Mamiya C220f. Two ladies exploring an international festival in Kagoshima’s Tenmonkandori area.
International festivals were always great ways to discover how isolated expats tend to be from each other unless they’re living in foreigner ghettos like Haebongchong in Seoul or Roppongi in Tokyo. You get there and, “Where did all these people come from? I mean aside from different countries.” crosses your mind. “Man, I really am out there in the boonies!” quickly scurries after it while giving your mind a sheepish grin.
Isolation is something that you will have to deal with as an expat unless you have particularly lax standards for the people you spend your time with. Even if you don’t you do have to make allowances for personalities and traits that may set your teeth on edge in normal circumstances. This is very true if you’re someone who is uncomfortable with their own company. I view “Comfortable with your own company” to be one of the most important traits to have when you embark on The Path Of The Expat simply due to the bad company you inevitably find yourself with when the idea of doing anything by yourself is frightening.
A sign warning kids away from the outskirts of Miyakonojo Station. Shot with a Mamiya C220f.
Miyakonojo Station shows every sign of once being a much busier station than it is today. The train yard still has three platforms, but there’s far more space than that on the grounds. I don’t know if it was used to store trains at night or if there were more frequent trains heading towards the other small towns of Miyazaki-Ken and Kagoshima-Ken. Today the traffic pretty much just runs east-west between Miyazaki city and Kagoshima. One line does head north around the Kirishima volcanic mountain range towards the “cities” of Kobayashi, Ebino, and Yoshimatsu. I often wanted to take an exploratory trip to the end of that line but the every-three-hours-ends-at-dinner-time schedule turned me off of the idea.
There was another train line heading south from Miyakonojo that was discontinued in the 80s. I assume it went to Shibushi* because there isn’t much else down there. I did bike down this route one spring. A good ten kilometers of the line had been converted to a public trail for use by joggers and cyclists alike. Something similar happened here in Nova Scotia with our abandoned lines, except this one was paved for its entire length and no one would have thought it funny to use an ATV to destroy the path by spinning doughnuts.
This is why we can’t have nice things in the Maritimes.
*You know how to use Google Maps. Look these places up.
The typical small village you find littering all of Japan’s mountains and valleys in the furious glare of the Kyushu sun. Olympus Pen EE2.
Like in the west, it’s not all farmers and the unfortunately trapped who live in these small places. A lot of times yee olde country house was bought or built by some rich urban retiree who felt they needed to get away from the neighbours and into something more rustic. Maybe they have a little hobby farm. Maybe they just spend heaps of money of gas getting back to the city regularly for work. But at least they’re still doing all of that getting in touching with whatever they’re trying to get in touch with.
A (might be a) couple waiting for the bus in Miyazaki. Shot with an Olympus Pen EE2.
The folder says April, 2011. Given that it holds photos from earlier in the year (You get about 72 shots on a roll with a half frame camera) I think this image was taken around the same time as Shinmoedake was erupting all over me. A fairly minor inconvenience compared to what happened a few months later with the Tohoku Earthquake. It’s hard to believe that was three years ago.
This is a small part of Naksan Temple (낙산사) on Korea’s east coast. Shot with a Cannon 30D… In color if you can believe it!
The east coast of Korea, save the Busan area, is relatively underpopulated due to being essentially a thin strip of land between mountain and sea. It does boast a lot of Korea’s prettier landscapes, and the mountains do help a slight bit with the filthy air blowing in from China at around this time of the year. Ulsan is about as close as that side of the country gets to having a big city, and it’s not too far from the more exciting Busan so that’s not much of a draw for me. Might be a good place for someone I know to putz around in.
I went there as part of my farewell to Korea before I was to head to Taiwan to try my luck. (Alas, I am a man without luck, so I can’t say it was my last tour of Korea.) A friend decided that she was going to take me to see the sun rise one last time in Korea and we drove down there overnight to be the first people in the country to see it. (The sunrise-blocking mountains of Korea are mostly on the east coast, facing Japan. Plate tectonics means the rest of the nation is in shadow when the sun rises.) The weather wasn’t cooperating so all we got to see was the fog turn a lighter shade of grey. She’s a huge coffee drinker and I hadn’t become a filthy bean junkie yet so while she was energetically dragging me up the side of a mountain to go get enlightened, I was ready to curl up on Buddha’s lap and sleep.
