This is just a bit of an intro, or an entree, if you like. Over the Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) break recently, I spent the time in Paris. It was my first trip to the city and certainly won’t be my last. Despite the less than ideal weather, it was a great introduction to the City of Light.
Of course, there were the typical tourist things I needed to do as a first-timer, like go to the Louvre, head up the Eiffel tower, and see Notre Dame cathedral, but I also spent a lot of time just wandering around the various areas and seeing what could be seen.
Before going, I had heard the stories of how Parisians aren’t all that friendly or accommodating to people who don’t speak French, but I didn’t find that at all. I speak a small amount of French, enough to get by in a basic situation, but when I got into trouble and had to ask if they could speak English, it was never a problem. I met quite a few folks in my wanderings, and by and large I found the French to be a pretty genial lot. So, don’t believe everything you hear.
I’ve been a tad lax, I realize. I finally got a few rolls from the end of 2013 developed and scanned over the holidays so, with no particular theme, here are some of the last images from the old year.
All of the square-format images were taken with my Mamiya C330F, twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera. I got it fitted out with a grip and metred prism finder so it makes it much easier to shoot. I’ll certainly not be getting rid of my Hasselblad any time soon, but the TLR is a whole lot quieter. Besides, it also makes for an interesting conversation piece while I’m wandering the neighbourhoods of The Big Lychee.
I’ll be in Paris over the Chinese New Year break, so I’m looking forward to coming back with some interesting photos and stories.
Kung Hei Fat Choi!
Near the beginning of November, I headed out to two very different forms of memorial in Hong Kong. The first, is the military cemetery on Stanley peninsula. This particular cemetery, as well as the Sai Wan war cemetery are quite poignant because they include the resting places of many Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Hong Kong, defending against the Imperial Japanese Army between December 8th – 25th, 1941.
It may come as a surprise to many Canadians that our troops were involved in protecting Hong Kong during World War II. It was something I only found out about once I came here. I can’t recall ever learning about this fact in school.
The second memorial was the newly revitalized Mei Ho House in Sham Shui Po, one of the oldest and poorest areas of Kowloon. In 1953, a blaze ripped through the shanty town that was in this area; the government’s solution was to create Mei Ho House as the first housing estate in Hong Kong.
次、シャム ショ ポにメイ ホ 家に行きました。１９５３年、その所に大火災がありました。それで、メイ ホ 家は香港の初めの公団住宅が建たせました。
A couple of friends and I had originally meant this particular Sunday to merely be a day for wandering around, photographing Sham Shui Po. One of the friends I was with had actually grown up in the area so it was great to get an insider’s perspective of what it was like 30-plus years ago. We actually stumbled upon Mei Ho House by accident only because we were planning on walking up the hill behind it to get a good view of the area. The three of us were pleasantly surprised and in the end, impressed with the revitalization. It is now a youth hostel. More than that though, it’s an excellent museum. In the back courtyard, there’s also a “general store” and a fantastic cafe. This is, by far, the best example of a revitalization project I have seen in Hong Kong. I do hope that it won’t be the only one. I highly recommend checking it out. Here’s a map showing its location.
二人の友達一緒にシャム ショ ポへ行くために写真を撮るつもりだった。一人の友達はその近所で育った。それで近所の歴史を教えました。面白かった。僕たちは偶然メイ ホ 家に行きました。見た時、驚いた。今、ユースホステルと博物館です。面白い伝統的なカフェーもあります。時間があれば勧めています。
I made two other day-trips that I thought deserved their own post.
I’m a fan of Japanese pottery and I visited two very important pottery towns in Western Japan: Karatsu and Hagi. How important? Well, there’s an adage in describing the preference of tea masters for teabowls: “Raku first, Hagi second, Karatsu third” I haven’t any of Kyoto’s Raku-ware yet, though it’s only a matter of time (and money). My foray into Japanese pottery started by collecting Bizen-yaki from Okayama prefecture, but I’ve been branching out a bit more over the last few years. In addition to tea-ware, many artists also make fantastic sake-ware and on this trip I was determined to add to my collection both chawan (tea bowl) and guinomi (sake cup).
An interesting note about these styles of pottery is how much they were originally influenced by Korean potters. It was during the end of the 1500′s (late Muromachi and Azuchi Momoyama periods) into the early 1600′s (early Edo period) that the “pottery wars” saw Korean potters go to Japan to fire up kilns. Some went willingly, some not so much.
Karatsu is fairly well known and quite close to Fukuoka. Sadly, as a town, there really isn’t much there worth seeing unless you’re visiting for the purposes of finding pottery. The most famous kiln in Karatsu is the Nakazato kiln. This family has been producing Karatsu-yaki since the late 1500′s. The current head of the pottery dynasty is Nakazato Taroemon XIV – an unbroken lineage of 14 generations.
Hagi-yaki is said to have begun around 1604 when two brothers from Korea, Ri Shakko and Ri Kei, were employed to produce personal tea utensils for Lord Mori Terumoto of Hagi. Without your own vehicle, getting to Hagi is quite a journey, and unless you’re really into Japanese tea ware, the town itself is a bit of a mystery, even to the Japanese. In fact, when I told a few of my Japanese friends that I had gone to Hagi, their responses were, “Where’s Hagi?” It’s in Yamaguchi prefecture, just so you know. Yes, the journey was long, involving several hours and no less than three transfers, but well worth it. Via a two-car local train, I went through some fantastic countryside. Half the route into Hagi is so rural that the stations don’t even have station masters; you pay the conductor on the train. You also don’t want to miss a train as the next one might not trundle by for an hour or two. The route also went along the Sea of Japan coast where the waters are crystal-clear and the tip of South Korea is only about 200 km away. Hagi is also very important from a historical perspective as many of its citizens were critical in bringing about the return of Imperial rule during the Meiji Restoration of the 19th century. If you have the chance, even if pottery isn’t your thing, I recommend going to Hagi. While heading there by car would certainly be the most convenient way to go, there’s something to be said for sitting back and enjoying the ride in an old-style local train.
