High school band performing at a late summer festival outside of Miyakonojo Station, Japan.
That summer saw an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in the farms of Miyazaki-ken. In order to combat it, traffic coming in and out of the district were forced to pass through a chemical tire wash, all places that saw many people come and go (such as malls) had their entrances had something similar across the entrances to their parking lots. As well, all summer festivals were cancelled.
A huge disappointment, for sure. Since the summer festival is pretty much the highlight of the year in Japan. But their efforts saw the disease taken care of by September, so the city (or maybe the local merchants association?) quickly put together a much smaller event in front of the train station. Local bands, high school clubs, and a few other acts. Not a bad event for a last minute sort of thing, all said and done. And with it so late in the season not a drop of rain fell, unlike every other year when it was held at the tail end of the rainy season.
I have been made aware that there are some events here and there through the calendar here in Gunsan. Nothing kind of cool and groovy like a Japanese summer festival as far as I know. Lots of big showy things like theatre festivals and a marathon. Once I get a new camera I’ll have to make the scene.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My only source of illumination and heat when I first arrived in Japan. Shot with a Mamiya C220f. Scan of a print.
I found out at the time that I could be an incredible skinflint if I put my mind to it. You kind of have to when you first land. Strangely, finally getting money in my pocket didn’t result in a sudden spending spree. Not that I remained a skinflint. But I was a lot slower to buy things that had a large price tag and I still ate like I couldn’t afford a better quality of food. Making sure the lights and power were off was something I still do regularly.
Slightly related: I also refuse to leave dirty dishes in the sink. You don’t want to see what hangs out in your sink full of dirty dishes in East Asia.
I had forgotten that I had taken a second picture at Incheon Airport that day with my Mamiya. This is also the third image in a row with someone walking off camera to the right. I wish I had planned that.
I’ve been exchanging emails with a number of recruiters in Korea this past week. It seems that a TESOL certificate is desired since there are so many applicants these days. I’m hoping that over a decade of experience helps set me apart from the crowd. I’m also hoping my manly beard does as well. I’d hate to have to shave it off given that I have the face of an infant. Regardless, they can’t do anything for me until my documents come back from the Korean Consulate along with a thumbs up. Hopefully sooner than later. I never really gave much thought about being refused. I can’t see any reason why, though it would derail a lot of my life plans. I guess I’ll bumble across any bridges I come to in the next couple of months.
Maybe I shouldn’t put all of my eggs in that particular basket…
High school students enjoying what little there is of summer in Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park.
And I doubt they have much else to do given that most of the entertainment venues teens can get access to in the city are an hour away by bus. If they can afford the movies. Adults face the same problem here which is why everyone fills their days with booze and TV… And stealing or breaking things if they’re confident they won’t be caught, which is something else things teens and adults have in common here.
I suppose it’s the same all over. Not much to keep your body and mind engaged. Maybe some sports if you’re geared that way… or haven’t let the shitty food and lack of options that comes with being poor or deep debt turn you into a slug. You do see parks get widely used in Korea and Taiwan. Japan’s parks occasionally have kids after school but largely remain empty unless they’re a famous location like Ueno Park in Tokyo. It’s cold most of the year in Halifax so the parks go little used during the day, and you can’t really enjoy the parks at night anyway. Only the angry drunk/ high assholes are there because the authorities pressured everyone else out.
Not that you can access much without a car. All entertainments, events, places of interest, and living areas are designed for the automobile. Point Pleasant Park has a dedicated bus and isn’t too far from the city core. Ueno Park is next to a highly busy subway station. They’re exceptions. Halifax has a number of nice parks that are on the wrong side of a busy street, or hidden under a bridge, or in the outskirts of town. They don’t get as well used as they should due to either poor planning, or due to trying to work around poor planning. And lacking a place to sit makes them generally unwelcoming.
All this rambling leads me to my point: For all its cultural and business culture flaws, Korea excels at public spaces. Especially in the newer neighbourhoods. A lot of thought seems to have gone into urban planning and living spaces. There will always be a small park in an apartment complex. There will always be a small entertainment and dining district nearby. Groceries can be bought within eyesight of your home. A hill or mountain for the nature lovers isn’t far away either. Public transportation is abundant even in small towns.
I keep going back and forth on this image. The exposure was off and lots of ‘shopping was done, but their attitude is great.
Reversal film in a medium format camera in a roofed over shopping arcade. I think I tried to eyeball the exposure. If I had been using monochrome or even run of the mill color film the exposure would have been fine. As it is, I had to desaturate the image and mess with levels until I got it viewable. I don’t feel bad about this “post” work since even Ansel Adams did 90% of his work in the darkroom. Dirty cheater. Well, not really. A photo isn’t done until you’ve presented it to someone else’s eyes and everything from putting the film/ SD card into the camera until that point is part of the job. I’ve always maintained that if he had been around today he’d be Photoshop’s celebrity pitchman.
