I decided to come up with a little travel reel to showcase where I’ve been over the past summer. Locations include Tokyo, Japan, Hong Kong, and various spots from Taiwan. All of the footage was shot on my Canon 5D Mark II camera with an assortment of lenses and then edited in FCP and Color.
I just finished finalizing my book and it’s available for purchase on Blurb! It’s an 80 page hardcover image wrapped book filled to the brim with full bleed photos from my time in Japan. From architecture to people, the images cover it all and I’ve managed to get it into a design competition called Ligature. Follow the badge to see and even order my book!
Perhaps my favorite shrine in Japan. It has played host to the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, and snakes up through a mountain just outside of Kyoto. It’s home to thousands of Torii or gates. Each one of these has been donated by businesses in hopes of please Inari or the god of business. These torii are placed extremely close to each other and form a tunnel of pure orange and red. As i entered this tunnel of torii, I was left speechless by its beauty and the share amount of gates. It’s a remarkable place to visit and see first hand.
I spent about two weeks in Osaka, Japan. Osaka is the third largest city in Japan and the second most important. I personally liked Tokyo better, simply because Tokyo was more vibrant, clean, and had more energy to it. I however loved the people I met in Osaka, from the people i stayed with to those I encountered on the street, I’d say Osaka is the more friendlier city. It’s residence are more laid back and willing to talk to the lone gaijins or foreigners. People don’t mind having conversations on the train no matter the time of day. Also I believe there isn’t as much pressure to dress as best as possible as in Tokyo. While I was in Osaka, people just dressed however they felt and wore what ever they felt comfortable in, where as in Tokyo for the most part, people dress as trendy as possible. While in Osaka, I explored Den-Den Town, Umeda, Namba, and Shinsekai.
One of my friends that I stayed with lived in Shinsekai and one memorable thing I remembered doing while staying at his place was getting lost. It was my first time venturing out on my own and I still wasn’t sure of exactly how to get back to his place from the metro, so I started wondering around the neighborhood that he lived in. As it’s Japan and violent crimes especially those against foreigners are nonexistent,i had no problems going through alley ways and after wondering through a myriad amount of alleyways and backstreets, I was getting no where but soon I wondered into somewhere oddly different from all of the alleyways I had been wondering in. Everything became clean, there were no ads, or posters anywhere on the wall, and pink lights replaced the regular street lamps. Soon enough I passed by small storefronts, with older women in their 50’s and 60’s standing next to pretty and young Japanese women, As soon as I saw this, I knew where I was. My friend told me he lived near the red-light district in Osaka, and seeing this, I knew I had wondered into it. The red light districts in Japan are all controlled by the Yakuza or Japanese Mafia, and as I had my camera on my shoulder, I posed a threat. So i decided to hasten my steps to make my way out. Soon though, some of the older Japanese women, who were in charge of the younger women, say my camera on my shoulder and started yelling at me STOP NO PHOTO, in Japanese. I eventually made my way out of the red light district and to my friends place, but one thing that shocked me was just how out in the open prostitution is in Japan.
Also during my stay, I went to the Osaka Aquarium which was truly amazing. To see massive whale sharks up close and other exotic sea creatures. I’ve been to the Sea World countless times, but hands down I preferred the aquarium in Osaka. It was a bit pricey to get into at 2000 Yen or 20 Dollars and a bit crowded but none the less I enjoyed my time there.
Food was also another thing that Osaka is known for, especially Okinomiyaki and Takoyaki. Okinomiyaki is sort of like a pancake with whatever you want on top of it, usually consisting of cabbage, batter, octopus tentacles, shrimp, and other bits it’s very tasty and Osaka has it’s own distintive style. Also in Tokyo, you make your okinomiyaki yourself, where as in Osaka, the restaurant prepares it infront of you. Takoyaki, is a flour batter and octopus diced together in the form of a ball and then deep fried and then topped with fish scales and okinomiyaki sauce and it’s absolutely tasty. Osaka is known especially for its takoyaki.
I enjoyed my time in Osaka, while the city it self didn’t offer anything too special, the people I met has made a lasting impression.
A friend had asked for a couple of portraits and I was more than obliged to help out. She had a great place to shoot as well as her flat had an accessible roof with a clear view of both Mt. Fuji and Tokyo Tower.
