Passengers, shoppers, diners, and various others at the east entrance of Hakata Station. Shot with an Olympus Pen EE2.
When I think of Hakata, I think of travel. Makes sense given that all of the major train and bus routes through Kyushu use it as their terminus. Just up the road is the Ferry Terminal that will take you to Busan and back again if you’re inclined to enjoy the sea for a few hours. Business hotels surround the station. Taxis as far as the eye can see up top, Fukuoka subway system just under your feet.
When I left Miyakonojo last year, I wasn’t sure if I was going to ever return to Japan. (I’m still not since I’m not a Y.A.B.: Young, American, Blonde.) So I decided to book a bit of a tour through some of my favourite Kyushu haunts before heading to Tokyo for my final five days. I had to leave my apartment and get on the train quickly because otherwise I would have had to have been forced out. Leaving a line of fingernail marks in the tatami as they dragged me away. Took my last view of Kagoshima, my last view of Fukuoka the following day, and then I got to enjoy Tokyo and all of the places I missed the last few times I was there.
I regret not having the time to poke around Kumamoto one last time. I never got a decent photo of that castle…
I met this fellow while stomping around Ohori Park with my Mamiya, looking for the castle ruins in Maizuru Park. I wanted to work on a “Street Portrait” project while I was in Fukuoka. If I had been a lot more bold I might have gotten more than I did. Maybe I’ll post those up some time.
I can’t remember if he approached me to practice his English, as elderly Japanese men always did, or if I approached him for the portrait. But sweating in the Golden Week warmth (Him from jogging. Me from being Canadian) we had a chat about all of the basic things you chat about with a stranger.
One thing every elderly Japanese gentleman always does is ask you how old do you think they are. It’s always some number like eighty or even ninety. They have all sorts of stories about the war and their lives in post-war Japan. Almost all of them went to America for a few years after the occupation to get a degree. They all came back and made Japan the first world nation it became in the 70s and 80s. All of them remaining physically active well into their golden years.
No sitting around and letting FoxNews frighten them for this bunch.
It looks like the start of something sleazy, doesn’t it? But it’s just a weekend out in Fukuoka at a well-respected hotel. I guess something sleazy could have happened, but I’m the sort of guy for whom sleaze is hard to come by and I’m too lazy to put in the extra effort I need more than everyone else.
I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels over the years. The worst ones were in Korea’s love hotels. You could always tell the places that had a lot of working girls coming and out of it. Bad lighting, big TVs, threadbare carpets. I found a syringe over the door in one once. That was fun. Okay, no it wasn’t. I barely got any sleep because I was worried that I was going to wake up to a junkie busting in to get his stash.
As an aside, there are a lot of syringe collection boxes in the public washrooms here in Halifax. They’re always near full. That’s both depressing and unsurprising.
Japanese business hotels are pretty uniform. Some slight variations. I’ve seen a few attempts to fit two beds into a room built for one. But they’re always Spartan due to the fact that people were usually in them just to sleep. The only time I experienced anything like the hooker-hubs of Korea was the final hotel I stayed in in Shinjuku.
At least I assume that’s what the $100, midnight to six a.m. “massages” were all about.
I doubt that in a thousand years men like Mr. Jones and Mr. Belloq will be willing to kill over this photo, but it is interesting how the perception of these images of the mundane change over time. A friend of mine shares historical photos of the city of Halifax. Most of them were taken between the 1930s and 1960s. You see the familiar mixed with the unfamiliar. You recognize the buildings today and see them being used in a much different way back then. These images aren’t much as art. A street. Someone standing in front of their business. They’re personal or promotional.
But time passes and they become historical documents. I wonder if someone in the future will look on an image like this that I took and use it to explore a place that no longer exists.
Normally it’s laziness that keeps me from cleaning the dust off the scans. And for some of my shots, I think it looks better with the dust on it. This one, for example. But generally it’s laziness. There are a lot of tiny specks of dust in most scans of negatives because most people aren’t scanning in a sealed room while wearing a hazmat suit. Too much work.
This photo isn’t cleaned simply due to uncertainty. Is that a speck of dust or a satellite making a streak in the long exposure? That a bit of fluff or a cloud of smoke reflecting the city lights? That an eyelash or… Oh, it is an eyelash. Okay… Ehn. Whatever.
This is Fukuoka looking down the river towards the Canal City shopping mall. It’s a bit nicer than your average mall. It’s not laid out on a grid for one thing. Getting around can be confusing the first time because the escalators and stairs you’d think would lead you to an obvious certain exit takes you someplace else entirely. But once you figure it out you’re good to go. On the right across the foot bridge are the famous Hakata ramen stands. Classic Japanese experience, the ramen stall. Go in, sit on a stool with the other salarymen, order your ramen, pay, slurp, and make room for the next guy.
Historically Hakata is where the “Good People” who lived across the river in Tenjin went to play. And by “play” I mean, “drink, fight, and whore”. These days that side of the river seems to be anchored by Canal City and Hakata Station, which is the terminus of the various train routes in Kyushu. Around Tenjin is where people go to play now.
Great city, Fukuoka. If I had to live in Japan again, I think I’d be happy to live there. Large and varied but not overwhelming like Osaka or Tokyo.
I’m gonna write a few hundred words about cheap hotels in east Asia now!
Unless you’re loaded down with disposable income because you’re in a big corporation or in the JET Programme, your trips across the region will see you in a low cost business hotel of some sort. Short of going there and scoping them out ahead of time, there’s no way to know how they really are until you get there. It’s not like they’re going to have “Centipede free since April!” on the brochures.
