One of the best partner teachers a guy could have setting sparklers alight one summer night. Pentax MX.
I’m about to write about Korea in a less than adoring way. Cover your eyes if you have posters of Sistar all over your walls and the thought of kimchi makes you go weak at the knees.
I really don’t like having the foreign teacher flying solo here. The preferred method is to have the foreign teacher standing up in front of a bunch of kids blabbering away in a language they simply don’t understand. Then the next day the Korean teacher is supposed to go over all of it again, this time bringing much needed translation.
The theory is that this is immersion learning. It’s not. True immersion requires the new language surround the student. The parents must speak the language. The teachers must speak the language. The signs must be in the language. The TV and radio as well. Korean kids are not in an immersion learning environment. They get English from a native speaker forty five minutes a day. Everything else they learn comes with Korean helping the learning process along. Having the lesson solely in English is a hindrance outside of classes with advanced students. It slows understanding down. The student may not get the answers they need to questions such as, “What they fuck is this asshole telling me to do?” for a day or even more. This is a bad way to go about it and it should not be done.
My job in Japan had a Japanese teacher in the classroom teaching with me at the same time. We helped each other. We stood back and let each other display their expertise, and helped each other in our weaknesses. If the students didn’t understand something like, “Close your book” …even with my slow speech and brilliant miming… they could ask the Japanese teacher what that meant. Then they never had to ask again because those words now had meaning and weren’t just a collection of meaningless sounds to be tossed into their mental trashcan. They also didn’t have to suffer from the embarrassment of me invading their personal space and shutting their books for them like they were simpletons just to get the idea across. Then we were able to get on to the learning and the boss wasn’t wasting money having me stand there for an hour just to have the Japanese teacher do it all over again the next day.
Now, I’m not an ESL-teaching noob. I know that foreign teachers here are essentially expensive, imported dancing poodles. We’re advertising. But if I became the king of Korea, one of the many changes I’d make is to have the Korean teach and the foreign teacher up there in front of the kids together, every day. Working as the team they’re supposed to be.
This is another one of those images where I feel that any cleaning will ruin it. Olympus Pen EE2.
It’s been a year and one week since I finished my job in Japan. All that was left for me to do after that was enjoying my final April there before returning home to find out what went wrong with my insides. If things had worked out better for me in the end, I probably would have left earlier. But my boss, who had asked me to stay until May, suddenly told me my replacement would be there on April first. This threw everything into disarray. Not only had I been budgeting for May (leaving me short on money), may lease required me to give them a month’s notice for cancellation or they’d take the month’s rent out of my account whether I was there or not. So I decided to stay and try my best to memorize Miyakonojo as best I could before it became nothing but some old photos.
I feel the statute of limitations on posting the images I took on the job there has passed now and I will be poking around in those archives for images to post up in the next few weeks. The above was a coworker who had been forced into the fur mascot costume to wave at children while I fended off teenaged boys who wanted to knock the head off for the lulz.
I don’t have a single karaoke photo that’s in focus. In-focus would mean that it wasn’t a very good time at karaoke so this is as it should be. Pentax MX?
This is an old friend from Japan showing me that she’d be the best model a photographer could have. I never thought to ask her to do so for many reasons. Not having the gear and assistants needed to make it worth everyone’s time being one of the main ones. Even simple glamour shots need a fair bit of work which is why I’m a documenter instead of an image constructor.
Not that I would have a model leaning on a car in a short skirt or something. I’d probably just have them hanging out in front of something like a shop or fishing boat in order to get a human aspect to the subject. It may seem like a waste of a model to some, but everyone tries to copy fashion magazines. Boring. But pointing into a crowd and hoping you capture strangers doing something interesting is more miss than hit. At least for me.
I like to think that having a willing model could help you get a nice balance between both approaches. Maybe one day.
Summer festival crowds in Miyakonojo. Shot with a Canon 550D or whatever it was marketed as in your area.
I’m probably weeks away from being able to post up interesting photos of Gunsan so it’s more of my Japanese images for you for the next while. It might even be closer a month or two since I’m on a pretty tight budget and I haven’t been able to find a place that does developing aside from a kiosk in the local Lottemart. Teach me to fly with the film camera instead of the digital because I felt my big chrome brick would be too expensive to have shipped later on.
