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>>>Out And About In Japan - Part 1

Despite living in Japan for almost three years now this is only my second Japanese thread as my hard drive crashed last year, erasing all my early pics. This thread is a pretty random selection of some of the photos I’ve taken since then, and the first of what I hope will be a series of threads containing photos which offer some insight into life in Japan from a gaijin (foreigner) perspective. Enjoy.

THE way to travel in Japan – the shinkansen (bullet train)

First stop Kyoto. Here’s Shijo-bashi bridge at sunset.

The mountains to the west of Kyoto at sunset.

The Shijo-bashi bridge at night, taken during the Daimonji festival (as you can see from the illuminated ‘dai’ Chinese character at the top right of the picture)

The endless urban concrete sprawl of Osaka from the air. Compared to Tokyo there are fewer areas of greenery.

This place specializes in food on sticks.

Check out these drums of sake, Japan’s world-famous rice wine hangover guarantee.

The Pooh-mobile. I’m always seeing customized cars and vans in Japan, usually tastelessly-colored and often with neon/disco lighting inside and underneath. I’ll try to get photos of some better examples in future.

Japan really is the country of vending machines (there are apparently around 6 million of them.) I didn’t realize how much everyone depends on them until I first went to South Korea in 2003 and was frustrated when the purchase of soft drinks involved finding shops rather than walking a few meters in any direction.

Although the fighters are from all over the world, K1 is basically a Japanese sport and is their version of kickboxing, which is surprisingly popular (even with women, despite its ultra violent nature). Here’s a photo from a K1 kickboxing Grand Prix in Osaka, with Bob Sapp on the TV screens. Despite being unknown in his native US, Sapp is a household name in Japan due to his endless TV show appearances and commercials for the likes of Panasonic. Pity he’s such a poor fighter.

Apparently the inspiration for Bladerunner’s neon cityscapes, here’s the Shinjuku district of Tokyo.

A close up of all that neon. No Harrison Ford though.

Being an island nation, fish is obviously hugely popular here. I found these tuna heads sitting outside a Shinjuku sushi/sashimi joint.

Here’s ‘the elephant man fish’ I found in a tank outside a seafood restaurant in Fukuoka. I hope he wasn’t on the menu, but then there’s virtually nothing found in the sea the Japanese won’t eat so who knows?

Much more appetizing is the sushi on display in this shop in Kyobashi. As you can see, food presentation is extremely important here.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. I’ve posted more photos of this amazing skyscraper at The architect who designed it, Kenzo Tange, recently passed away and other examples of his awesome work can be found at

Behind the marble-clad Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, which stands as a huge monument to ‘bubble-era’ Capitalist extravagance, lies a park in which there are several mini-shantytowns.

This guy kept shouting "White cat. This area’s trademark" over and over, his state of mental health clearly the reason why he’s now homeless.

Autumn in Harajuku-koen park. Harajuku-koen park is one of Tokyo’s best natural spaces but is more famous for the concrete plaza next to the nearest station where an assortment of Goths, cyberpunks and general weirdos congregate every Sunday lunchtime.

The Japanese are crazy about seasonal stuff, and the two biggest manifestations of this fervor are hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in Spring and kyōyō (red leaves viewing) in Autumn/Fall, as you can see here in Harajuku-koen park.

Displays of plastic food can be found outside lots of restaurants so, along with the widespread use of picture menus, they make dining a simple ‘point and eat’ affair for foreigners who are unfamiliar with the language.

Possibly the most famous tree in Japan, this cherry tree is in Maruyama-koen park in Kyoto.

Revelers returning home after a night of hanami fun in Kiyamachi, Kyoto.

Cherry blossoms over the Takasegawa-stream in Kyoto.

Back to Harajuku-koen park. This guy kept shouting "kingyo" (goldfish) at me but I didn’t know why.

On closer inspection I realized what he was on about though.

Guys getting down to some 1950s Japanese rock ‘n’ roll.

“What should we do this weekend, honey?”
“We could make clothes out of cardboard boxes and head down to Harajuku-koen park”
“What a splendid idea!”

It’s the dog from the Aifuru TV commercial!

Some guy washing his hair in a fountain in November.

Yatai (stall) selling manju (Chinese dumplings), a snack favorite which is only available in Japan in the winter months.

An interesting crab sculpture in Fukuoka

‘Cuteness’ is an inescapable aspect of the culture, as you can see from this ‘warning’ sign in Shinagawa. Kawaii desuyo.

A common sight, the drunken sarariman (a good example of ‘Japlish’, ‘salary man’ means businessman, or perhaps more accurately ‘corporate slave’); look carefully and you can see his dinner has been deposited on his shoes. Worryingly, the police and an ambulance turned up after I took this shot.

Being forced to decide your ‘job for life’ at the age of 22 and having to stick with the same company until retirement, being unable to take holidays you’re entitled to, doing ridiculous amounts of unpaid overtime, and often working 6 or 7 days a week are all factors which ensure Japan has the world’s third highest suicide rate and that a welcome ‘pressure valve’ is provided by excessive alcohol consumption.

For the stressed-out salaryman there’s also the ‘gentleman’s relaxation club’ with its ‘special chairs’. The Japanese word ayashii (dodgy/suspicious) definitely springs to mind with this one.

Speaking of unwholesome salaryman entertainment, here’s a truck advertising call girls in central Fukuoka on a Saturday afternoon.

Outside one of the many yatai selling ramen (noodles) in Fukuoka.

It’s freezing outside the yatai but it looks pretty cozy inside.

Gaijin contemplating the taste of Fukuoka’s famous tonkotsu ramen (noodles in pork broth) in one of the city’s yatai.

Chōchin (lanterns) outside a Fukuoka shop.

Because Japan’s a mountainous, volcanic country there’s an abundance of onsen (hot springs), and bathing is understandably a major part of the culture. One of the most famous onsen resorts is Beppu, Kyushu island. Here’s a nice map of the city showing the seven jigoku (hells) which the city is famous for (apparently people used to think that these were gateways to different hells)

Traditional garden around one of the jigoku.

And here’s one of the steaming jigoku.

Forget JAL and ANA, IBEX is the only way to fly in Japan. I was most impressed with their flight from Oita to Osaka; the plane was the size of a bus and the in-flight entertainment consisted of looking out the window at Shikoku below.
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