All of the business hotels I’ve stayed in in Taiwan were lovely places. Costs there are generally pretty cheap as it is, but I was expecting these hole in the walls and wound up with a hotel room that would have made for an excellent apartment to rent. I could have held a party in the bathroom of the one in Taipei I stayed at.
Japanese business hotels are like looking at photos of someone as they age. They’re all the same more or less. But the age/ use of the hotel shows around the corners like the lines growing on your eyes.
The recently renovated JR Kyushu Hotel Kagoshima was the dashing youth, hip to the wifi the kids were into. All sleek and shiny with an eager to please staff. The hotel in Fukuoka from which I took this photo, Nishitetsu Grand Hotel, was like someone in their 30s or 40s: A lot of the roughness had been smoothed away leaving a responsible competence behind. The staff were lovely and super helpful.
The hotel I stayed in in Shinjuku before I left Japan was like the kind but doddering granny who offers you a butterscotch to suck on and can’t remember which grandkid you are. The staff accepted that I was there.
I found Korea to be really hit or miss. For the most part you will get a very spartan sleeping space with a lobby that looks more like the entrance to a hospital. You will also get business hotels that, despite the label on the brochure, charge by the hour and are more geared towards giving the local hookers a place to operate from. Those places aren’t always sleazy looking, though. Sometimes they can be quite nice. But since hotels tend to be clustered twenty to a block, they need to bring in the cash somehow.
Once I stayed in a Korean love motel in Seoul. It seemed pretty clean and spacious. And then I found the uncapped hypodermic needle on the ledge above the door. Unfortunately, it was around 2a.m. when I found it and I wasn’t going to have much luck finding a new spot to sleep. I set the alarm for shortly after dawn and left for the train back home without showering. I was afraid of what I’d find in the towel rack.
One of my many peculiarities is that I rate hotels by the view out the window. If I base my many stays on that alone, the above mentioned palace in Taipei would be the top since it directly faced the Taipei 101 building, giving me a fabulous scene both day and night. And while the parking lot view in the Comfort Inn near Toronto Pearson Airport didn’t help it’s case, the brick wall I had in Shinjuku “won”.
I was luckier than the bastards across the hall. Their windows opened up to the laundry room.
Let’s talk about the greatest weakness of digital photography: The death of your data.
My external hard drive died two weeks ago. (UPDATE: About 70% of the images were rescued.) This came at the exact same time as I was on the verge of flying back to Japan to strangle the entire corporate structure of my previous place of employment… I tell yah, Japan is pretty good to work in for the most part. But once you’re gone you can fuck off and die as far as they’re concerned… So the death of the hard drive was the shit icing on the shit cake.
My iPhone visiting Brick City was the shit ice cream piled on top of it.
See, photography is only as good as the medium you store the images on. And while film might have a century before the souls escape from it, digital is gone with the next hardware failure.
This happens to my comic files a lot too. I’m generally a nomad. I go where the ESL Edutainment jobs are. Things get shaken, smacked, and lost when you go from nation to nation. And since most non-moving storage devices like memory sticks and DVDs don’t have nearly enough storage capacity needed for today’s high rez imaging they’re not an option. For the most part I can live with my lack of saving things properly, but sometimes I’d like to blog about something and without a decent image to go with it none of you will care.
Long story short: Buy two or three external hard drives and make copies on all of them. Even the terabyte ones are affordable. If you don’t, you’ll be like me and only have what you’ve littered around the web.
It can happen to youuuuuuuu~
This is the subway in Fukuoka. It looks like the app was Hipstamatic. Forget which station I was pulling into here so I’m going to say it’s Akasaka just because it’s fun to say. Try it.
I’ve seen this traditional dance school(?) perform a few times in Miyakonojo’s big summer street festival. There was nothing special about that night. I went out because I was hot and wanted to point my camera at something, but I wasn’t expecting much. I found this down in the bar district which was a better find than the drunks and bar girls that are usually there.
Shot with a Mamiya C220f.
For winter vacation one year I spent a few days in Fukuoka. I had just gotten my hands on some 3200iso film and wanted to use it so I did a walkabout. This fellow was both busking and selling what looked like bootleg DVDs in front of the subway entrance. It reminded me a fair bit of a typical Seoul street scene minus the fighting and vomiting.
For the most part, interesting people stuff doesn’t happen in Japan until after nine or ten.
This is the excitement of Miyakonojo at night. Shot with the Olympus Pen E-P3.
I never make the mistake of telling myself that I’d be living a lot more exciting life if I was in Tokyo or Osaka. I lived in Seoul for a long time and my life wasn’t particularly exciting there either. Excitement is for people who can tolerate beer, cigarettes, and other people.
It’s funny though, I associate certain types of music with the places I’ve lived in Asia. Seoul brings The Good The Bad and The Queen album to mind. Not sure why on that one. Dare by Gorillaz as well. Must have been a Damon Albarn phase for me. Cheonan brings What’s Going On? by Marvin Gaye just because Cheonan looks like somewhere the album would take place. Taichung brings the Pussycat Doll’s When I Grow Up (Watch on mute) to my head. I can explain that one since the local English language radio station was obsessed with it and played it non-stop. Switching to the Taiwanese stations didn’t make the music situation any better.
What about Japan?
I’ve only lived in a single spot here since I’ve arrived. That’s the thing about job security and a good employer: Not so much moving about. I don’t have a Fukuoka nor Tokyo song or record since I’ve never been in those places long enough to make associations with them.
What about Miyakonojo, then?
I think I may need to leave the place for good before I can let the devil of nostalgia make those associations for me. I’ve been consuming a wide variety of music here. But I did discover that I can do this song pretty well at karaoke and this song even better.