jsevilla asked: Hey William, I just want to take this moment and tell you that I really enjoy reading your blog. Everything about it is interesting; from your travelogues to your personal post. And you take such lovely photos. (Both film and the ones you took from your DSLR.) Based on what I've seen and read in your blog, you're pretty amazing. Anyway, keep it up! (:

Salamat po for the compliments Jenny. You’re far too kind ^__^

willee-i-am:

Olympus OM-40 // Kodak Ektar 100 // 9th April 2014
The view across the Kanmon Straight to Shimonoseki 下関市, as viewed from the Moji-ko 門司港 Retro Observation Deck. The room is situated 103 meters up, and provides nice views of the Moji-ko area on three sides.
I love that sunsets in Japan provide such a clear and circular sun.
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willee-i-am:

Olympus OM-40 // Kodak Ektar 100 // 9th April 2014

The view across the Kanmon Straight to Shimonoseki 下関市, as viewed from the Moji-ko 門司港 Retro Observation Deck. The room is situated 103 meters up, and provides nice views of the Moji-ko area on three sides.

I love that sunsets in Japan provide such a clear and circular sun.

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Japan Travelogue: April 9th - Kitakyushu (pt.5 - Moji-ko 門司港)

willee-i-am:

We strolled to the shopping section of the port, passing an oral story teller who invited us to sit with his audience as we passed. I’d have loved to, if I thought could have understood more than 3% of it. We ended up finding another Studio Ghibli shop, and entered, curious to see if it provided anything different to the one we’d been in a few hours before. It was bigger, with a larger selection. Still, most of the merchandise was Totoro-based. A couple of gigantic Totoro plushies, reaching up to my rib-cage, stood proudly inside. I looked at the price tag. 50,000 yen! What?! That’s like… I did a quick calculation. Like £250, or near abouts. Senna couldn’t believe it either. I ended up buying a few post cards and a cute Totoro adorned wallet, that I would later realise was actually too small for my needs and a huge waste of money. Nice though.

I purcahsed some Kyushu region instant ramen from a small supermarket. Afterwards, Senna and I bought ice cream and sat at a bench overlooking the sea, serenaded by waves and a sea breeze. I had chosen Matcha ice cream. I hadn’t been a big fan of the flavour when I’d initially tried it, but it grew on me quickly. Slicing through our serene soundtrack of sea and excited speech from fellow tourists, a voice emanated from a PA system advertising tours of the Moji-ko area. We witnessed a boat returning, containing a single solitary soul.

With half an hour until sunset, Senna and I wandered over to the tall apartment building next to the former customs house, whose topmost floor housed the Moji-ko Retro Observation Room. Upon entering, the man at reception informed us it was on the 31st floor, and as we stepped into the lift an attendant set us on our way. The lift ascended. Window panes dashed passed giving us flashing glimpses of the city falling away beneath us. The world outside appeared as a flipbook as we rose.

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Entry into the observation room was 300 yen. There was a restaurant inside, to the right of the room. A man and woman sat at a table, chatting. We stood at the window, gazing out. The setting sun was slowly casting a warm veil over the sea and the city Shimonoseki in the distance. Small boats and cargo ships cut across the distilled reflection of the sun, which created art on the ocean surface, like a literal watercolour painting. Over the left-hand side, I traced the route we had taken with my eyes. Ships and boats sat docked in the harbour, slowly swaying to the beat of gentle waves. To the right, I saw the city. The small, angular buildings of offices and houses had encroached on to the edge of the mountains. Cars the size of insects scurried over the bridge to and from Shimonoseki. The two of us stood at the window, watching the sun slowly set. Senna played with the digital binoculars, which allowed her to zoom in on boats, the sea, and the city in the distance.

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As the sun descended behind the horizon, we descended in the lift back to the first floor. Walking back to the train station. We stopped at a pedestrian crossing. A business man holding a briefcase stood at the other side. The road was small, there were no cars coming.

“If this was England, I’d have crossed the road by now”, Senna said. She had spent a year in England on exchange from Kitakyushu University, which is how I‘d gotten to know her.
“I know. I was just thinking that”, I replied.
“When I got back to Japan after my year in England”, she began, “I kept crossing the road the road when I saw it was clear, even if the light was red. I got stared at. People in Japan don‘t really do that.”
“Yeah, I know. I’d been told that before coming here.”