I don’t look forward to having the “It’s a C-41 film, so it’s okay to feed into your machine even if you haven’t seen the brand before. Just develop it.”, conversation in Korean.
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.
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.
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.
The shrines of Japan… they lurk in the forests and parks. Shot with a Mamiya C220f. Scan of a print.
It’s Monday. Hopefully one of my few remaining Mondays where the schedule is “Play MMOs until my eyes hurt.” There seems to be some movement on that front but I don’t want to say too much about it yet in case it falls through. Never take anything for granted as an expat. Not even the ill will of others.
This leads me to a story of Korea. (Come the Japan, stay for the Korea);
My very first job in Korea was horrible. Equal parts my ignorance and the assholery of others. But that’s all water over the bridge. Back in those days you showed up on a tourist visa and the boss sent you to Japan for what was called “a visa run” so you could get your work visa and stop working illegally for your first month. You were usually in Osaka for an afternoon at the Korean embassy to get your documents processed, and then back in Korea for your classes the next day. Later on Immigration said this was swamping their workers and it became a 24 hour process. One night in Osaka on the boss’ dime! Yes! If you were lucky and timed it right, a whole weekend in Osaka on the boss’ dime! Double yes!
To get to the airport, you were told to take a limousine bus. For me it was leaving from the CALT in Gangnam, behind the COEX.(I just knew it as the COEX Bus Terminal. I think the name was changed in my absence.) I’m impressed at the fact that I can do my check-in, and get my boarding pass there instead of at the airport. I’m feeling the heady rush of modern technology all the way to get my tickets for the airport bus. (This was in the days before the high speed train to the airport.) If my life was a cliché comedy, this is where the record scratch would be heard.
“My boss told me it was cheaper than that and only gave me this much.”
“Sorry,” the well makeup-ed lady told me, “It’s this much.”
“If I go back to the hagown for more money I’ll miss my flight. I am fresh off the boat and am poor.”
“Is there a problem?”
I turn around to see this business man with his luggage. At this point you expect that he and the people behind him would be angry at the slight delay. This is one of those taking the ill-will of other for granted. However, his face was nothing but pleasant concern. The clerk and him have a rapid fire exchange in Korean. He then turns to me and says, “Your boss didn’t give you enough money? I’ll pay for you.”
After the usual polite refusals and instance, he pays for my bus seat. At this point you may be thinking bad things about him using it as an excuse to practice his (already good) English on me for the trip. Nope. He got on a different bus. Waved to me as he left. Told me good luck. He was just a passing nice person who helped me.
My bus came and I was filled with a love for humanity that died like a snowball in a furnace shortly afterwards that for reasons I won’t go into. But it happened, and that’s why you should never take things, including the ill-will of others, for granted.
A marathon passed through Miyakonojo one day and I just happened to be passing by with my camera. Shot with a Pentax MX. Scan of a print.
The question “Why shoot film?” has been showing up in my Tumblr dashboard a fair bit recently. It’s a stupid question to ask and a stupid question to answer. Especially if your answers are in the form of justifying your aesthetic choices. You’re an artist, you don’t have to justify your aesthetic choices to anyone… Who isn’t a sponsor. And if you’re doing it to loudly proclaim the superiority of your choices, let me be the first to tell you that no one gives a shit.
A camera is nothing more than a tool. It helps you achieve the results you’re aiming for. Like the way film looks? Use film. You want a digital look? Use a digital camera. Want it to look like Instagram? Use Instagram. Use everything. Shoot everything. Practice everything. The more you learn about other approaches the better you will become at the field you focus on because you will be able to apply what you’ve learned to it.
The only thing that makes a good photograph is the photographer. The tools? Not so much.
This was taken the first summer I was in Miyakonojo. I came across it in the parking lot of the local Co-op while I was out enjoying the evening instead of being broiled alive in my oven-like apartment. Maybe someone with better eyes and Japanese skills than me can read the sign and tell everyone what it was all about.