One of my favorite thing to do while living in Tokyo was to go to Harajuku and just watch all the crazy fashion trends. You name it and people wore it from frilly gothic lolita costumes, gangro girls or women who had extremely bleach blond hair and skin tanned so much that they looked like Oompalumpas from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It was complete and total sensory overload especially since Tokyo by no means a small city and Harajuku is one of the gathering points for the 35 million residence of greater Tokyo. On Sundays it ad become an almost tradition for the fashionistas of Tokyo to come out and showcase themselves. The crazier dressed always gathered on a bridge outside of Meji Shrine just outside of the Yamanote and Chuo line station. This attraction drew both Japanese and Gaijin or foreigners and up until late Feburary was a popular thing to do to kill time on a Sunday morning. After February however, the Tokyo metropolitan government decided to stop this gathering. The official reason was to prevent another tragedy like what happened in 2007 with the Akihabara stabbing incident but quite a few Japanese people I talked to suspected it was to boost images with the Olympic Committee in hopes of getting the 2016 Olympic bid. a few weeks after the government had police staffed on the bridge, the weekly showcase of “fashion” ended. While a few people still tried to show their costumes off, their efforts were futile as the police would just chase them off.
Japan Railways Yamanote Line, one of the worlds’ busiest train lines. Everyday millions of people use the Yamanote line to get to work, school, and for leisure and shopping. During the morning rush hour, trains usually get extremely packed, with no personal space what so ever and completely overcrowded, to the point where JR employees have to physically shove people into the train carriage to get the doors closed. While Tokyo is a city that never sleeps, its main method of transportation does, and due to this and the sheer amount of people that have to commute I thought it would be a good documentary to make; Just what is the Yamanote line and what are the crazy things that happen on it.
To start out with this project, I had to do research to find out the amount of people the JR Yamanote Line carries everyday and also how it compares to other train lines, both in Tokyo and the rest of the world. For this I turned to a report published by JR EAST on train ridership in 2007. While the material was slightly old, it wasn’t completely out of date and useless. Also I was able to find the ridership information for New York trains via the New York Transit Authorities website. From this information I was able to find out that Tokyo had a ridership of 3.011 billion people annually versus 1.563 billion people for New York in 2007. Moscow ranked number second in numbers after Tokyo, with 2.529 billion people annually on its trains.
I also had to ride the Yamaote line during various times, morning rush (8-9am), midday and the lunch hour rush, the afternoon rush (7-8pm), and the last train rush (12-1), through various stations, including Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Tamachi, Gotanda, and Tokyo. Having ridden the train during these times and through these stations I was able to start figuring out what I should include in my video. Shinjuku proved to be the most promising as it’s the worlds largest and most crowded station with over 200 exits and an average of 3.67 million people passing through its gates daily. Shinjuku serves as a popular place to commit suicide and happens to be the one station with the weirdest things going on.
The next obstacle was finding someone willing to speak about there experiences, this proved to b not too difficult, as most everyone I talked to had some sort of weird experience on the Yamanote line, from getting groped and having sex on the train to people puking everywhere.
Technical difficulties mainly lied with sound. My camera, Canon EF 5D Mark II takes excellent high definition video, so video quality and lack of light was not a problem for me, especially with my range of professional grade lenses. What did hammer my video was sound. My camera while it has excellent image quality only has a 3.5-millimeter, unbalanced and unpowered consumer grade microphone in jack. This meant I couldn’t really connect any professional grade microphones into my camera and even if I had a microphone that would of worked it would be completely unbalanced. I managed to find an XLR to 3.5 millimeter jack, earlier in the project when I didn’t need it, but when time came for the interviews, no one could find the XLR convertor anymore so I had to rely on my cameras internal microphone which is Omni directional and picked up all the wind and ambient noise. Initially when I started working with the RAW video files, Final Cut Pro did not natively work with the RAW video files from my camera which caused me to spend more than a few hours trying to render out everything to get it to work in Final Cut Pro. A work around I found for this problem was to use Apple Compress to do a conversion from my 5d Mark II’s RAW h2.64 video files to HDV 720p files at 30 frames per second. This conversion proved to be painless both on me and my computer, with rendering collectively for all the videos taking only an hour for 27 different clips. It also helped speed up my general workflow in Final Cut Pro as my computer no longer had to deal with massive 24 megabit per-second 1080p h2.64 RAW files. Also due to my lack of editing experience, transitioning between scenes proved to be difficult but with the help of a few friends I managed to make most scenes work.
With all of this set, I interviewed three different people and got three different stories. Also from having ridden the train multiple times with my camera during different days and times, I managed to get B roll video of people that would aid in showing just how busy and crazy things get on the Yamanote. I edited down about 1 hour worth of interviews and B roll down to a short 5 minute documentary on Japan Railway East Yamanote Line which included footage of Shinjuku station at rush hour, on the train at rush hour, someone sleeping on the floor of a station, and multiple stories from different people recapping the things they’ve seen and heard on the Yamanote.