Still, I wish I had exposed it correctly the first time. That way I wouldn’t have had to crop out my old pal Peter from the shot. He was looking like a serial killer in the gloom.
Another photo I’ve posted up a thousand times on a thousand websites only to delete it later. My apartment in Miyakonojo via a Holga 120wpc.
Some people don’t like the small Asian apartment. I think they’re just fine if you’re living by yourself. Which happens to be a situation I’m very happy with so it’s preferable anyway. Sure, if you’re living in Tokyo with one or two or ten other people so you can afford the rent there, this sort of place is far too small. But by yourself? Perfect.
In Korea, in case you don’t know, part of the employment deal for ESL teachers is housing provided by the employer. Typically that means roommates as the boss tries to save cash on rent. That or a mould-encrusted shithole no one but an expat would live in. I’ve suffered through both.
One year I found myself in a fully furnished three bedroom apartment all for me. It was horrible. So much to clean. And since an apartment is a place to eat, sleep, and poo for me, the extra rooms were being wasted. Thankfully the boss offered to move me into a smaller place about a month in and I took it. It’s a pity about my life surrounding that apartment being such crap. I quite enjoyed living in the area.
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.
I got lost in Kagoshima once as well. I wasn’t smart enough to get a map like this lady.
I had gotten off the tram at the shopping/ bar district of Tenmokan and decided that I could follow the tracks back to Kagoshima Chuo Station and my hotel. Inside the shopping area I had gotten turned around, and when I made my way to the tracks I would up following them in the wrong direction. I had been walking for quite a bit and felt that I had gone far enough that Kagoshima Station was in my immediate future. Stations are generally twenty minutes to a half hour apart by foot and I was worried that I would get on the tram in the wrong direction, these being early days in Japan for me, so I pressed on.
I wound up at the end of the line at Kagoshima Station. Kagoshima Station looks like something that’s been around since 1901, though I assume the current building dates to the middle of the last century. From there I grabbed the tram back to my hotel and spent the rest of the night soothing my sunburned head. I started wearing a hat after that.
I was certain that I had posted up this photo already but it seems that I didn’t. Well, I probably did on a different website. I tend to shed them like holey underwear when they outlive my interest in/ will to continue with them.
It’s End-of-Year-Sales Eve, a.k.a. Day Before the Not Birthday of Someone Who Likely Didn’t Exist Anyway Day, as I write this. The first time in over a decade I’ve spent it in Canada. I’ll be honest, if the holiday wasn’t constantly in my face, I wouldn’t have noticed it passing. I’m the same way about my birthday. Largely uninterested in it beyond the day off of work. Christmas, that is. My birthday isn’t a day off but it will be once I become mad dictator.
Being here comes at the worst time for since being the proud owner of a Hiatal Hernia means the typical food served now sends me scrambling for the Pepcid AC within the hour. Not that the Spam and kimchi of Korea or the KFC of Japan would suit me any better. Too many food temptations for me, though. Like trying to quit drinking soda in the American south or quitting pot as a musician.
This image was taken in Miyazaki with a Mamiya c220f. I cropped it for interestingness. Unless you find walls interesting, in which case I apologise.
I remembered that I had a few CDs of photos taken during my time in Taichung, Taiwan. I’ve just started going through them and here’s one I liked. It’s cropped down from the 6x6 frame of the Mamiya c220.
Several of the CDs are a mix of Taiwan and my last days in Korea. Both image sets are more of stuff I saw that I wanted to record for memory’s sake so they’re not very well composed nor are they of interesting things and people. There are a few night shots like this taken around Taichung that I felt I could crop into usable images, so I’ll be looking at those over the next few days.
Taiwan is cheap. The living expenses are low. Then again, so are the salaries. Conveniences are on every corner assuming you can speak passible Mandarin. Unlike Korea, few people are putting in much of an effort to use English so you won’t be able to muddle through that way. Even the names of the McDonalds menu are different. “Da Mike” not, “Big Mac”. It has all of the problems you expect from a tropical country in an earthquake zone: Tremors, giant cockroaches, regular typhoons and landslides, and it’s hotter than an oven so you’re sweating buckets. Your black clothing will have salt stains on them as the precious minerals pour out of you along with the two liters of water you just drank.
And the taxi drivers are all the “Travel via traffic jams” type of crooks. You’ll never have to tell them to keep the meter running because it usually started ten minutes before they saw you.
These seem like a pile of negatives, but all they are is a suggestion that you adapt. If I was in the right frame of mind at the time I would have stayed longer. It would have saved me a lot of headaches later on.