I always found stuff like this to be like me stumbling across some sort of fairy tale party. I sit and observe the goings on and when I return later, there’s no trace of the happy people and the party they had. At least I never woke up two hundred years later* as a punishment for watching them. I sometimes wonder why that sort of myth was so common in a lot of cultures. Maybe as a reminder that no one likes a gatecrasher.
This was taken with the Pentax MX using one of those color monochrome films. Usually they give you a purple or greenish tinge that most people convert to pure greyscale when they get it scanned. I usually do the same but sometimes I feel the natural color adds to the image. This makes it seem warm.
*Though I would like to wake up two hundred years from now on the condition that I’m waking up in Star Trek, and not, say, Mad Max.
Watching the traditional drummers during a summer festival in Miyakonojo. The crowd was bigger but I felt this was the most interesting cluster.
I’m beginning to realize that I got a lot of usable photos out of that summer festival back in ‘11. At the time I felt it was a failed photo walk. This, of course, makes me start to doubt my strict “Trash it if it’s shit.” Policy in regards to negatives and image files because I’m pretty mobile and storage is always a problem. Could there have been a hidden gem waiting to be cropped into life tucked in between the blurry shots and photos of my feet? That’s why some people advocate never throwing anything away and just sitting on them for a few years. Perhaps that failed candid picture of a pretty girl has an even prettier boy behind her that folks will adore. Heck, you might even have an unsolved crime in the background.
I think my best approach is going to have to be to learn what images need to be sat on and given a second look at a later date. I’ll have to look at shots and ask myself, “What else is going on here?”
A former student. Good kid. Took to English like a duck to water. Well, I should say that he took to the ABC Song like a duck to water.
It’s been nine months since I left Japan. *insert more grousing about clerical error that kept me here this long* Given his age, he likely wouldn’t remember me if I were to return tomorrow. Few of the kids would, I figure. I’m not on their radar any more.
I have been an ESL cowboy long enough that the first batch of (miserable spoiled rich kid) sixth-graders that I taught would be in their mid-twenties by now. The first batch of pre-schoolers would be in high school. It hasn’t been long enough that first batch of expat assholes I met, nor my first bad boss, have died off. Hope always shines in my heart.
EXIF data claims this was taken with the Hipstamatic app. I toned it down in Photoshop because sometimes iPhone apps overdo it.
I don’t know if this is just Kyushu or Japan-wide. Bottles of water are typically found on or about the walls and gardens of Japanese properties. Theoretically, cats are afraid of them and won’t be hopping up and doing whatever nasty kitty business it is that they get up to. I’ve not heard of this fear of bottles and it’s more likely that cats just don’t jump on walls when something is on it already, but people believe it to be true.
I’ve heard it said that Japan has the most superstitious atheist culture on the planet. If you’re a pedant, that statement probably bothers you. Good. Screw your pedantry. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who claims to be a Buddhist of some sort outside of the temples. Christian sects are a bit more obvious since they’re usually Mormon door-knockers with their black ties and short-sleeved dress shirts. Islam is pretty must only found in immigrant populations.
Yet everyone will head to the Shinto shrine with their friends and family to ask for the graces of a nature deity they don’t really think is real when the new year rolls around. Or when the spring festival happens. Or the summer festival happens. Or when they buy a new car or a new house. Or want to have a baby. Or when they didn’t study for the exams. Or want more money, or bigger breasts. People are just weird like that when they’re in a group.
I have some photos of what I assume are Taoist shrines/ temples/ somethings in Taichung. They look like the cheesiest China-themed casino you could ever drunkenly stumble into. If I can get one cleaned up enough to be presentable, maybe I’ll post it up. I’ve never been able to get a full explanation of what goes on in those places as far as ceremony goes as well. I assume my Taiwanese friends have better things to do on the weekend than ponder yin and yang.
Korea, like my American pals to the south, suffers from the blight of evangelical Christianity. Or, to be more accurate: Corporate Christianity. Churches/ personality cults that start out with a floor in a commercial building somewhere, advertised by a garish neon cross on the roof. The hope is to get enough folks so they can get as rich as the Moonies. I once had a friend who fell in with one of the mega churches there. Note the “once had” part of the last sentence. Had to give him up when he went full blown loon.
Even then, he was a lot more acceptable than the former friend who went full on scumbag once he became a drone in one of the Chaebols.