Kyoto

Kyoto is a stunningly beautiful city.

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Everything is cared for with a precision that could only be found in Japan.

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Shibuya crossing, Tokyo

On every tourists’ to-do list is to stop at Shibuya crossing in Tokyo where every few minutes, traffic stops and hundreds of people cross in every direction. It was a fun place to try to capture the commotion.

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In case you’re curious, this woman is in fact wearing a one-piece sweatsuit. I wanted to ask if they came in mens’ sizes, but I lost her in the crowd. I think fleece onesies are the way of the future.

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The remote control for the toilet

The bathroom in my hotel in Tokyo was so small that I couldn’t close the door while sitting, but the toilet did have a remote control.

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All toilets should be this fancy.

Blossoms at Hanazono Shrine

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I’ve been enjoying experimenting with the large aperture of my new f/2.8 lenses. Sometimes the narrow focal range is distracting, and sometimes it works well. I just haven’t figured out how to tell the difference when I’m shooting. In this case, it seemed to work well.

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I can’t wait to try them on a full-frame body.

At the sumo stable

Following some extensive online research, an early morning subway ride, and a walk through a suburban neighbourhood, we found ourselves at a non-descript house. We weren’t sure that we were at the right place until we heard a the sound of loud primordial groans followed by the grunt of large bodies colliding emanating from an open window.

We opened the door and quietly slipped off our shoes. In a room at the front of the house, which otherwise might have been the living room, a sand filled circle was recessed below a wooden platform. Standing around the circle, wrestlers watched as they took turns throwing themselves at each other.

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There was a clear hierarchy among the group which became all the more obvious when a few older wrestlers joined us on the platform and took on the role of coaches, critiquing the wrestlers in the circle below.

What surprised me the most was the agility of some of the wrestlers, despite their enormous bulk.

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While most were agile, there was one wrestler, possibly the largest man I have ever seen, whose sole role seemed to be to stand and let the other wrestlers try to move him. In a lot of cases, it was a futile effort.

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Picnicking with the cherry blossoms in Ueno Park

The cherry blossom season in Tokyo is usually over with by the second week of April. Thankfully, spring came a week late this season, and our visit was exceptionally well timed.

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Nearly everyone was out taking photos.

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Blue tarps were laid out on every available patch of grass, and thousands of picnics were in progress. Some were casual affairs of take-out food with family. Others were elaborate well-planned affairs. This one looked like it was set up waiting for the office staff to get off work.

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Elsewhere in the park, food vendors were set up. I had a great beef skewer and an unfortunately disappointing Okonomiyaki.

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Tsukiji fish market

We lined up in the wee hours of the morning for a chance to see the famous Tsukiji tuna auction.

Following a significant wait, we were escorted into a large hall where hundreds of men in rubber boots were inspecting row upon row of frozen tunas. Each fish had an identical series of cuts that allowed expert eyes to evaluate the flesh of the giant fish.

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Their friendly joking would stop momentarily when a buyer saw a fish that caught his attention. Under the light of handheld torches, they judged the fat content with the seriousness of making a life or death decision. After a few moments of quiet contemplation, they would continue chatting and laughing as if the conversation had never been paused.

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Several auctions start at the same time. The auctioneers call for bids with a precise rhythm that sounds like a frantic religious chant.

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They quickly make their way down the aisles of fish.

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Moments after the bidding closes on a fish, the details of the winning bidder are painted on the frozen skin. The entire process lasts about fifteen minutes. As the buyers walk away, the fish are quickly dragged out the large doors for distribution.

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It seems that at least some of the fish end up at this stall in the market where a team expertly quarters the fish on a giant band saw and a man with an axe slices away the spine. Every fish had a half-centimetre slice cut at the half-way point in one of the quarters. The slice was soaked in water and presented to the fish’s owner for inspection. This might be their first chance to see if the fish is really worth the price they paid.

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Despite our early start, the rest of the market is not open to tourists until 9:00. The only viable solution is to go enjoy some sushi. I don’t recall ever having sushi for breakfast before, but it was a delicious start to the rest of the morning. I’ve never tasted anything so fresh or so delicious.

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Eventually, we could wander around the rest of the market where the drivers of hundreds of small carts expertly navigate the narrow passageways. The carts resemble a 55 gallon drum attached to a bumper car. The entire drum is rotated to turn the single wheel at the front of the cart. The result is a highly maneouverable car that can zoom through the market allowing the drivers to do their shopping and make deliveries.

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I was prepared to see the results a massive harvest of every form of sea life. I didn’t expect to see a second environmental disaster of massive quantities of styrofoam. The market was full of discarded broken pieces of styrofoam that were dumped in piles of such quantities that large construction equipment was required to scoop the waste into garbage trucks.

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Tokyo at night

We landed in Tokyo and couldn’t wait to wander around. Shinjuku is definitely not short of bright lights.

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