The First Day in Japan, Reliving it through Photography

Where did I leave off? Must have been when we were boarding the flight, after writing the post A Fujifilm X100F Love Story, and Japan. Aug 16th, 2018, which now seems forever ago, but that’s the beauty of photography.  It brings those great memories rushing back.

I guess that’s the first consideration. Photography has that power to make you relive moments that your heart and soul temporarily set aside. Once you flip through the images though the feelings come back afloat; as if it were yesterday. And if your house were to burn down, which right now seems highly improbable seeing as it just dropped a foot of snow on our balcony, what would you save? Me? Certainly a few valuables and my hard disks. That’s also probably why I try to keep my photo folders all organized now that I come to think of it.

We land on August 17th, my birthday. My wife and I are ready to board the Narita Express to Tokyo, a 40 or some minute ride. Tokyo, let’s get groovy.

You hear a lot about how Japan is so perfect, people are respectful, and all that. But what struck me was the commitment, the ownership and the dignity of all work. Starting with the man who bowed to the passengers that were getting off the train, before entering himself to clean the train. It doesn’t matter what job you have, it must be done perfectly, and all others must respect that form of employment as much as any other. And this also means that the uniform that is given to the employee must be clean, new, fitting, and just overall gratifying for the job they will perform.

We board. My wife closes her eyes and rests while I start looking outside, around. I observe. Excited about the 13 hour flight now behind us, and the 12 days ahead of us. With the Crew. My wife and I found our way to the hotel and knocked on our friends’ room. They had arrived a few hours prior and were resting. The excitement is too much though. They wake up with their white robes, kindly offered by the hotel, and we started hugging and high-fiving away.

Soon comes the moment of truth. Where to eat? We find a restaurant and soon find out that English is not a widespread Japanese strong-suit. We struggle to communicate, but of course we manage and get the party, my birthday, started. I’ll share the before picture. If I were to show the after we might be all a little blurry and shaky.

The Crew, ready to indulge in some exquisite food.

Due to the jet lag we thought of going to the Tokyo Fish Market that first night. We figured it’d be best and so we went back to the hotel, slept a few hours, which was like an afternoon nap and met up again at 1 am, sharp. Surprisingly, we were all on time. Commitment? No issue in this group.

We walk to the Fish Market without a problem. It was a little chillier than we had anticipated, and the roads were quiet and clean, surprising for a city that has almost 40 million inhabitants.

We get there but we are too late. Only 100 people get to enter the Fish Market before it opens to the public. Those lucky 100 get passes so they can experience the wholesale version, as well as the famous Tuna auction. We miss our window, but then again don’t have any regrets ’cause we got there almost 2 hours before the recommended time.

So we get what’s left-over. That is the small stalls around, which obviously, was no left-over whatsoever. The people, the colors, the fish variety…

 

And at 6 in the morning, after the first 7-Eleven experience, the first photos, the first good laughs and the first of many “oh my, did you see that?” we sit down for some fresh, I mean fresh sushi. Not your typical breakfast, but then again why is cereal or eggs and bacon typical?

The Fish Market experience soon comes to an end and we head to see the other tourist spots, knowing well that what we had just experienced was going to be hard to beat. First a small garden, the Hama Rikyu, and then Tokyo Imperial palace. Yes, the latter is a must-see, but there isn’t much you can do aside from walking in the garden and taking a standard photo from the outside. By then we were also ready to go back to the hotel and rest up.

The Imperial Palace

Wakey Wakey! It’s time to go eat again. Yakitoris, meat skewers. We head to the Yakitori Alley, near Shinjuku, one of the busiest train and metro stations ever.

Ahhh, the night. Lights, reflections. Another world is exposed. And with the modern-day camera marvels, the Fujifilm X100F in my case, low-light is no challenge.

Subway ride

And while getting to our destination we stop at Shibuya, to see the crossing. Claims have been made that 1000 people cross at once. Truth or not, it’s remarkable to see so many people crossing each other in such an organized manner. From up high it’s even easier to see it.

Got to our chosen Yakitori joint, and there was another Discovery through Photography scene that struck me. Japanese youngsters looking at the baseball game on TV. Yes, America’s favorite pastime, was introduced in Japan in 1872 and is one of the country’s most popular sports.

Bring on the skewers! I can’t recall what we ate, but if it was meat, we had it, including the giblets. And to soak up the beers that were free flowing some grilled rice balls, which I diligently cooked at home when we got back. Incredibly delicious.

Fired up by yet another exhilarating experience, and wanting to call it quits, my wife suggests we go do some karaoke. Of course, we are in Japan. Of course we are going to go. We basically were the last to leave the Yakitori place and found our way to a karaoke place near by. No English spoken, no English drink menu, no English electronic menu on the display. The facial expression says it all, “I have no clue what he is doing, but of course we are having a blast”.

 

Without a doubt there were other beers on order. We tried to have some sake, but I imagine our pronunciation was so bad that every time we asked for “sake” we would get additional beers. Seeing that everything was in Japanese we occasionally queued up the same song so there we were blaring our heads off to Beatles or the Beach Boys repeatedly. But did that matter? You know the answer.

Grab a cab and head back. The night was over and in 24 hours it had seemed like we lived 24 days in Tokyo.

For some the next morning was rougher than for others. I was part of the others. I woke up, got my camera and went for a morning stroll. The streets were still quiet. But what caught my eye was the Japanese packaging perfection, as well as the quality. These were some of the most appealing and delicious hard boiled eggs I’ve ever had.

The second day was about to start. I’ll tell you about it in the next post.

…hoping that through the photos I don’t end up reliving the trip entirely and writing one post for every day of the trip.

Make those photos, document, organize them and then relive those times. Unforgettable.

 

Until Next Time,

Gio