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In general, people in Japan don’t start walking at pedestrian crossings until the light turns green. Occasionally, someone will break rank, maybe because they’re in a hurry, or impatient, or realise that there’s no reason not to, and walk across when they have the chance, causing others in the crowd, believing that they must know something they don’t, to start, only to glance up at the light to see that it’s still red, and shuffle back into place and continue waiting for an official signal. I had been one of these people caught out a couple of times. When travelling, I find it’s important to follow the customs of the country you’re in, so since getting to Japan I had tried to do everything the Japanese way, which meant waiting patiently for the green light and crossing the road at marked crossings. But here I stood, at a road only one car wide, which would only take a second to cross, waiting for a light, which was taking longer than usual, to change. I began to feel a little silly.

Eventually the light changed and we head back to Moji-ko station and boarded. The train rumbled through dusk. Lights began to flicker on in buildings outside. Across the straights, a large ferris wheel stood illuminated in Shimonoseki, rotating leisurely. Upon returning to Kokura station, Senna and I hugged and parted. I was happy to have had such an active and interesting day with a friend. 

Previous post.

My photos from Kitakyushu.

For more entries, click the ‘Japan Travelogue' tag on my page.

willee-i-am:

Olympus OM-40 // Kodak Portra 400 (expired) // 24th March 2014 // Kinkakuj-ji 金閣寺
Trying one last time to take a person-free picture of the pavilion from a different angle, I attached a telephoto lens to my camera to get a close up. The vast majority of photos you see of the building include the same elements: the temple, it’s reflection in the pond and the surrounding landscape. Things you see on a postcard. At least this photo would be a little different. 
From my travelogue. For more entries, click the ‘Japan Travelogue' tag on my page.
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willee-i-am:

Olympus OM-40 // Kodak Portra 400 (expired) // 24th March 2014 // Kinkakuj-ji 金閣寺

Trying one last time to take a person-free picture of the pavilion from a different angle, I attached a telephoto lens to my camera to get a close up. The vast majority of photos you see of the building include the same elements: the temple, it’s reflection in the pond and the surrounding landscape. Things you see on a postcard. At least this photo would be a little different. 

From my travelogue. For more entries, click the ‘Japan Travelogue' tag on my page.

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Japan Travelogue: March 27th - Kyoto (pt.4 - Ginkaku-ji 銀閣寺)

willee-i-am:

The gardens at Ginkaku-ji 銀閣寺 are glorious. Whereas the path through Kinkaku-ji’s 金閣寺 grounds are rather short and linear, the route through Ginkaku-ji encompasses the true beauty of a Japanese garden, with, ponds, streams, sand, and a change in elevation that provides a lovely view over Kyoto. It’s also far bigger and greener that the gardens of Kinkaku-ji - or at least the area of the ‘Golden Pavilion’ that visitors are allowed in.

It was around midday when I lined up to buy my ticket. Despite the slightly dreary weather, a bustling crowd stod in line in front of me. As we entered, Ginkaku-ji appeared around the very first corner. I didn’t expect it to be so close, so soon. The two-storied temple was the residence of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, who began construction on it in 1482, modelling it’s design after Kinkaku-ji, the residence of his grandfather, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. While it certainly doesn’t have the same extravagant grandeur of the building it was based on, it was still an impressive piece of architecture. It was originally intended to be covered in silver foil, to compliment the gold leaf adorning Kinkaku-ji, but the plans were never fully realised during Yoshimasa’s lifetime. Nevertheless, the black lacquer used on the temple gave it a shining silver appearance in moonlight, further emphasising the nickname of ‘Silver Pavilion’. However, this lacquer has been allowed to wear away, leaving the Silver Pavilion silver in name alone. 

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I stood at the fence, the pavilion only a few feet away. Beside me, families were taking group photographs. Teenagers in kimonos passed me to do the same beside a small shrine at the end of the path. As I’d been travelling and sight-seeing by myself for the most part, seeing all these groups friends and family had started make me feel a little lonely. I’d have liked to have started conversations with people, but I’m a shy person in general, and with only two months of Japanese learning under my belt, if I started one I probably wouldn’t have been able to carry it on. I moved to my right to take a swig of water. As I looked up, a girl in a beige coloured coat asked a man, who was standing where I had been seconds before, if he could take a photo of her and her friend. Ah, that could have been me. I could have had an ‘in’ to converse with someone. I could have had a friendly human interaction. I looked on, jealous and alone. Curse my thirst.