The ride back was exciting because even she was losing it as we were approaching Seoul. I had to yelp twice about us swerving into the wrong lane to keep her awake… When I wasn’t sleeping myself. Dunno what might have happened if we both nodded off at the same time.
Some film, money, and a passport in a small Taichung apartment. (Edited for a better crop)
If I ever have the money to retire (Which I won’t because the Plutocrats ate all of society’s wealth and I’ll die on the job… if I’m lucky.) my plan is to grab my camera and live out of a suitcase. Seeing everything the world has to offer and documenting it for future generations who won’t be able to see it themselves as they’re going to become the technological equivalent of serfs thanks to the successful efforts of the above mentioned Plutocrats.
This is another one of those photos that I can’t decide if I like it or not. Shot with an Olympus Pen EE2 in Kumamoto, Japan.
We’re at the foot of Kumamoto Castle. I was there for a work seminar and he was just someone I saw squatting in the middle of the road when I went out to return to my hotel. He wasn’t facing the castle. That would be to the right and up the hill. He was taking a photo of an elderly couple sitting under a tree in front of a local café. Friends or family, perhaps. Why he needed to risk life and limb to get the shot from so far away is beyond me, but who can argue with artistic motivation?
One of the many abandoned buildings of Miyakonojo. Shot with a Holga 135. This one is near the Miyazaki Expressway. I like how the kudzu is reclaiming this building.
The reasons for the slow death of Japan’s (and most of the “first world” for that matter) place on top of the planet is well-documented. A lot of it has to do with the demographics of an aging population. Even more has to do with the blatant efforts of the Plutocrats to take all of the wealth of society for themselves. In the end, it means that small towns and cities like Miyakonojo start to rot from the inside out.
Buildings like this become more and more common. While not so good for local business, it’s pretty good for photography. Urban exploration is pretty fashionable these days. I can see the appeal. Poking around in the places we thought had value and importance now gone. Like exploring an echo.
I had come across several buildings in Japan that had obviously fallen victim to earthquakes and typhoons of the area. Leaned over to the side, walls down exposing the interior to the world. All of the buildings open to the world were bare but for the occasional poster or calendar. I couldn’t tell if they had already been abandoned before nature hit, or if they were cleared out after the fact. I suppose those more adventurous than I would have crawled over the rubble to go stomp through the rotting tatami.
Those people would have been nuts because rotting tatami is the nastiest thing in the world.
At one point I said to myself, “Why not put slide film into a pinhole camera?” This was the only shot that wasn’t a featureless purple.
Pinhole photography can be pretty fun if you have a good sense of timing… And lots of black and white film because you’d be nuts to trust it to how fast your fingers are and by damn medium format film is getting more expensive every day. I give it five years before it fully goes the way of instant film and 110: Dedicated nutters paying an excessive amount of money to some small company that knew there were some dedicated nutters who’d be willing to pay them an excessive amount of money out there.
Should I ever get my pinhole camera back, I may try to convert it to using small format film. I figure it’ll be at least seven years before that goes the way of instant film and 110.
This is any corner on the northern side of the Han River in Soul. It’s specifically the exit of Itaewon Station, but it could be any corner in the northern half of Seoul.
Some of the older districts on the south side of the river look like this as well. Apgujeung comes to mind. Yeongdeungpo too. For places that are supposedly full of rich people, they’re pretty worn out-looking. If you didn’t go into any of the shops in Apgujeong and looked at the prices you’d think it was as ploddingly middle class as my old haunts in Gangbuk. It looked better off than the slums across the river in Oksu-Dong, but a bombing range looked better off than the slums in Oksu-Dong.
Songpa-Gu was essentially built for the ‘88 Olympics and as a result doesn’t look like it’s part of Seoul at all. That sort of clean, well-planned urban growth kept going south until it ended in the Korean equivalent of Stepford known as Bundang twenty years later.
I understand Itaewon has been largely gentrified since I’ve left, much to the horror of the sort of expat who likes to live in a dangerous part of town… that is incredibly safe and near an American military base that provides most of the black market foodstuffs they buy there. “Wrong-Side-Of-The-Tracks tourism” is the best way to describe the crowds in Itaewon and nearby Haebongcheong. It’s easy to be dismissive of the place until you realize that you depend upon it too for your shopping.
