to look at them more objectively and you won’t be held back by emotional baggage when processing them. I often find that only then I can get really creative with my images.
We landed at Narita airport at 6:50 am. It was raining, just as we thought when we left Finland, but despite the rain the weather was really warm. As we got out of the plane, we were greeted by the warm air that felt pleasent after the long flight. I still remember how strange that warm rush of air felt the first time I landed in Japan, and it has made me feel like home ever since. The nostalgia didn’t last long though, because within 5 minutes I was sweating like a pig, and I was only carrying my hand luggage at the time. We hurried to the passport inspection and got into the queue. While we were waiting for our turn, the lady from the back seat asked someone (maybe herself) the important question: “Are we in Tokyo?”
I had imagined that getting our fingerprints and taking our photos would take a while but it happened really fast. However, the clerk thought it odd that I didn’t know the address of the place where we were supposed to stay in Tokyo and held me at the inspection counter. Luckily he finally let me go when I gave him my friend’s phone number and told him that my friend will be waiting for us at the airport. As expected, the others got through without being asked anything. I should’ve known better, ofcourse, and keep all the necessary addresses and phone numbers at hand.
After we got our luggage and passed the customs, we picked up our rental cell phones from the Softbank counter at the arrival lobby and trodded to the nearest bench to rest. It was so warm and humid that even walking around the airport for a while with our luggage seemed like a huge effort. After setting our gear to the benches, we bought some beverages – water Kirin Ichiban beer C.C. Lemon soda. C.C. lemon must be one of the best sodas ever! If you don’t believe me, watch this commercial:
While we were figuring out what to do next, we gave my friend a call to check if he’s home so we could drop off our luggage. It turned out that there had been a misunderstanding and he wasn’t even expecting us. Instead, he thought we’d head straight to Sendai from the airport and told us he wouldn’t be home until the evening. We thought that the best thing we could do was to go to Tokyo station, leave our luggage to a coin locker and kill time until 2 pm, when we were supposed to meet another friend of mine. We quickly exchanged our pre-purchased vouchers for the Japan Rail Passes at a JR ticket counter and reserved seats on the Narita Express train that would take us to Tokyo. It took an hour to get from Narita to Tokyo. I was excited to look at the scenery and tried to locate familiar places.
We arrived at Tokyo at about 10:15 and located the lockers – which weren’t much use to us because my suitcase was too large to fit in even the biggest one! Now this was an unpleasent turn of events. The idea of dragging the suitcase with me in Tokyo or even around the crowded Tokyo station didn’t seem amusing at all…