I stood to the side, looking up at Ginkaku-ji. The ornamental phoenix adorning the tip of the shallow pyramid roof seemed identical to the one at the Golden Pavilion, besides the colour. The temple is shorter than it’s golden cousin, comprised of only two floors. I got the impression it was more reserved, more comfortable, at least from the outside - the inside of the building is closed to the public. People filed in around me, waiting their turn take group photographs or selfies in front of the building. After a few attempts, and a short look at what they‘d actually paid to see, they lowered their phones or cameras and moved on to the next location. It seemed a shame that this building, as well as many of the other tourist spots around Kyoto, Japan, and indeed the world, were now so often seen as mere backgrounds for photographs. Years ago, tourism meant that popular areas would be filled with people taking photos of the area. Now, thanks to smart phones, digital cameras, and social media, these areas have become saturated with people taking photos of themselves in the area; an attempt to prove to people that they were there and that they experienced it, but not taking the time fully experience it.

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I walked on. The path curved around a beautifully kempt dry sand garden, known as the ‘Sea of Silver Sand’. The light grey sand was raked in rows, each line straight as a die, alternating from smooth to textured, creating distinct lines, in the same vein as how grass is cut on a football pitch. Closer to the temple was a large cone shaped mound of sand, it’s sides perfectly smooth, said to represent Mt. Fuji. Many people sat down on the landing of the main hall, admiring the scenery. I joined them for a short rest, before heading on. The group of teenagers in kimonos stood ahead of me, taking photos of each other. I walked by the Togudo, the other temple on the premises, before rounding the corner, passing a small pond and stream, and climbing up stone steps to the summit of a hill. From here I could see the majority of the temple grounds, and the city beyond. Other than climbing the Sanmon at Nanzen-ji that morning, I hadn’t seen any landscapes since I had arrived in Japan, only buildings and gardens from ground level.
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I watched as below me, groups of tiny people entered the grounds. Beside me, schoolchildren gathered, enjoying the view. I leant against the railing and gazed out, envying Yoshimasa for having lived in such beauty.

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For more entries, click the ‘Japan Travelogue' tag on my page.

willee-i-am:

Olympus OM-40 // Kodak Portra 400 (expired) // 27th March 2014
Different setting. Different sunset. Japan didn’t have the same kind of sunset I was used to in England, where the sky is awash with yellow or orange (or red or pink, on good days). In Japan, while I was there at least, the colour was more subdued. But the shape of the sun was so clear. Like the lanterns suspended outside the restaurants, it hung in the air, shining. And you could watch it descend without it ever hurting your eyes.  
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willee-i-am:

Olympus OM-40 // Kodak Portra 400 (expired) // 27th March 2014

Different setting. Different sunset. Japan didn’t have the same kind of sunset I was used to in England, where the sky is awash with yellow or orange (or red or pink, on good days). In Japan, while I was there at least, the colour was more subdued. But the shape of the sun was so clear. Like the lanterns suspended outside the restaurants, it hung in the air, shining. And you could watch it descend without it ever hurting your eyes.  

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Japan Travelogue: March 23rd - Kyoto (pt.2 - Hanatōro)

willee-i-am:

Either side of me, the warm glow of small lanterns lit the narrow, cobbled streets. I walked through Higashiyama charmed by the gentle illumination. Every year, Kyoto’s most famous historical district plays host to the Hanatōro (花灯路, literally meaning ‘flower and light road’), a ten day long illumination event that takes place every March, and I was lucky enough to make the final day.

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I’d arrived just after sunset. The lanterns and the crowds weren’t yet in full force. The traditional shops, narrow stone streets, and wooden buildings of Higashiyama provided a glimpse in to the past of the old capital. I doubted whether it would have been this busy. The streets packed with people, slowly wending their way along the route, both locals and tourists alike. I could see women in kimonos in the crowd. Two were taking a selfie with Yasaka pagoda as a backdrop. It seemed a little peculiar to see people in such traditional dress, in such a traditional area, clutching phones and cameras, slightly spoiling the illusion. Then again, modern Kyoto is a city that melds technology and tradition, and this was merely another example.