萩焼きの開始はおぼしき江戸２年でした。韓国人兄弟リ シャッコとリ ケイは萩に行きました。森てるもと領主のために茶道具を作り出した。萩市の所をしていますか。山口県にいます。福岡市から遠いです。片道のは４時間ごろかかりました。でも旅路は楽しかったです。２号車の普通列車できれいないなかを旅しました。日本海も見ました。とてもきれいだった。見たときに「ダイビングはどうですか」と思いました。（笑）その所から南韓国は近いですね。２００キロぐらいだけです。萩市はいい都市と思います。雰囲気がいいし会った住民が優しいでした。行ければ車で一番便利ですが普通列車でとても面白いと思います。おすすめです。
You’ll no doubt notice that I’ve included images of the pieces I bought during the trip. There’s something extremely satisfying about drinking tea and sake from finely made pottery. I’m sure it’s all mental, but the taste is just seems better.
I’m still on about summer. One could be forgiven for thinking that I’m having a hard time relinquishing the holidays. One wouldn’t be entirely wrong about that, but no, it’s just that I’m finally getting everything organized. But the added stretch is OK too; Xmas is just around the corner!
As I usually do during the summer, I tend to take a bit of a short trip after being home in Vancouver. I have the time, after all. This year, I decided to head to Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu. This is a part of Japan that I’m not overly familiar with so figured it would be nice to visit and explore a bit more. I used Fukuoka as my home base and then did a lot of day trips around Western Japan. Fukuoka is a nice city and it would be quite easy to live in. It’s small enough that walking around is easy and it’s nowhere near as crowded as the larger cities in Japan. Great food culture too. The mobile yatai (food carts) that come out at dusk, particularly along the riverside are great places to try some local comfort food. Pork-based ramen is particularly famous all over Kyushu.
The big day trip that I had planned was to go to Hiroshima and the island of Miyajima. I’d been to both once before, but that was about a decade ago. I left Fukuoka early on the shinkansen (bullet train), arrived at Miyajima by 9:30 am and found the place was already packed. According to accounts, Miyajima, Itsukushima shrine (a UNESCO world heritage site) in particular, is the most visited place in Japan. I believe it! I wandered around in the 37-degree heat for a few hours then hopped the ferry again for the mainland. I didn’t stay very long in Hiroshima city as I hadn’t planned on heading right into the city, but I did stay long enough for a late lunch/early dinner of Hiroshima-yaki (okonomiyaki with a Hiroshima style to it). My main goal was actually to walk around the Peace Memorial Park and see the “A-bomb” dome again (also a UNESCO world heritage site). If you go to Hiroshima, I do highly recommend the Peace Memorial museum, but on an emotional level, be prepared to be completely, utterly devastated. It’s a place that should be mandatory for every world leader to visit.
The other day trip I’ll mention here was two-fold: first was to head out to the “canal town” of Yanagawa and then the temple town of Dazaifu on the way back. I had a nice time walking around Yanagawa, but it was not quite as advertised. The canals were not at all close to the station, nor were they overly accessible for walking along. If it’s a nice canal town you’re looking for, I recommend Kurashiki in Okayama prefecture. The canals there are more accessible and the old buildings have been maintained much better. It’s much more of a step back in time. As for Dazaifu, on this trip, there were just as many people taking photos of the new Starbucks located on the Omotesando (shopping street) as were photographing the shrine. Actually, it is pretty cool, though also surprising to see one on the street leading up to a shrine.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip and I was happy to have been able to explore some new areas of Japan. I even had friends come up from Kumamoto to visit me in Fukuoka for a day, so that made the trip extra special.
OK, shots from Japan are coming shortly but I thought I’d just get these up first. We had an absolutely glorious day of diving off of Sharp Island on Sunday. The weather was sunny and perfect, and the visibility was some of the best I’ve seen in Hong Kong. OK, we’re not talking the Maldives or Bali here, but for a day away from the hustle and bustle, it’s tough to beat.
Late, late, late. I know. As usual, I went back home for most of the summer break. It was great to be home but also as usual, the time just wasn’t enough to see everyone or do everything I wanted.
Good friends of mine live in North Vancouver, so I spent quite a bit of time becoming re-acquainted with what the North Shore has to offer. I’ve always liked that side of the Straight of Georgia for its outdoor activities, but over the last few years, it’s really been developing infrastructure, making it quite an attractive place to settle down. So, I played tourist a bit and took in some of the sights that I hadn’t seen in a while: Capilano park and Lynn Canyon park. I also finally got my scuba drysuit certification out at Whytecliff park. A handy certification to have when diving in BC waters, as summer temps down at 30 metres are around 9-12 degrees celcius.
So, here’s a selection of film and iPhone images from the trip. I was a bit surprised to find out how few photos I took, but then I realized, it’s because I’m home, not on a holiday, per se.
Anyway, hope you enjoy.