This is the last usable image I had from the small pile of prints. It took a while to tease out this level of quality from it so I think it’s time to move on from this mine. I got ten pictures out of that expedition so I have no regrets. I’m not sure what camera that was. I think it was a little automatic Konica film camera that I bought a couple of years before DSLRs took over.
- I took this picture of someone I used to know. Six years later I feel the people behind her were more interesting. Funny how likes and dislikes change.
- This is the second last of the usable print discoveries. After tomorrow I’ll be back to scouring my Japanese and Canadian pictures looking for something I missed over the last two hundred or so images I posted up so far on Flickr and Tumblr.
- No body cares about my non-Japanese stuff anyway. I think that’s sad.
- I noticed that Flickr has a million and one groups for Japan and maybe two and a half for everywhere else. That gives me fewer places to show my images like this. I guess PSY-mania didn’t expand the Korean groups any.
- On Flickr, I just put the geo-location in the rough center of an area and dump all pictures in there. That’s why my Halifax photos all appear to been taken under water.
- If I ever create a webservice, I’m going to break with tradition and include the final vowel.
- Applying for a job in South Korea takes faaarrrrrr longer now than it used to when I was there. Mind you, when I was there you just showed up and showed them your white skin. Now those are credentials I have in abundance but they’re no longer enough. Now I need to convince them I’m secretly twenty-five years old as well.
- Just before a job interview I had with a potential employer last month, I was told by the recruiter, “Don’t talk about your work experience.” Use that as you will.
- Something on my mind is the question of what to pack. Job clothes. Casual clothes. Cameras. Laptop. Pepcid AC for my tummy of evil. All of that, but not enough suitcases. I might have to buy or borrow one.
- Assuming things don’t come crashing down around me. I wrote something a while back about taking nothing for granted.
- De la Soul emailed me their music yesterday. That was nice of them since the last time I bought their stuff it was on a format called a “CD”. I like their Before The Year 2000 a bit more because their later stuff seems to have been killed in the Loudness Wars and is hard to listen to without turning it way down. I want to be funkdafied, not given a headache.
- I’ve been playing around with the times I post up my pictures for maximum eyeballs before things get scrolled beyond people’s patience to seek it out. It seems that early evening and early morning Atlantic time works best.
- I might have to start getting out of bed before 9:30.
I don’t know how it is these days, but when I was living in Korea you couldn’t swing a kimchi pot without hitting a Blues Brothers statue. I have my doubts that Dan Aykroyd was seeing any money from them. I’ve mostly seen them in a frozen dance in front of pubs, inside pubs, in alleys, on roofs, in front of computer supplies stores. This one was in front of a glasses shop in, I think, Dongdaemun in Seoul. It was unusual not just due to Elwood being clad in white, but also for the fact that he was alone. No Jake Blues to be seen anywhere.
Preparing for a drumming concert in Miyakonojo. Well, I assume “concert” is the right word. Shot with a Pentax MX. Scan of print.
I’ve been going through some of the few prints my parents had put in storage for me long ago. Mostly photos I sent home in letters or with gifts from overseas. In many cases, these prints are the only versions of those images I have since their scans were part of that great hard drive corruption of last spring.
In many cases, these prints are not worth looking at to begin with and I wish other images had survived instead of the ones that did. You know the type: “Dear mother, here is the front of my apartment. Note the use of not-English.” A lot of them are also too personal to share which cuts down on the usable ones even more. Either due to being the source of old regrets, or me knowing they wouldn’t want to be plastered across the web to begin with.
What saddens me, however, is that most of them are damaged or faded to the point that the scanner scans more scratches than photo and I can’t use them at all. You can’t fix in Photoshop what isn’t there to begin with.
This is why everything I still have is now on two hard drives.
Hey, internet. I hear you like cat pictures. Shot with a Pentax KX.
It’s tightly cropped because* the mall-situated photography chain that I used mailed it to a place staffed by monkeys that chew on each roll of film they process. At least that’s the only way I can explain some of the scratches on some of the images. I now know it’s not my camera scraping the hell out of the film, so I guess that’s a silver lining.