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I walked further up the trail. Dusk had descended; the light of the lanterns prevailed. I looked in the windows of the shops I passed. Most extended their opening hours during the festival. Many restaurants displayed cases out front that contained the fake food commonly used in Japan to illustrate what was on the menu. Even though I knew it was plastic, it looked so good I still wanted to taste it.

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A man in uniform was calling to the crowd of passers by and handing out leaflets for the festival. From what I could understand, the illumination at Kiyomizu temple 清水寺 was soon to start. I took a leaflet, and climbed a short hill to reach the entrance to Kiyomizu-dera, the last stop on the route. Squeezing my way through the static crowd gathered at the foot of the steps, I paid the five hundred yen entrance fee and climbed the steps in a hurry, eager to lay my eyes on the beautiful structure.

It was founded in 780, situated on the site of the Otowa waterfall, from whose clear waters it derives it’s name - Kiyomizu-dera literally means ‘pure water temple’. The stage, which stands thirteen meters above the ground, as well as the main hall, were built without the use of nails, making the structure all the more impressive. Like the rest of the route, was illuminated with a warm orange glow, but above it’s roof, a beam of blue light shone across the clear sky. I stood on the veranda, leaning against the railing, admiring the view of the grounds and the shining city beyond. All around me, people walked excitedly, chatting and taking photographs. Some lined up to pray or have their fortunes told.

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I followed the route on to the promenade that would descend back in to the grounds of the temple. From where I stood, I could view the temple and the city behind it. No wonder so many people leant against the railing, taking pictures. For a few minutes I became one of them, resting my camera on the rail for a shake-free shot in the low light, before succumbing to the flow of people and drifting along with them, down to the grounds.

All photos from my instagram (follow me on instagram).

Previous entry.

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willee-i-am:

Olympus OM-40 // Kodak Portra 400 (expired) // 27th March 2014
I came across an early blooming cherry blossom tree in Kyoto Imperial Park. It was surrounded by people with cameras, making it impossible to get a clear shot. Stepping back, I noticed this beautiful, cherry red bicycle. 
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willee-i-am:

Olympus OM-40 // Kodak Portra 400 (expired) // 27th March 2014

I came across an early blooming cherry blossom tree in Kyoto Imperial Park. It was surrounded by people with cameras, making it impossible to get a clear shot. Stepping back, I noticed this beautiful, cherry red bicycle. 

Buy this as a print on Society6 or RedBubble!

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Japan Travelogue: March 22nd - Kyoto (pt.3 - To-ji 東寺)

willee-i-am:

In the evening, Nila and I walked to To-ji, to see it’s evening illumination. I wasn’t in a particularly affable mood. I’d been walking around constantly for 3 days with little rest, and my feet and legs felt ready to drop off. I didn’t think I could make it. Each minute of walking felt like ten. Half way there I felt like turning back, or flagging a taxi to take me to my hostel, despite their exorbitant prices, but Nila made me persist.

To-ji had been established in the late 700s, at the beginning of the Heian period, and is now one of Kyoto‘s many UNESCO world heritage sites. Inside the entrance to the grounds, the path to To-ji was illuminated by little lanterns on either side. It looked lovely, serene, but all I could think about was that I needed to sit down. Not far in was a small building with a souvenir shop at the front. Nila took a look, while I took a photo or two of the temple grounds.

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In the distance stood the five story pagoda, the most prominent feature in the grounds of To-ji. Erected the year 826, and standing at fifty seven meters tall, it is the highest pagoda in Japan. Lights at the base of the structure illuminated it with a warm, yellow glow. Half way to the pagoda stood a large weeping cherry blossom tree, also illuminated, but bare. The majority of Kyoto’s sakura (さくら, cherry blossoms) would not bloom for another two weeks. I wished I could have seen it in it’s prime.

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Around the pond in front of the pagoda I saw a couple of beautiful objects. Benches! Finally, I could sit. Taking the weight of my feet was a sweet relief. Nila and I sat on the bench, facing the pond. We talked for a while, admiring the area. It was getting chilly, but I was reluctant to move. I’d rather have been cold than have to use my feet again. Sadly, Nila didn’t agree, so we rose and wandered on.

At the base of the pagoda stood a small sakura tree; one of the early bloomers. Following the path, we found a couple more in a small grove at the centre of the courtyard. Further on was another building, the Kobo Hall, all lit up, with people gathering outside. Nila and I walked over. Inside stood nineteen Buddhist statues, each lit up by dim, orange lights. These statues had been imported from China by Kobo Daishi, the same man who had built the pagoda. Nila and I both took a few photos of them, but after a while one of the attendants came over and told us that photographs of the statues were not allowed. We both apologised. I wish I had known sooner. I wish he had told me sooner. There were no signs posted around. Nila told me not to worry about it; I hadn’t known and hadn’t knowingly broken rules. Regardless, I deleted all the photos I had taken. I had made another mistake, and felt embarrassed, but at least I could erase some of it.

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I walked with Nila back to the Ryokan (旅館, Japanese guest house) she had booked for the night (unfortunately, we hadn‘t been able to find accommodation in the same place for that night). My feet hurt a little less, whether due to sitting down, or the fact that I was looking forward to getting back to my room. After parting ways, I head to Kyoto Station and caught a bus. I felt like I’d collapse from exhaustion in my seat.

For more entries, click the ‘Japan Travelogue' tag on my page.

Individual entries for the first two photos can be found here and here

willee-i-am:

I always found it a little strange to see women in kimonos holding mobile phones or with cameras strapped across their shoulder; the ultra-traditional and ultra-modern. But then again, this mix of the traditional and modern also seemed to be a sign of the times for Kyoto. It’s still very much a traditional city, with fantastic temples, shrines, and historical sites located all over. But there is still very much a modern aesthetic, complete with all the positive and negative aspects that come with that. 

willee-i-am:

I always found it a little strange to see women in kimonos holding mobile phones or with cameras strapped across their shoulder; the ultra-traditional and ultra-modern. But then again, this mix of the traditional and modern also seemed to be a sign of the times for Kyoto. It’s still very much a traditional city, with fantastic temples, shrines, and historical sites located all over. But there is still very much a modern aesthetic, complete with all the positive and negative aspects that come with that. 

willee-i-am:

Olympus OM-40 // Kodak Portra 400 (expired) // 27th March 2014
Under an early blossoming tree in Kyoto imperial Park. This tree had the fewest people with cameras around it. Only two: me and an elderly man with a beautiful Hassleblad, set up on a tripod. 
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willee-i-am:

Olympus OM-40 // Kodak Portra 400 (expired) // 27th March 2014

Under an early blossoming tree in Kyoto imperial Park. This tree had the fewest people with cameras around it. Only two: me and an elderly man with a beautiful Hassleblad, set up on a tripod. 

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willee-i-am:

Cherry blossom by the torii gate at Kokura Castle, Kitakyushu. 1.4.14

willee-i-am:

Cherry blossom by the torii gate at Kokura Castle, Kitakyushu. 1.4.14

willee-i-am:

Olympus OM-40 // Kodak Ektar 100 // 11th April 2014
At Hakata Station, Fukuoka. Pigeons perched on power lines as, beneath them, friends and family, and even salary men, posed for pictures with a display of Doraemon statues at the front of the station. 
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willee-i-am:

Olympus OM-40 // Kodak Ektar 100 // 11th April 2014

At Hakata Station, Fukuoka. Pigeons perched on power lines as, beneath them, friends and family, and even salary men, posed for pictures with a display of Doraemon statues at the front of the station. 

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Olympus XA2 // Fuji Superia 100 (expired) // 11th April 2014

In the centre of the large lake in Ohori Koen 大濠公園 sat two islands, strung together by stone bridges, connecting the length of the park. Fishing is only permitted in a small area. As such, that carp that live in the lake can grow to impressive sizes.

Olympus XA2 // Fuji Superia 100 (expired) // 11th April 2014

The islands at the lake’s centre in Ohori Koen seemed to be a practice spot for musicians. A man with a guitar (pictured) sat serenading the lake. On the other side of the island, a woman held a shiny saxophone, with sheet music on a stand in front of her. 

She took a deep breath and began to play. I could tell that she wasn’t the most experienced player, that she’d come out here to practice, not perform. The rugged, but rhythmic, sound of her saxophone merged with the dulcet tones of the man on guitar, combining to create an usual cacophony of unrehearsed semi-melody.

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